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A living memory of how Israel began

Op-ed: There are few countries in the world in which a man can hold in his hand a thread that starts at the country’s first days, and converse with a lucid, living person who saw how everything began; so hurry up and find these people, as they are quick to disappear or forget.

One day, 72 years ago, a tall woman entered a Polish library on Allenby Street, managed by the friends Meller, Lipschitz and Sarna. The three of them were young Polish immigrants, good-natured and jesting, even during the World War, when letters from their family members stopped coming. They were always in a suit and tie.

The Giraffe, a forthright Sabra called Yaffa Raskin, who was 1.76 meters tall, was looking for a job. She was quickly hired to work at the library and promptly began collecting lost debts and unreturned books. In very short order, she fell in love with the blue-eyed Lipschitz and married him.

He was my father’s best friend, and his partner in a business that was only losing money. But it was a wonderful spot, filled with friends, the smell of paper and cigarette smoke, and served as an alternative family to the lonely pioneers who have yet to learn that they have been orphaned of everything.

Five couples, including my parents, came together during that time and after the war, and so they remained friends for the next 50 years. Lipschitz was a right-wing Beitar member and a customs broker, and Grynszpan was an electrician at the Brenner House, Dolly worked at the Zionist General Council, and Salek at the Shekem. My father, Israel, was a teacher.
6204785297099640360noLeft to right: Yaffa Raskin Lipschitz; Yola and Israel Sarna; the Mellers; Aryeh Lipschitz.

Every Friday they met at a different house, with herring and cheap cognac, yelled a lot and argued, and had a lot of laughs with their wives: Luba and Hannah, Yaffa, Yona, and Yola, my mother, until they grew old and their meetings faded away along with their health, and they died one after the other.

This month, I started looking for Yaffa “the Giraffe,” as she was fondly nicknamed by all of the short men. She alone was still alive out of the five couples, I learned. I located her a week ago through her daughter, while she was recovering at a hospital, and soon after she was released, 93 years old with an oxygen tank and excellent memory, I came to her home in Tel Aviv and heard from her about the entire gang – about my parents, and about her parents, the Raskins, who were among the founders of Tel Aviv during the famous Seashell Lottery.


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