Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Israel – CCXXVI. The Ma’abarot Stage (2 of 26)

The role of these bureaucrats was a very important one:  They were supposed to send each family on to a different destination in Israel.

Their decision was to be taken in consultation with the affected immigrants; part of the work had supposedly been done in Genoa.  Each family was asked their preference, and the JA promised that they would do their best to comply with their request.  A promise which was impossible to keep since practically every family wanted to be near Tel Aviv, Haifa, or Jerusalem.

Suspicion among these newcomers reigned supreme; they didn`t trust the Soukhnout (JA) at all.  Most of them had relatives and/or friends who had informed them of the appalling conditions that prevailed in this young state.  They were told that it was critical to be sent to a decent location that offered housing that was not downright primitive.  Indeed, the friends and relatives were waiting on the pier!  Those that had nobody in Israel were informed by the other passengers.

By the time the ship docked at Haifa, nobody could plead ignorance; indeed they were ready to fight tooth and nail to get what they wanted.  The representatives of the JA, however, had an advantage, they knew the country well, and the immigrants did not.  Thus they were able to sugar coat even a location like the Negev desert.  Where their task was made difficult, was when an immigrant insisted on having a relative board the ship, and helps determine whether the JA was pulling the wool over his eyes, or giving him the straight goods.

The officials did not readily agree to have a relative present, but more often than not matters came to a standstill.  Thus, I saw a steady stream of people that were previously on the dock board the ship.  The Soukhnout had learned from previous experience that this was the only way to break the impasse.  They, however, had one rule:  You could only summon one relative.

Let us now turn our attention to the Ezri family.

We were asked if we had anything to declare:  “Yes, we brought with us a tremendous amount of clothing,” said Nessim.  When he started to enumerate, the officer stopped him dead in his tracks.  The customs official was apparently well acquainted with the amount of clothing Egyptians brought with them.  In addition to clothing we brought some gifts for our family.  There being nothing of interest for customs, we were given the green light to meet the next official.

Next we met with an immigration officer who welcomed us in the holy land.  He then asked us if we wanted to apply for Israeli citizenship.  Before leaving Genoa, Robert and I had read that Italians were not allowed to hold dual citizenship.  We had therefore warned our father not to accept the Israeli citizenship.  However, the official assured my father that he was not going to lose his Italian passport, and over our objections, he signed the document requesting the Israeli citizenship.  Thus we lost our Italian passport.  Our status as Italian citizens was lost in a moment after being in our family for many generations.  Of course, today, I realize that we lost nothing.  On paper we may not be Italians.  Nothing, however, can change the fact that our roots are Italian; a source of great pride to me, even to the present day.

The next meeting was really the main course.  We met with representatives from the JA.  They were very friendly and told us that because we were an educated family we were going to be sent near a major centre, and get a decent house.  We had heard that the houses offered by the Soukhnout were at their best made out of asbestos, with running water and electricity; and, at their worst, they could be wooden huts, or even tents, with no running water and electricity.

We were given the name of our destination.  Was it close to Tel Aviv? Was it an asbestos house with running water and electricity?  The officials were vague.  My father demanded that his brother Maurice be called.  The officials conferred in Hebrew; eventually dad was told that nothing more could be done, and that calling his brother would be a waste of everybody’s time.

Nessim stood aside to clearly indicate that he was staying put on the Jerusalem until his request was met.  Threats and entreaties were of no use.  The Soukhnout bureaucrats had seen it all before; they knew from past experience when an immigrant was determined.  And dad was not alone; many relatives were called to the rescue; the difference was that my uncle has been in the country for decades and he knew it inside out.

When he was 16, because of family problems, he embarked with friends on a sail boat, went to Palestine, and settled there. This happened at the end of the 1920s; thus, when we arrived, he had been in the country for some 30 years; and hadn`t seen his family for this long period of time.

After the obligatory kissing and hugging, uncle Maurice asked dad where we were being sent; when he heard the name, he blanched.  He turned to the officials, and an argument in rapid fire Hebrew ensued.  The word e efshar (impossible) was heard numerous times.  But Maurice was not intimidated and he countered with the word bousha (shame).

Finally, after shuffling through numerous documents, conferring with each other, consulting with their supervisor and officials at another table, they gave us the name of another place.  Uncle Maurice smiled.

This is what happened.  The first place was hours away from Tel Aviv.  The “houses” were wooden huts with no running water and no electricity.  The place which was eventually given to us was called ma’abarat Kfar Saba (Grandfather’s Village); it was located in the Sharon valley near the village of Even Yehuda.  It was 20 minutes away from Netanya and 45 minutes away from Tel Aviv.  The houses were made of asbestos, and had running water but no electricity.  It was the best uncle Maurice could for us.

[At the time, Kfar Saba was no more than a settlement existing among the numerous citrus groves; Even Yehuda being a more established village played the role of the older sister when it came to municipal affairs.  Today, a very different situation prevails; Kfar Saba is a city of 84,000 (in 2009); Even Yehuda  is a town of 12,000 (in 2011)].

Comments are closed.