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Exchanging my bike for a horse


Struggling to survive in Israel
Uri Avnery Social activist
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אנחנו באנו לארץ בתור מה שנקרא "קפיטליסטים". קפיטליסטים היו אנשים שהביאו לארץ אלף פונטים אנגליים, שזה המון כסף, ובתור שכאלה לא נכללו במכסה של רישיונות העלייה, מכיוון שהם הביאו כסף ויכלו לספק עבודה, הם לא היו זקוקים לסרטיפיקט, לאישור כניסה. אבא שלי, דבר אחד הוא נשבע: כשיבוא לארץ, לעולם לא יעסוק יותר בניירות ערך, במניות, דברים כאלה פסולים, גועליים.  (בארץ) צריכים לייצר. אז הוא, בדרך הגרמנית, רגיל למוסר מסחרי גרמני: מילה זו מילה, חתימה זו חתימה. בארץ שלטו גליצאים. גליציה זה החלק מפולין שלפני מלחמת העולם הראשונה הייתה שייכת לאוסטריה. והגליצאים היו ידועים בתור פיקחים, ערמומיים וגנבים. ולקח לאבי בערך בין שנה לשנתיים לאבד את האלף פונטים האלה. קודם הוא ניסה לייצר כל מיני דברים: צרכי בית ודברים כאלה, הפסיד כסף. תמיד היה זקוק לשותפים מפני שהוא לא יכול היה להסתדר לבד במסחר הארצישראלי. השותפים רימו אותו בלי יוצא מן הכלל. בסוף נשאר כמעט כלום. אז בכסף האחרון הוא קנה מכולת בשכונת פלורנטין (בדרום תל אביב). כולנו גרנו על גג של בית ישן בשכונת פלורנטין, מול המכולת. זה נקרא בשעתו רחוב יזרעאל. היום זה נקרא רחוב הרב כך וכך, אחד הרבנים. והייתה המכולת. אמא שלי עמדה על הרגליים איזה 12 שעות ביום במכולת. גם אבי עבד במכולת. לפני בית הספר ואחרי בית הספר, גם אני. אני קמתי בשש וחילקתי לחמניות לבתים. גרתי למעשה בשכונת פלורנטין. זה לא הלך מבחינה מסחרית, אז האבא שלי כבר די מתוך ייאוש מכרנו את המכולת וקנינו מכבסה ברחוב דיזנגוף, ליד רחוב גורדון. גרנו בדירה. הייתה דירה שבה גם גרנו וגם הייתה המכבסה. מה זה מכבסה? זה לקבל כביסה, לתת אותה למכבסה סיטונית, גדולה, לקבל אותה בחזרה מסודרת. נקייה ומסודרת. אמא שלי עמדה וגיהצה את החולצות כל היום, ואבא שלי על האופניים שלו לקח והחזיר את הכביסה. אנשים שלא עבדו בחיים שלהם שעה אחת עבודה גופנית, שניהם עבדו עבודה גופנית מאוד קשה עשר שעות ביום לפחות.‏

We came to Israel as so-called capitalists. Capitalists were people who had brought £1000 – which was a lot of money – to the Land of Israel and as such were not included in the quota of immigration licenses, because they brought money and could provide work; they did not require an entry permit. My father had vowed one thing: that when he came to Israel he would never again engage in securities, stocks, such things which were improper, obnoxious. In Israel it was necessary to be productive. My father was used to the German sense of integrity in matters of commerce – his word was his bond, a signature is a signature. In Israel, the Galicians dominated. Galicia was part of Poland which before World War I had belonged to Austria. The Galicians had a reputation for being shrewd, cunning and thieves – it only took my father about a year or two to lose this £1000. First, he tried to produce all sorts of things – domestic items and such things, but he lost money. He always needed partners because he was unable to cope by himself with the method of trade in Israel; without exception all of his partners cheated him. At the end virtually nothing remained. With the last of his money he bought a grocery shop in the Florentine neighborhood, in southern Tel Aviv. We all lived on the roof of an old house in the Florentine neighborhood, opposite the grocery shop. At the time it was called l'Izrael Street, today it is called Rabbi something-or-other, one of the rabbis, and we had a grocery shop. My mother was on her feet around 12 hours a day in the grocery shop. My father also worked in the shop; I did too, before and after school. I got up at 06:00 and delivered bread rolls to people's homes. In actual fact I lived in the Florentine neighborhood.  From a commercial aspect it did not work out and then my father, out of desperation, sold the grocery shop and bought a laundry on Dizengoff Street, near Gordon Street. We lived in the apartment. There was an apartment that we lived in and there was also the laundry. What did the laundry involve? It meant receiving laundry, giving it to a large wholesale laundry, getting it back tidy, clean and neat. My mother stood and ironed shirts all day long, and my father on his bicycle, collected and returned the laundry. People, who had never in their life done an hour's physical work, both worked very hard for at least 10 hours a day.

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Israel, Galicia, Poland

Duration: 4 minutes, 34 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017