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Newsmakers

Harried 'Guardian Angel' Tries Out Her New Wings

November 24, 1987|SHIRLEY MARLOW

Ida Nudel, the "Guardian Angel" of Soviet Jewish dissidents who won a 16-year battle to immigrate to Israel, is finding it hard to cope with the changes in her life. After being without a telephone for eight years, Nudel now receives more than 20 calls and 50 letters a day from around the world. Instead of being shadowed by the KGB, she is mobbed by well-wishers on the street. "In a single moment, I arrived on another planet, in an absolutely different civilization and life," the graying, 4-foot-11 Nudel told Associated Press in her first in-depth interview since leaving the Soviet Union on Oct. 15. "When I was left alone in my sister's apartment for a few hours, I couldn't figure out how to turn on the faucet," she said. "For someone like me, this is very depressing." Nudel, 56, earned the nickname the "Guardian Angel" for her work on behalf of imprisoned Jews in the Soviet Union. Today, Nudel lives in a government-provided apartment in a high-rise on a busy shopping avenue in Rehovot, 15 miles south of Tel Aviv. Even though Nudel said the public attention "is too strong for me to cope with," her sister, Elena Fridman, sees it as proof that her 16-year effort to keep Nudel's name before the public has succeeded. "I like it when people recognize Ida on the street and are excited to see her. I feel joy because it is something that came out of my work," Fridman said.

--The last fez-maker in Damascus is going out of business. Salem Shamas has made, mended and ironed fezes, a round flat-topped hat, for more than half a century. But the trade that once occupied hundreds of workers in the Syrian capital no longer provides a living and none of Shamas' children are interested in learning his skills. Shamas' clients have included Syrian and Lebanese presidents. But the tasseled hat has fallen victim to modern Western trends, as has another Syrian tradition--the wearing of clogs. "The fez and the clatter of clogs echoing through the city streets have become only a memory," Shamas said. "Today, I can't see even one person wearing the fez, except for old men and Moslem clergymen, who cover it with their turbans." Shamas said he used to sell more than 20 fezes a day.

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