The year 5709 was a post War of Independence year. Residents
in Eretz Yisroel suffered great shortages in food and
staples, as well as lack of funds, and all were called to act
frugally and to tighten their belts. Food stamps were issued
according to the size of families, enabling them to purchase
rationed supplies of the most necessary items.
These strict conditions reminded us of the stories of
European concentration camps and of the hunger and scarcity
Attempts to increase food and to stretch it were made in
every home and the black market flourished. As it appeared
impossible to survive on the food stamps alone, a new idea
was formed: Stores of Dollar Certificates
(certifikatim) were opened and people tried to obtain
this currency on the black market in order to purchase
certificates. It was often impossible to buy these and the
general mood was oppressive.
This situation prevailed in the Shimony household. The term
`hunger ration' was always in the forefront and the post W.W.
stories brought to mind sad reminders.
Father Shimony was an excellent storyteller, and having been
born before W.W.I, he chose to tell us about the experiences
he recalled of food scarcity during war time, and of other
He sat us down one Shabbos afternoon and told us the
"There is no more flour at home," said Keila to her husband,
Moishe. "Tomorrow is Shabbos," she added. R' Moishe was busy
studying with his two young sons, since they were short of
money to pay a rebbe. He heard her, but didn't raise his head
from the sefer, He frowned, however, and pondered:
Where was he going to find flour for challos?
"There's no flour left," Keila repeated, a bit louder, "and
tomorrow is Shabbos." She was sure he hadn't heard her the
R' Moishe stood up and walked over to the pantry, moved the
bulky breakfront aside which hid the front of the closet,
covering it from covetous eyes, especially the eyes of hungry
Turkish soldiers. He began searching high and low, but
indeed, there was no flour in sight. Instead, he found a jar
of oil, a small cloth bag of sugar and some salt. But no
"I must barter some of these items for flour," he thought. "I
have to see who has some and is willing to trade."
"Shimon, go to R' Mechel and borrow some flour," he said,
handing a snowy white cloth bag to the boy, making sure there
was no hole in it. The boy ran off but returned soon with the
sad answer, "They don't have any..."
"Then go to R' Zalman's. They might have some. Tell them I'll
try to return the flour right after Shabbos." He sped off but
returned quickly. "They don't have any, either."
"What, now? To whom shall I turn?" he sighed. "Oy, Hashem,
help me out of this dilemma!"
Just then, R' Nesanel, a friend and neighbor, walked into the
house. "I heard you need flour. I can spare some for you."
R' Moishe sighed with relief. "I can exchange it for some
oil, if I can't find any flour to give back," he said. That
Shabbos, R' Moishe and his family ate challos, but the
portions were scant.
R' Moishe and his friend, R' Zalman, decided that it was time
to do something about the scarcity. They followed their noses
and entered homes where they detected the smell of bread
freshly baking. They brought along large white sacks and told
the people to spare some as maaser for the poor.
Slowly, their bags filled with the leftover dried crusts, and
lines formed at their homes with the many starving people.
Each was given a few crusts.
Happily, enthusiastically, these ran off to tell their
friends and neighbors and the line grew longer and longer. At
the end of an hour, there was nothing left.
"I have six children at home and we haven't tasted bread for
a few days. We live on a soup made of chizbeh grass,
which a neighbor recommended as being nourishing," said one
young mother, her eyes streaming with tears.
R' Zalman turned his sack inside out and found a few crumbs
and three slices of dry bread. Dina walked off happily to
feed her children the dear commodity of dry bread and
To the long line that formed each time there was bread to
give out, were added Turkish soldiers. They, too, lacked
bread and would go from door to door begging, "Ek
mek," or "Give some bread." The war was raging, roads
were blocked, flour was scarce. And the starved soldiers took
what they could find by threat and force.
R' Moishe and R' Zalman were involved in a sort of game,
trying to distribute the meager donations of crusts while
avoiding the soldiers before they discovered the bread
Summer ended and winter approached. Kislev brought rain and
freezing weather. R' Moishe and R' Zalman continued
scavenging for bread but this was now a dark, hard bread made
from a barley flour called dura, in times of peace,
feed for goats and hens. Now it was sold for high prices and
few could afford it. When these black, hard slices reached
the poor, no one complained. The teeth of the elderly and the
young children could hardly chew it, and the indigestible
stuff was hard on weak stomachs, but what could they do?
The two men decided to collect tea, as well, to warm the
frozen and hungry people. In one of the cellars they created
a `tea and bread house' where the hardtack could be soaked in
the hot drink.
People prayed for the war to end but things grew worse. The
streets were deserted, and those who dared venture out were
kidnapped by Turkish soldiers and drafted into the army.
Special soldiers were brought from Turkey for this job,
recognizable by their green berets. Many of the men siezed
thus died at war. They never returned home and their wives
remained agunos. Their children were unable to say
Kaddish for them.
The men went into hiding -- under roofs, in dark cellars.
Some went off to Egypt, stowing away on army trains or boats.
Some were exempted, but not for long.
R' Moishe was walking along near Jaffa Gate one day when he
was stopped by a soldier with a green hat. There was no one
about but he felt secure; he had an exemption issued by the
Austro-Hungarian embassy. He handed it over to the
The soldier glanced it blankly. He couldn't read. Nor could
R' Moishe explain; he didn't know Turkish. The soldier
grabbed him and dragged him off to the Kishle prison near the
Jaffa Gate. He was thrown into a dark basement room, crowded
with Arab criminals of the lowest sort. It was Friday, and he
knew his wife would be worrying. Who would learn with his
He stood by the small barred window, helpless and hungry.
"Only Hashem can help me," he wept, and began reciting
Tehillim. Soon his beard was soaked...
"R' Moishe! R' Moishe!" a voice came from above, as though a
call from Heaven. He looked up and saw R' Nesanel by the
ground-level window. "We're collecting money to free you. We
hope to get you out before Shabbos."
"How did you know I was in prison?" he asked later, after his
"One of the children whom you once fed saw you being grabbed
by the soldier and taken to the Kishle. He came and told us.
A real case of shlach lachmecha, `Cast your bread...'
But next time, R' Moishe, please be more careful and don't
walk the streets in mid-day!"
[Final part next week. "Locust Eggs by the Pound."