Biography

I was born in Tel Aviv (then Palestine) in 1926 to my parents Fruma (Frimmet) and Zeev (Velvel) Shapiro from Lodz, Poland. My parents, keen Zionists, made aliyah, arriving in Israel in 1922. But life was harder here even than in Europe during the post-World War II period.

In 1927 the family emigrated to Australia where many of my parents’ friends had settled. I grew up there and graduated from Melbourne University with a degree in English Language and Literature. I had always written well, even from elementary school, and very often read my compositions to the class. This was a bit strange because our language at home was solely Yiddish, but my father and his siblings were all fond of literature and in Poland had always read Hebrew books and newspapers, so perhaps it was in my genes.

After graduating, I worked for the local English-language paper, the Australian Jewish Herald. In 1949 I made aliyah together with my brother. Within a year I met and married my husband, Alexander Rafaeli, z’l, from Riga,Latvia. Eventually we made our home in Jerusalem and raised a family of four children, two boys and two girls, in the same apartment which we inhabited for over 50 years.

I was a full- time mother, and throughout the years wrote for my own satisfaction, about various events in our family life. I also took a second degree in English Literature and Special Education at the Hebrew University, and volunteered as a docent for over 30 years at the Israel Museum.

After my father passed away in 1979, I decided that the best memorial I could make for him would be to write a biography of his great grandfather, of whom he was very proud, R. Aisel Harif of Slonim. This book, R. Aisel Harif: His Life and His Sayings, was published in 1991, followed by a Hebrew version in 1993. In 2004, as much new material had come to light, I published an updated version of R. Aisel’s life and renamed it The Modest Genius. A Hebrew version followed in 2010.  My brother Alec revised the genealogy charts he had drawn up for this edition.

It was only after I had decided to close up the apartment and move on, five years after the death of my husband, that I saw in my stories a family biography – a record of events which had happened to the family in that home. I saw that I had encapsulated in my writing a chronicle of how life was in the early years of the State, and in other centres of Jewish life in the twentieth century. These stories are contained in my book, My Blue Kitchen, which was published in 2011. After I joined a writing group in the spring of 2008, which turned my hobby into a challenging habit, my memory and imagination have been much stimulated.

I have decided to present this collection on a website rather than publish another book – it is easier and reaches a wider audience. For the convenience of the reader, I have arranged the work in several ‘pages’: Fiction, Memoirs, Poems, Essays and Travel, the last group containing excerpts from my book, My Blue Kitchen.

I have also added a page in memory of my late husband, Alex Rafaeli, who wrote his autobiography Dream and Action, describing the fifteen years he devoted to the Irgun, in the service of the Revisionist Party, and his later contribution to the development of industry in Jerusalem.

My brother Alec (Yehiel) Shapiro passed away in February 2011.

….hope you’ll enjoy.

Esther Rafaeli

Jerusalem,  November 2011

Biography