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Three Times One: Triplets at 80

Raphael, Gabriel and Michael

Triplet boys! They were born 80 years ago in Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem, in pre-state Mandatory Palestine. It would be a special event at any time and in any place, but can you imagine giving birth to the threesome there in 1943? 

Elsie with Gabriel (left), Michael (middle) and Raphael (right)

Their mother, Elsie Jacobson, was born in London and moved to Palestine in 1933, working at the time as the personal assistant to Oscar Phillip, founder and owner of Phillip Brothers commodity company. Their father, David Dezent, was born in Kovno and came to Palestine in 1934, initially working as a Hebrew teacher, which is how he met Elsie.

Breastfeeding the three was out of the question, of course. Paula Ben Gurion paid them a visit and promised to provide milk for the newborns but unfortunately this never materialized. And in order not to get mixed up as to which baby had been fed and which hadn't, a label was attached to each one. There were no disposable diapers at the time, so Sergeant Dezent, on his return home after a day's service in the British Army, would begin his evening by bringing in the children's washing – 75 pieces a day.

After their birth in November 1943, the question of names was paramount. 'What about Tom, Dick and Harry?' suggested an English relative. Luckily the idea was turned down and they finally settled on the three archangels – Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. And so a high bar was set for life.

At their recent 80th birthday party, they each recounted numerous tales about growing up as a triplet.

Gabriel told how at the age of five, the family moved to London to Grandma Batia's house in Cricklewood. This was in 1948 at the beginning of the War of Independence. The children thought they were running away from the war when they left in one of the convoys from Jerusalem. Later, however, and only after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, did the boys learn that their father had been smuggling arms from Europe to Israel under cover of his work for Solel Boneh, the Israeli construction company. He was later decorated in recognition of his clandestine activities.

Raphael, the non-identical member of the threesome, regaled the guests with stories of his semi-isolation at the hands of the two identical brothers, Michael and Gabriel. These two had a secret nonsense language which Raphael could not decipher - although at the party Gabriel admitted that he, too, had hardly understood what he and Michael had been talking about!

Michael told of how he and Gabriel were often mistaken for each other, especially by previous or current girlfriends. Gabriel received a slap on the face when he didn't recognize a particular girl and another time Michael received a hug from a girl he'd never set eyes on before. Michael definitely had the better deal in this case.

Despite such brotherly rivalry, together they later set up a commodity company trading mainly in sugar which was represented on the London Commodity Exchange. G.N. Dezent Ltd eventually became Tate and Lyle Israel Ltd in the year 2000.

In the 1970s, Michael married Mona from Montreal, Raphael married Xia from Kibbutz Naan, and Gabriel married me. I come from Preston, a city in northern England, and I made aliyah in 1972. Mona, Xia and I truly appreciate our triplet husbands' remarkable story.

The boys' godfathers were Rabbi Herzog, the Chief Rabbi of Israel (President Herzog's grandfather); Rabbi Lifshitz, the Chief Rabbi of the army; and the director of Hadassah Hospital, Dr. H. Yaski. With this excellent start in life, the three brothers have indeed contributed much to the Israeli economy and, most important, have always been each other's closest friends.



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Friday, 14 June 2024

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