Speech given by Michal Govrin on 22 June 2004 at the
U niversite Pierre et Marie Curie at the reception in honor of
HaYm Brezis's
60th
birthday
Good evening,
I am happy to be here tonight next to Haim, and amongst you all.I have arrived to
the ceremony directly from the airport, from our home in Jerusalem. And already
the way I joined you, confirms the famous theorem of "The Traveling Brezis" .In
truth, the first time my interest in Hai'm was aroused, was in his absence. It was
during a visit to his parents' home, Becky and Mico, Rivka and Yaakov Brezis, in
28 rue Berthollet. His mother, Becky, spoke with love and pride about her eldest
son, his accomplishments, the prizes he was awarded, and apologized that he is not
here because he's traveling.Away? Traveling? Immediately my curiosity arose along
with a desire to meet this absent mathematician. And since then a dimension of the
presence of absence or, if you wish, one of a nonlinear differential equation, exists
in our life together. My first meeting with Hai'm's parents occurred in a special
time and space.
It
was during the festival of Sukkot, as we sat in the family sukkah
which they built on the long, narrow balcony of their apartment in rue Berthollet.
So narrow it had room only for a long narrow table with a row of chairs on one
side. It was truly a surreal sukkah, hovering high above a Parisian street, and yet
it was so much in the spirit of what a sukkah means in the Jewish tradition: a
structure defined as temporary; a reminder of the transience of life, of Jewish life,
and inside which one should dwell for seven days each year, during the festival of
Sukkot. A metaphor still so relevant even today. The temporary sukkah, with its
open, undefined space, is a metaphor to another one of Hai'm's traits. As you all
know, and as you have heard in his lecture last Friday, Hai'm likes open questions.
His mathematical curiosity is attracted by them. Today, in this private public
event, one can see how much Haim's life is surrounded by open problems.Beginning
with the way we met. I first heard Ha1m's voice on the phone, even if this first
conversation did not lead to a meeting.
It
was during the years that I lived in Paris,
studying for my PhD (not in mathematics, but in theatre and literature). Saul
Friedlander, the renowned historian, referred me to him, as part of the activities
of L'Association des Universitaires et Chercheurs pour la Paix au Moyen-Orient.
And from then till today the question of peace in the Middle East, and of the
relationship between the Middle East and the West, has remained open.Our first
real meeting was in Jerusalem.
It
was after Hai'm read an essay I wrote following my
visit to Poland, to my mother's home town, Krakow, and to the death camps. My
visit to Poland was almost simultaneous with Hai'm's visit to Poland, with a similar
interest, so that we claim that we met in Poland. But the meeting itself occurred
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