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elvira kohn

During the communist times, I was in the JNA, I was a member of the Party. I worked and socialized with others who were in the Party; that was my life, that was my world. Today people say terrible things about communism, but it wasn't so bad after all. Maybe in certain aspects it was better than it is today; only, we aren't allowed to say that, it just doesn't sound right.

Immediately after the war, I went to the Jewish community on Palmoticeva Street to become a member. Through the community I re-established relations with my aunt Adela in Brazil and my cousin Zlata in Israel. I've never been to Brazil, but to Israel I went several times.

The first time I went in 1950 to visit Zlata. It wasn't easy to get permission to leave the country because I was among the high-ranking officers in the Party. At last, after many attempts and rejections, I spoke with one officer-general who helped me get a permission to go to Israel. I left from Rijeka on a boat, and arrived in Haifa. It was an amazing trip because there I met with Zlata and her family and I also saw many people who had been interned on Rab with me. But, I never developed any deep feelings for Israel. I was also invited to Zlata's son's bar mitzvah and I went.

Then there was her son's wedding, and I went again, and I think I visited Israel another couple of times. Had I not been in the JNA and the Party, I would have considered to move to Israel. But I was in the army, and I was very much connected to it, and I couldn't help myself. In addition, my mother wasn't so young any more, and it was a risk to go because I didn't know what kind of job I could get there. The Party never criticized me for going to Israel. Everyone always respected me because I always openly admitted that I was Jewish and never hid my origins.

Both my mother and I became members of the Jewish community. I attended celebrations for holidays, if I was in Zagreb. Because I traveled a lot, I couldn't become more active in the community. The fact that I was in the army and went to the community at the same time had no consequences. I never directly told anyone in the army that I went to the Jewish community; that was my personal and private business. If I was in Zagreb for Chanukkah or Purim, I went to the celebrations.

I took my mother to the synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and waited outside. I didn't enter because I didn't want the wrath of the Gods, so to speak. There were services for holidays that my mother always attended, and I know that there were people who went, and the people who conducted the services, but I'm not in the position to say much more about it. When I went, I mostly went to the afternoon meetings and tea parties, or to the meetings organized by the women's department.
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baby pisetskaya

In the 1970s many Jews began to move to Israel. The situation was hard; there were meetings where anti-Semitic speeches were made. I believed everything that was said at such meetings. I had a negative attitude toward departure and I still do, as a matter of fact.
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Chaya was going to move to Israel in the year 2000. She even bought a ticket, but a few days before her departure she died of extensive myocardial infarction.
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Victor Baruh

Bulgaria was the only country from the Eastern Block that permitted the free emigration of Jews to Israel - Georgi Dimitrov [20] had a role in this. 90% of the Bulgarian Jews left by 1949. In 1967 under the pressure of the Soviet Union Bulgaria broke diplomatic ties with Israel. Only Romania kept them. But the contacts with Israel never ceased, I went to Israel five times in those years. I liked the country very much - it experienced rapid development and an excellent welfare system. The Bulgarian Jews in Israel are highly regarded for their honesty and diligence, thus the breakdown in diplomatic ties didn't change much.
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I was a member of the Bulgarian Communist Party but this has never influenced my attitude toward Israel. The anti-Semitism among the Bulgarian communists was due to the position of the Soviet Union. Although I was a member of the Party I experienced things that caused me to think. I wasn't a blind follower, for example in 1970 I was discharged from the magazine Plamak [flame in Bulgarian]. I saw a lot of things that I didn't approve of. The official attitude of the state toward the wars in Israel wasn't the only thing.
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Mico Alvo

To tell you the truth, I didn't like the way that the Israelis treated the Arabs, that is, in this very arrogant way. That harmed Israel very much. This has been my opinion for years now. That time especially with Sharon when this thing happened in Lebanon. It wasn't Sharon, who did it, but surely he should have intervened and stopped them and things would have been very different. Because in that case the Palestinians would have him..., while he remained cold-blooded, in my opinion, and allowed this to happen.

He didn't interfere, when he had the responsibility to do so. I am talking about the attack of the refugee army camps in Beirut, at Sabra and Shatila [92]. I had enough of him then, I mean I never liked Sharon after this. Even when he became the Prime Minister, I didn't like him at all.

We didn't have any business relationships with Israel at all. After the liberation I went to Israel a couple of times. I can't say that I was impressed the first time that I went there. I didn't like the Israelis either, to tell you the truth, because they were rude.

They had this pride and arrogance: 'You see, we fought this war and we won.' And they regarded everyone below them. Because they were saying things like, 'You sit there and while we are fighting all you want to do is make money.' Alright I agree, but could you have done it without the help of others?

I went with Mari to Haifa on a holiday once. We went up to the Carmel [93], to a very nice hotel. We could see the sea, the city etc. There were many others there on holiday, too. When they found out that we weren't Israelis but... and we nevertheless talked, but they had this very arrogant look. That really bothered us.
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In Gaza we stayed for as long as we had to, in order to finish our training: four months. I remember when I took a leave for Tel Aviv. I went as often as I could, I would always go to my uncle's house. They gave me a leave when he first came and visited me with a marshal from Tel Aviv. Later on, before I left for Egypt, they gave me permission for a week, I think, or ten days, because I was leaving.

We were crossing the borders from Egypt to Palestine on the train. We would go through customs in Kaltara. The name of the place where the customs were was Al Kaltara. It took about twelve hours on the train. And all the trains were army trains. I stayed at Uncle's Joseph house. He lived in a very nice area: at Rothschild, Boulevard Rothschild. I ate with them, we would go out together, and my uncle took me to buy me some clothes because I had nothing.

In the beginning, when I found my uncle in Tel Aviv, I felt great love and trust towards him. He treated me really well. Uncle Joseph was a landowner in Tel Aviv. He would buy land and construct buildings. He also worked in the Discount Bank, which was one of the largest banks. But because he and his son didn't get along with the rest of the associates, they had withdrawn. It was one of their biggest mistakes in life, because later on the bank became an international bank.

I don't remember if Grandfather and Grandmother Saltiel were already there when I went to the Middle East. I met them in Palestine every time that I would get a permit to go out. They lived in Tel Aviv. I used to visit Grandfather and Grandmother when I went to my uncle's Joseph. They rented a room. They had brought some money with them. Not a lot, but Grandfather had some.

I didn't know Hebrew, but this is what was happening. At the time, the first immigrants that had come were from Germany, and they all spoke German. For example, just like they speak English in Palestine now, back then it was the German language. In any shop that you would get in, if you spoke German, they would understand you.

I was more interested in the fact that I was in a family environment again. I appreciated that very much. I couldn't see any difference in that I was with many other Jews. I wasn't aware that it had to be Jewish land. And I didn't imagine that it could happen either. I knew that many Jews lived there. I didn't feel more at home, I never felt that there. I could only feel the difference between being under occupation back home and being free there. I was quite proud that I was wearing an air force uniform. I didn't have any conversations on this subject with Uncle Joseph. He never suggested that I should stay there. He had his interests there and he hoped that he would keep having his interests there.
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Marcel was a Zionist. He used to tell me sometimes, 'We will do this, we will do that.' That a state would be created, and the state of Palestine would become a Jewish state. He was a supporter of Herzl [10]. We used to hang out with Marcel because he thought of us as his younger cousins.
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Sami Fiul

When the wars in Israel started, I was very affected: I already had friends and family there, and my heart was there as well; the wars were for me real traumas, and I believe they are the same for all the Jews in diaspora. The war in 1967 kept me tensed for only 6 days; I celebrated when it ended with my family, I remember.
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Krystyna Budnicka

I went to Israel for the first time in 1961. Everyone at work was astonished when I came back a few weeks later. I think they were sure I would stay there. But I didn't want to stay there. I've been to Israel twice, in 1961 and 1989. I love it very much, but I would never take the decision to move there because my roots are here. Israel is a very special place for me because it's a Jewish country, the cradle of both Judaism and Christianity. My country. Mine is the grave of Rachel and mine the grave of Christ. I'm no missionary, so for me Judaism and Christianity form a kind of whole. I'm very happy when I'm in Israel and I always want to return there. But my home is here, and it's here that I feel relatively secure. I'm alone here, because I have no family, but I'm not lonely. I don't think I would be happier anywhere else. Perhaps in Israel? If I had emigrated years ago.
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Leontina Arditi

I first went to Israel in 1964. The second time was shortly before 1989 - I was invited as a guest artist with the act '24 Hours of a Life of a Woman'. After 1997 I visited my daughter and granddaughters three or four times, and I am going to visit them this spring again. Although this is a very beautiful and intelligent country I have never felt cozy there, partly because of the Israeli way of thinking. Otherwise it is a very precious country to me.
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Janina Duda

Apart from that, it’s a country like any other, people like everywhere, except there is a difference between European Jews and African, Asian Jews, difference between Sephardi [41] and Ashkenazi Jews. And there are lots of them there. When I was once staying with this friend of mine, it was the Easter [Pesach] holidays. And she says, ‘Come, I’ll show you a synagogue of Abyssinian [Ethiopian] Jews.’ And there was this woman walking there, an Abyssinian – what a beauty she was! European features, because they don’t have African features, but black as tar, such a beautiful face, full figure; it turned out she had four or five children, she was walking to meet her husband, who was a curator in the museum. And the clothing of these Abyssinian Jews…

When it comes to politics, there is a large difference with regards to their attitude to political issues. Firstly, social-democrats and socialists there are mostly Europeans and these most backward ones, the religious ones, are the African and Asian Jews. It was said here all the time that you can communicate in Polish in Israel. But that’s not true, not true. When I was taking a tram or bus and I asked something in Polish, no one answered, in German – no one, in French – yes; there were many Jews from Morocco and they understood French.
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I also visited a kibbutz. It is true that the people who set these up were very ideological, but these kibbutzim were not communes. Yes, people worked together, but they had everything they needed and they studied, whoever wanted to leave, could leave, etc.
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There, people don’t have that. They are the masters of their own country. The issues of Palestine, Arabs, those were also political games of all these Arab sheikhs. When this territory was being divided, the Arabs could have created their own country then, but they didn’t let them. Because they were being used in these games with Israel, England, etc.

But I can say one thing: what they turned this desert into, it is just amazing. I stayed with my friend, whom I used to work with, in Bat Yam, a city south of Tel Aviv. The seashore there is very high, precipitous; when I was there the first time they were putting dirt there, planting plants and putting in these tubes. Every 25 cm, that’s what I calculated, there was a hole, they would pour water in that hole and it went straight to the root [patented Israeli irrigation system]. I was there several years later and the entire seashore was blooming, lush vegetation, lots of flowers, the entire area was nicely developed. That’s just something you don’t see anywhere else.
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ester josifova

I have suffered a lot during the two wars in Israel [the Six-Day-War and the Yom Kippur War] [11], because I have many relatives there. We also suffered because there was no objective information in Bulgaria at that time, and there was an anti-Israeli campaign. The authorities were pro-Arab during the wars in Israel.
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