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My love of Arabs from the age of 10


Exchanging my bike for a horse
Uri Avnery Social activist
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I went to school… I forgot, we'll go back a little: when we alighted in Haifa, when we arrived in Haifa we took an apartment next to some Arabs, just south of Herzl Street, which is the main street in Haifa. Haifa was a fascinating city. At the lower part were Arabs, at the port there were Arabs: no, that's not right. Near the port were commercial establishments run by everyone – Arabs, Jews. From there, going up, there were only Arabs; above them were the Jews – in Hadar HaCarmel they started building the first houses on the mountain. It was called Ahuza and it is still called Ahuza, I think, and Neve Sha'anan. My father had an idea so that I would learn Hebrew quickly: to send me to the village to live with peasants – there were still peasants there then – to live with peasant farmers, so that I would learn Hebrew. They sent me to Nahalal, with my brother. Afterwards my brother did not get along, so they brought him back. My brother did not get along anywhere, and I was left there alone with a family of farmers. Of course, we spoke only Hebrew. They only knew Russian or something like that. I lived in Nahalal half a year and I started going to school there. I did not know a word of Hebrew. I learned to read, write, got along quite well. I had something that aroused everyone's jealousy: I had a bicycle. Who at Nahalal had a bicycle? There was indescribable poverty at Nahalal. But they had horses, that they plowed with or something like that. On Saturdays I would make a bargain: give them my bike and get a horse in exchange. One of my experiences was that a mare started to run and I reacted foolishly, telling the horse to run too. Then the horse began to jump… boom! I fell to the ground! Nothing terrible happened. I was there at Nahalal for six months and one of the consequences is that ever since I have hated agriculture, hated it intensely.  It was summer, and Nahalal is an awful location at the bottom of the pit of the Jezreel Valley. In the morning we went to school, in the afternoon we were supposed to work picking strawberries, things like that. I didn't enjoy that, but I believe that I was quite happy at Nahalal. Afterwards I met all kinds of people who were there at Nahalal at the same time, but I did not know them then – Ruth and Moshe Dayan and others. But it cost my father money and there were financial problems so they took me back home.  


אני הלכתי לבית ספר. שכחתי, נלך קצת חזרה: כשירדנו בחיפה, כשהגענו לחיפה, לקחנו דירה אצל ערבים, קצת מדרום לרחוב הרצל, שהוא הרחוב הראשי (של חיפה). חיפה הייתה עיר מרתקת. למטה היו ערבים בנמל היו ערבים… לא נכון. ליד הנמל היו בתי מסחר של כולם: ערבים, יהודים וזה. משם, בעלייה, היו ערבים, רק. מעליהם היו יהודים. בהדר הכרמל התחילו לבנות בתים ראשונים על ההר, זה נקרא “אחוזה”, עדיין נקרא אחוזה, אני חושב, ונווה שאנן. לאבא שלי היה רעיון: כדי שאני אלמד עברית מהר, לשלוח אותי לכפר, לגור אצל איכרים, אז עוד היו איכרים. לגור אצל איכרים, כך שאני אלמד עברית. שלחו אותי לנהלל, עם אחי. אחר-כך אחי לא הסתדר, אז החזירו אותו. אחי לא הסתדר בשום מקום. ונשארתי שם לבד עם משפחה של איכרים. כמובן שדיברנו רק עברית. הם רק ידעו רוסית או משהו כזה. ואני גרתי חצי שנה בנהלל. שם התחלתי בית ספר. לא ידעתי הרי מילה עברית. למדתי לקרוא, לכתוב, די הסתדרתי. היה לי דבר שניקר את העיניים של כולם: היו לי אופניים. למי בנהלל היו אופניים? בנהלל היה עוני שאי-אפשר לתאר. אבל היו להם סוסים, בשביל לחרוש או דברים כאלה. אז אני בשבתות הייתי מתחלף: נותן להם את האופניים שלי ומקבל תמורת זה סוס. אחת החוויות שלי היה שרצה סוסה, אני נכנסת בי רוח שטות, ואני אמרתי לסוס שלי לרוץ גם. הסוס התחיל לקפוץ. בום! נפלתי על הארץ! לא קרה שום דבר נורא. ואני הייתי שם חצי שנה בנהלל. אחת התוצאות הייתה שאני מאז שונא חקלאות שנאה עזה. זה היה בקיץ. ונהלל זה מקום איום. זה בתחתית הבור של עמק יזרעאל. ואנחנו בבוקר הלכנו לבית-ספר, אחרי הצהריים היינו אמורים לעבוד: קטיף, תות-שדה, דברים כאלה. לא מצא חן בעיניי. אבל הייתי די מאושר בנהלל אני חושב. אחר-כך הכרתי כל מיני בני נהלל שהיו בזמני שם. ואני לא ידעתי. רות דיין ומשה דיין (לימים רמטכ״ל ושר ביטחון) ועוד. אבל זה עלה כסף לאבי, והתחילו להיות בעיות כספיות, אז החזירו אותי.‏

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: Haifa, Nahalal, Jezreel Valley, 'ahuza, Neve Sha'anan, Nahalal, Moshe Dayan, Ruth Dayan

Duration: 3 minutes, 58 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017