Saturday, 22 March 2008

Letter 15 - March 03, (1919)

Zionist Commission to Palestine – Tel-Aviv, JAFFA, Palestine

Dear Uncle*,-

The mail has just arrived bringing my first letter from you all – and it certainly felt good to receive it, after being away for over five weeks. Don’t think that because I address this letter to you that my other letters aren’t equally for you – I just want to tell you that your name is not unknown here; in fact often when I meet people, boys in the Jewish Legion, or men attached to the Zionist Commission I’m asked whether I’m your son or brother! You ask for my first impressions –

We (Dr. F., Szold, Dr. Rubinow, Robison and I) arrived in Ludd, which is now a military depot located half way between Jerusalem and Jaffa, early in the morning. We set out by machine for Jaffa – a two hour run over fair roads. The country round about was richly foliaged, dotted here and there in the distance with squares of ploughed field or orchards of almond trees in full pink bloom. The atmosphere appeared to have a peculiar magnifying clearness, objects several miles off were clearly distinguishable. The sky was richly blue contrasting the pure whiteness of several lazy clouds drifting along the horizon. Soon we came upon little groups of houses – colonies – neatly surrounded with gardens bordering on large cultivated fields. The road branched into a beautiful avenue of cypress trees shading the road on either side with their heavy green foliage. Suddenly the trees disappeared and we came upon an exquisite miniature city – neat, tidy and wholesome to look at – each white house with its blue decorations, its red tile roof surrounded with all manner of flowers and shrubbery. On closer examination the houses were nearly all closed, the doors locked, and the windows barred – it was the deserted town of Serona, the German colony. Its present inhabitants are only a few hundred Italian troops who have been stationed in the neighbourhood for guard duty. Skirting the outside of the town we came upon fragrant orange groves – the first I had ever seen. And further a small caravan – five camels – laden with large crates of big, juicy looking oranges. These aristocratic looking creatures slowly waddle their ways down the side of the road quite oblivious and disdainful of the tooting of our horn or the cries of the dirty Arab who guides them. Heading the procession was an overburdened little donkey, barely three feet off the ground, bearing several heavy looking sacks and an old Arab. The latter sat facing the road with both feet dangling the same side in most unconcerned fashion.

Soon dirty Arab huts began to grow numerous on both sides of the road and then an occasional squalid store. In the distance we beheld Jaffa. To the left beyond a large orange grove, picturesque little homes covered a hillside interspersed with stately palm trees. Directly ahead lay the center of the town – built solidly of yellow, white and blue plaster and stone houses. To the right the town arises over a cliff, looking out on the Mediterranean.

Soon we turned off the main road and passed thru two portals of stone decorated with * (Star of David) and entered Tel Aviv. On either side were clean and not unaesthetic looking homes – some bungalows, some two floors. The street was clean and well kept. Altho’ Tel Aviv is built on nothing but sand – flowers and trees have been planted and flourish in abundance. An attractive little park runs thru the center of the town and several blocks further looms the dignified Tel Aviv Gymnasium, which until recently has been used as a R.C hospital.

The house where we live is at the top of a hill overlooking Tel Aviv and Jaffa. It is at the far end of the colony and about twenty minutes walk from the center of Jaffa. We have every comfort one could want except possibly electric lighting and there is some talk at present of such a company.

Regards, please, to my friends in the office.



*Ferdinand Sonneborn:- b. Breidenbach 1875 – d. New York City 1954; UNCLE; Siegmund’s** younger brother; President of Levi Sonneborn Sons, Inc (paint, oil and chemical firm)

**Siegmund Bacharach Sonneborn:- b. Breidenbach 1872 – d.Baltimore 1940; FATHER; President of Henry Sonneborn & Co., manufacturers of men’s “Stylplus” clothing (jacket, vest, 2pr.pants for $17.50)

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