The day began with a trip to the Tel Aviv stock exchange, which we were really excited to explore. As we were walking in to the building, I overheard two fellow Perth Momentum girls chatting and when I asked what they were discussing, the one remarked that she wished that G-d would ‘speak’ to her and send her a message in some way, just to say ‘I’m here’. I thought about what she was saying as I ventured further in to the building and then started chatting to another Perth friend who was discussing some forms that we had to submit for our children back in Perth. I told her that the forms needed to be in by 30 April and then asked her what day it was today. She said that it was the 1st of May.
I didn’t realise that we were in the month of May already and mentioned to her that it was my late cousin, Talya’s birthday today. Talya was my first cousin and we were very close as kids and grew up in East London, South Africa together. She got cancer at the age of four and fought a long hard battle, eventually succumbing to the disease 13 years later at the age of 17. I remember her every year on what would have been her birthday and I always take time out in my day to think about her and the incredibly brave and beautiful person that she was. The sad thing is that she passed away in 1994 and none of my friends or extended family on the Kerbel side in Perth ever got to meet her, so I never really talk about her to anyone back home.
A few minutes after having the conversation with my friend about Talya, my mom posted a message on our family group chat in South Africa to say that it was Tal’s birthday and that although she was gone, she would never be forgotten.
Later in the morning, we were privileged to hear a brilliant speaker from the Birthright Programme who happened to pop by. I noticed that one of the South African girls videoed the talk and at the lunch break, I went up to her and introduced myself, asking if I could be cheeky enough to ask her to airdrop the video across to my phone so that I could share it with my group. We started chatting and she asked where I was originally from. I told her I was from East London and she asked if I knew Shanne Altschuler, as she said that her dad was married to Shanne briefly. Shanne is my aunt and was my late cousin Talya’s mom. I could not believe the coincidence and knew exactly who her dad was. She said that she was a very close friend of Talya’s when she moved to Johannesburg for further treatment and I told her that it would have been Talya's 42nd birthday today. The two of us hugged and started crying. To have connected with someone who was close to my cousin on her actual birthday and to be able to celebrate her and share that moment was so incredibly special. It was definitely an HP moment and the fact that her name was also Talya was more than coincidental.
Our final excursion for the day was to Wolfson Hospital where we got to learn more about the Dream Doctors who work across Israel in 29 hospitals. They are specially trained clown doctors and they shared their personal stories with us. The one Dream Doctor stood up and spoke specifically about a four year old girl that she had grown close to in the oncology unit and it just brought my moment full circle, as that was how old Talya was when she fell ill.
To have received so many ‘I’m here’ messages on the first full day of our programme was just mind blowing and it is a day I will never forget.