2. Life in Palestine: 1933-1939
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CHAPTER TWO Life in Palestine: 1933-1939 Jeruschalajim, Stadt aus Gold, Aus Kupfer und aus lichtem Schein, Oh, konnt' fur all' Deine Lieder Ich Harfe sein. —Das GoldeneJerusalem} DESPITE THE euphoria the Robinsohns must have felt at having reached the promised land, it was clear from the beginning that life in Palestine would not be easy. From Haifa, where Lotte Robinsohn and her two sons had disembarked in early April 1933, the family moved to Tel Aviv, where they settled shortly after their arrival in Palestine.2 TEL AVIV Tel Aviv, in the 1930s, never failed to make an impression. Arthur Koestler, correspondent and author living in Palestine at the time, viewed it with a rather jaundiced eye: There was a main street named after Dr. Herzl with two rows of exquisitely ugly houses, each of which gave the impression of an orphanage or police barracks. There was also a multitude of dingy shops, most of which sold lemonade, buttons and flypaper.3 The Robinsohns, however, saw Tel Aviv—and indeed all of Palestine— quite differently. Like their fellow passenger on the Vulcania, Yossele Rosenblatt, the Robinsohns felt a tangible euphoria upon reaching Palestine . Rosenblatt, for example, had no sooner landed in Haifa than he 1 Translated by Saul Robinsohn from the Hebrew, song by Naomi Shemer, with philological and historical commentary. Robinsohn 1969. Quoted in Becker 1972, p. 4, and Becker 1973, p. 435. 2 Lotte Robinsohn already knew two women in Jerusalem, teachers she had met in KoIn before she was married. Because of her husband's prominence and her own contacts in Palestine, especially her connections with the Keren Hajessod (United Israel Appeal) and other Jewish agencies, the Robinsohns could count on considerable help, especially from prominent people, as they began the task of resettling in Palestine. Renee Robinson toJWD, letter of November 10, 1987, RP/YUL. Details presented here of what the Robinsohns faced are also based to a large extent upon the recollections of Miriam Hermann and Eliezer Pinczower. See transcripts of Hermann R-1975 and Pinczower R1977 . s Koestler 1980, p. 45. 34 — Chapter Two felt as if an oppressive weight had been lifted from him. Tel Aviv seemed a dream come true: Can you believe it? It is really Tel Aviv that we are in, our ownJewish Tel Aviv, built by Jewish hands, run by a Jewish mayor, guarded by Jewish policemen, everything as it was foreseen by our prophets.4 Rosenblatt was even more emphatic about the beauty, vitality, and promise of the land itself. "You wouldn't recognize it, Stimuli," he wrote to his son, adding that Palestine was "veritably a 'land flowing with milk and honey,' possessing all of the virtues of the modern countries of the world with very few of their defects."5 The Robinsohns, however, were not in Palestine as celebrities. Despite their commitment to the idea of Eretz-Israel and the promise of a new life, they initially had little to rely on in the way of material assets. To begin their new life in the midst of an economic depression and the escalating political disorder sweeping across Europe was a formidable task on any terms. Nor were the Robinsohns on favorable grounds legally. Having entered Palestine as "tourists" with ongoing tickets to Trieste that were never used, they remained in Tel Aviv without legitimate immigration papers. Despite British efforts to deport illegal aliens, the local Jewish community had developed means to help those who wished to stay. Lotte Robinsohn, well connected as she was, fortunately succeeded some years later in obtaining the documents she and her children needed to maintain permanent residency as citizens of Palestine.6 Meanwhile, to support the family, Lotte Robinsohn found rooms in Tel Aviv on Rothschild Boulevard and opened a pension, which she operated with the help of another woman, Grete Ascher.7 During these years life was financially difficult, but Lotte Robinsohn succeeded in carefully managing what resources she had. Despite what must have been 4 Yossele Rosenblatt, quoted in the biography by his son, Samuel Rosenblatt. See Rosenblatt 1954, p. 342. 5 Rosenblatt 1954, pp. 342-343. 6 On August 29, 1935, Lotte Robinsohn was officially granted a certificate of naturalization , for which she had applied on March 3. Accompanying the application is a wistful photograph of Hedwig Robinson; the certificate, no. 25136, is among Robinson's papers , YUL. For a description of what immigrants to Palestine like the Robinsohns faced in Palestine, see Bentwich 1936. 7 Eliezer...