Mira’s Yoav, Yoav’s Mira… that’s how we referred to our aunt and uncle, the “family on my father’s side”. Mira was my father’s aunt; the mothers were sisters so Mira and I were cousins.
Our relationship was strong and close and we were always the family that was proudly invited to every event held in Yoav’s honor. The family connection was actually double:
When my mother was very young, long before she met my father, she was a folk dance instructor and she had participated in one of Yoav’s classes for instructors at the “Ahad Ha’am” school in Tel Aviv. Years later, when my parents met and were about to marry, Yoav and Mira were invited to meet the bride….and simultaneously both called out, “Ayala? Ayala was ours before she was yours….”. For them my father was their cousin, but my mother was “ours from way back”.
Yoav and Mira loved my grandmother, Rivka. For them, she was the beloved aunt and my father was the beloved cousin. They used to come to visit my grandmother almost every Saturday morning, with Yoav driving their silver Volkswagen Golf. The minute I saw their car through the window, I would run to my grandmother. We would all sit on the porch and talk and talk and listen to stories.
Yoav would pick citrus fruit from the trees while performing soft dance steps and Mira would make “noise”. Somehow, the discussion would turn to a report about an exciting dance session, Yoav’s new dance which they would then demonstrate on the porch (heel toe, heel toe), the experiences from a tour abroad or in Israel of Yoav’s dance troupe; about Rakefet, about Rotem, the grandchildren, Kibbutz Shefayim and the dance sessions there.
Only one thing was missing ….food! My family was known for its culinary talents and for setting a grand table with all the best available at every possible opportunity, but with the Ashriels it was different. They don’t eat. They must preserve their health and their lightness. (Otherwise, how can you dance?). You eat only to exist and then only something low in calories. I wouldn’t dare eat near them since I would be scolded and lectured on correct and healthy nutrition.
I loved calling them at home and hearing the answering machine play “Tchol Hamitpachat – The Blue Handkerchief”, the song that Yoav loved so much. I loved visiting them at their home at 54 Tyber Street in Givatayim. Once when I visited them, Yoav showed me the sketch of a new dance and how to notate dance instructions. It really is a language. (Until then, I thought that when you create a dance, you just remember it and that’s it….)
I was always invited as an honored guest to the Saturday night dance sessions held at the Malchei Israel Square and, together with Rotem, we were asked to come up onto the stage to demonstrate the dances. After the session, we, the children, sat, with all the “grownups” at a sidewalk café at the London Ministore.
During the difficult period when Yoav became ill, Rotem (who was in the fourth grade) moved in to live with us for an unspecified period, so that Mira and Rakefet could be with Yoav. Despite the circumstances, this was cause for celebration and we have only good memories of this period of togetherness with Rotem.
Due to the nature of their work that was during the evenings (at dance sessions), Mira and Yoav didn’t make it to family events and, as a child, I was very disappointed that they, who were closest to us, couldn’t share in our happy occasions. The attached picture of them at my brother’s bar mitzvah was literally very rare.
In the last years, after Mira passed away, my mother and I made sure to spend at least once a month with Yoav on Saturday morning at the Cinemateque, a sing-a-long morning with Nach’tche Heiman which sometimes included some of Yoav’s dances. I was looking forward to this gathering, if only to meet Yoav.
I was privileged to have a special relationship with him – and, we were even born on the same date, August 27th.