Four and a half years ago I travelled to Jerusalem to see a collection of seashells. The collection belonged to Mordechai Yehuda Ludmir, an Israeli Navy cadet who died in 1963 when he was only 17.
Yehuda loved the Sea very much and his father kept his seashell collection since his death. In his twilight years Yehuda's father looked to pass on the collection to someone, and for that purpose I paid him a visit with a friend who had told me about this unique collection.
We reached a small house in a small Jerusalemite quarter. The 87-year-old father was looking very sick. He showed me a box full of beautiful shells and said that he had in his possession several more similar boxes with large shells. He asked me what can be done with them and added that he has been looking for someone to pass them on to for years, unsuccessfully.
I made two suggestions. The first was that I keep the collection and use the seashells to teach youths about the Sea and tell them about his son. Alternatively, I also suggested that we can put the collection on exhibit in one of the universities in Israel. Having known the right people for this task, I knew that this could be done.
The father chose to pass on the collection to me and I went home quite content, with a stunning box of seashells. Friends that accompanied me told me that it is a rather heavy load that I am carrying with me. It was only days later that I realized how right they were.
The seashells waited for me to do something with them. I wrote a letter to the Ministry of Education in which I described my educational background and my connection to the Sea and to Yehuda. I sent the letter to several addressees but received no reply. Even when I directly approached schools the response was the same – total negligence. No one paid me any attention. I realized that I must contact someone from within the system to make any progress, and I chose myself as that person.
I decided to join a teacher training program called Program 500. Anyway I wished to make a career change and this was an excellent opportunity to do something meaningful while expanding my horizons. Or maybe I just wanted to teach about the Sea…
I joined Lady David School and had the privilege of teaching there marine biology. As part of the program I took the students on field trips, showed them movies about the Sea, brought to class marine animals and finally even painted some murals with them. Yehuda's collection was part of this program from beginning to end. The students heard about its story and held in their hands the seashells that Yehuda had personally selected for his collection. As for myself, I got to keep the promise I had made to Moshe Ludmir, who died a year after passing his son's collection to me.
Ironi Alef High School