Saturday, 22 March 2008

Letter 42 - July 02, (1919)

Hotel Central, Damas Rue Sanjakdar, Damas (Damascus)

Dear Dr. Friedenwald,-

Having arrived day before yesterday near midnight, I’ve spent all of yesterday seeing this place and meeting its people. Both were disappointments – this is the dirtiest, vilest, filthiest town I’ve ever struck. Even this hotel, which is supposed to be the only clean one, is filled with bugs and things.

I’ve seen Miss Flaum. Please have her recalled as soon as possible. Did no one have sense enough to come up here and study the situation before sending a girl here alone? Her kindergartens are located in the heart of the Jewish ghetto. There are about 800 dirty children and the only teachers are local and Palestinian girls who conduct their classes in most disinterested and half hearted fashion. Three hours a day Miss Flaum must teach the teachers to teach, - preparing and outlining their work from day to day. When I say the children are dirty I don’t mean they are not washed; she has refused to allow unwashed children to enter; I mean their eyes are infected, their faces are scarred with horrible scars attracting swarms of flies which the children don’t trouble & brush off, and scalp diseases. For this latter Miss Flaum engaged a barber to cut the hair off the infected children.. Somehow several mothers heard of it and came running down to the school. Wild eyed and screaming they rushed to the door and finding it locked took their wooden shoes off and started beating against it. Then they saw us. I’m sure that if I hadn’t been there Miss Flaum would at least be in hospital. One would imagine from the ruckess of the women that their children were slowly being tortured to death. As Miss Flaum tried to explain another mother joined the crowd flourishing a long knife. Altho she only used it to gesticulate, I’m inclined to think there was another motive in her bringing it.

Yesterday eve Miss Flaum had supper with me. On returning home a message was there that one of the girl teachers had been badly beaten by a man who threatened to do likewise to the “Ashkenaz” because his sister’s hair was cut.

Last night we took a carriage ride around the hills. We were in a road filled with traffic and were keeping well to the right. Suddenly a horseman ran squarely into us. As he passed the driver he caught his arm and tried to pull him from his seat. The driver got away and tried to whip his horses but two men also on horseback caught each of our horses. Then the man who had run into us came over wildly excited, caught our driver’s arm, and started hitting him. Our driver crawled to the top of his seat but the other followed continually hitting. Suddenly I saw that he was hitting with a dagger, and I felt blood on my hands. We got out of the carriage as the horses were backing us into a ditch. Finally the thing was over. Our driver got up, covered with blood with a big gash on his forehead, one on his neck, and his hand between the thumb and forefinger was completely cut open. Some distance down the road we found a police station – from where some gendarmes set out with loaded rifles –there were a few shots – they returned in a half hour with a carriage for us saying that three of the five were caught.

You see anything is possible here. There is no protection, especially not for a girl, who is trying to introduce order into a district of filth and slovenliness. Even when we walked along the street the eyes of the men followed her with that animal look – I trembled when I thought of her walking everyday alone. Certainly there must be work enough for one of her ability in Palestine. Insist, please, on having her recalled promptly.

Regards to everybody please. Love,


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