My Mother’s Family — Part 18

The contract which grandfather had with the Bustros family concerning the 34 shops and 34 flats which grandfather built in Bustros Street came to an end in 1921. Grandfather lost 6,000 Pounds due to the moratorium which was enforced by the Turkish government during the war and he thought it would be only fair if the Bustros family would share this loss with him. Grandfather’s shop grew and occupied 4 of the 34 shops in that street. The department store of Schönberg & Son was managed by my uncle Boris and was the largest in the country. Grandfather was interested in hiring all of these 34 shops and flats for another 3 years. He decided to travel to Beirut and deal directly with Bustros and Sursock who was the brother of Mrs. Bustros. Grandfather was ready to come to a compromise but they tried to deceive him and involved him with other so-called businessmen who showed interest in those shops and flats. Grandfather was obliged to travel twice more to Beirut until finally, on August 9, 1922 he received 2,000 Pounds from Sursock and by 1923 he decided to sever all contacts with them. By this time he had already the plans and permits to build on land which he bought in Tel-Aviv.

Grandfather and my uncle Boris had come to the conclusion that the time had come to leave oriental and mouldy Jaffa and move to Tel-Aviv which was a new European-looking town after the riots of 1921. Grandfather decided to move his family first and later move his department store. Only one plot of land remained in Allenby Street which became after the First World War the main street of this Hebrew City. All the other plots were sold and most of them had been built. The only plot which was still available was the one at the corner of 37 Allenby Street and 1 Bialik Street. This was a strange-looking plot which looked like a truncated triangle or a strange trapeze. On May 11, 1922 grandfather bought it from Rabi Mordechai Ben Hillel Hacohen for 680 Pounds in cash. He ordered plans immediately and handed them over to the Municipality to be approved and in 1923 he built a two-storied house on it. On the first floor, facing Allenby Street he built several shops and facing Bialik Street he formed a garden where he planted trees, shrubs and flowers. The second floor was reached by stairs which were 2 meters wide. There were 9 rooms on this floor as well as 2 kitchens, 2 bathrooms and 2 toilets, and there were 2 long balconies and 2 short balconies. The roof was a flat roof and a large store was built on it. Grandfather divided this living floor into two flats of 4 rooms each with a single room between them which had an entrance-door of its own. My grandfather took the north-western flat for himself and grandma and let-out the southern flat and the single room to lodgers and when my parents were married he gave them this flat. When I was born he added the single room to their flat which turned into a 5-room flat. One could move from one flat to the other without going out for there was a door between my parents bedroom and my grandparents bedroom. Moving from Jaffa to Tel-Aviv to live in a brand-new and modern house gave my grandfather sort of a new life, new horizons and fresh air which came with the breeze from the seashore up Allenby and Geulah Streets.

Grandfather moved into his new house on 1 Bialik Street early in 1924. My mother who graduated from Moshe Hopenko’s “Shulamit” Music Conservatoire had left already in 1923 and traveled to her sister and brother-in-law who lived in Liverpool, England and there she graduated from the local Music Conservatoire as well. This left grandfather and grandmother alone. Grandmother was in seventh heaven when she moved to Tel-Aviv. The new flat was bigger and larger than the one in Jaffa and the many architectural and plumbing novelties were breathtaking. Grandmother roamed her new kitchen with glittering eyes.

In 1925 my grandfather reached 65 years of age. He was not really well. He felt for the past 5 years that his health was declining and that he was getting physically weaker. His daughter and son’s death weakened him spiritually as much as physically. He used to go to the department store or work in the garden. A new family event was approaching: The engagement and marriage of my mother and father which took place in 1925.

My mother, Miriam, was born in Jaffa in 1902 and was one year older than my father. She went to school at the French Girls School in Jaffa and studied music as well.She was a talented pianist. She graduated from both Music Schools: In Tel-Aviv and in Liverpool with a Music Teacher’s Diploma from both. At the French School she was called Marie and this became her name throughout her life both to her family members as well as to her friends and acquaintances. This was how my father called her as well. Both met as early as 1921 at the famous Purim Ball held at the winter cinema “Eden”. Shortly afterwards my father invited my mother to the opening event of the summer cinema “Eden”. They both liked each other but my father’s departure for France and my mother’s departure for England stopped the development of their friendship. They used to correspond occasionally and when they returned to Israel they renewed and strengthened their friendship. Early in 1925 Moshe and Haya Abarbanel arrived at the house of Moritz and Libbe Schönberg in Bialik Street 1. Moshe Abarbanel was busy building a house at 3 Gilboa Street at that time and the secrets and difficulties of house-building served as the first topic of conversation between the two men. Moshe Abarbanel was 50 at that time, 15 years younger than Moritz Schönberg. Both met and knew each other since Abarbanel arrived in Israel. Although Moritz Schönberg was a book-reader rather than a film-viewer and visited the cinema only when they showed a film which was based on a famous book by a renowned author or about an important Jewish or human problem yet he considered the establishment of a cinema as an important cultural enterprise and he valued very much Moshe Abarbanel’s courage and talent in the field of public entertainment.

Schönberg always knew that the resurrection of a nation in its homeland will not materialize by work only and that one should foster the theater, the opera, poetry and literature. At the end of last century, while he was still working as a watchmaker and a gold and silversmith in Jaffa he gathered a large group of Jewish workmen and workwomen from Jaffa and farmers from Rishon-Lezion and convinced them that a cultural nation could not exist without a theater. He initiated the forming of a small band and the performance of Goldfaden’s Yiddish opera: “Shulamit”. Since Schönberg had a strong Bariton voice he was given the part of Manoach, Shulamit’s father. The engineer Leon Stein agreed that the performances be held in his factory which was large enough to host 200 people (the “Eden” cinema did not exist yet). Aba Neiman who was a mechanic at Stein’s factory and his brother Itzhak Neiman produced the stage decor. Haim Hissin who at that time was still a laborer and coachman (and later became a doctor) was the director of this show. The center-point of the choir was the wonderful bass Eliezer Margolin of Rishon-Lezion who many days later returned to Israel as Lieutenant-Colonel Margolin the commanding-officer of the 39th Battalion of the First Judean Royal Fusiliers which took part in conquering Israel from the Turks during the First World War. The Conductor, Yoseph Shpieler, conducted a typical Jewish band which included: 3 violins, 2 clarinets and one drum.

Abarbanel used to enter Schönberg’s shop whenever his watch had to be repaired or when he needed something to wear or a pair of new shoes. At Schönberg & Son one could always find the very finest merchandise at very reasonable prices and while you were shopping you could talk, in Yiddish, with Mr. Schönberg about the news of the day. Schönberg was renown as the symbol of decency and courage and Abarbanel loved and respected this tall, slim man with his steel-grey eyes which were full of warmth and tenderness and his muscular arms and hands as strong as a vice. During the expulsion from Jaffa and Tel-Aviv both families went to Petah-Tikva and there those two met several times, related their woes to each other and encouraged each other with hopes for better times.

These two men were intellectual Jews with very advanced ideas and in 1925 the Jewish concepts of “matchmaking” and “engagement-conditions” had quite a different meaning than what they were only 25 years earlier. Here this couple found each other without a matchmaker and matchmaking and all that remained for the future groom’s father was to request the agreement of the future bride’s father and to search together for ways and means which would help the young couple to start their new life together. Abarbanel told Schönberg that his son Zeev was managing the “Galey-Aviv” Casino since 1924 and was doing a good job and that on the day of his marriage he intends to raise his salary which is already a fine salary. Schönberg was familiar with the Casino for he liked to go there during the morning hours or in the afternoon to have coffee or tea and hold his important business meetings at this pleasant place. There he met his future son-in-law, checked with his inquisitive eyes and concluded that this was a diligent young man who knows his business, has polite manners and last but not least: Treats his employees correctly and well Schönberg told Abarbanel that his daughter’s dowry will be the second flat in his house where she would be able to reside without charge as long as she would like. The engagement took place without any hindrance or difficulty and the wedding was set for June 16,1925.

My parents’ wedding took place on that day and was naturally held at the Casino. The Rabbi who married them was Rabbi Shlomo Hacohen Aharonson who was at that time the Chief-Rabbi of Tel-Aviv. This was a splendid wedding with many participants. Not only the notables of Tel-Aviv and Jaffa participated but from all parts of the country people who knew and respected both marrying families came to participate in this magnificent wedding. After the wedding ceremony a sumptuous meal was served followed by dance-music played by the Casino band.People danced as late as after midnight. For their honeymoon my parents traveled to Paris and when they returned from France they settled in their apartment on Bialik Street 1. My father went on managing the Casino and my mother turned to be a wonderful housewife.

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