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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
I 1950 - 1960
To Tel-Aviv via Bobidillia

 A friend of mine from my hometown Liverpool was completing his final year at Manchester University.  He was a scholar in the Department of Semitic studies, as well as being a staunch and active Zionist. On one occasion, when we were both returning home for the weekend on the same train, he quite voluntarily introduced me to the fine art of ‘grantsmanship’, as an alternative to theprevious ways of personaly financing my study trips abroad.  He had recently received a grant to carry out research into some obscure aspect of the History of the Jews in Spain.

In the following summer of 1949, he co-opted me, within the orbit of his own ‘grant’ on this research project, as his ‘illustrator’. I was given the arduous task of copying out texts in Aramaic from the walls of old Synagogues and tombstones. The study was to be carried out in the central region of the Spanish Peninsula during mid summer which generally had a temperature of about 40 degrees Centigrade in the shade and as it turned out there was not much shade.  But between scurrying around the many solemn cemeteries and the ruins of ancient synagogues from Seville, through Granada, Cordoba to Toledo, there were luckily other things to more leisurely investigate apart from the History of the Jews in Spain. [Some of the girls remained friends for many years to come. This I learnt was a critical component of utilizing a ‘grant’.  

    More portentous than anything else on this study tour of Spain was the fact that it fundamentally changed the direction of my life. It occurred during the longest train journey that I have ever undertaken.  It was from Madrid back to Barcelona, where we had originally commenced our venture.  Spain in those days was quite an undeveloped country and the railway infrastructure was still very primitive.  The only train that was listed ostensibly as ‘direct to Barcelona’ went through the transport interchange of Babodillia, a place like Wigan in England, which you only go through but never visit. It was also a town that I never subsequently found on a map!  The train left in the late afternoon and zigzagged across Spain, lazily drawn by a railway engine, which in a tango like fashion appropriately kept intermittently reversing up and down the railroad tracks.

 To pass the time away during this eighteen-hour journey, my friend David Patterson launched into a detailed history of the Zionist Movement and its ideology.  He had an undoubted talent as a raconteur, with a persuasive style never missing any opportunity to embellish it with rich and significant detail.  Slow speaking, though not as slow as the train, he spun out a fascinating story. The bottom line of his quite comprehensive indoctrinating narrative was that the only way by which Jews could become a normal nation was by reversing the occupational pattern, which had prevailed in the Diaspora for many years. There, he maintained, very few Jews worked on the land, most of them being craftsmen, businessmen, professionals or vertioso violinists. This occupational abnormality he geometrically described as ‘an inverted pyramid’.   The aim of Socialist Zionism, amongst other things he claimed, was to reverse this unnatural position of the ‘pyramid’ to its normal condition. If the Jews were to have a land of their own, like any other Nation, the majority of them should work the land as farmers.


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