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Leave it to the Brits


Poverty affects my family
Uri Avnery Social activist
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I went to learn to be a watchmaker on Ben-Yehuda Street by enrolling in night school. It took me exactly two weeks to figure out that watches and I do not go together and that technical matters and I do not get along. That was the end of my career as a technician. And because I had to earn money I started working in a law office and earned quite a nice wage which, obviously, I gave to my parents, and that made the family's situation easier. Ever since then I have worked, from the time I was 14 years old to this day.

I worked with this lawyer. The lawyer was a small lawyer, he was a customer at our laundry. Everybody who came to the laundry liked my father – my father was a man who it was impossible not to like. He was a very well educated man. He was affable, madly optimistic. He was happy, so happy that he had come to Israel, for his entire life until the end. We read about what was happening in Germany to our relatives who had remained there, who had laughed at my father. Before and during World War II my father rejoiced every day that he was in the Land of Israel. My mother was quite a different character. My mother simply did not care; she lived inside her own world and she coped – family, children and work. She worked really hard. She would be ironing the shirts in the laundry, standing all the time. I meant to say that she was standing and ironing for about 10 hours every day, and during that time she would also cook meals for the family. She never regretted coming to Israel and did not yearn for luxury.

The family was already splitting up; we could no longer live together.  My two sisters, the older sister, the one from France, had to quit school when we lost our money. After she had studied medicine for two years she had to stop, and here she became a housekeeper. The younger sister also became a housekeeper. My brother went to work in all sorts of different places; usually he lasted one or two months. He worked in construction – there is a building on Ben-Yehuda Street that he helped to build and things like that. He helped in the construction of the Allenby cinema. I went to work for a lawyer - we all worked, and somehow we all coped. And when we read about what was happening in Europe, not yet about the Holocaust but even prior to that, we were just happy that we were here and were proud of our father who had understood, had been one of the first to understand, what was happening. Previously, when I was in school, I lived in the laundry, sleeping between piles of dirty laundry. It was the period before they invented DDT, which was invented in the middle of World War II, and there were fleas and all kinds of things like that. I remember years filled with that, the war against fleas. All of that together didn't bother me; we were very poor, but everyone was poor. I mean, it was not a problem as if we were something special, no. There were no rich people at the school. There was one Recanati in the class but the Recanati family then was not the Recanati family (a banking family) of later years. I started working in a law office. My job was in court filing cases, handling executions and all sorts of things like that. I was quite good at it, even from a very young age.

הלכתי ללמוד אצל שען ברחוב בן יהודה, נרשמתי לבית-ספר ערב ולקח לי בדיוק שבועיים להבין ששעונים ואני לא הולכים יחד, וטכניקה ואני גם לא הולכים יחד. וזה היה הסוף של הקריירה שלי בתור טכנאי. ומכיוון שהייתי צריך להרוויח כסף, התחלתי לעבוד אצל עורך-דין ולהרוויח משכורת די נאה שמסרתי כמובן להורים וזה הקל על מצב המשפחה. ומאז אני עובד, מסוף גיל 14 עד עצם היום הזה. עבדתי אצל עורך-הדין הזה, העורך-דין הזה היה עורך-דין קטן, היה לקוח של המכבסה שלנו. המכבסה שלנו כולם אהבו את אבי, אבי היה טיפוס שאי-אפשר היה לא לאהוב אותו. היה איש משכיל, מאוד. היה איש נוח לבריות, היה אופטימי בצורה משוגעת. שמח. כל כך שמח שהוא בא לארץ, כל החיים שלו, עד הסוף. קראנו מה קורה בגרמניה לקרובים שלנו שנשארו שם, שצחקו על אבי. לפני מלחמת העולם, או בזמן מלחמת העולם, אבי שמח כל יום שהוא בארץ. ואמי הייתה טיפוס לגמרי אחר. לאמי פשוט לא היה איכפת. היה לה עולם שלה והיא הסתדרה – משפחה, ילדים, עבודה, היא עבדה ממש קשה. היא הייתה מגהצת במכבסה את החולצות, על הרגליים. זאת אומרת שהיא הייתה איזה עשר שעות ביום על הרגליים ומגהצת, תוך כדי כך היא הייתה מבשלת בשביל המשפחה. והיא לא הצטערה שבאה לארץ ולא התגעגעה לסירי הבשר. המשפחה התפלגה כבר, כבר לא יכולנו לגור יחד. שתי האחיות שלי, זאת מצרפת הייתה צריכה להפסיק כשהפסדנו את הכסף הייתה צריכה להפסיק את הלימודים אחרי שהיא למדה שנתיים רפואה הפסיקה את הכל, הפכה לעוזרת בית פה, אחותי הקטנה הפכה גם לעוזרת בית, ואחי הלך לעבוד בכל מיני מקומות, בדרך כלל החזיק מעמד חודש-חודשיים. עבד בבניין, פה יש בית בבן יהודה שהוא עזר לבנות, וכל מיני דברים כאלה. עזר לבנות את קולנוע אלנבי. ואני הלכתי לעבוד אצל העורך-דין, כולנו עבדנו, ואיכשהו הסתדרנו עם זה. וכשקראנו מה קורה באירופה, עוד לא על השואה, אבל עוד לפני זה, היינו פשוט מאושרים שאנחנו פה, וגאים באבא שלנו שכל כך הקדים להבין מה קורה. קודם כשהייתי בבית-ספר אני גרתי במכבסה, ישנתי בין ערימות הכביסה המלוכלכות. זאת הייתה התקופה לפני שהמציאו את הדי.די.טי. את הדי.די.טי המציאו באמצע מלחמת העולם, והיו פשפשים וכל הדברים האלה. אני זוכר שנים שלמות עם זה, מלחמה בפשפשים. והכל ביחד לא הפריע לי. היינו נורא עניים אבל כולם היו עניים. זאת אומרת לא הייתה בעייה שאנחנו משהו מיוחד, לא. בבית-ספר לא היו עשירים. היה אחד רקנאטי בכיתה, אבל הרקנאטים אז עוד לא היו הרקנאטים (משפחת בנקאים) של אחר-כך. התחלתי לעבוד אצל העורך-דין. עבודה שלי הייתה בבתי-המשפט, להגיש משפטים, לטפל בהוצאה לפועל וכל מיני דברים כאלה. הייתי די טוב בזה גם בגיל מאוד צעיר.‏

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: world war II, holocaust, Allenby cinema

Duration: 5 minutes, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017