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Chapter 10: Pains of absorption


We were assigned to a Beit Olim (Shelter for New Immigrants) located in  the Bat  Galim section  of Haifa,  close  to the sea shore. Compared with other camps, the conditions in our camp were  nearly  luxurious.  First,  being  in  a big  city was  of considerable advantage, making life easier. In addition,  unlike many other transit camps,  ours consisted of wooden barracks, not tents.  This  proved to be very important during the Israeli sizzling hot  summers  and  rainy, muddy  winters.  We  got  this assignment because Gabriel,  a disabled person,  was entitled to improved physical conditions. The walking distance to the center of Haifa was about 45 minutes.  A bus ride,  while very cheap at the time, was still too expensive for me. I never used it.
The barracks were big one-room structures, with many families living together in the same room. Suitcases, an occasional piece of furniture,  or  a blanket hanging on a rope stretched between walls, separated each family from its immediate neighbors. People in the camp had come from different countries and spoke many languages.  With those who could not speak Polish, we communicated in  German, broken Russian, or  not at  all.  One language  that  most new immigrants did not know was Hebrew, the official language of Israel. This problem was taken care of by the authorities: basic Hebrew lessons were provided free of charge.
Having the basic essentials for survival assured, people started looking for jobs, friends, and ways to start a new life. In my first job  I worked as a night watchman in an electric plant (Electric Company of Israel).  The plant was far from Bat Galim, working at night was inconvenient, the work itself was extremely boring, and the payment for it was very low. But at least it was a job,  and I  kept it,  while  looking for  a better opportunity.
This came quite soon. In Mekorot, a government company regulating the distribution  of  water in  Israel,  a land-surveyor  named Fred needed an assistant. Somebody recommended me,  and I embarked on a new career. Helping the surveyor was a little less boring, the pay was a little better, and working during the daytime was more to my liking. We usually worked in the area of Atlit, south of Haifa, in a field close to fig orchards. Quite often there was an opportunity to fill my stomach with fresh figs,  while on the job. Occasionally Fred treated me to a bottle of lemonade in a  nearby  Arab  grocery  store.  He  wanted  to  teach  me land surveying, so that I would stay with him for years, and become a useful  assistant.  During  one of  our conversations  I made it clear to him that I had a different kind of career in mind,  and would quit  the job  with him as soon as possible,  to return to medical school. Fred fired me immediately,  but at the same time helped me to obtain another job with Mekorot.
Water pipes were being laid near Atlit, and I joined a labor force digging ditches for the pipes. I was not used to this kind of labor, which was particularly strenuous under the hot Israeli midsummer sun.  But  as no better job was in sight,  I ground my teeth, and continued to dig the ditch.  My companions on the job communicated among  themselves in  all possible languages except Hebrew,  and ridiculed my attempts at learning and using it.  In addition,  they were  angry at my efforts to work with speed and efficiency.  There was  a silent agreement among them to work as slowly as possible,  except when the supervisor was present.  In spite of  the hard  work and  the heat,  I abhorred this kind of work ethic. But I could not change anything, and this job was not expected to last much longer. The school year was close and I looked forward to enrolling at the university.
Gabriel found a job as a clerk in one of the government offices, and some  time later Stella started working as a technician in a food-testing laboratory.  All this took place  while they lived in the Bat Galim Shelter for New Immigrants. Only 2 years later, in 1952, did Gabriel and Stella manage to obtain their own minuscule apartment in Kiriat Haim (Fig. 39). They moved in with Marek (now Meir) and Adam.  By then I was living in the students’ dormitory in Jerusalem.

Fig 39
Fig. 39:  Stella and Gabriel in Kiriat Haim

In 1950 there were only two universities in Israel: the Hebrew University in  Jerusalem and  the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) in Haifa. Before the end of July, in order to find out firsthand what were the possibilities of medical studies in Israel, I took a day off from my job and went to Jerusalem.  Stella did not let me go alone.  To her  I was still a child who had to be led by the hand. Over my objections, she joined me. From the bus station we headed  straight toward the student enrollment office temporarily located in the Terra Santa building.
The Hebrew University, founded in 1925, had been located in Mount Scopus,  on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem.  Since the War  of  Independence  (1948-49) the  city  was  divided between Israel and  Jordan,  the eastern part (the Old City) remaining under  Jordanian  rule.  Thus Mount  Scopus,  although technically under Israeli rule,  was cut off from the Israeli (western) part of the city.  The University was transferred temporarily to various buildings in the Israeli part of Jerusalem, some of them rented from church-affiliated institutions. One of these was the Terra Santa building.
The information we gathered at the University was not encouraging.  The only  medical school in Israel had opened just one year earlier,  after the cease-fire with the Arab countries, which concluded the War of Independence. Of the six years required by the  curriculum (based  on the European system),  the medical school consisted  initially of  the final  (clinical) two years. Its main short-term purpose was to enable completion of studies for  those  students  who  had  nearly  completed  them  in other countries. They were supposed to conclude their clinical two years,  take  the  examinations and  start the  internship. The preclinical two  years were expected to open shortly,  and would include  subjects  such  as  bacteriology,  parasitology, pharmacology and  pathology.  Anatomy and physiology were on the curriculum of the first two years. These were planned for the more distant  future,  and  could  not  be  taught  in  the  existing facilities.  Proper  functioning  of  the  anatomy  department demanded facilities for preservation of cadavers, and dissection rooms with appropriate equipment. There were similar problems with physiology, for which animal laboratories were necessary.
My credits from Wroclaw included chemistry and physics. I had not completed  the anatomy  course,  which in  Poland lasted  two years, and I had not even started the course in physiology.  The Hebrew  University  Medical  School  of that  time and  stage of development was  clearly not  for me.  It  appeared that several years might pass, before I would be able to continue my studies. Studying abroad was very expensive, far beyond my means. Actually, I did not have any means. I had never thought about how I would pay for my studies in Jerusalem, had they been possible, and what I would live on.  It looked as though my career had ended before it had even begun.

A detailed conversation with Mr. S. Birnbaum, a senior clerk at the student enrollment office, helped me to make up my mind. I enrolled at the Faculty of Biological Sciences, with bacteriology as  my main  subject.  This was relatively close to medicine,  so my  time would  not be entirely wasted.  After the departments of  anatomy and physiology opened,  I would be able to switch to the medical school, perhaps carrying some credits with me.  Due to credits from Wroclaw University, I was accepted for the second year of bacteriology, and exempted from examinations in inorganic chemistry and  physics.
There still remained many problems ahead, which had to be solved.  One was financing my studies.  I was permitted to start my studies without the initial downpayment, and was told that, depending on my progress,  I might become eligible for a stipend from  the  University,  and  exempted  from  paying tuition altogether.
Second, living quarters had to be found. The University maintained a  students  dormitory  with  inexpensive rooms  (three students to a room),  but at the moment all the rooms were fully occupied. There was a boarding house for young working men (Beit Ha'halutzim), where I made a temporary arrangement: at the beginning of the school year, I would move into a room with five other men.
Third, I would have to work for a living. Jobs were not easy to find, but the students organization helped students to find them. I registered with the organization.
Fourth, I was practically illiterate in Hebrew. Enrolling at the University  where  all  the  teaching  and  communication  were conducted in  Hebrew,  took a  lot of  nerve,  but I  trusted my ability to learn quickly. At the University they were used to new immigrants who did not speak, read or write Hebrew. After all,  one had to help us become absorbed into Israeli society. The majority of the new immigrant students managed somehow, and learned rather quickly. Those who did not..., well, it was their problem, and sometimes the end of their studies.

*     *     *

During our day in Jerusalem, Stella and I ate only sandwiches and drank very little from a bottle of lemonade which we had brought from home. The day was very hot. We did not use any buses in the city, because they were too expensive for us.  At the end of the day both Stella and I were quite exhausted.  But in spite of the exhaustion and my inability to enroll in the medical school this year,  we both  felt that we had accomplished a great deal.  We intended to return to Haifa on the same day,  and were on our way to the bus station,  when Stella suddenly felt weak, complained of nausea and fainted.
A crowd of people surrounded us, all trying to help and giving advice. Stella was lying on the sidewalk. Somebody sprinkled water  over  her face.  Someone  else gave  her water  to drink. Within minutes she recovered. We were told that the central clinics of Kupat Holim (the health service of the Labor Federation) were nearby, at Ben-Yehuda Street. Somebody led us to the clinic and told  the nurse that Stella had fainted in the street and needed medical attention.

We were sitting in the waiting room of Dr. Margalit. By now Stella felt better, and was worried that we would miss our bus. She wanted to leave the clinic, but I insisted that she must  see  the doctor. We were conversing in Polish.  Among the  other  patients waiting  for the  doctor was  a man  in his fifties who observed us and listened. After a while he adressed Stella in Polish. He inquired about her place of origin, time of arrival  in  Israel,  her  name...  At  the  sound  of the  name Seidenwerg, he became excited,  and asked about her husband.  It turned out that he knew Gabriel in his youth. Before World War I they  both  attended the  same Secondary  School of  Commerce in Tarnopol in southeast Poland, and lived in the same boarding room.  He  introduced  himself  as  Mr.  Shlomo  Weissbrot,  and appeared to be quite eager to meet his boyhood friend.
The "interrogation" continued. Pointing in my direction, Mr. Weissbrot asked, “Is this your son?”. Stella explained our relationship and  continued to answer the avalanche of questions that followed.  The  name  Weissberg  intrigued  him  even  more than Seidenwerg.  It turned  out that  in the  1890s he and my father had lived in the same small town, Probuzna, where they both attended the same  heder (a  Jewish religious primary school).  My father was  born  in  1894; Mr.  Weissbrot  was  three  years  older.  He remembered an amazing number of details,  particularly the names of people  and their  family relationships.  He  knew a lot about my paternal  grandparents,  particularly  about  my  grandfather's family.  He asked  me whether I had contacted my father's cousin Ze’ev Weissberg  who was living  in Israel.  I  told him  that he was mistaken: “I do not have any relatives  in Israel.”.  Mr. Weissbrot insisted: “If you are the son of Israel Weissberg and the grandson  of Berl Weissberg,  then you do have relatives in Israel”. He told me that Ze’ev Weissberg,  Berl’s nephew and  my  father's  first  cousin,  lived in  Haifa at  12 Gideon Street, and had a paper store at Shapira Street.  Ze'ev had attended the  same  heder as my father  and Mr.  Weissbrot,  and  they had maintained steady contact.
There was no doubt in my mind that Mr. Weissbrot was mistaken. Had there been any relatives of my father living in Israel, I would  have  known  about  them.  I intended  to ignore  all the information provided  by him,  but  Stella did  not let me.  She wrote down Ze’ev Weissberg’s address in Haifa.

Dr. Margalit examined Stella, diagnosed simple exhaustion, and recommended rest. It was too late for the bus.  With the help of strangers we found a place to stay overnight in Jerusalem: it was in one of the transition camps for new immigrants.

After a few days, in a very skeptical mood, I walked from Bat Galim  to  12 Gideon  Street  in  the  center  of  Haifa.  In an apartment on  the ground  floor I  was quite  surprised to see a sign on  the door with my name on it.  I still  did not believe that in  a moment I would face my relatives, about whose existence I didn’t know anything. “Obviously, Mr. Weissbrot knows these Weissbergs, and he mistakenly assumes that we are related.” I knocked on the door.
A girl about 12 years old opened the door. I adressed her in Polish,  asking to see her father.  She understood,  and turning toward the room said something loudly in Hebrew, which I did not understand. A man came out to see me. He was thin, balding,  had a dark yellowish complexion,  similar to my father's and my own, and could  be described  as a “typical Weissberg” (Fig.  40). I introduced myself in Polish: “My name is Bronislaw Weissberg. I am the son  of Israel and Dora Weissberg from Lwow.  My parents were born in Husiatyn.  I came to Israel a couple of weeks ago.  Last week in  Jerusalem I  met  Mr. Shlomo Weissbrot who gave me your address and told me that we are related. I have never heard about you before.”

Fig 40
Fig. 40:  Ze'ev Weissberg in the 1950s

Ze'ev Weissberg's face changed. Five years had passed since the end of the war. Of all his relatives who had lived in Poland before the War,  no  one had contacted him.  By now,  it seemed obvious to him that his whole family had perished. Indeed,  the only survivor - myself - did not  know about the existence of his branch of the family, and had not tried to make contact.
Ze'ev Weissberg invited me to come in, and for a long time listened to my story.  His wife Judith and son Ephraim,  5 years my senior  and a  student at  the Technion  (Israel Institute of Technology), both remembered my parents, my brother and me,  and knew who I was.  To the younger daughter,  Ziva,  who had opened the door, our relationship had to be explained.
It bothered me, and  still does, that I did not remember them, while they  remembered me.  My  young age  at the time they had left Poland in  the 1930s, and the many traumatic events that had occurred during the  following years,  probably  explain this  remarkable lapse in my memory.

*     *     *

In October I quit my job in Mekorot and moved to Jerusalem. As there were  no immediate  openings in the students’ dormitory,  I moved into the Beit Ha'halutzim boarding house, with five strangers in the  same room.  They  were noisy,  playing  cards until  late at night,  singing loudly  unnerving, monotonous,  Middle-Eastern songs, and speaking  in foul  language.  Studying in  this atmosphere  was plainly impossible.  I spent a month there,  until a room became available  in  the students’  dormitory.  It was  located in  the Musrara  section  of  Jerusalem,  bordering   the  strip of "no-man's  land" that  separated the  Jordanian and  Israeli parts of  Jerusalem. Our windows faced the Jordanian section of the city.
We were three students in a room, and sometimes exchanged places,  moving  to  other  rooms,  with  closer  friends.  The conditions were  spartan by  any standard.  Toilets  and showers were at  the end  of a  long corridor,  and  were shared  by all the students living on the same floor. There was no kitchen,  but in the room  one could  use any  kind of cooking stove,  such as a kerosene cooking stove or an electric hot  plate.  I had an electric plate.  The building  I lived  in  had served  in the past as a religious school  run by  nuns (Scuola  Italiana de Bosco).  The large classrooms  were divided  into small  units by  thin walls made  of cardboard, through which any noise, including quiet  conversations,  could  be  heard.  The  furniture  in  each  room consisted of one table,  plus a bed and chair per person.  There were no  closets.  I put  my belongings on bookshelves made from boards supported  by bricks.  Nevertheless,  after the Bat Galim Shelter for  New Immigrants  and the  Beit Ha'halutzim  boarding house,  these conditions  were quite satisfactory and I accepted them gladly (Fig. 41).

Fig 41
Fig. 41:  In the Students Dormitory

To earn a living, I started distributing newspapers to subscribers. All Israeli newspapers, except “The Jerusalem Post”, were printed in Tel Aviv (they still are). They were brought by truck to Jerusalem in the early  morning. Every  morning at five o'clock I  waited in Zion Square for those trucks,  received my share  of the copies of “Al  Hamishmar”,  and went on a 3 hour walk, covering the  whole Katamon  area of the city.  My job had to be finished  before  8 a.m.,  when    studies at  the University began.  Most    subscribers  expected  to  receive  their newspaper early.  Those  to whom I brought it after 7 a.m.  were often angry  and threatened  to stop  their subscription,  but I could not deliver to everybody all at once. With any route, some addresses had to be at the end of the list. The situation became even worse,  when I changed from "Al Hamishmar" to "Ha'aretz". They gave me a larger section of the city, with more papers to distribute.  This, of course, took more time, so more people complained about my lateness.
Winter in Israel is the rainy season. Due to some meteorological reason,  most of  the rainfall  in Jerusalem  occurs during  the early morning hours, or so it seemed to me. I often arrived at my  8 a.m. lectures wet and muddy. By then the weather was beautiful and my classmates wondered what had happened to me. I hated this job and thought it worse than digging ditches for Mekorot. But I couldn't just quit. If I simply walked out, my last month's  salary would not be paid. I had to provide a substitute and  teach him the route, before I could leave.  As someone had dumped the job on me,  so eventually I found another victim who became stuck with it for a while.
The rainy season presented a big problem for me. I had brought from  Poland  only one  pair of  shoes - those  on my  feet,  as permitted by the Polish authorities. They were Polish-made and of poor quality. I had used them  continuously, at  least since  early summer, and by November they were completely worn out, the soles torn beyond  repair.  Whenever it  rained,  my feet got wet.  I badly needed a new pair of shoes. However,  shoes,  like all other clothing and food, were rationed. One had to accumulate a certain number of  clothing stamps  in order  to buy  a pair.  I had been in Israel for only four months and did not yet have nearly enough stamps.
Outside the University I had very few friends in Jerusalem. The Gold family were such friends. The head of the family, Dov Gold, was the  brother of Dr. Jozef Gold, close a boyhood friend and high-school classmate of my late Uncle Jozek. The Golds lived in the Tel  Arza section  of Jerusalem,  a  half-hour walk  from my dormitory. I visited them frequently. During one of those visits I  met  their  friend,  Mrs.  Shapira.  They told  her about  the desparate condition of my shoes, and asked if she could “talk to Mr. Freimann”. Mr. Freimann was the owner of the big “Freimann and Bein” shoe-store in Jaffa Road. Mrs. Shapira apparently knew him  well.  She  was  very  skeptical  about  the  possibility  of achieving anything without having the adequate number of stamps, as the rationing of clothing was very strict. Nevertheless,  she promised to try.
We set a date, and a few days later met in Mr. Freimann’s store. I stood in one corner of the store, while Mrs. Shapira took Mr. Freimann to another corner, and quietly tried to talk him into helping  a  poor student.  It  was not  a matter  of money,  she insisted, “only” the insufficient number of clothing stamps. Mr. Freimann was well aware that selling a pair of shoes without collecting  the  prescribed  number  of  stamps  was  considered black-marketing, and was punishable by law. He was firm.  He did not even want to discuss the subject.  But Mrs. Shapira, who had never met me before that visit at the Golds' home,  now had a worthy cause. She became emotionally involved and decided that she must help me. Their argument lasted half an hour,  until Mr.  Freimann became exhausted. When we left the store,  I walked away triumphantly with a pair of new brown shoes on my feet.
Mr. Weissbrot, who had disclosed the unknown branch of my family, lived with his wife in Jerusalem. Sometimes I visited them for a cup of tea and to hear stories about my ancestors. Mr. Weissbrot was very  eager to help me in any way he could.  He knew Mr. Rosner,  the owner of Cafe Allenby in King George Street.  Due to Mr. Weissbrot's intervention, I obtained a job there, and  every  evening  from  6 to 10, I  stood behind  the counter, selling ice cream. The cafe was well heated, the rain outside did not bother me, and I usually got a cup of coffee or tea with a  piece of cake, to warm up. It was much more comfortable than distributing newspapers,  but the pay was still very low.
Quite unexpectedly, a better job soon became available. A student who worked at the Carmel Hotel as a handyman, was fired, and his position was offered to me. The Carmel was a zero star hotel in King George Street, opposite Cafe Allenby. It consisted  of  two floors  in  an  old  apartment  building.  The apartments were converted into separate rooms for rent. The only toilet and bath on each floor were shared by all the guests. My job was to be there five nights a week from 6 p.m. until the next morning,  manning the counter,  and waiting for prospective guests to rent rooms.  A folding bed was available for me in the unimpressive "lobby", on which I slept after the rush hour. From time to time I had to iron bedsheets, so that they could be used as fresh ones for new guests.  On other occasions I had to spray the  beds with "Flit", a cheap bedbug killer. In case of problems, the hotel  owner could be summoned from the upper floor, where he lived with  his family. For this job I got a light supper every evening, and  40 Israeli pounds per month. This was considerably more than any of my previous earnings, and was adequate for all my current expenses.
An important benefit of this job was that most of the time I had nothing to do. I could sit at the counter and study. Also, the job was quite interesting. This was my first encounter with prostitutes who  frequented the rooms with their clients.  I saw people  doing  shadowy  business  late  at  night,  talking in subdued voices, with cards laid out on the table,  to simulate a card game, in case the police came in. Also, I met some nice and interesting  people  from  whom  I  learned  something  about contemporary  Israel  and  ways  to  survive. I  have particularly fond  memories of  a Hebrew University student Kuba Schenkman,  an intellectual  who lived  and worked  in Tel Aviv. From time to time he came to Jerusalem for examinations and other affairs at the University, and then stayed overnight at the Carmel Hotel. On those evenings we  both forgot about the need to study, and spent long hours talking about every possible subject until late at night.  The job had only one drawback:  I was tied up every evening and every night.
At the beginning of 1952 I left the Carmel Hotel and started working as  an orderly in the Avihail Hospital for Tuberculosis. This brought me closer to medicine. When my work load was not too heavy, I studied patients’ records and their x-rays, absorbing clinical information and medical terms while waiting for an opportunity to start at medical school.

*     *     *

The school year started in October. I entered the second year of bacteriology, confident that my acclimatization process and language learning would be swift and smooth.  This assumption  was based  on my experience during the past 3 months,  since  my arrival in Israel.  By October I could converse in basic Hebrew,  understood much of what was spoken on simple subjects, and with some effort,  could express myself.  I managed to  convince myself  that I  knew Hebrew.  While digging ditches for  Mekorot,  I was associated with people in the labor force who  had been  in Israel  considerably longer  than I.  By comparison,  my  progress  in Hebrew  was truly  impressive.  It escaped my  mind that  such comparison was meaningless because  most of those people  had neither  education nor the motivation to study and learn.
My first day at University brought a harsh awakening. My classmates were not new immigrants, but educated young Israelis. To them Hebrew was the natural language of thinking. Their Hebrew was elaborate, not like the language heard in the grocery store.  Even the  few new  immigrants who were in my class,  had come  to  Israel at  least a  year or  two earlier,  and  could communicate in Hebrew freely. The fact that I had been in Israel only three months, and without any Hebrew background,  made me unique.
The language of my classmates seemed sophisticated. I could not understand their conversation. When they talked to me, I barely understood a few separate words.  I was unable to read the guide sheets  issued  to students  for laboratory  work.  I could  not understand  the  lectures.  I  felt  lost.  Because  I  did  not understand  the  contents  of  the lectures,  I  could not  make relevant notes.  I  only wrote  down some separate words as they sounded, without understanding them. Later, my classmates explained their meaning to me, and corrected my spelling, while I wrote everything down for subsequent memorizing.
Two of my classmates were particularly helpful and did not spare any effort to help me  understand what  I wrote.  They  were Zakai Eliash and Arie Elkon. Their help was invaluable.  Arie was born in Poland. His family had immigrated to Israel in the 1930s when he was  a child,  but  he still  remembered some  Polish,  which helped in translating my notes. When I had been in Israel a little over a year, Arie and Zakai took me to the Habima National Theater to see a play - my first theater show in Hebrew.  Arie sat on my left, Zakai on my right, and they both helped me to understand what went  on.  I  remember  this  as  an  important  landmark  in my absorption into Israeli society and culture.
In 1952 Arie and I both switched from bacteriology to medicine. We graduated together. He died in 1974 from malignant melanoma, leaving a wife and two daughters. Zakai continued to study biological sciences. We lost contact many years ago.
The university lectures helped me to learn Hebrew and to become absorbed in Israel. However, they were of no use in learning the subjects of study.  When the examination term approached,  I was unprepared.  I could not read books - in Hebrew or English - and my lecture notes  were of  no value.  Inestimable help came from another classmate, Amira Schechter, an extremely lovely girl. She always took very good notes, and they were in clear, easy to read  handwriting. Before exams, she always  let me  use her notebooks, which were my only source of knowledge.
All examinations were oral. I studied Amira's notes thoroughly. The examiners understood the problems of the new immigrant facing them,  and  were  considerate and  patient.  Their patience  and informality facilitated  my acclimatization  and continuation  of study.
An important landmark in the course of my studies was the examination in the anatomy of  vertebrates.  This was  considered a difficult subject, and Professor Haas the terror of the students.  One had to be well prepared. When I asked Amira for her notebooks, she warned me: “You must study Parker's Textbook. Professor Haas will  not  settle  for  less.”. Other students  confirmed Amira's words.  They assured  me that  using lecture  notes as  the only source of  study for  Professor Haas's  examination,  guaranteed failure. The Professor assumed (perhaps rightly) that university students should know how to read. Accordingly,  he did not summarize all the  material in his lectures and laboratory exercises,  but concentrated on  the more  difficult parts,  for which elaborate explanations had to be given.  The rest had to be learned from a textbook. THE textbook.
I looked at the two-volume (about 1500 pages) Parker and Haswell's Text-book of Zoology and felt close to fainting.  The sheer size of it was frightening.  But worst of all,  it was in English, a language then totally  unknown to  me.  All inquiries about a book in Polish  (ideal) or  in  German  (manageable) met  with  the same verdict:  “It is  either Parker,  or  failure.”.  My friend Zakai Eliash  had  an  idea.  “Actually,  if  you  can  get de Beer’s 'Vertebrate Zoology', it should suffice. It is considerably smaller than  Parker.”  I looked at de Beer's book:  it was only 490 pages, but it was still in English.  I asked Zakai, with suspicion: “But will de Beer suffice?”. “Well,” he said,  “if you know all that is written in de Beer,  you should be able to pass the exam.”.
I managed to obtain the only copy of de Beer's Vertebrate Zoology available at  the University  Library.  Then I  bought a  small, pocket-sized version of Grzebieniowski's English-Polish Dictionary. For the next two months I stopped attending nearly all my lectures,  trusting  that Amira's notebooks would suffice.  In fact,  they served  my needs  better than the lectures,  which I could still not understand.  I  cut my attendance of laboratory exercises  to  a  bare  minimum,  just  enough  to  be  seen  by the instructors  and  get attendance  confirmation.  During those two months I  spent day  and night  in my  room in  the dormitory, studying  de Beer’s book.  It  was unending  work of  reading a single word, looking for its translation in the dictionary,  and writing it down in my notebook.  After I finished a sentence,  I tried to understand it. My dictionary was very small, limited in scope.  Many words  could not  be found  in it.  Then I tried to understand unknown words by relating them to other words,  only occasionally asking others for help.  It took me 2 to 3 hours to read and  understand a single page.  After a while I felt that I was making slow but  steady progress.  As the words repeated themselves, more and more of them became familiar, and I did not have to  look up every single one in the dictionary.  Toward the end of the book I could read parts of sentences,  and even whole sentences, without resorting to the dictionary at all.
Two months to read the entire text. Two weeks for the second reading.  This  time  I  made  notes not  of new  words,  but of zoology.  Then  I  went  to  face  the  “terror  of  students” - Professor Haas.  He was nice and understanding - not a terror at all.  My Hebrew was still very limited,  and my Polish would not help,  as Prof.  Haas  was from  Germany.  But we found a common basis of communication. At the end of the examination he asked me about my study technique, and was quite amused. I scored 75 out of 100, much more than I had hoped for.  With 61 needed to pass the examination, I was elated.
My experience with zoology and Professor Haas ended with a firm decision that  from now  on,  my source  of study would be books. English books. I retain the fondest memories, great friendship and some hidden love for Amira, but I never used her notes again. My second  book  in  English  was  Baldwin's  Dynamic  Aspects  of Biochemistry. I still had to use the dictionary quite often. But it was not nearly as difficult as breaking the first ice.

*     *     *

Military service in Israel has always been obligatory for both men and  women.  New  immigrants of  induction age  could ask  for a 12-month postponement,  which was usually granted.  This meant that after  one year at university I would have to interrupt my studies for 2 years, a highly undesirable prospect. In order to enable students to complete their studies without interruption, a special "academic reserve" program was established. Students accepted to this program would undergo only basic military training during the summer vacation. The balance of the  service was  postponed until  the end of studies.  After graduation, each participant would serve in his respective field of study.  This was very convenient and highly desired by nearly every student  who  was obliged to do  military service.  The  selection for acceptance was  based on a personal interview,  during which  credentials were  reviewed.  An important part of my credentials was my  matriculation certificate,  with a score of 100 for almost every subject. Some of the officers on the Selection Board could read Polish.  They  were impressed  with my  record,  and I  was accepted. Following this, I spent my  summer vacation time in in 1951 in the Sarafand military training base.

*     *     *

Early in 1952, the Institute of Anatomy and the Department of Physiology opened. The Medical School was now complete. I had enough credits to enter the second year and start the course in anatomy, but I still had to overcome the odds of competition, and they  were great.  I do not remember the number of competing candidates, but it many times exceeded the 60 available places.
Candidates for admission to the medical school came from three groups:  those  who had completed  the  first  year  of  biological sciences  and  were  enrolled  in  the  second year,  those  who had completed the second year and were enrolled in the third year (I was in  this group),  and  those who  were not  enrolled at  the university at all, but had enough credits from studies abroad to be admitted.  The  selection was made by oral examinations which included zoology and  biochemistry, and a personal interview.  When this was over,  I received my letter of acceptance - one of the happiest moments in my life. It was early spring, 1952.
The anatomy course started with an opening lecture by Dr. Ickowicz, head of the department (Fig. 42). In the class, study groups formed, usually of students from one country, speaking the  same language. There were groups composed solely of Bulgarians, Hungarians, Romanians, but no Polish-speaking group. Most of the “Poles” in my class were Israeli “natives”. They were either born in Israel to Polish parents, or came to Israel as young children, and had no language difficulties.

Fig 42
Fig. 42:  Lecture of Dr. Ickowicz opening the course in Anatomy. The arrow points to the author's head

Many of the new students heard lectures in Hebrew for the first time,  and some were as helpless as I had been a year-and-a-half earlier.  Now  it  was  my  turn  to  help  and  I  did  this with enthusiasm.  The time  spent distributing newspapers and selling ice-cream,  studying two new languages simultaneously and making irrelevant notes at lectures, had not been easy. But it proved to be an excellent school of life, and the experience gained was invaluable.  Now I could communicate easily  with everybody,  and my lecture notes were in clear Hebrew, readable and relevant. I studied  from  English  books  and  from  my  own  notes.  My participation in  the various study  groups became sought after.  I liked anatomic dissection, and used to dissect the cadaver during the late evening hours,  when  the dissection  room was  empty and quiet. Next day I demonstrated to my colleagues the newly dissected area.
 During the time spent in biological sciences I disliked certain subjects, particularly botany. There was undoubtedly a psychological  reason  for  it:  this  had  been  a  temporary substitute for the medical school. By contrast,  in the medical school, all subjects were  interesting.  My teachers  took notice  of  this  interest  and  valued  it.  Their appreciation culminated  in  Dr.  Ickowicz's invitation  to assist  him in  a research project.  Those were the early days of steroids, and Dr. Ickowicz tested their influence on the function of the reticuloendothelial  system.  My  participation  in  the project included injecting  rats with  methylene blue  solution and with varying doses of cortisone, and then relating the ingestion of methylene blue particles by reticuloendothelial cells in various organs to the dose of cortisone. According to the protocol, the injections had  to  be given  at specific  time intervals,  which  required injecting the  rats at most unusual late night and early morning hours. It was demanding work, but I did it conscientiously. As a reward, Dr. Ickowicz made me the coauthor of what later became my first publication. He also gave me a job as a demonstrator to students in  the courses  of anatomy  and  histology,  which I continued to do for the following three years.

At this time I was beginning to feel fully absorbed  into  Israeli  society,  well  acclimatized in  my new surroundings. In fact, from then on I did not consider myself an "oleh  hadash" (new  immigrant),  but  a  fully-fledged  and  well settled Israeli. To be sure,  I still had a long way to go,  but the future looked bright.


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