Life in Mandate Palestine


Life in Mandate Palestine


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By Eva Feld

Commencement in 1945 in Palestine (now Israel) was not something that was a priority thing to do or the premiere event to attend. The war in Europe had just come to a halt but war in Palestine was just starting in full force and it did not take very long to present itself in its full savagery. The war had several fronts. Jews were fighting the British. British were fighting the Jews. Jews were fighting the Arabs. Arabs were fighting the Jews and sometimes one Jewish militant group against another Jewish militant group. None of these skirmishes were considered officially a war but the maimed were just as maimed and the dead, well, they were dead. Small wonder then that commencement was not on a preferred list of things to do.

I was attending a small school on Mt. Carmel in the District of Achuza. The school was called Amamee and our class bonded like no other class had ever bonded before. Many of my classmates were survivors of the S/S Patria disaster and were Mosad (orphanage-Establishment) children and some where Holocaust death camp survivors. We had been together for two years we were not just classmates, we were siblings joined at the hip if you will. We swore we would be friends for life.

Some of our teachers were survivors too and they told us that we had come to a crossroad in our lives. That we would part after graduation and probably never see each other again perhaps only in passing and that was completely incomprehensible and unacceptable to us. Never see to see each other again, ever! Never!

After lengthy discussion with teachers and the school authorities it was decided to have a Chagiga - celebration. It was to be an overnight affair with a lot of food and all the junk food available in those days and soda. We took our food requests to the parents and our mothers were more than happy to help us make the event memorable and joyful. My parents z'l objected to the overnight affair for many reasons. One of the teachers, a Hungarian sports teacher, convinced my parents that he would take full responsibility for me personally and begged my parents to permit me to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime event.

The date was set for a Sunday in the middle of June just after the rest of the classes were dismissed for the summer. The decorating committee was busy at work. Soon the schoolyard would be filled with the joyful sounds of mid-teenagers celebrating their last fling. It was mid-morning when the preparations came to full stop.

Something happened and the British authorities slapped a curfew on the City of Haifa including Mt. Carmel and the District of Achuza. Frankly, I don't remember what happened but the curfew was declared severe-extreme which meant - no one was to be on the streets after 5:00 in the afternoon. Anyone caught peeking out of a window would be summarily shot to death.

Very few people had telephones in those days. The reason we had a telephone was because my father z'l was a physician. My parents called the school and the principal assured my parents that the preparations for the festivities were continuing that the outdoor activities had been transferred to the innermost classrooms. We would be locked up by 5:00 p.m and that the police were notified of the event. There would be nothing to worry about the children would be safe. My parents found it all unconvincing and insufficient reason to have me participate.

I was instructed to take the bus to the school get my diploma and return home as quickly as at all possible. The deadline was tight but it was workable. Tearfully I turned up at the principal's home and told him about my mission. He tried to convince me to stay but order was an order. Reluctantly he gave me the diploma and with that he wished me well and sent me on my way. I rushed to the bus stop only to see the last bus leave without me. There was no alternative but to walk home, a walk of approximately 6 plus miles.

When I failed to emerge from the last bus my parents checked with the dispatcher and much to their horror were told that the bus had only two passengers and that there was no teenager aboard. They called the school and spoke to the principal. He told that I had left in a timely manner and should have been home.

Wrought-up with anguish my father, who was personal physician to many police officers, and quite a few of them knew me too - he appealed to their sense of reason. He told them that I might be running home. He did not know exactly what route I would be taking. Was I prone to taking shortcuts and veering off the main road? Of course but exactly where or when I would choose a by-pass he did not know. The police were apologetic said there was very little they could do since it was an army issued curfew and they did not have the authority to interfere. A teenager on the run or walking alone at a time of severe-extreme curfew was suspect of the highest rank in military eyes.

If there ever was a Ha-sch-ga-cha me-al (Supervision from Above) that was the moment. Throughout my six-mile trek I never veered off the main road nor did I run. I maintained high visibility at all times. No police or military patrol drove past me. The usually busy road was deserted and I was its lone human companion. I arrived at home to the loving arms of my parents safe and sound with the diploma in hand. Why no one saw me only G-D knows.

One thing though did come true just as our teachers had predicted. We disbursed into our lives and we never saw or heard from each other ever again.


from the May 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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