My Mother’s Family — Part 12

On Saturday evening, April 15, 1904. my grandfather went for a walk together with is oldest son, Boris (Dov) who was 17 years old. Passing next to the house of the Central Committee (of the “Organization”) he saw that the window was lit and there were people inside. Although the door was open he knocked on it and was asked to enter. In the room were: Boris Rabinovitz, A.L. Hurwitz, Itzhak Izersky and Mrs. Sochovolsky. Grandfather asked about Mister Sochovolsky and was told that he will arrive soon and when grandfather asked if he may wait for him or is he disturbing anything he was asked to sit down “honorably”. When Sochovolsky arrived grandfather asked him to please see only the poor sick fellow who came to him last evening and give him back his 1/2 Medjedie. Sochovolsky answered that he could not grant grandfather’s request. Grandfather then asked him to send for Doctor Yaffe and Shimeon Rokach so as to solve this problem but Sochovolsky refused.

Grandfather bent one step lower and begged Sochovolsky to explain to the poor fellows that the Committee is not allowed to pay back the money and that the Committee wrote to Usishkin requesting further instructions. Grandfather added that if they will do so – he will lay off this sad dilemma. But Sochovolsky refused to listen to grandfather’s entreaties and supplications and answered him derisively that not only will the Committee not explain anything of the sort to these poor fellows but that they will go on directing them to him, to grandfather. Finally, after an hour’s discussions Sochovolsky started shouting that there was no meeting here tonight and that nobody was allowed to remain sitting there. He took the paraffin lamp off the table and went to lock the door after everybody departed but grandfather was more alert and was by the door in a jiffy, took the key out and placed it in his pocket and then went back and sat down and asked his son to remain sitting near him. Sochovolsky left with the lamp and came back with a small night-candle which he placed on the table. He went in-and-out several times and it was very clear that he tried to make grandfather lose his temper but grandfather remained sitting indifferently. After some time Sochovolsky came back with the paraffin lamp and behind him everybody who was there before came back in. After one more short argument he finally sent Dr. Yaffe a note but did not tell grandfather what it contained.

Less than ten minutes later, the door was flung open and Doctor Yaffe broke in and branding his walking-stick he caught grandfather’s right arm and shouting in French: “Sortez d’ici” (go out of here) he brought his stick down forcefully on grandfather’s head. But grandfather was more agile and moved his head aside so that the stick scratched the left side of his head and hit the table with such force that it made the paraffin-lamp jump. The flame went up with a loud pop and Mrs Sochovolsky got scared and shouted: ” They shot, I saw the fire!”. Grandfather caught the Doctor’s jacket-lapels and with his left arm dealt him a blow which wounded him on the left side of his head, close to his right eye (the Doctor was healed after a few days with no further damage) and pushed him back. Hurvitz went immediately to grandfather to check his fist so as to make sure that he did not have any instrument in it and grandfather spread-out both his hands so that everybody could see that he had nothing in or on them not even a ring or other ornament.

Two days later the Austrian Consul invited grandfather to his office and told him that Doctor Yaffe complained to him that he was beaten by grandfather and he showed him the large blue mark on the right side of his head. Grandfather told the Consul the whole story and the Consul who knew grandfather well as a man of honor decided not to get mixed up in the Jewish dirty deals and asked grandfather to restrain himself and let-pass the villainous behaviour which he and the others had to endure.

During that same week the Austrian Consul sent grandfather a summons to appear before the Pasha (the High Governor of Israel at that time) in Jerusalem. The Pasha also told grandfather that he received a similar complaint from Doctor Yaffe. When he heard grandfather’s report he became as happy as could be: Finally, he said to himself, the Jews had a serious and violent quarrel and we can sit back and watch how they draw each other’s blood. Therefore the Pasha decided that since the Jews were already doing what the Turks were supposed to do then the Turks can sit back comfortably and smoke their nargileh. The Pasha asked grandfather to obey the Austrian Consul and be “a good boy” as fits a man of his age and standing and sent him back to Jaffa.

One week later the Jaffa correspondent of “Hashkafa” published in the 28 issue, 5th year of the newspaper, on May 7, 1904 the incident at the Committee’s office without mentioning names. This report said that grandfather came at the head of 80 people to get back from the “Director of the Organization’s Committee” their 1/2 Medjediehs and that he beat him so hard that he is now ill and has to lie-down. In the same paper the Editor, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda who was a friend of grandfather found it necessary to write an Editor’s Article in which he said that in his opinion nobody had the right to ask to be refunded, certainly not by performing acts of violence with their unjust demands. He added: “One of them hit the Director of the Committee, Dr. Yaffe, and wounded him very seriously near his right eye.”

On the 4th of May, during the same week in which this spicy report was published in Hashkafa, my grandfather received a summons to appear at the “Meeting of the High Executive Committee” concerning the affair which happened at the office of the Committee on Saturday evening. Grandfather replied writing: a) That he had already been to the Austrian Consul and to the Pasha and therefore “one is not judged in three tribunals simultaneously.” b) He had already advised them in writing on February 14, 1904 that he is resigning his position as delegate and membership in the “Organization” and is asking that his membership fund be refunded and travel expenses to Zichron-Yaakov be reimbursed. Since he is no longer a member in their organization they have no right or privilege to summon him to any inquiry. Several hours later he received a second written summons which was signed by Yehiel-Michal Pines and the messenger who brought the letter was instructed to tell Mr. Moritz Schönberg that they knew why he refuses to apppear before them – it is because he is a coward and faint-hearted and is afraid to meet them. These words had their immediate effect. Grandfather went immediately to the Committee’s office. Pines was there and Shimeon Rokach and others, including a guest from abroad. Not all those who were there were members of the “Committee” and yet grandfather was asked to tell his version of what happened on Saturday and add whatever else he had to say. However, when he named witnesses they refused to call them to bear witness and closed the meeting. Next day Pines came to grandfather and asked him if he agrees to accept the sentence of the “Organization”. Grandfather replied that he was bound by honor not to accept anything from them.

In the next copy of “Hahkafa”, No. 29 of 1904, there appeared a notice saying that “at the meeting of the High Executive Committee of the Organization which was held at Jaffa on the 6th of May” the complaint of Yaffe against Schönberg was received, was examined, was judged and having also heard Schönberg’s testimony he was found guilty on all charges, and since he refused to accept the judgement of the Committee it had decided to boycott him. The irony of this case was that the man who proposed and convinced his friends to boycott grandfather, Yechiel-Michal Pines himself endured this nightmare when he was boycotted in 1882 for having been involved in the quarrel between the Zealot Rabbis and the Pharisee Rabbis in Jerusalem and having been boycotted he published his apology in a famous article called “Let mountains hear my quarrel.” When Usishkin found out about this whole incident he hurried to send a telegram to the “Committee” and wrote that he considers the punch endured by Doctor Yaffe as intended to him personally and therefore he demands that Schönberg be punished severely. The first to obey the boycott was Levontin, this friend of grandfather’s who brought him and showed him all the letters that went back and forth between him and Doctor Herzl concerning Usishkin and the Organization. Levontin who was the Director of the Anglo-Palestine Company Bank issued an immediate order to his clerks not to give my grandfather any credit anymore.

The worst was that all the Jews of the city and of the rest of the country stopped from coming to grandfather’s shop and all his acquaintances and friends stopped speaking to him or greeting him. As soon as they saw him in the street they crossed to the other side of it. The only exception were his “brothers” the Free-Macons: The Jews, Muslims and Christians which came to him immediately and proposed to help him by putting pressure so as to annul the boycott immediately and cleanse his name. Grandfather was dead against it. He believed that this affair will end well by itself. He still believed that men were basically good. He believed that those who decided to boycott him will finally conclude that they were mistaken and will repent. Even more so: It was his opinion that this whole affair was but a storm in a teacup and that the most serious mistake which was made was making it public and letting out the dirty washing of the Jews for the gentiles to see instead of finding a quiet and decent solution.


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