Saturday, 22 March 2008

Letter 18 - March 20, (1919)

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

Dear Family,-

Things are beginning to take form and grow interesting here. The main work of the Commission is settling into the hands of Dr. Friedenwald, Commandante Bianchini and Szold. The present secretary of the Commission is about to leave and Iam taking his place. Our work begins at nine and continues with small interruption until seven-thirty at night. We have arrived in a hotbed of serious and vital problems. The strain has been so great on Mr. Lewin-Epstein that he has developed heart-trouble and is compelled to leave for an extended rest. Now that we are more or less acclimated and things are beginning to take shape we find much has been miscounted and heretofore and much more remains to be done.

We find that large amounts of money have been grossly misused. Often where money was seemingly spent for relief or constructive work it appears that private individuals have succeeded in getting away with parts of it. But the great financial difficulty is not there. The trouble has been that the entire population has been educated to accept charity in one form or another. Even the wealthiest pay no taxes for schools, streets, municipal organizations or public utilities of any sort. All these are almost entirely subsidized indirectly thru the Commission’s money.

The most grave problem, however, is the feeling which seems to be growing among the Arabs against Jews. Constant reports are coming in of petty robberies in the colonies by the natives. It is claimed that the natives are well armed and prepared on short notice to organize and start trouble. Tho at present we place little credence in rumors we are turning over all facts to the British authorities and asking their assurance that there will be no disturbance.

For the last few days there has been considerable excitement here in Tel-Aviv. Purim is celebrated much the same as is our Halloween. But not having enough with oe day’s masquerading we had three days of it. All day Saturday, Sunday and Monday were holidays. There were dances every evening- such as they were. Naturally the music was fierce, but everybody seemed to have a wonderful time. The dancing lasted until 2 A.M. The local nurses (American) prepared a female costume for me Sat. night – but it proved to be such a monstrosity that I finally went in uniform. The costumes were mostly crude but there were some quite attractive ones. One little girl (masked of course) had a particularly clever Japanese outfit – and I tried to talk with her. She seemed to understand English so I talked for some time – finally she laughed and told me in French she couldn’t understand me but that I should continue anyway. Eventually we established communication thru German and she proved to be a very nice girl.

Already I know all of Tel-Aviv and most of its people. And as yet I find no necessity foe Hebrew. Naturally I am going to try to find time to learn – but there’s so little time!

There are some interesting characters here. The richest man in Palestine, a Russian named Goldberg, lives with us at Mrs. Moscovitz’s house. He talks German faster than I’ve heard. But to hear him eat oranges with a spoon in enough to make me homesick for New York Cabarets with their constant music and meals.

Another is an old watchmaker who staunchly maintains tat he will never go to America because he hears that people are always killed on the streets of New York.

The financial position of the Commission is so precarious that it has been necessary to send Mr. Robison back to England with an urgent appeal for an immediate transmittance of funds. He left last night and we will feel his loss greatly – as he was just starting to reorganize the financial departments here, which are much in need of it. We were all sorry to see him go for e has proven to be good company, tho limited in many respects.

I was glad, Father, to hear that we had finally received the full amount for our baling work in the New York factory.

I am sitting in the conference room of the Z.C. trying at intervals to write this letter and follow the discussions which are taking place. Now the ever present problem of the Hebrew language is being considered. The British gov’t. has not yet seen fit to recognize Hebrew on par with Arabic because of the proportionately few Jews yet in the country. Meantime the local Jews are accepting this in poor grace and often even refuse to handle and abide by official mandates unless written in Hebrew. Obviously until the Peace Treaty is signed and until the future of Palestine is definitely decided we cannot attempt to conduct official work in Hebrew.

It’s lunch time and I don’t want to miss any of the wonderful meal which I always look forward to from Mrs. Moscovitz.

This evening I had an invitation – to dance in Jerusalem given by a Miss Landau who is the directress of the Anglo Palestine School there and is going to be some affair. I had accepted but am compelled to send my regrets as there is too much work to permit my leaving even for a few hours.

Lots of love,


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