A story of rejection and how it reaches us all
Fourteen and a half years ago, my nephew's son, Erez Benjamin, was born. I remember the day of his birth, which was supposed to be a celebration but had some complications. When he entered the world, his entire body was covered in black dots. The nurses in the delivery room placed him in his mother's arms and left the room. They probably didn't know how to deal with this phenomenon. I remember the look on his parent's faces when the doctors told them that the condition was unknown and they hadn't found any diagnosis in their examinations. They also estimated that Erez Benjamin had no more than three months to live, as his condition was intense and devastating. The sunny afternoon that was supposed to be bright and joyful turned into a dark cloud over our beautiful family.
We had a very quiet Brit Milah in the Hospital and I was declared Erez’s godfather. In my hands, I held a child with numerous black dots. His beautiful eyes shone as if they were crying out to the world "I'm not to blame.".
Although we are all thankful that Erez survived past his predicted lifespan, he faced many challenges throughout his childhood. When he stepped out into the world, he faced ridicule from other children, so his parents often opted to keep Erez inside. This isolation became increasingly difficult- there was nothing to say, no one to talk to, nowhere to go, and nowhere to escape. Years passed by and Erez continued to prove the doctors wrong.
Since then, the family has experienced many hardships. They often found themselves rhetorically asking questions such as why us? Or where did we go wrong? They found themselves sinking into a whirlpool that seemed to drown the entire family.
Until one day Erez's mother Ruthie took him for a walk in the neighborhood and something changed. One girl was walking with her mother and retorted: "Look, Mom, what an ugly and disgusting child!" Erez's mother started laughing. She realized that in the whirlpool of turbulent waters, you can't fight against the current. You must cooperate with the waters in order to emerge and find the light. Because fighting against the current that pulls you into the depths of the sea of nerves and heartache is simply drowning.
And so, Ruthie decided to break the silence. She started to vocalize her pain, sharing her sorrow with everyone who would listen. She used her experience to create art, and soon the story of the child with the dots became a national issue, discussed throughout the country. Everyone started to photograph themselves with spots on their faces and called themselves Erez. This was fourteen and a half years ago.
Last year, I was at Erez's bar mitzvah, which is a Jewish coming-of-age tradition that is celebrated when a child turns 13 years old (keep in mind, this is the same boy they gave three months to live). He stood before the Torah, and his father didn't say the customary blessing of "Blessed be He who has exempted me from his punishment," but rather said, "Thank you!" Erez is a child sent to us all straight from the angels to be the mentor of understanding everyone who we come across. A mentor primarily for his mother, Ruthie, who, with power, she didn't know she had, turned her mental distress into a tremendous revelation. Erez showed her the beauty of the human soul that pierces the skies.
She wrote a play called The Boy with the Dots, which revealed to everyone how her child came into the world to be a mentor for all of us, teaching us to accept the unique and non-conventional. I recently went to see the performance at the Goshen Theater (Israeli Theater), and I don't remember ever being so nervous during a show. I saw a child with dots running on the stage. At first, the audience was "bewildered.” The play follows this child and his sister. At first, in order to avoid embarrassment, the child’s sister claims to be his tutor and not his sister. The Boy with the Dots tells us a story about misplaced shame and found empathy. I saw a dazzling display of colors, where the black is engulfed within them and not felt at all. Around me, many people shed uncontrollable tears because it's a story of a rejected child, like many of us, and it sometimes ends in isolation and in the worst cases, suicide. What I saw at the Goshen Theater was not just another performance, but a celebration of triumph over surrender, and faith in the human spirit. This performance is a lesson in acceptance and understanding of others, for those who may not appear like us. It deserves to be embraced wholeheartedly with a love that knows no bounds. The play is about a child with dots whose strength lies in his weakness, and whose soul, which resides within him, is more important than the body it inhabits.
Taken from Yehoram Gaon's official Facebook page. Yehoram is a famous Israeli actor and singer, and the brother of Yoav Gaon's late father. Yoav is of course the father of Erez and you can find many of his stories about Erez on Yoocan.