Arkin Family History
Yaacov Arkin 2004

My mother rode on a donkey from Ekron (now Mazkeret Batya) in the coastal plain to Shar Hagai (Bab El Wad) on the main road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to get a taxi so that I would be born in Jerusalem. I was born in Hadassah Hospital on the Street of the Prophets (Rehov Haneve’im) on November 20, 1935. It was the time of the British Mandate and my birth certificate in English and Arabic is headed Palestine with my name as Jacob Arkin born to Aharon and Judith Arkin. My parents lived in Ekron, which was one of the first settlements founded during the renewed period of aliya and return to Zion in the late 1800s. My family story recorded here begins at that time with my greatgrandfathers, Yaacov Arkin and Yaacov Laskovsky.

Great Grandfather Yaacov Arkin
one of the original settlers.
Great Grandfather Yaakov Laskovsky
one of the original settlers.

In the 1880s, as part of the Zionist Movement called Hibat Zion, Rabbi Shmuel Mohliver was looking for religious Jewish farmers from Eastern Europe who would be willing to come and settle in Palestine and teach other Jews to be farmers. Several settlements already existing like Rishon Lezion were not developing successfully and needed strengthening. On his own initiative an associate of Rabbi Moliver called Yehiel Brill a journalist for the newspaper “Halevanon” in 1882, went to the area called the Pale of Jewish Settlements known to have religious farmers. Introducing himself as a representative of the Baron Rothschild he found candidates in a little village called Pavlovka near Rozhinoy or Ruzhnay in the area of Grodno, which at that time was on the border of Poland and Russia known as Belarus. The village was part of the Russian Czarist Government plan to move Jewish families out of the cities and settle them on agricultural land. There he chose ten men representing ten families to make aliya to Palestine for this purpose. Among the ten were Yaacov Arkin and Yaacov Laskovsky. There are two versions of what happened next. When the time came to leave, the ten refused to go because they said that if one of them were to become sick there would not be a minyan (a quorum of ten men needed for prayer) and succeeded in convincing the other Arkin brother, Israel Zvi, to join them. The other version relates that although they were literate they wanted someone to write letters and record their events and so added a “Melamed” known as a teacher.

The representatives of the 10 families were Yaacov Arkin, Israel Zvi Arkin, Baruch Zvi Weinstein, Yecheskel Levine, Yaacov Laskovsky, Moshe Muller, Chayim Moshe Press, Dov Rudofsky, Yehushua Rubenstein and Ephraim Shkolnik. The eleventh being the teacher was Abraham Kalman. The eleven were known as the “De Eleph Abayis” This was because they all wore a long flowing robe made from blankets given to them for the cold by the Baron’s brother in Vienna.

In December 1882, Hanukah, they traveled by land to Vienna and then Trieste where they boarded an Austrian ship bound for Jaffa, Palestine. At the port Jaffa they were refused entry and sent on to Haifa. In Haifa they landed but were held and sent to prison. After various arguments with the authorities they were released and sent back to Jaffa by boat. This time they landed and finally succeeded in settling in 1883. They founded the new village called Ekron (a Philistine city mentioned in the Bible), near the Arab village of Akir, in the vicinity of the town of Rehovot in the coastal plain of Palestine. Their families joined them later. The French philanthropist, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, through an established Haifa firm of lawyers representing ICA (Jewish Colonization Association), had purchased the land for the settlers. The land was then sold to them through PICA (Palestine Jewish Colonization Association) financed by the Baron as part of his policy of Return to Zion. Each one of the settlers founded a dynasty. Ekron was later renamed Mazkeret Batya after the Baron’s mother Batya.

Yaacov Arkin was my paternal great grandfather. He fathered Eliezer Daniel, my grandfather, who fathered Aharon, my father. Israel Zvi Arkin founded a different branch. Eliezer Daniel, my grandfather, had eleven children: two boys - Yehuda and Aharon; and nine daughters, Bracha, Tamar, Batsheva, Hemda, Avigail, Esther, Sarah, Milka and Nehama, Avigail Horowitz settled in the USA, and had three daughters living in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Esther Machlin moved to Australia in the 1930’s and had a daughter Leah and three sons, Jack, Amos and Max. The rest remained in Palestine, eventually Israel.

Eliezer Daniel Rivka Levin
Aharon Zelig Yehudith Press

Yaacov Laskovsky, my maternal great grandfather, and his wife Bluma, my great grandmother had nine children, Micle (Press) Zelda (Schiff) Minnie (Levin) Miriam (Mary) (Wallach) Julia (Markman) Lillian (Goldberg) and Henry (Henich Laskov) who lived in New York and then Florida. We have no knowledge of the other 2.

They all left for the USA in November 1892 with the exception of my grandmother Micle (Mical) who was already married to Shmuel Press the son of Chayim Moshe Press, one of the original eleven. On entering the USA Yaacov Laskovsky changed his name to Rosen since he believed he would have had problems living with a Russian sounding name.

Later Yaacov and Bluma returned to settle in Jerusalem. Both are buried on the Mount of Olives.

Yaacov Laskovsky, three daughters and son-in-law
Grave of Bluma Laskovsky nee Karsh,
my greatgrandmother, on the Mount of Olives, Jerusaelm

In the photograph on the left is Yaacov Laskovsky with three of his daughters, Minnie Levin, Micle Press and Zelda Neiman and Minnie’s husband, Kadish Levin.

Shmuel and Micle had 9 children; Abraham, Milca, Zelda, Moshe, Nehama, Yehudit (my mother) Naomi, Elisheva and Yoel.

Shmuel Press Micle nee Laskovsky

Micle, my grandmother, who died in 1970 at the age of one hundred, told us that the reason her father and the rest of the family left Ekron for the USA was because Palestine at that time was under Turkish rule and the officials in Ekron decided that two girls should be sent from there to Paris to learn to become French teachers. It was generally understood that they were become French teachers.

Around the year1890 an argument developed between the farmers and the Baron’s representatives on carrying out the laws of “Shemita” which requires farmers to rest their lands every seventh year. Yaacov Laskovsky led the argument declaring that they should follow the laws of the Jerusalem Rabbinate since they were living in “Eretz Yisrael” (Land of Israel). The Baron’s clerks argued against and began harassing Yaacov and his family. To appease him they offered to send two of the prettiest girls in the settlement to Paris to be educated. One was Micle his daughter and the other Rachel Neiman, Yaacov Laskovsky being a religious man was suspicious of this saying that he did not want to have his daughter become a “prostitute”. To prevent such a move he arranged for Micle to marry Shmuel, the son of a close friend Yoel Dov Press. This prevented her from being sent to Paris.

However the Baron’s officials continued to harass him and his family making his life a misery and causing his decision to go into exile. Micle, being married, remained in Ekron with her husband. On arriving in the USA Yaacov changed his name to Rosen. The family settled in Denver Colorado. For some reason my mother hardly talked about them so we know little of Yaacov’s family. In 1991 we met the families of Gus Levin, Minnie Levin’s brother–in-law and some of the Markman family in Denver Colorado. Gus and his wife Rona had previously visited us in Jerusalem. Julia Markman and others of the family live in Great Falls Montana. I met Minnie’s grandson Ira Ross and wife Susan in San Francisco. They live in Orinda Orange County and have visited us several times in Jerusalem.

The descendents of the Arkin and Laskovsky (Rosen) families are now spread out in the world from Israel to the USA, South America, Australia and South Africa.

My parents, Aharon and Yehudith, had a farm in the village of Ekron, renamed Mazkeret Batya. They lived together with my grandparents and my father’s youngest sister, Nehama, in a large house in the center of the village.

Early Ekron

My father had been educated at an agricultural school called Mikve Yisrael to learn to become a farmer and look after the farm and lands originally purchased by my great grandfather, Yaacov. My mother Judith went to school in Ekron. My parents married in 19xx and remained in Mazkeret Batya, my father farming the land. Ziva, my sister was born in 1930 and I was born in 1935.

My father's British Mandate ID card

In September 1939, my grandfather, Eliezer, sent Aharon my father to Australia to bring back a "get" (divorce agreement) for my father’s sister Milka whose husband had left her. Esther, the sister who was already in Perth, wrote to say that Milka’s husband had turned up there. My mother objected to my father going alone so far away since she feared she might find herself in the same situation as Milka, a married woman separated from her husband but without a get, and so she insisted on traveling with him. Thus, my parents, my sister Ziva and myself traveled by train from Tel Aviv to Port Said on the Suez Canal, to board an Italian ship bound for Australia. Ziva was 8, I was nearly 4 and my mother was pregnant with my brother Abraham (Abe). While we were on the high seas, World War II broke out. The ship was impounded in Freemantle, the port for Perth in Western Australia. Since we had British passports we were released but other foreigners were not so lucky and were sent to internment camps.

My father formally inherited most of the farm when Eliezer, his father died while we were in Australia. His intention was to return and carry on farming the land. Unfortunately; WWII changed our lives completely. To this day I cannot understand why my parents did not try to return to Ekron as soon as possible after the war. During the time we were in Australia my Aunty Tamar’s husband, Yehuda Bernstein, who was considered to be a righteous man, was given power of attorney to look after my father’s inheritance while he was away. However as it turned out the inheritance of about 300 dunams of land was “given away” over the years we were in Australia. We believe that in collusion with my father’s brother Yehuda Arkin, most of the land was transferred to Yehuda Arkin leaving only a small portion to my father. Although my parents never spoke of this at the time I believe news of this scam had reached them in Perth and was probably the main reason they did not try to return to Ekron immediately after the war. My mother, however, told me we did not return because she did not want to interrupt our schooling.

But in 1939 we were stranded in Perth. My father, a British subject was taken into the Australian Army for the duration of the war. Ziva returned to Israel in 1953 as a member of “Hashomer Haza’ir ” to Kibbutz Nirim. I returned in 1959. My parents and my brother Avraham (Abe) returned to Israel in 1960. In 1962 I married Lita Morgenstern, from London and settled in Jerusalem. We have had six children, Eytan, Yigal, Miriam, Noa, who died in 1972, Hagit and Dina, and seven grandchildren so far. Eytan and Yafa (nee Rahmani) have one son, Eyal Aharon. Yigal is on hold. Miriam and Yaron (Kotler) have three children: Edden, Yahli and Gaia. Hagit and PJ Sahor (Daniel Peter Schneeweiss) have three children: Illor, Yanir and Elbar. Dina married Ithai Stern.