Saturday, 22 March 2008

Letter 38 - June 22, (1919)

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

Dear Family,-

The excitement is over – the American Delegation has left and departed yesterday morning. I went to bed Friday eve at about 8 and slept until Saturday morning at 10. We had all had an invitation to super at Yellin – president of Vaad Ha’ir, Jerusalem – but I had sent my regrets and taken Cascara. We’ve been having too many parties. Every officer and civilian of note has tasted of our hospitality from Gen. Sir A.W. Money and Lady Money down. I am getting to be quite some Hausfrau, interior decorator, and planner of banquets, connoisseur of good drinks etc. Gen. M. was given the following meal -

Orange Brandy
Stuffed Eggs with sliced tomatoes & cucumbers
Stuffed Artichokes
Richon Sautern
Stuffed Roast Chicken
Mash Potatoes made into flat balls and fried
Sugar melons (like casaba only larger)
Nuts and “mish-mash” (like apricots)
Liquers (Benedictine, Kummel, Cherry Brandy, Curacao are in our stock)
Cigars (Coronas) and cigarettes

You can understand why after several such meals last week combined with the daily work and worries with that American crowd that I need Cascara. I’m alright now of course, after a good Shabbes rest.

We entertained last week –

Major Watson, adjctant to Gen. Allenby.
General Clayton, Chief Political officer
Spanish, French and Italian Consuls

The American Commission has left Jerusalem and we felt have impressed them (so far as they are impressionable) with the fact that we are in “dead earnest” about Zionism, and whether the local Jews are split up as the means of dealing with our aims, all are united in its fundamental principles – a fact which they made every effort to disprove, encouraged by one Capt. Yale, formerly of the Standard Oil Co. and a most unattractive and prejudiced person. On arriving in Jerusalem this Capt. Yale informed us that an hour had been allotted to hear the “Zionists” and another hour to “Native Jews”, because of his desire “to be fair to all sections of the population and to hear all sides.” We tried to show him that the proper way to go about it was to hear representatives of each of the various Jewish Organizations. We offered to help him select them. But of no avail. He claimed that we would chose persons prejudiced in favour of Zionism (as though every person in Palestine wasn’t obviously a Zionist) and so he left us and went about town searching for persons who were known to be antagonistic to the Zionist Commission policies. He finally succeeded in locating the Vaad Ashkenazi, an body openly anti- Z.C.; and the Vaard Sephardim, likewise anti- Z.C. He arranged that during the “Zionists” hour the local Vaad Ha’ir appear, and at a subsequent hour the Z.C. itself. Both of these meetings, especially the former were most successful. During the hour allotted “Native Jews” the other two Vaads presented their claims. The Sephardim led by Mr. Meyeruchas, a supporter of the Z.C. presented a fine statement. The Ashkenazi, composed of the most orthodox rabbis of Jerusalem, and an Australian named Sluskin, followed. The main speaker, an old rabbi who had been here for 47 years, delivered the main speech – and it was a masterpiece. Every question put to him was refuted from the Talmud. The only point of difference between our proposals was that these men wanted immediate and unrestricted immigration. So we may feel justly elated, that in spite of our internal discord, the American Delegation has been presented a thoroughly united front.

Several days ago one Capt. Levin of U.S. Artillery A.E.F., of Detroit U.S.A, wandered into town, having been sent by Weitzman and Frankfurter from Paris. His messages are most favourable and encouraging. They seem to be making real progress at the Peace Conference. He had with him a copy of a letter from Pres. Wilson to Frankfurter giving every assurance and a like letter from Balfour to Weitzman.

Levin, by the way, is a nice fellow, graduated 1916 from Harvard Law School; and hopes to remain in Palestine for some little while.

This letter is most disjointed and makes little sense. I’ve started it at 9 and been interrupted steadily until now it’s 12.30. I’m turning my job, by degrees over to Nurock*, a young fellow who has come here from England to settle with his wife. Soon I hope to be free to take a tour thru the country. It would be a shame to leave without having really seen our colonies.

By the way today’s my birthday! I’ve almost forgotten it. Whew! 21. We’ll save the celebration till I return home. Tonight we have dinner for Col. & Mrs. Bentwich*, Col. & Mrs Popham, the new Jerusalem Mil. Gov., and Capt. Levin will also be with us. Szold left Haifa this morn as the American Del. Will be up there tomorrow – and the place must be organized.

Your telegram of congratulations arrived – thanks – I was glad to hear that you’re all well. But no letters have come for over two weeks. D-m the gippies. Which reminds me – Dr. F. has learned to swear quite fluently since he’s been here – and occasions for its use are quite numerous.

All is well and we’re quite happy, tho homesick.

Love – lots of it,


Dr. Brett is out of hospital and is back again with his battalion, stationed at Ludd. I hope to see him soon.

*Nurock, Max:- b.England 1894 - lives in Jerusalem since 1919; attached to the Foreign Ministry of the State of Israel as translator, editor of texts into English.

*Bentwich, Norman:- b.London 1883 – d. London 1970’s; Lawyer, teacher, writer, Zionist; Judicial Advisor in Palestine to the British Mandatory Government; Deputy of League of Nations; High Commissioner for Refugees from Germany after 1933.


LJP said...

I tried to post a comment yesterday, but cannot find it. I've never been on a blog at this site, so forgive me if this is redundant.

Last week I met someone who is collecting artifacts and assembling the history of a town called Petrolia in Pennsylvania (USA). In Petrolia, L Sonneborn Sons operated a refinery which is still open today--and (after decades of corporate names like WITCO) currently using the Sonneborn name.

The people working on Petrolia's history are interested in this refinery not only because it has been a presence since the early days of the town's existence, but because it has contributed greatly to both American military success in World War II and to petroleum science in general.

Several of the distinguished scientists at the site during World War II apparently had left Europe a step or two ahead of the Nazis. We are interested in their stories. It is amazing that distinguished European-educated scientists would end up in a place like Petrolia, which even today is about 35 minutes from anything!

I am wondering where you got these wonderful family documents, as I am trying to find any accounts of the Sonneborn's involvement with the refinery. Years ago, before the war I think, my father was the "chauffeur" for one of the Sonneborn's when he was in Petrolia. My dad went on to work at Sonneborn for over 45 years, once the war was over and he returned from service in Africa and Italy. But he passed on years ago and I wasn't smart enough to ask him these questions.

If you know of any resources that would help us, we would appreciate hearing from you. Thanks very much for posting this very interesting material about a family that made a huge difference in the world.

'Oldwatertower' said...

Thank you for your very interesting and positive comments about the Sonneborns. The Internet is a wonderful resource, especially 'Blogger' :-))
These "Letters Home" were complied into a booklet which was "Presented on the occasion of his 80th Birthday, June 22, 1973, New York" to various members of Rudolf's extended family in the US and Europe. If you can leave an email address, I'll contact you with more info. Kind regards, 'oldwatertower'

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