My Life: The Iron Lady of Israel, Golda Meir - VI

NewsBharati    20-Nov-2023 15:32:23 PM   
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Preparation for the departure to Palestine

Around the winter of 1920, a flat was rented in New York and the preparation for the departure started. They planned to join the people in Palestine as pioneers, so the households were to be done away with. Golda noted that their ideas of life in Palestine were proved to be primitive later. All prepared themselves for the situations which were bereft of any modern amenities.
Golda Meir iron lady
Though Sheyna did not really approve of the idea,( as she thought 'there was a middle road for idealism ') after listening carefully to all the details, her husband asked her whether she would like to join the group. To everyone's surprise, she replied positively and seriously. She even offered to take the two children with her as her husband Shamai would be compelled to work and earn. She had been a staunch Zionist from a young age. Even Morris went to Palestine as it was a place, he thought, where ' they should be '. It was a time when full-scale riots against Jews broke out in Palestine. More than 40 new immigrants were murdered, mutilated, and raped in the old city of Jerusalem. Sheyna and all the others were unfazed. Golda wrote she felt very sorry for her parents when she saw tears rolling down her father's cheeks ( he was a strong man ) and her mother probably remembered her voyage to America and looked very small and withdrawn. The America segment was closing down, though she visited it often but it was ' never to be her home again '.
America was a land where she understood the meaning of freedom, democracy, and the opportunities and awareness she could experience. Golda noted, that never for a moment did she feel homesick or regret her decision to leave America though she loved America, and its beautiful countryside.

The journey was not easy either

The journey to Palestine was tough,the vessel was un-seaworthy,the crew had a strike, they revolted, tortured poor passengers, mixed sea water with drinking water, and many more things. It took a week to reach New York, then all had to wait for nine days, Sheyna's husband begged her to get off the ship. Of course, she did not relent.

The journey started again but salty water, power cuts, and terribly bad food were the woes that persisted. Some crew members even wanted to sink the ship. After reaching Porto Delgato, (the largest municipality (concelho) and executive capital of the Autonomous Region of the Azores in Portugal. ) the ship needed repairs and had to halt there for a week. At the port to their surprise, they discovered a tiny Jewish community with 30 people in all, who followed Jewish dietary laws very sincerely. They had been on the voyage for a month by that time. The facilities on board stopped working one by one, finally before they reached Naples the depressed captain killed himself. The rumour of their drowning spread, from Naples they could communicate with their family at America.
The second phase of journey

All boarded a train for Brindisi ( a port in Italy) , where they met with a Labour -Zionists group from Lithuania who had reached Palestine twice but were turned away. Compared to them the American group was termed to be soft and spoilt. It was predicted that the Americans might run away from Palestine. In a letter, the Lithuanians were described as so strong ' who were ready to build a land on just foundation with their back ', and ' splendid human material '.

When Golda and her group boarded the ship to Alexandria (the largest city in Egypt and the largest city on the Mediterranean coast now ), she suggested that all should give up their luxurious cabins and join the young Lithuanians on the deck, as she thought they must share the life of their fellow Zionists. It was thought that it would manifest their sincerity and ability to take hardships. Finally, all agreed and Lithuanians melted, together they sang Hebrew and Yiddish songs and danced.

Ultimately the group decided to travel by train, they had to take a train to Kantara from Alexandria. It gave them the taste of the Middle East, a crowd of beggars, covered in filthy rags and flies. The train too was in an appalling state, with terrible heat and no water. Their spirit was high, they sang in the excitement of return to Zion.

The last phase

Kantara too had dust and disinterested immigration staff. They reached Kantara at midnight and finally could board the last train before dawn. They traveled across the Sinai Peninsula through a blinding sandstorm, shaking abruptly, jostling against people roughly, sitting on the hard and dirty benches, thinking whether they would really reach Tel Aviv.

When the group reached Tel Aviv, its first look was not very impressive, maybe the expectations were different. ( the most populous city in the Gush Dan metropolitan area of Israel, located on the Israeli Mediterranean coast, it is the economic and technological center of the country now ) It was founded in 1909 and was on its way to becoming the youngest city. No one could think in 50 years it would become one of the important cities of Israel. Though the entire population was ousted by Turks, by the time this group reached, there were 15000 people living in the town. Donkeys and camels were used to carry the sand for the building, though a small area had neat little houses, the other parts were 'unplanned, unfinished and untidy '. ( The riots known as Mayday Riots started on May 1'st 1921 by Arabs, and as a result, many became homeless ) Many refugees were living in tents and broken-down houses. The city had Jews who came mainly from Lithuania, Poland, and Russia.

The city was allowed to levy its own taxes, manage the water system (by the British government ), and have some 25 men, the Jewish police force but no prison. It was on the way to a self-governing town. It had small buses and horse-drawn carriages for public transport. It had a thriving cultural life, writers, philosophers, and poets were sitting in the town. There was a theatrical group and a few cafes where lively debates could be heard. They had planned to stay in the town for a couple of weeks and apply for membership in a kibbutz which all had carefully chosen. They were told to wait to submit the application. So the group had to search for a house for seven people, they found one in the oldest part of the town, with no electricity, shared toilets but a small kitchen.

Distributed the work, and found some jobs that were very ordinary roles. Golda started giving private English lessons, and her friend as a typist, Morris could manage to work as a bookkeeper, but this was not what they aspired for. Together they made the place livable. They had to make a living in the chosen land, there was no state of Israel, a ministry to take care of immigrants, and no Jewish agency to help. They had a purpose when they chose Palestine, no one had asked them to land there or no promises were made to them. Each one personally had to make' life easier, better or meaningful '. They had to settle down quickly.

Prof. Vidya Deshpande

Professor Vidya Deshpande has had a journey of more than four decades in the field of education. Her  main expertise is in the subject of Philosophy,  and she has worked as a teacher of philosophy and logic with Nowrosjee Wadia college for 36 years. She has been associated with the Janakalyan Blood bank for last for 38 years and has also carried out the responsibility as a management committee member of Karve Stree Shikshan Sanstha for 10 years. Her special fields of interest are Philosophy of social sciences, school education, development of skills for self reliance,  and top up skills to make students profession ready,