MARCH 16, 1955
ROME—The night train from Paris to Montpellier was a comfortable trip and we arrived at 7:30 A.M. on Sunday to be met by the mayor and the consul general to Marseilles from Israel and his mother, Mrs. Eliachar. It seemed a shame to get everybody up so early and then go straight to the hotel, wash up and go to breakfast.
We all had time for a short walk before starting on our drive to Cambous, the location of the camp for Jewish children who are brought from the ghettos of Morocco.
After three or four months at this camp the children are prepared to proceed to Israel. A few children, however, must stay much longer because when they arrive they are emotionally and physically so upset that they require special care. Some of them are sent to Switzerland, but all of them know that they are preparing to go to Israel and become citizens of their own country.
The old castle at the camp is used primarily for administration and schoolroom purposes. The children are divided up with some consideration for the particular religious observances that they have been brought up to know, and the life is a group life patterned as nearly as possible on the kind of life they will be living in Israel.
There are two boys' dormitories and one girls' dormitory for each group. Sixteen children live in each dormitory building, which has a monitor who lives with them and teaches them how to live and to play and to work together.
Some of these monitors were originally from North Africa. They spent some time in Israel and are now volunteering for the work with these children. There also is a sprinkling of Jews of other nationalities who prepare the children for the kind of community they will find in Israel.
The youngsters must learn Hebrew and they must begin their basic education if they have never learned to read and study. They also must learn some appreciation of the arts, so they sing and dance and draw. For many of them just holding a pencil is an entirely new experience.
Some of these children have brought with them many superstitions and fears, and these must be combatted and eradicated, if possible. Many of them must be taught not to go to bed with all their clothes on, which they have always done. They must learn to eat at regular hours and to live a group life with a certain amount of discipline.
Most of the youngsters have come from large families and horribly crowded conditions. Some of them have unbelievable case histories. All 200 of them, however, ate in the big assembly hall with the guests when I was there, and you could not help thinking that on the whole they were a very bright-looking group of children, healthier and more normal than you would have expected.
It was hard to tell those who had been there only a week from those who had been there over a month, so quickly does the example of others help the new arrivals.
Tomorrow I shall try to tell you something about their stories.
(Distributed by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)