- Haim Salomon

Drawn from the booklet "Ma'asey Avot," written by his son Yaakov Salomon in 1977, upon the approach of the centennial of Haim Salomon's birth.  The booklet is based mostly on the words of Haim Salomon himself, delivered on different occasions throughout his rich and active life in Jerusalem.

 

From childhood to adulthood
Haim Salomon (Shalmon) was born in the neighborhood of "Nahalat Shiva" in Jerusalem in 1878.  He was a fourth generation Jerusalemite:  a great-grandson to Zalman Tsoref, a grandson to Zalman's son, Mordecai Tsoref, and the son of Yoel Moshe Salomon and his wife Fruma.

Nahalat Shiva was founded by Yoel Moshe Salomon and his six friends as an act of pioneers: Jews moving out of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem at a time where there was not a paved road leading from the Old City to Jaffa. During the year of Haim's birth, his father-with his friends Yehoshua Shtamper and David Gutman-bought the land on which Petah Tikva, the "mother of all settlements," was founded.

Yoel Moshe Salomon had eight children: Yohanan David, Shlomo Zalman (who passed away when he was 19-years old), Tuvia, Arie Lev, Mordecai, Ester, Haim, and Ziporah. 

To be a child in "Nahalat Shiva" was no simple matter.  The inhabitants were under constant threats of attack by the local Arabs.  The father, Yoel Moshe, was preoccupied with the Petah Tikva project and was often away from home (he rode a horse back and forth).  Yoel Moshe Salomon commuted because he couldn't withdraw completely from his printing business and his public affairs in Jerusalem.  Haim's mother was a housewife.  The family was supported by the printing house that Yoel Moshe Salomon established a few years earlier, and which was now run by his two older sons Yohanan David and Tuvia.  According to Haim Salomon's description, the house in "Nahalat Shiva" was known for its hospitality; the wedding ceremonies of two of the sons, Tuvia and Arie Lev, were held there with the participation of many guests.  On holidays Haim attended with his father the large synagogue in Hurbat Yehuda Hakhasid.  He began learning the Hebrew Alphabet at the age of four, and soon began studying the Torah and Gemara. Haim told of his brother Arie Lev-- who moved permanently to Yahud and worked in Petah Tikva--that he was a real hero, and was well known even among the Bedouins in the area.  At that time, the inhabitants of Petah Tikva lived in Yahud because of a Malaria epidemic in Petah Tikva; but when the health situation there improved, the number of people in Yahud dwindled.  Yoel Moshe Salomon moved there with his family, except for David and Tuvia who stayed in Jerusalem.  In Yahud Yoel Moshe Salomon became a farmer, and raised a cow, a horse, and chickens.  The children assisted him with his work.  Haim told that during their work in the fields his father would review Gemara lessons and Bible verses with him...

Medical services were provided by a doctor by the name of Maziya, who would come from Jerusalem to the Salomon house to treat patients, including the local Arabs.  Haim Salomon describes a happy, carefree childhood, punctuated with studies.  The family lived in Yahud for eight years, but the population there continued to dwindle with time, and finally they returned, albeit reluctantly, to Jerusalem.  Haim was sixteen by then, and was considered a budding scholar.  He continued to study at a Beth Midrash rather than a regular school.  At eighteen he began to master Hebrew and German, history, geography, and mathematics with the help of different teachers, and he also studied chemistry, physics, horticulture, and also French on his own.

 

The pharmaceutical trade:  At twenty Haim was hired by a pharmacy owned by the "Lema'an Zion" association.  At twenty-three he married Hana Grad, an eighteen-year-old immigrant from the United States.  After they were married, he opened a wholesale pharmaceutical business with his brother-in-law Moshe Gutel Levin (his sister Ziporah's husband), which they named "Salomon and Levin"

After a while, a branch of this business was opened in Haifa. To reach Haifa one had to travel from Jerusalem to Jaffa and from there to Haifa either by boat or by land, in a wagon pulled by three horses.  Haim's brother-in-law, Moshe Gutel Levin, moved to Haifa to run the branch, while Haim stayed in Jerusalem to run the business.  During World War I, Moshe Gutel Levin, who was a British subject, was forced to leave the country.  Arie Grad, Hana Salomon's brother, ran the Haifa branch in his absence.  In 1913 Haim bought the pharmaceutical business of Aharon Lipin from Jaffa, and at that point Yitzhak Asher Elshtein joined as a partner.  Upon Moshe Gutel Levin's return to Palestine, at the end of the war, the three stores were merged, and thus "Salomon, Levin and Elshtein Pharmaceutical Company" was created, with branches in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv.  The Jaffa branch was relocated in 1930 to the "Nahalat Binyamin" neighborhood in Tel Aviv.  At that time, the company bought pharmaceuticals from Germany; but when Hitler rose to power the partners started the first pharmaceutical factory in Palestine.  They were assisted by chemists who came from Germany, and thus "Asia Laboratories Ltd" was established.  The beginning was difficult, and the British mandate government was of no help, but with the outbreak of World War II there was a growing demand for "Asia''s products.  Demand was on the decline again after the end of the war, but after the establishment of the State of Israel the factory expanded, and soon began to export medicine abroad.  With time Asia acquired "Tsori," another pharmaceutical company, and later "Teva" (Teva Pharmaceutical Industry Ltd) and the rest is history...

Public work:  Haim Salomon's public work began when his eldest son Nachman came of school age.  Since there was no Hebrew school for boys at the time, Haim, along with some friends, established a school in the national- religious spirit. The school was named "Cheder Torah" (Torah Room), where Hebrew, Talmud and Arithmetics were taught;  religious and secular studies were combined there. .  After World War I, the Zionist administration, headed by Haim Weizman, took charge of the school and renamed it "Tahkemoni."  Haim Salomon wrote that the school taught "a) the Hebrew language as the language of study and speech, b) the full curriculum of religious studies; c) general studies to the extent they were needed for getting through life's hurdles.

These days it seems very natural but thirty three years ago, in the midst of the zealous boycotts [of secular schools] by the ultra-orthodox and the competition with foreign-languages schools, it was nothing less of heroic to initiate such a project ..."

During World War I, Haim Salomon joined the "Jerusalem Committee," which role was to provide for the Jewish Yeshuv in Jerusalem, distributing food purchased by the Jewish-American "Ezra" organization.  In 1913, after his father--who was the first collector of dues of the "Bikur Holim" hospital-passed away, he was appointed a member of the Bikur Holim executive committee in his father's place.  Two years after the end of the war, the new building for the hospital was dedicated, outside the Old City's walls.  In 1922 Haim Salomon was appointed to the municipality's executive committee in place of David Yalin, who left for a teaching position in the U.S.  At that time the committee was constituted of six members appointed by the British governor (Ronald Storrs): two Jews, two Muslims, and two Christians.  Haim Salomon insisted that a Jewish secretary be appointed who would write the protocols in Hebrew and translate back and forth between Hebrew and Arabic. Up until then, the language used for discussion and protocols was Arabic. In this capacity, Haim successfully sought-along with his colleague Dr. Yitzhak Levi-- to equalize the rights of Jews to those of Arabs, to provide jobs for Jewish workers, to pave roads in Jewish areas, and to appoint Jewish clerks in city hall.  His persistent efforts resulted also in the appointment of a Jewish municipal engineer.  On January 17, 1949, the first meeting of the Jewish Jerusalem municipal authority was held, attended by its seventeen members.  On this occasion Haim Salomon gave a speech in which he claimed that up until now the roles of city hall were "more or less material - cleaning, providing water and light, paving roads, etc.  On the other hand, there was another institution in Jerusalem, the community council, which roles were more spiritual - supporting pedagogical and cultural institutions, social work, and so forth."  Haim Salomon thought that there is no longer a need for the separate organ of the community council, and that the new municipality needs to undertake also the functions of that organ.

As of 1933, Haim Solomon also served as the chairman of the Jewish Community Council (Va'ad Hakehila) alongside his appointment in the municipal committee.  He served in this capacity until after the establishment of the State of Israel and described the council's work during the War of Independence as "diverse, difficult and dangerous.  The conditions of the Jews in the Old City were horrible; and there were negotiations with the British military regime to allow access to aid and provisions for the Old City's Jews."  They also had to orchestrate the relocation of residents from the north of the city, which was under bombardment, to houses in the south, which were emptied of their Arab residents, and to oversee the relocation of Jews from the Old City to houses outside the walls.  The British conspired against the Jews in the city who were under attack from Arab rioters and even supported the rioters openly.  The Community Council appealed to the British governor of the city to no avail.  It also assisted Jewish merchants downtown as much as it could until they had to be evacuated.  The Council worked tireless through the siege on Jerusalem during the War of Independence, providing assistance to Jews under attack, including food, fuel, and water, which was particularly scarce. The Council also sought to organize the daily life of the Yishuv in the besieged and bombarded city, a city that also witnessed attacks from within:  car bombs and assassinations were a daily occurrence, and there was the attack on the convoy to Mount Scopus on April 13, 1948, where seventy-two men were killed, including senior members of the medical staff.  The Community Council organized the burial of war casualties, fitting for that purpose an area in the cemetery near the graves of the Sanhedrin.  To see to these matters, an ad-hoc committee of seven members was established, and Haim Salomon was among them.

In the first post-war meeting of the Jerusalem municipality, Haim Salomon called upon the Israeli government to provide aid for the rehabilitation and development of the city.  While the siege of the city was still in effect, he called for the postponement of declaring Jerusalem an international city, in view of the UN's failure to protect its citizens. He consented to having the holy sites under UN control, but not the new parts of the city; he called upon the government to annex those immediately.  After the establishment of the state, the role of the Community Council has ended.  As Haim Salomon explained, "the Community Council contributed to all aspects of life and laid the foundations for independent sovereignty in the city... "

The Jerusalem Committee consisting of seven members which were appointed by the Jewish Agency (the Sochnut) after removal of the siege on Jerusalem, took over most of the emergency roles which, up to that point, were in the hands of the Community Council. Its worth mentioning that previous to that, in 1948, Haim Salomon wrote a desperate letter to David Ben Gurion describing the horrible conditions in besieged Jerusalem.  He complained that promises to provide assistance, especially to the Jewish population of the Old city which was on the verge of collapse, were reneged. He ended his letter with the phrase: "this will be my last warning..."

-

Haim Salomon also played an active public role in the National Council (Va'ad Le'umi), which, like the Community Council, was dismantled following the establishement of the State of Israel, and in other establishments. He assisted educational, welfare and charity institutions, and helped in expanding neighborhoods in the Jewish part of Jerusalem: Talpiot, Bayit Vagan and Bet Hakerem,

 His public work lessened but he continued to be involved in the pharmaceutical industry.  He abandoned political activism and was repulsed by the negative campaigns of the elections.  According to him, "the public is mature enough, and each voter knows where [in which party] he belongs..."

He celebrated his 80th birthday in the bosom of his family in 1959. 

Haim Salomon passed away on April 2, 1960.  His family engraved on his tombstone the Biblical phrase "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love thee." His wife Hana passed away in 1967, and on her grave these words were engraved: "Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces." Haim and Hana Salomon had four children: Nachman, Yaakov, Avraham, and Naomi, who was named after their daughter Naomi who died in her infancy.