On April 25th the Zafir family arrived at the new Garden at the Ahuzat Yeladim Boarding school to honor the outstanding life of the late Andrew “Bandi” Zafir, a survivor of the Second World War, a loving husband, and father. Bandi, as he was nicknamed in childhood, was a Hungarian Jew, born in a rural village in Eastern Hungary, during the beginning of World War 1. His life took him on a string of journeys, he was a Corporal in the Hungarian Military, became a forced laborer during the World War 11, and even survived typhoid. No matter the circumstance, Bandi’s wit prevailed in the toughest of times. However, his true success was his family. Before escaping Hungary, he met his future wife and together they made plans to flee eventually settling in Australia. This past week, he was commemorated by his wife Manyi Zafir, their son Tom and his wife Karin when the family came together for the plaque unveiling in gratitude for their donation that supported the expansion of the school’s greenhouse. This was a genuine tribute to Bandi, as his admiration for gardening came to be one of his beloved hobbies.
The Zafir family was greeted at the entrance of Ahuzat Yeladim by two gardening students and Dr. Carmel Dekel, Chair of WIZO’s Education Division, and Deputy Director Fundraising Division, Annette Crandell. With the family were a cousin and a friend, who came all the way from Ashkelon and Haifa. Carmela brought friends visiting from Brazil, making for a very international group. The gardening students led everyone outside in front of the greenhouse, and talked about their experiences at Ahuzat Yeladim. One of the boys, Tevel, said to us “Kef Li Bachamama,” meaning “I have fun in the greenhouse.” This was a powerful moment for everyone, especially the Zafir family who could witness the positive effects of their contribution first hand. Like Bandi, the children at Ahuzat Yeladim were exposed to hardship at a young age and have also found comfort through the tranquility of gardening. The students here are much like the seeds that they plant, they are nurtured by caring staff in hopes that they will grow into strong young adults. This garden teaches the students how to reciprocate the care they receive and discover something that has been missing in their childhoods.
Following this warm welcome from the boys, the group headed to the entrance of the greenhouse for the plaque unveiling which reads, “An everlasting memorial which will continue to produce invaluable results for future generations.” Due to the generosity of the Zafir family the greenhouse has been renovated, an instructor has been hired, a new watering system installed and an outdoor garden will soon be added. A variety of plants and herbs are being grown there for use at the school, and for children to bring home with them. Tom spoke about his father’s love of gardening, how he adored children, and was an advocate of Israel. He shared a family joke that Bandi would often go missing during family gatherings and, without fail, he would be found in his garden. Tom also told the story of how he found WIZO while in search of the perfect way to commemorate his father. Tom visited Beth Weizmann Community Centre in Melbourne, eager to find an organization that matched his father’s passions. When he found the WIZO Ahuzat Yeladim greenhouse project he knew instantly that this project “stood out head and shoulders to memorialize my father”.
After the ceremony, the group took a tour of the girls’ dormitory. It was an opportunity for the Zafir family to experience another part of Ahuzat Yeladim and the girls were eager to show off the handmade quilts they had received as a gift from WIZO Australia. It was hard to imagine that these girls came from troubled backgrounds. Tom’s elderly mother walks with a cane, and one of the girls, Odelia, immediately went to her side and held her hand throughout the rest of the tour. Tom’s mother reminded Odelia of her own grandmother. Before Tom’s mom left Ahuzat Yeladim, she asked to say goodbye to Odelia complete with hugs and kisses. They exchanged contact information and plan to stay in touch by telephone. The heart warming visit concluded, and the Zafir family left with a feeling of ease that Bandi’s memory will continue to grow through the roots of his commemorative garden and benefit the children who learn from it.