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Historical background of the Bashan family

Nobody complained and nobody rebelled, we simply lived and let others live

Childhood memories of Sara Bashan (Gorodenzik) and Avraham Gorodenzik of no special events occurring in Neve Zedek circa 1935 (told in 2006)

The Gorodenzik’s children at their home
in Neve Zedek (circa 1935). From right:
Sara (Bashan), Carmela (Shenhav); Yafa (Sadkin) and Avraham Gorodenzik.
We lived all our childhood at 13 Sharabi Street in Neve Zedek. Our entire childhood world consisted of Neve Zedek and nothing else and Neve Zedek was naturally the center of the universe. We were a very poor family with wealthy grandparents, regardless of how absurd it sounds today. Nevertheless, this was our reality. Our great grandfather, Avraham, was far from poor and built a large house in Neve Zedek. Our grandfather Binyamin Gorodenzik, who was even richer, built two large houses in Neve Zedek, but gave almost no help to his descendents. He traveled back and forth between Palestine and South Africa to increase his fortune, but this had nothing to do with us. Their children, our family included, were left to fend for themselves. Both of them, as very religious people, preferred to donate their fortune to charity. I remember that they donated the furniture and its wooden tabernacle, where the Torah scrolls are kept, to the synagogue in Neve Zedek. There was little money left, or given, to help the family.
At Hanukah, for example, when it is customary to give gifts to children, our grandmother gave “demy Hanukah” (money gift) in top secret so that her husband, our grandfather, would not know. He was very stingy. The discrepancy between their well-to-do economic situation and our dire condition never bothered us as children, apart from the Hanukah issue.
We managed to survive. We were an ordinary Jewish family, parents with six children, whose livelihood was based on a small grocery store. There was no money for anything! Our family had to find innovative ways to make money out of resources that were close to nothing. Maximizing the output of meager resources was the name of the game, as our father was far from being entrepreneurial. Fortunately, we had a large home that my father built on a very small piece of land. The house almost filled the land except for a small closed patio in the front that had a single tree in its center. It was a two-story house with a basement and an outdoor kitchen and a bathroom. This bathroom was the centerpiece of the house for the many occupants of our home. Every small piece of our home was a rentable space and a potential business opportunity. Every free space was rented to people who did not have any place to live, people who were even poorer than us. There was an immigrant from Germany who rented only a corridor of the house. The only thing remarkable about him was that he used to wash for a very long time and everybody had to wait their turn.
Shlomo Gorodenzik and his son
Avraham in Neve Zedek with the first
radio they bought for their home
(circa 1945).
The plan of the house, if there was any, was weird at best. The house had a basement of one big room, but no toilets. The basement, for reason known only to the “designer” was not connected to the house. The entry faced the next street. Somebody rented it for living even without a toilet. Its “rented toilet” was our toilet. For these renters, when nature calls, they had to leave the basement by the next street, walk around the block, and enter our house to use the toilet. With so many occupants in the house and the remoteness of the bathroom at night, our “family bathroom” was a large can from our father’s grocery store that had once contained pickles. However, everybody had the luxury of a personal wooden seat in the common toilet. If we joined the waiting line there, you should bring it with you, this includes also the tenants around the block. We share everything, but not that seat. A second toilet was built later to relieve the daily chaos, but still, too many people lived in that house on Sharabi Street.

For the sake of a photo, Sara (left),
Carmela, and Avraham Gorodenzik on
a motorcycle in Neve Zedek (circa 1940).
The kitchen was an outdoor structure, close but not connected to the house. It had a kerosene mini-stove. It was connected to the house only when the second floor was built. Before you reach the cooking area, there was a large, dark corridor that was actually the space below the stairs to the second floor where my grandparents lived with us after the Arab uprising that destroyed their original home in Zafed. It had a window facing the street and we remember this window because it played a central role in our home entertainment. Later, an additional room was built connected to the kitchen. The kitchen window became an internal window between our kitchen and the room that was rented to a policeman who lived with his wife. Peeking through the window provided the sex education program of the children in our house. It was an important window, indeed.
Even with all the renting manipulations to make ends meet, the economic situation was very hard for such a large family. This was normal for that era. Our father and mother had a grocery store where they worked very long hours. From well-before-sunrise for bread delivered for early risers to late-at-night for the night-shift workers at the nearby factory. They had scarcely had any free time for us. We were just there as part of a family. But we were the lucky ones, we had a store. The grocery shop of our father in the marketplace in Jaffa was burnt down during the Palestinian uprising of 1929. He fled to Neve Zedek and lived temporarily with his grandfather, Avraham. One of the houses of our grandfather on Achva Street had six rooms. As the rooms were very large, and our great grandfather’s bedroom faced the street, from half of the bedroom of our grandfather, our father Shlomo built another grocery store where he worked all his life serving his main customers who were the workers at a nearby plumbing factory
Graduation photo of Sara Bashan (Gorodenzik) from the “Kol Israel Haverim” all-girls
elementary school in Tel Aviv in 1940. The
English translation of the names is “All
Israelis are friends.” Sara is in the second row from the right in the top photo.
Yet, despite the hard work, income from the shop was in very short supply. Compared to today’s homes, the house was completely bare. There was almost no furniture. The children were sleeping two in each of the iron beds, head to foot, to have space. The first real furniture was acquired only when our brother Mordechai, who died as a young man in a motorcycle accident, and was a carpenter, built them. Because we had a grocery store, we were just lucky to have a supply of towels. The towels were washed flour sacks that somehow our mother was able to soften. Our cloths were repaired over and over again until it was impossible to repair them. Socks were regularly repaired on a wooden mushroom and were never thrown away. We had food and we were never hungry. For dinner, the common family food was bread with onions and olive oil and we were happy with that. Food was prepared in large cupper pots, and Thshulnt, a stew made of slow-cooking meat with potatoes and beans was reserved for Saturdays as a special treat. To save on the cost of slow-heating necessary for Saturday meal, and because all the people of Neve Zedek were very religious, all the families put their pots in a neighborhood communal oven that was used for roasting seeds during the week. We used to bring it from the oven at lunchtime on Saturdays when our father returned from the synagogue and looked forward to this special meal of the week.

Our sister Lea confined to bed for
many years. She was the only one
that did not survive to adulthood
Our home was a religious home. No entertainment and no radio except playing and games that the children devised for themselves. We knew nothing about the surrounding world except as rumors spreading through the neighborhood. The first radio was purchased only when brother Avraham started to work after he had finished elementary school and two years in technical school and brought additional income to the family. We almost never traveled. Avraham was used to going with our father to memorials in the cemeteries and heard more about the large part of the extended family lived abroad. I (Sara) was usually at home, taking care of our handicapped sister, Lea. She had an accident that injured her foot, and after a series of failed surgeries, she was confined to her bed for many years. She was left to my care because our mother was busy at the store. Only a single, unclear photo remains of her. She now lives only in our memories.

Life for us as children was not hard because everybody we knew lived similar lives. For us, this was life and that is it. You cannot question something you could not change or want something you did not know about.
In retrospective, we were very different from today’s children. None of us complained or rebelled. We just lived the best we could. It was probably hard by today standards, but it was not bad at all.

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