Thursday, March 20, 2014


Amazing coincidences are of course rare. Consider this, I last saw a man named Lionel Holland around 1977, when we were living in Israel when I was on sabbatical at the Weizmann Inst. in Rehovot. I had met him first in 1963 when we were on our first visit to Israel from the UK and we went and stayed with him and his wife Zena in Hadera. I was very impressed by Lionel, as a student he had become interested in the kibbutz lifestyle and joined a garin or group that was making aliyah. There he met Zena, and also my cousin who was part of the garin and who also met her husband there. I remember attending their wedding at a training farm near Portsmouth in England before they actually moved to Israel, that was a memorable experience for me as a young kid. They eventually lived on kibbutz Amiad in the Galilee. Lionel was 10 years older than me and I was impressed by his breadth of knowledge and his commitment to living in Israel, although by then he and Zena had left the kibbutz and he was working at the Hadera paper factory. We saw them again when we went back to live in Israel in 1965 and 1977, then we lost touch.

About 10 years ago we were at a party at my friend's home in Los Angeles and his daughter's in-laws were visiting. I was chatting with her father-in-law and he mentioned that he had just returned from Israel and that he was a coin collector and had bought some Roman coins in Haifa from an Englishman named Lionel Holland. I was sure it was the same man and I decided to contact him when we returned to Israel, where we now lived in Netanya. But, somehow I never got around to it.

Last week my son returned to California after visiting for the wedding of my oldest grandson. On his last day I looked for a place to take him where he had never been before, since he has visited many times, and I came up with the British detention camp at Atlit. This is the site where thousands of "illegal" Jewish immigrants were interned by the British when they still controlled Palestine. On the way there, up the coast about a half hour's drive north, we passed Hadera, and I momentarily thought of Lionel Holland and wondered what had happened to him. The following night I had a cold and I woke up in the middle of the night. While I was sitting at the computer I googled "Lionel Holland coins" and got a hit. I obtained Lionel's e-mail address and wrote to him and the following day, after 37 years, I received a reply from Lionel Holland. What an amazing coincidence. He is alive and well and still living in Hadera and we will meet soon.

That's not the only renewed contact, I also received an e-mail from a former colleague at NIH, Richard Feldmann, whom I had not seen for at least 25 years. He happened to sit behind another former colleague at a concert in Rockville MD and they got talking and my name came up. So when he got home he googled "Jack Cohen Israel" and found my e-mail address and wrote me a very nice letter. We published a paper together on protein molecular modeling by computer in Nature way back in 1973 (over 40 years ago!). So the computer, or more correctly cyber-space, turns out to be a wonderful medium for re-establishing old contacts. As we get older we become nostalgic for the past and wonder what happened to those we were friends with for a time and then lost contact with.


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