My sister and I selected the 28th of July 1957 as our date of birth. We could not have selected a better time. Everything was set to make it a box-office family hit. We were the first of everything. Not only were we our parents first children, we were also the first grandchildren of their parents. This automatically qualified us as first nephews to a few moderately excited uncles who had no aunts to kindle their enthusiasm. We were also the first great grandchildren of the one living great grandmother as well as the first great nephews of our grandparents’ brothers and sisters. Everywhere you looked in the family tree we were the first. It was so groundbreaking we could hardly wait to be born.

To assure a grand entry we chose Sunday, the first day of the week so everyone would be focused on new events rather than yesterday’s news. We even made sure that the passing week had been uneventful. Indeed the only local news-worthy event was Israel being wiped out by Brazil in the Davis Cup Tennis match. Tennis was not much of a sport in Israel at the time and we could very well do without the support of the seven fans that cared. As far as the rest of the world was concerned things were mostly more of the same. The communist party in the Soviet Union continued to play cat and mouse with human rights groups in the west on the Jewish emigration issue. Nikita Khrushchev told a group of United States tourists that Jews in the Soviet Union were permitted passports only when their “trip is useful.” It was so lame we knew it would be forgotten before the day was out. The British government continued its efforts to woo support in the Arab world. They had been trying so hard since their Suez Canal fiasco ten months earlier that you couldn’t help but feeling sorry for them. A little closer to home the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser charged that the United States was trying to destroy Egypt by intrigues after Britain and France had failed to destroy her by force yet another dose of middle eastern mythology which was interjected as part as the celebrations of the first anniversary of the nationalization of the old Suez Canal Company .The only thing that might have mattered was the global concern regarding nuclear arms. However the Soviet premier Nikolai Bulganin maintained that the Western position on the suspension of nuclear arms tests precluded agreement on the subject at the five-power disarmament talks. It was yet another Soviet procrastination which meant that nothing would happen at least for one more week. Finally, a rather gloomy report on the outlook for economic development of the Kingdom of Jordan was published by a mission of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which meant that they had enough problems of their own and border in Jerusalem would remain quiet.

All in all it was a great day to be born except for one little detail which would trigger events differently than the way we had planned. We had overlooked the fact that being twins we would be delivered by a cesarean operation. Personally I did not want to go under the knife two Sundays in a row, but I couldn’t let that spoil the occasion for my sister. The knife came through the roof, barely missing us. As we huddled in the back of the womb a pair of enormous hands almost our size came through the opening and started pulling us out. I went first screaming and kicking hoping to distract the monster so that my sister could stay inside when they closed the hole, but they got to her too.

Snuggly wrapped in clean cloth, we prepared for the ceremony which was not to be. It turned out that the ‘Bikur Holim’ hospital where the operation was performed did not have a new-born facility and we had to be transferred by ambulance to the ‘Sha-arei Tzedek’ hospital a five minute drive up Jaffa Street. Unfortunately my father being new to all of this made an understandable yet grievous error; he asked the ambulance driver to take a detour up ‘Strauss Street’ to his father’s and now our newly appointed grandfather’s shop. The ambulance driver agreed ‘as long as you grab your father and hustle back, I cannot drive around the city with newborns’ he told my father.

My father darted from the ambulance shouting ‘Abba (dad) come quick it’s twins!!!’ But the fabled former underground leader[1] did not elude the British for two decades for nothing. You could not pull his leg with a grand display of emotion he needed hard evidence before he acted. ‘Where are they?’ he asked calmly without lifting his head from the fabric cutting machine he was operating. At that point my father destroyed nine months of preparations: ‘They are outside in an ambulance’ came the excited reply. My grandfather did not move. ‘Abba, I’m serious!’ ‘Go yank somebody else’s chain, who drives around the city with babies in an ambulance?’ The ambulance driver did not wait for my father to explain he had nine pounds of precious cargo he had to deliver so off he went. By the time my grandfather decided that the gains outweighed the risks all that awaited him as he stepped outside his shop was an empty street. He gave my father a forgiving ‘you got me’ smile and went back to work, leaving my frustrated father to run down the street to the hospital. The one person in the world who was supposed to spread the word that we had arrived was convinced that we were a hoax.

[1] In their book ‘Oh Jerusalem’ (page 145) Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierrre write: ‘As the weeks of the terrible winter [1948] dragged on, Jewish Jerusalem’s well-being lay in the hands of boys and girls of the Palmach. Called ‘Furmanim’ because their orders were addressed by an imaginary Mr. Furman in room 16 of Jerusalem’s Jewish Agency Building. They were the permanent guards of the convoys.

Mr. Furman was not imaginary. His name was Shimon Furman, father or Amatzia Furman who changed his name to Porat when he married. Shimon Furman was my grandfather.