My Mother’s Family — Part 6

After the wedding my grandfather stayed with the Goldovsky family for another 18 months, working on these 33 miserable dunams which lay between Sumeil and Sarona but although the number of working hands grew and although they now had two milking cows and a steel plough they were far from successful. The Jaffa market was flooded with the produce of the Arabs of the nearby villages and their prices were very low.

Moritz had two more problems. The first was his health. The fever was getting worse and worse but he could not allow himself the dubious pleasure of lying down with this malaria fever and so he used to go out to the field ploughing and working while shaking from head to foot and with his body temperature going up and down. The poor nutrition added to the hard labour and the illness made him feel that his strength was weakening from day to day. His second problem was much more serious: His father-in-law, Isser Goldovsky was a very pious Jew who intensely disliked the fact that his son-in-law Moritz does not pray even once a day and does not put on phylacteries. Goldovsky related all the difficulties and troubles which they shared to the fact that Moritz was a secular person: The malaria fever, the dry winter, the summer high heat and the large black ants were all due to Moritz being a non-believer. All this did not make Moritz’s life, which was difficult enough, any easier and yet farming remained his only desire.

They finally sold the 33 dunams at the same price that Dov Schönberg bought them: 300 Turkish Gold Pounds. Moritz handed back to Goldovsky the third which was his according to the marriage-contract and the Goldovsky family went back to Biyalistock. Later on, probably in 1901, they emigrated to the United-States and settled in Houston, Texas. They later moved to San-Antonio, Texas where they still live having shortened their name from Goldovsky to Gold. The sale of the “estate” left my grandfather and grandmother without a penny and without a place to live and so they went back to Jaffa.

Grandfather hired a room at “The Folk’s Inn”, an Arab inn where wayfarers and travelling salesmen used to stay. This inn was a very large two storied building. The ground-floor was used as a stable where the animals were kept: Donkeys, horses, mules and camels. The upper floor contained the guest rooms.There was a well in the yard behind the building which served the people’s need for water. The primitive toilet was also at the end of the yard. The rent my grandfather payed for the room was 3 Turkish Gold Pounds per annum. He rented also, in partnership with Halperin the antiquities merchant, a shop and started working and very slowly establishing himself.

His work prospered and enabled him to leave the room in the Inn and rent a flat which he filled with furniture and equipment which he himself made. My grandfather was a very talented workman and was very successful producing woodwork.This enabled him to produce by himself all of the apartment’s furniture. Succeeding with his work in Jaffa only made him sad. He was really mourning due to the fact that he had to abandon the Zionist ideal which had been the reason for immigrating to Israel with his family, working the land and turning it into a paradise for the Jewish people. He had some slight consolation when he remembered the heavy price which this ideal collected from his family. I know from my conversations with him during his last years that he always considered himself as having failed the Zionist mission.

His first child, Dov (Boris), was born on January 13, 1887. This caused grandfather to conclude that he should increase his income. And so he started to deal, in addition to his work as a goldsmith and silversmith, with watchmaking, producing stencils, painting signs, and engraving tombstones. He became famous as an excellent professional who delivered his orders on time and never asked for exaggerated prices. Customers started flocking to his shop not only from Jaffa but from the entire neighborhood. While working on all these he decided to cut-out of galvanized-tin stencils for the wooden boxes containing oranges for export. Up to that time, boxes containing oranges were exported without any inscription. Later on, paper lables were stuck on them but used to get mostly torn before reaching their destination. Marking the boxes by hand-painting was not very successful and mostly unreadable. So that the tin stencils which grandfather produced and which enabled painting through them the words: “Jaffa Oranges” were an important novelty which helped distribute Jaffa-Oranges, as they were then called for the first time throughout the world, especially in Great-Britain.

His business grew so much that he had to rent a larger shop, for himself, in the same alley with the house of the British Vice-Consul Haim Amzaleg (The British General Consul, who was not Jewish, resided in Jerusalem) and who, many years later, became grandfather’s father-in-law. Later on Moritz Schönberg was able to rent a shop next to the shop of his friend, the wood merchant Litvinsky and Berger’s grocery-shop. These three shops were in the suburb of Ajami which in those days was the most prestigious suburb of Jaffa. A shop in Ajami was considered a high-quality shop intended for people of taste and money and these three shops were next to the French School and grandfather’s shop was next to the French Consul’s house. Grandfather and the French Consul became very good friends. There was good chemistry between them and they became frequent visitors in each other’s house.

This is the right time to say a few words about grandfather’s education. His formal education ended when he graduated from the Romanian National Public School in Iasi and his professional education ended when he became an independent goldsmith and silversmith. But Moritz was very curious to find out more about what was going on in the great wide world and was not satisfied with the knowledge of the Yidish language which was his mother’s tongue and the Romanian language which he learnt at school and was also spoken at home. German was taught at school from age 10 for this part of Romania was ruled by Austria. But perfect knowledge of the German language was not enough for Moritz and as soon as he started working as a goldsmith he started learning almost by himself and taking sporadic lessons in French. By the time he arrived in Israel he knew French perfectly. The daily contact with the Egyptian and Palestinian Arabs taught him colloquial Arabic. By the time they sold their land in Sumeil and returned to Jaffa he spoke and read Palestinian Arabic perfectly. He forgot what little Hebrew (spoken with Ashkenazi pronunciation) he was taught at the Jewish kindergarten and never troubled himself to learn it again. Grandfather never smoked or drank but used to swallow books fervently. Mainly books in German and French. By the time he died he had in his library just over 1000 books, most in French, less in German. One book in Romanian. Three books in Yidish. I used frequently to help him dust up and arrange the books in his wide library. This is where I found all the French and German classics and literary masterpieces and all Herzl’s works – in German.

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