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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
I 1950 - 1960
A first Visit to Israel
   In the summer of 1950 I traveled through France to Marseilles from where I was to embark on a ship destined for Haifa.  I stood on the dockside together with a small group of tourists watching the ship slowly approaching. As it drew near we could see that the decks were crammed with people. Most of them it appeared were refugees, potential new immigrants on their way to Israel. When we finally boarded the ship it seemed that they had come from about fifty different countries; it was a ship of Babel. Arriving at the port of Haifa,     I waited on the dockside for my only acquaintance in Israel.but It transpired that he had fallen ill and was not able to let me know. It is an exhilarating feeling to find oneself alone ;''[on the edge of a new country, without knowing a soul. But I did know someone. She had arrived with me on the ship; a middle aged lady from New York. I had seen her first on the dockside in Marseilles straining to carry her two suitcases on -board.   Having only a small haversack myself, I somewhat diffidently offered her my assistance and carried her two heavy suitcases up the narrow gangplank onto the ship. She was a small lady with gray bluish hair and spoke English with an American-New York-Jewish accent.  Her name was Frania. As I could not speak any of the languages of the other immigrants, I settled for her twangy New York vernacular English, and got to know Frania quite well during the eight days of an unusually rough passage through a normally calm Mediterranean Sea, whatever that presaged!

  The long thoughtful loneliness, standing on the key of the Haifa Port must have lasted only some few minutes. Frania, now surrounded by a smiling family group, was waving a large straw hat in order to catch my attention. I strolled over to her as disinterestedly as I could, I had after all to preserve my reputation as a nonchalant young university student. "Where is your friend, where is he? Where will you sleep if he doesn't come?  "Where will you eat?"  asked Frani, an unmarried lady but every inch a potential Jewish mother. During the sea journey she had become acquainted with my plans to get a job in an architect's office for a few months. She also knew my financial position of having received a travel grant through my University of twenty Pounds Sterling, and had already informed me of her judgment as to its inadequacy.   She must have already divulged the same details to her family because another lady, her cousin who had come to meet her addressed me in an unusually soft and charming accent.  Her name was Salla Rafaeli and she said, “You will come with us of course”.  With my nonchalance now suspended, off I went with Frania and her family and as usual carrying her infernal suitcases.  The next picture which I can recollect is of a lot of people entering a minute two-roomed apartment at number 17 Geula Street in the Hadar Hacarmel Quarter of Haifa. As we crowded in, it reminded me then of the cabin scene in the Marx brothers' movie: "A Night at the Opera", with the endless line of visitors swarming into the minute cabin space.

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