A Moment with Moshe
Thursday, November 17, 2016
by: Angel Di Benedetto, GCFT

Section: Moshe: Up Close & Personal




It was 1983, the 4th and final year of our Amherst Feldenkrais® Training Program. Because Moshe took ill and couldn't fly to the US to teach, it was decided that his first generation of Israeli students would facilitate our program. However, because most of them lived abroad, only some were able to come to the US, while others couldn't. Approximately half of our class remained in Amherst while the other half chose to complete their program in Tel Aviv. 
 
With Moshe absent in our 3rd year, something about my training experience seemed unfinished, so personally speaking, I hoped to be as close to him as possible by potentially visiting his home and studio and experience where he lived. With that, I chose to go to Israel.
 
Although it was marvelous being in Tel Aviv, but something was greatly missing…and for me, that was Moshe. 
 
One day, Moshe's protégé and now Feldenkrais Trainer Jerry Karzen came to me and said: “Angel, do you want to visit Moshe? Come on hurry.” I couldn’t believe my luck. Jerry took me by the hand and ushered me out of the training room where we walked briskly down the main boulevard of Tel Aviv, leading me down that well known Nachmani Street where Moshe lived.  
 
It all seems like just yesterday. I recall the smells of the old and musty things inside his apartment, piles upon piles of books, manuscripts and wooden rollers, styrofoam pads, a maroon colored FI® table, amongst other Feldenkrais equipment. Then came the shock, as I caught sight of Moshe's frail body lying dormant in his bed. 
 
Moshe Feldenkrais was always an enigma to me, a man so powerful in my eyes. In Amherst, when he would shout, I swear the hairs on the back of my neck would rise. Yet shortly after, once I got that he meant no harm, a nervous giggle would well up in my throat. It was that little twinkle that appeared in Moshe’s eyes that reassured me that he meant well and not take him too seriously. 
 
I arrived remembering how he used to be just two years prior, my image of Moshe was etched on the walls of my mind. To me, he was so alive and robust, so potent and inspiring in every sense of the word. 
 
Yet, as I gazed on him that day, so thin, so pale, so fragile, sleeping with his head lying to the side, I had to ask myself: “Is this the same man?  Wait…how could he have become so… quiet?”
 
Just as I began feeling comfortable in his presence, I reached out to gently touch his hand.  He quickly turned his head and stared directly towards me. A fierce fiery flame in his eyes ignited and I witnessed him change from meek to mighty in a fraction of a second. I stared, rapt, as thousands of faces flashed before me like a slide show.  
 
I heard myself saying under my breath, “Moshe, this is kind of scaring me... who are you now? Are you young? Are you old? Are you afraid, excited, angry, disappointed, frustrated, calm? I see you are exhausted and ready to take a long sleep, but now you appear infant-like and now you look like the genius that you are. Now you are are brilliant.” I continued staring, hypnotized by his continually transforming array of facial expressions.
 
”Ouch!” I snapped out of my trance.  
 
I realized Moshe was squeezing my hand! If I pull away, I thought, he could break my bones! I told myself, just stay still Angel, his mood appears to be quickly shifting. 
 
It did. He again became peaceful, let go of my hand, and slept. Then, he snored. I stared in awe for the longest time, before tip-toeing out of his apartment. 
 
Shortly after, I received the wonderful news that I could come visit again. This became the highlight of my 4th and final year. For the next two months, as often as I was allowed, I’d run to visit Moshe after class. 
 
I loved visiting him. In the course of my day, nothing else seemed to matter. Every time I entered his musty room, I would lean over his bed and say, “Hello Moshe, its Angel.” At first, his responses appeared indifferent and detached; often he swatted his hand as if to say, “eh.” A mere greeting, handshake or announcing myself by name was irrelevant to him. But it didn’t matter. Every minute with Moshe was an honor. Even while he slept, I was moved by just being in his presence.
 
One hot August afternoon, as I approached his front door, I noticed a lovely bush with exceptionally fragrant white and yellow flowers. Their scent reminded me of the smell of “Coppertone.” sun tan lotion at the beach. I couldn’t resist picking this flower and kept it with me as I visited Moshe. (I later discovered that the flower was called Plumeria, very common in Hawaii.)
 
One of the things I noticed when visiting Moshe was his concern about not losing track of time. He kept both a clock and calendar by his bedside. He’d point to the calendar and ask whoever was visiting to flip the page to the proper day. Often he would ask, “what time is it, what’s today’s date, what day of the week is it?” This all seemed very important to him.
 
I also noticed that he often conducted ATM®s in his bed at a very slow pace. On several occasions, I was privileged to watch him receive short FIs from some graduates who came in to work with him.
 
As time went on, Moshe appeared to be growing less interested in visitors. I kept checking in to make sure I wasn't imposing, but it seemed that I was welcomed there.

The summer flew by and my time in Tel Aviv was running out. How could I say goodbye to the most important person in my life knowing that I may never see him again? We rarely had any exchanges in Amherst. Well, maybe a few...There was the time when he picked one of my letters to read to the group. That was pretty embarrassing. Then there was time when he shuffled by me in an ATM and affectionately patted me on the head. But never the intimacy I felt visiting him in Tel Aviv. Now, every last moment was a precious opportunity to connect.
 
One day it dawned on me to change our pattern and greet Moshe in a completely new way, by appealing to his senses. I picked one of those fragrant Plumeria flowers before arriving at his home. At his bedside, I leaned towards him and gently brought the soft pedals of the flower under his nose. I witnessed his nostrils expanding, and then a smile as he breathed in the fragrance. When he smelled the flower, I said, “Hello Moshe, it’s Angel here to visit you again.” It worked! An expression of delight appeared on his face as he looked towards me, mischievously smiling. From that point on, I continued this flower ritual each time I visited.
 
Our training was coming to a close. The day before departing Israel, I picked my very last Plumeria flower. Once again, I gently positioned it under his nostrils. Much to my surprise, Moshe said, “Ahhhh, it’s Angel, isn't it?” He patted the bed and said, sit down, I want to share with you a dream I have….” He then again grabbed my wrist, this time even tighter, pulling me close towards him, while he whispered his dream to my ear.
 
He said that he wished that the entire world could engage in doing one of his ATMs, all at the same time via Telstar communication satellite. Would I be willing to help him achieve this dream? I took in his words, and without knowing how I could make his dream possible, I whispered, “yes” without hesitation. It felt like a vow that could never be broken between us.
 
Moments later, I departed from his home simultaneously teary and exalted. I was walking on a cloud. Moshe asked me to help him fulfill a dream! I felt so honored that I had this rare moment with Moshe.

Currently, as I run my own Seattle Training programs, I share this story with my students, hoping that we will all move forward together to transform Moshe’s dream into a reality;  to bring this work to the entire world, even if it’s only one person at a time.
 
Although when discovering years later that Moshe shared his dream with many people who visited him during that summer in Tel Aviv, it has not diminished the magic of the moment or the responsibility I felt when he entrusted it to me and to all of us in the Feldenkrais community. 
 
In closing, I have cherished and kept that last Plumeria flower shared with Moshe back in the summer of 1983. It’s pressed in my copy of the book Awareness Through Movement, which was autographed by Moshe, moments after our photo was taken in Amherst in1980.
 
Although the fragrance of my flower is long gone, the memory of my first and greatest teacher still lingers with me to this day.

 ANGEL DI BENEDETTO is a Feldenkrais Trainer originally from Manhattan. She began her studies with Dr. Feldenkrais in 1980. Through the Feldenkrais Method®, her teaching focuses on developing creativity to enhance artistic expression, self-confidence, personal awareness and one's quality of life. 
 
While maintaining a private practice in the Seattle area, she devotes much of her time forming new Feldenkrais Practitioners in numerous trainings internationally. She is the co-director of the Seattle Eastside Feldenkrais Teacher Training (SEFT) programs. Her 6th Training (SEFT 6), commences April 2017. For more information go to http://www.feldenkraisinseattle.com.
adiben@me.com
425-820-0399

 
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Comments (2)
Pat Simpich
11/19/2016 12:44:21 AM
So touching, Angel. I could feel your love for him. And I too love the smell of plumeria. Thank you. Pat


Angel Di Benedetto
11/18/2016 10:45:51 AM
Realized my bio is a bit dated. I no longer work internationally. Mainly running my practice and co-directing Trainings locally in the Seattle area.


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