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Mico Alvo

After the war, we followed all the events that were taking place in Israel, especially during the Six-Day-War [89] and the Yom Kippur War [90].

When Israel was founded in 1948 [91], we were very afraid, because 200 million Arabs wanted to fight against 3 million Israelis. We were afraid of what was going to happen. I was pleased when it became a state, because a state had to be created. We knew from the start that not all the Jews were going to live there, because it was very small and this was impossible.

Nevertheless, it was important that a state be created and we then were very proud about the fact that they managed against 200 million and the others got scared and left. They left on their own, no one kicked them out, they just left.

The Diaspora Jews were secretly sending money to Israel. Everyone was contributing some money and the government knew it and tolerated it because they didn't want to cause any problems. I contributed some money, personally, too.

Not only did I give some money, but I was also one of the people who were collecting the money. At the time of the war everyone gave something because things didn't look well at all. We were wondering whether Israel would survive. Wherever you went you would have conversations about it with the other Jews. We talked about it with other traders from our neighborhood, too.

At the beginning, just after the war, we heard about the situation in Israel via the radio. We talked about it with other Jews but not with Christians because they were all pro-Palestinian. They thought that we went there and kicked them out of their state. Our friends never said things like that to us, or at least when they would talk about it with us they wouldn't say such things.

Generally, the country was in favor of the Arabs. That happened because there were many Greeks living in Arab states and they didn't want to put them in an awkward position. That was the main reason.

We were scared during the Yom Kippur War. When the Six-Day-War happened we didn't have enough time to be afraid. It happened in an instant. We were scared before though.
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avram sadikario

When the State of Israel was established this was a big deal for us. There was a gathering in the Jewish community and we celebrated, celebrated and celebrated. We had meetings, sang.

I founded the community because it is different to identify yourself as a Jew for that. I am a Jew. I feel like a Jew. How could I be a Bulgarian, a Macedonian, a Serb; I am not. I am a Jew. It is another thing that I am an atheist; that has nothing to do with it. Because the nation doesn't need to be connected to the religion. And all of my friends are like that too. And some are even Christians. When there is a census I always declare myself to be a Jew.
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Lily Arouch

When the first survivor came back from the concentration camps, a man called Leon Batis, he came to Dr. Matarasso's house where we all met up and when he started talking about the crematoria and human fat being turn into soap and all these things, everyone was staring at him and saying, 'poor guy he is mad, hardship made him loose his mind.' That is how unbelievable it all seemed. Later more and more people started coming back and what was happening in the camps became well-known.

This is what made all of us, my father as well, realize that it was only on Israel we could rely. Since then he became a very eager supporter of Zionism. The American Joint Committee [see Joint] [13] was very active in Greece at the time. They came to help and they actually did help a lot of people.
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Vladimir Tarskiy

When Jews got their state in 1948, I felt very proud. I perceive this state as a part of myself, I’m proud of the military successes of the Jewish people, but I’ve never strived to go there [Israel]. Just to go there on a visit maybe, but nothing else. I’m a Jew. I was born to a Jewish family. Before the Great Patriotic War I identified myself as just a Soviet person. There were children from Brazil, Latvia and Germany in my class. There was never an issue of nationality. I’ve never kept my Jewish identity a secret.

Before receiving my first passport at the age of 16, I wrote in my application form that I was a Jew. After I returned from the army there was reregistration. The militia asked me while looking into my old documents why it was written that I was Russian, when I was a Jew by my passport. I said that they had to register me as a Jew. I felt patriotic about my people at the moment and believed I had no right to reject my belonging to the nation. I grew more conscious and restored my nationality in my documents. Since Jews were suppressed in their rights I believed that I didn’t have to play tricks and hide away. Even if I don’t know Yiddish or Hebrew, the Old Testament or Jewish laws, by my nature and in essence I identify myself as a Jew.

My roots are in Russia, I was educated here, I worked in this country on many jobs and positions: as stoker, tractor operator, sewing cotton… I was an honored mechanic of the republic and I worked 40 years to support the foundry machine building. I struggled for this land. Foreign countries still believe me to be the greatest expert in foundry equipment; I have 22 governmental awards from this country. I don’t think Israel to be my state. I’m a citizen of Russia.
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Louiza Vecsler

I was glad to hear about the birth of Israel, but I was upset because of the wars since I had acquaintances who had already left. They weren't close friends, but a lot of pharmacists from Botosani left for Israel. Ieti, the sister of my friend Ostfeld, was married, had a son, and they both left for Israel.
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güler orgun

After World War II, when there was a wave of Zionism, there emerged several secret societies in Istanbul. I joined one of them called Betar [18], together with some friends. We used to meet secretly, once or twice a week, in the houses of some of the members, about 10-15 young people. They taught us Zionism and a few words of Hebrew.

After attending a few times, a close friend and I thought, 'They tell us to go to Palestine. Why don't they go themselves?' This got on our nerves and we stopped going. Among all those people, I know only one who actually went to Palestine. But, of course, they say that about 35,000 people went when Israel was founded [19].
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Anelia Kasabova

My relatives started to leave one by one after the formation of Israel. Most of my aunts left in 1949-1950. My mother and I were the last to leave in 1953. I was studying at the language school in Lovech then. The language school was founded in the place of the American college after 9th September 1944. I went to Lovech when I was twelve and I studied there for four years. I had studied at the French College [8] on Lavele Street in Sofia for four years before that - there was a special class in which we studied French. I had studied in the secondary school on Shipka Street and continued to study French at the language school. My mother was preparing the documents for our departure to Israel at that time.

My grandparents went to Israel and my mother and I remained here. So we already had information about the place where we would go, and there were also people there to welcome and help us. My father remained in Bulgaria as he and my mother were already divorced.

We left for Israel from Italy in 1953. We crossed the whole of Yugoslavia and arrived in Naples where we had to stay for ten days before we got onboard a big ship called Jerusalem along with a group of other Bulgarian Jews who were also leaving for Israel. There was a constant stream of people leaving for Israel after 1948 [see Mass Aliyah] [9]. We departed from Naples and arrived in Haifa. Our relatives who had settled in Tel Aviv were waiting for us there. The first years in Israel had been very hard for them, as they had lived in barracks but gradually, with the help of my uncle Solomon who lived in France, each of my aunts managed to build a small house in Tel Barukh. These houses existed until recently but then Tel Baruh was turned into a modern quarter of Tel Aviv and they built new buildings there instead.

When we went to Israel my grandfather had already died in the barracks near Haifa. He got severely ill because the climate there wasn't good for him. He had a foreboding that he would be a burden to his family. He stopped eating intentionally and he withered bit by bit. We settled in a house in Tel Baruh with my grandmother and the family of my aunt Mara with whom we had been together during the internment in Berkovitza and afterwards in Sofia.
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Bluma Lepiku

In 1948 Israel was officially acknowledged [19]. My father was no Zionist [20], but he was as happy as a child would be. We also felt happy and proud acquiring our own country. The fact that the Soviet Union supported Israel was some reconciliation for making Estonia one of the Soviet Republics. The relationships between the Soviet Union and Israel were quite friendly at the start. Golda Meir [21], the Prime Minister of Israel visited Moscow, and this event was widely covered in the mass media.

We followed what was happening in Israel. We are Jews, aren't we? And every nation sympathizes with its own people. We were proud of the successes of Israel. Who wouldn't be proud? Then the attitude of the USSR toward Israel changed dramatically. The Soviet press kept calling Israel an aggressor. We listened to news from Israel on the Finnish and other Western radios. We were worried about the Six-Day War [22], the Judgment Day War [23]. And we were proud, when the little country of Israel won the victory over its offenders.
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Ljudevit Blumenberg

Miki has his own family: a wife, a son and a daughter. He married a Jewish woman with whom he goes to a modern Jewish community with a woman cantor every week. He celebrates every holiday at home. Not long ago he told me that he began research and lecturing on which Arab lands are closest to the Jewish nation. The results of his research were that Palestine is closest. He has never told me that he is religious, but I have that impression since he is always in those circles and he celebrates every holiday and observes Sabbath. After the war, I talked to my sons a lot about the terrors of the war. Vlada doesn't remember the war nor does he remember being in forced labor camps with his mother.
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I was ecstatic over the establishment of the State of Israel. As an old member of Hashomer Hatzair I was ready to go and live in Israel, but I didn't go because of my mother who didn't want to leave her husband behind, as I mentioned before. I didn't want to leave her behind with this man who wasn't such a good person. Sari, who was a staunch party member, didn't want to leave because it suited her to stay in Yugoslavia. In the end, only Magda went with her husband and daughter. I went a few times to visit her. It was terrible for me when the wars started in Israel [see Six-Day-War [9] and Yom Kippur War [10]]. Today, I still get very upset each time something happens. Because of that I am in frequent contact with relatives outside of Yugoslavia.
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Max Tauber

Im November 1947 beschlossen die Vereinten Nationen, dass Palästina in einen jüdischen und einen arabischen Staat geteilt wird. Von dem Moment an war Jerusalem eine Festung. Man konnte nicht hinaus und nicht hinein, weil rundherum arabische Siedlungen waren. Österreich hatte noch keine diplomatische Vertretung, das spanische Konsulat hatte die Vertretung für Österreich übernommen. Da hat sich in der UNO eine Organisation gebildet, um allen Emigranten die Rückkehr aus den Konzentrationslagern und aus dem Exil, wohin die Menschen vor dem Holocaust geflohen waren, zu ermöglichen. Sie haben veranlasst, dass Transporte zusammengestellt wurden. Man musste sich auf dem spanischen Konsulat melden, und sie haben die Listen an die UNO weitergeleitet. Die UNO hat dann den Transport zusammengestellt. Die österreichische Regierung hat sich darum nicht gekümmert, das ist rein von der UNO ausgegangen. Im Frühjahr 1947 ist der erste Transport nach Österreich gegangen. Der zweite Transport ging ein paar Monate später. Ich bin mit dem letzten Transport gefahren. Als ich mich für den Transport angemeldet habe, habe ich meinem Vater nichts davon gesagt. Nur mit meiner Mutter habe ich das besprochen. Zwei Transporte waren weg, ich wusste nicht, ob sich noch eine Gelegenheit ergeben würde, und ich wollte nicht mehr in Palästina bleiben, ich wollte zurück nach Österreich.

Jerusalem war ab Februar 1948 total eingeschlossen. Von britischen Truppen ist ein Panzerzug auf die Bahnlinie gestellt worden, denn die Briten haben das Land verlassen. Sie haben uns nach Haifa mitgenommen. In Haifa sind wir auf ein Schiff gekommen, das gechartert war - ein Frachtschiff mit Personenverkehr. Die Reisekosten waren durch die UNO gedeckt. Zuerst ist das Schiff nach Zypern gefahren. Dort wurde ein bisschen Fracht ausgetauscht, dann sind wir in den Hafen von Piräus [Griechenland] eingelaufen. Da waren wir drei Tage, konnten aber nicht vom Schiff hinunter, weil gerade Bürgerkrieg in Griechenland tobte. Nach drei Tagen fuhren wir weiter, und auf der Höhe von Kreta ist ein furchtbarer Sturm losgebrochen. Wir konnten nicht durch die Strasse von Messina, weil wir auch in Neapel hätten anlegen sollen. Wir sind aber um Sizilien herum gefahren und kamen dann nach Genua. Von Genua sind wir sind mit der Bahn nach Wien weitergefahren. In Wien habe ich mich bei dem älteren Bruder meiner Mutter einquartiert.
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Rebeca Gershon-Levi

After Israel was founded, the Jews started to leave Bulgaria. My parents left in 1949 and my relatives from Plovdiv in 1948. There was a mass aliyah [11] after that and all my friends left. Just 10,000 out of 45,000 people stayed here, and I don’t know if there are even 5,000 Jews left in Bulgaria today. My parents were put in so-called ‘srikove’ – special barracks. My brother didn’t want to be settled in a lodging in the town and his first home was in Iafo – in the newly-built part of the city.
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Livia Diaconescu

The birth of the State of Israel was a great achievement. Although I was married to a Romanian, that made me happy and my husband was happy with me too.
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Mayer Rafael Alhalel

I didn’t immigrate to Israel for a number of reasons. Firstly, as I already said, I had to stay in Cherven Bryag after my escape from the camp to help my sister in her work, because her husband was an ailing man. He had his own factory for paper products and I could be useful to him as a printer. I lived and worked for them from 1944 until 1949, when my sister immigrated to Ramat Gan in Israel. She asked me to go with her, but now I had another reason to stay in Bulgaria. When I settled in Cherven Bryag, I was immediately made a member of the local UYW organization, where I gladly took part in their social activities. Naturally, I soon joined the Party [the Communist Party, who took the power in the former kingdom of Bulgaria after 9th September 1944].
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Eshua Aron Almalech

My father Aron Almalech was always an ardent Zionist. He was the chief secretary of the Mapai. [Before it became an Israeli party, Mapai was a Jewish social democratic party. It was represented in international bodies such as the Socialist International, for example.] He accompanied Ben Gurion when he came to Bulgaria for the first time in the middle of the 1940s. When the Israel state was founded in 1948, my father received an invitation by the Israeli government to become a ‘sheliach’, that is, the chairman of the Sochnut in Bulgaria. One of the first diplomats, Ben Zur, ambassador in Vienna and responsible for the whole of Eastern Europe, came to Bulgaria to hand him the invitation. My father exercised this duty until he left for Israel in 1954.
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