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Lillian Jacob – A Tiny Tour de Force


When the elevator door opened, I was greeted by a curvaceous, small china doll that had perfectly coiffed curls and professionally made up, highlighted lips, big lashes, sparkling eyes and all. This 83-year-old had the figure of a 15-year-old, with skin to match, in her lovely off-the-shoulder blouse, tight stretch jeans and high heels. Her entire presence exuded movie star stature.

And this is exactly what she was! Not of Hollywood, rather of Bollywood. A role she'd slipped into as easily and quickly as a new luxurious gown at the age of 16 and a half, when one boring summer morning her best friend took her along to be an extra at a movie studio.

Not that her father would approve. He was a stalwart leader in the Bombay Jewish community, with a large company importing German pharm products, who had encouraged and helped thousands of Jews to move to Israel from India.

With four brothers and a sister, Lillian lived a luxurious life as a child with many servants and cooks, speaking only English in the Catholic private school she was sent to. She was nearly expelled at the ripe old age of six, when she demanded of her Christian playmates that they must recite every night Shema Israel with a kerchief over their heads and go to Israel when they grew up – in order to allow them to join her Jewish classmate playgroup. When a parent caught one of the children in the act, her mother was summoned forthwith as the Mother Superior accused her of trying to convert the Christians!

After seven years in the movie industry which had promoted her to star status, also in magazines, newspapers and on commercials, she took a one-month respite by joining cousins in an overland trip to London in a Fiat 1100. They traveled up to North India, through Pakistan and Afghanistan and the Khyber Pass, on unpaved roads filled with yellow scorpions that infiltrated their car. They went through a thousand miles of desert in Iran with luminescent colors and Turkish mountain ranges, where they found white-skinned blond and blue-eyed residents selling fruit baskets. They also came across roadblocks of boulders which white figures in the night removed to allow them to pass after they paid a ransom.

When they reached Bulgaria they nearly starved, as there was no food to be had and the people were very unfriendly until they reached Yugoslavia and then the European countries, which were easier to traverse.

In England she was greeted and absorbed quickly by a large family and soon met Mick, who was Jewish and of similar Iraqi background as her father. She knew that this was a husband that would please her father and three short weeks after their meeting, she agreed to marry him. In secret, this had been a major reason for her trip, as in India she had been dangerously close to choosing a man her father would not have approved of. "It would have given him a heart attack", she states with full confidence.

She went back to India to fulfill some more of her contracts, but returned to Mick within six months as promised. Although they lived in Israel together in the sixties, Mick insisted on returning to England where they lived another 55 years. There he established a large, successful business in car parts, which his son runs now. They share nine grandchildren from a daughter and son, and Lillian loves being here in Israel as they are ardent Zionists.

Which is not to say the she does not love India very much, as life was wonderful there and she categorically states that there is no anti-Semitism in India.

By the way, Lillian saw her first film only six months ago in London for the first time when her grandchildren invited her to a surprise private screening.

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