We celebrated our holy days in cellars, and we prayed and sung as loudly as we could. We made a large flag by hand as we had no sewing machines and all we were dreaming about was to be free.
Through the movement I
came to Israel in 1944, although I had left home two years earlier in
1942. It took two years before I finally arrived in Israel because I spent
one of these years in quarantine
waiting for "a boat which never came in." (A. Miller)
In 1944 I got onto a nutshell (called a Turkish boat) with 499 other passengers. Instead of taking just one day --Constanza /Bosporus--it took us two weeks; then we rode in a cattle train from Constantinople -- now Istanbul -- to Palestine. We arrived here in 'concentration camp' Atlit in five weeks, i.e. it wasn't a German camp but they were always keeping their eyes on us, as we were legalized in Turkey by the Jewish Agency. However, the papers took time to acquire, and the British took their time to issue them. Then we felt FREEDOM after four years!!!!
Idealism and the hope to
say the word "freedom" was enough to make me the happiest of all
beings!! Although all my possessions were contained in a rucksack
weighing only ten kilograms, NOTHING COULD SHATTER THIS FEELING!
The country was small and mostly brown desert all the way from Haifa to Tel Aviv--except for orange groves which at that time of the year filled the air with the sweetest smell.
Tel Aviv was even then, a bustling and lively city, and my first surprise was--well, I stayed for a few days with a second cousin of a second cousin--in other words as we said in Cti. 'a Babbes a zwok' (which means 'a grandmother's nail,' translated verbatim. What the saying really wants to say is that 'my grandmother had a nail, and the neighbor borrowed it,' i.e. no relation whatever).
At that time people still believed in helping each other, which has changed of course, here as well as all over the world.
After my first night with my "family," I was woken by the door-bell. When I opened the door there stood a young man with a huge ice block on his shoulder (there were few refrigerators in Tel Aviv at that time only ice boxes), after saying a loud Shalom, which shook me as this word was only whispered till now, he walked into the kitchen and deposited the ice in its box, said Shalom again and left.
As I soon learned everyone was very hard working, then, as money was short. Many doctors and lawyers who had to retake their exams in order to be admitted in hospitals or court had to work as taxi drivers and their wives became charwomen in order to make ends meet. Everyone was working, Tel Aviv was a Jewish city, and every job from bricklayers to ice deliverer was done by students (which that boy whom I first saw was), or Herr Doktor. Honest work was not considered shameful, and often in the afternoons you could meet you charwoman at a bridge club, a concert, or a theatre. What one did was of no importance; your person and personality was what counted. That was a great change because at home no "respectable" woman ever worked, and who at home would have met with a taxi driver or a charwoman? This was one of the greatest things I enjoyed in my FREE WORLD. Everything was news for me." *
* -- written by Anny Matar.