Saturday, 22 March 2008

Letter 22 - April 05, (1919)

American Zionist Medical Unit for Palestine

Dear Family,-

Yesterday eve I was down here at the nurse’s house for supper. One of them came in with an armful of American mail for the crowd, so directly after supper I returned home and found mine- the earliest was dated Feb. 20 and the latest was Mar. 4. We understand now that all Public Service is stopped in Egypt so our next mail is doubtful – and there is even a chance of this never being received by you.

I was glad to hear from you, Father and Mother, that the Chicago affair was such a success – we need money. But more, much more than money we need men. About twp thousand young men left America to fight Palestine and later, if they survived, to live here. We understand that demobilization is about to start – and already about 90% of these boys have stated that they are prepared to return to America as there are no opportunities here. There is not a single healthy industrial enterprise in all of Palestine which has demand for skilled labor above the calibre of the native who works for 2-4 shillings (50c-1$) per day. And the cost of living is quite high here as it is in Europe today – (we pay $5 per day room and board.) We need young men with brains and capital and experience who can create self supporting industries. For if within the next few months employment is not found for these few, and a demand for labor is not created for the thousands who are awaiting permission to enter – then Zionism is doomed to failure – a big idealistic impractical joke.

The local people for the most part are not worth considering – they fall into two classes 1) those who are rich and making money by petty commercial exploitations due to war conditions or are just rich misers and 2) those who are educated for generations to be the subjects of charity for the various funds collected from the Jews from all parts of the world. There are many exceptions of course – but the majority – well, I regret that they are Jews. I may have expressed this too emphatically – because there is another class I have neglected – because I don’t know them – the new generation of colonists, farmers, planters. They, I am assured by the President of the Anglo-Palestine Co., are of an entirely different calibre. They are thrifty, self-supporting, simple living country folk. They work in little groups which as a unit periodically borrows a small sum from the bank and repays it promptly. Here we have the beginnings of a healthy nation. I’ve wanted to get among them for some time to see things for myself but with the present job on my hands its going to be hard-

You see as secretary of the Commission I must be acquainted with everything – every question, with the exception of finances, is investigated by me and acted on. If it is sufficiently important I submit my action or answer for the approval of the Executive Committee composed of Dr. F., Szold, Com. Bianchini, & Mr. Lewin-Epstein. Our office runs from 9 A.M. to 6.30. P.M. with several hours off for lunch. Until two days ago Mr. L-Epstein was sick – at present he’s doing very little. Dr. Friedenwald is in Jerusalem on political matters – he has been calling for me for the last three days – but I can’t leave. Szold is working on the finances and the legionnaires alternately – working day and night. So you see there’s very little time for sight-seeing.

Dr. Friedenwald is proving to be a remarkable man. Several months longer under the former regime and the Z.C would have ceased to exist for all practical purposes -. It was rapidly becoming a huge farce. It was the butt of all local complaints, it was the dumping ground for all trivial troubles, it accepted so many petty duties that it never had time for the serious problems – which when we took control had almost stranded it. Dr F. is locally popular due to his personality, his orthodox religion, and his clean appearance (Dr. Eder – I understand used to carry the menus of his week’s meals on the front of his vest). In action Dr. F. is mild, direct and concise with a considerable reserve of good healthy “Prussianism” to carry him over the rough spots. Several days ago a meeting was arranged in Jerusalem between him and General Maney, who is temporarily replacing, General Allenby. I had to remain at Jaffa as there was no one here – but Szold says that the Dr. delivered himself of a wonderful speech and made a profound impression. It’s regrettable that he must leave in June.

It’s very likely that we will have to move to Jerusalem shortly – it’s more of a political centre than Jaffa and altogether a more suitable place. I’ll be sorry to leave Tel-Aviv, which is really a fine little settlement!

What would you think of my going to Zurich and seeing Ludwig before returning home this summer! Send me the address of the Peter family tat I may advise them of my coming etc. I should like very much to go and am sure I could arrange it.

I will order what you want at Bezallel Mother – tho there are no rugs or tapestries of any description being made now – for lack of dyes.

Shortly I’m hoping to get up into Galilee and possibly to Damascus – it’s supposed to be a veritable paradise this time of the year.

It is reassuring, Father, to know that our country is in such healthy condition. I only hope that this hemisphere recovers – things are in bad shape here on this side of the ocean.

Glad to hear that you are having such a good time at your parties Kitty. How’s your dancing getting along?

Remember how I took with me a stock of tobacco, cigars etc? believing that they’d be the last good ones I’d smoke for six months? Here at the British canteen Caronas may be had by the 100 – at 50% less than in America! – not to mention chocolate, cigarettes, etc.

I’m most grateful to HS & Co. for the gabardine – for a time I had trouble dressing for the warm days and cool nights –now I wear the gabardine and an overcoat at night.

I’m sitting next to the window smelling the orange blossoms – once used to this exquisite perfume – living in the city again is bound to be hardship.

Lots of love and kisses,


P.S. On rereading my letter I find I haven’t made myself sufficiently clear in the matter of employment etc.

There is no one here at present who has the commercial and industrial development of Palestine unselfishly at heart. There is no one here who realizes that in spite of the most favorable political conditions – if certain industries are not developed on a sound economic basis there will be no possibility of settling permanently. Unless within the next few months a demand for skilled workers in various enterprises is established, the thousands who are waiting to come here will either remain and join the disgraceful groups of Halukaists – permanent subjects for charity, - or will return home sadly disillusioned and make “Zionism” the laughing stock of the world.

There is no one here with sufficient practical experience to erect even one industry along modern lines with up to date equipment etc.

We need private capital in the hands of experienced men capable of creating products saleable at real markets. If something isn’t done and done quickly Palestine, I’m afraid, is doomed for the Jews.

Let me add that the dream of our idealists – to keep Palestine an agricultural land – is most unfeasible – a physical impossibility. The land in its present condition takes several years of constant cultivation to make it pay for much more than the support of its workers. This excepts oranges, olives, grapes and possibly wheat and barley.

Allenby, General Sir Edmund:-W.W.1 Commander of the British Expeditionary Force; Defeated Turks in southern Palestine including Jerusalem and Jaffa, 1917; northern area by September 1918

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