Among the friends with whom I worked on Kibbutz Matzuva on the Lebanese border in 1951, two remain in my memory. One was Amir Shapira, grandson of the legendary Avraham Shapira of Petach Tikvah, an early founder of the Shomrim.
He was renowned for riding on his white stallion, a keffiyah on his head, going from one Jewish settlement after another from 1914 to 1940. He led his band of Shomrim to protect the Jewish settlers from Arab marauders. As head of the Shemira he carried a rifle with a band of bullets wrapped around his waist and struck fear into the hearts of Arab bandits who would pillage and rob from the early unprotected Jewish settlements.
The other friend was Eitan Rikin, son and grandson of early pioneers who settled Petach Tikva in the 19th century. Eitan and I remained close friends until his death in the 1980’s.
One day, Eitan invited me to spend a Shabbat with him and his family in Petach Tikvah. The early settlement had been founded by religious Orthodox Jews and was called Em HaMoshavot…Mother of Settlements.
In 1883 it became a permanent settlement (after Rishon Lezion in 1882) with the help of Baron Edmond de Rothschild of France.
While in Petach Tikvah for the very first time in 1951 I had the happy occasion to meet the city’s fourth mayor, Pinchas Rashish.
His brother, Aharon Rashish, had been my teacher of Hebrew from 1941 to 1947. He was an outstanding teacher, stern and demanding, and required us to speak only in Sephardic Hebrew. He taught us love of Zion. He taught us how to pray as Jews. And he instilled in us a burning love for the yet unborn State of Israel. All that I remember today are the lessons which he taught us.
Eitan Rikin’s family home was located on a main plot of ground in the center of the original settlement.
It was surrounded by fruit trees whose delicious aromas were intoxicating. Walking through the streets of Petach Tikvah, Eitan pointed out to me historic places from the birth of the settlement, homes of the early chalutzim (pioneers) who tilled the soil for what was to become the city we know today.
Several years later, Eitan’s son married the daughter of former Knesset member, Eliakim Haetzni, one of the founders of Kiryat Arba in Hebron.
Since that first visit in 1951 I have never had occasion to re-visit. My only “connection” now with Petach Tikvah is the world’s largest generic drug conglomerate, TEVA.
My late wife was friendly with the daughter of Judge Bental who was one of the early founders of TEVA. We invested in the company and did quite well until the recent decline in which the company lost six billion dollars last year and its shares have dropped twenty-three percent on the Wall Street financial market.
Yet, living up to the name of its headquarters, Petach Tikvah, “Opening of Hope”, I include in my daily prayers for a rebirth and a renewed hope for the industry that made the city famous world-wide.
And perhaps one day I’ll take a bus ride to Petach Tikvah to retrace my steps of 1951. I am certain that I will be shocked by the city’s growth and vast accomplishments. Kol hakavod to the “city of hope”.