The hotel revenues were lower than expected. Months went by, and Agha Aziz realized that not only was there no proﬁt, but he didn’t even have money for the family’s expenses and for the workers’ salaries. He decided to sell the hotel, but a buyer was nowhere to be found.
My grandfather Isaac, Aziz’s father, had immigrated to Israel years before and lived there with my two uncles. They had suggested time and again that my father join them, but the time never seemed right. Suddenly, with this grave state of affairs, a desire to immigrate to the Promised Land, the motherland, Israel, kindled a ﬂame of hope in the heart of Agha Aziz. Now he wanted to take the family as soon as possible and immigrate to the land of his forefathers, but what about the hotel? One of his friends suggested: “Leave Sasson here to sell the hotel instead of you, and go to Israel.”
My father accepted the idea, entrusted me — poor, young, inexperienced me — with the hotel, and headed to the newly-founded state. My brother Ezra tells about this time:
When my father decided we should immigrate to Israel, we went to Tehran, stayed for a few weeks with my sister Sonya, and were then taken to Israel by the Jewish Agency. When we arrived in Israel, we were received by the Agency people, who gave us a home in the village Kadima. My parents took on different jobs: in a citrus packing house, in agriculture etc. … They were happy. Nissan went to Meir Shfeya boarding school in Zikhron Yaakov, and we, the little children — Frieda, Yolanda, and I — went to school in Kadima.
For me, separating with my parents and younger siblings was unbearable. I no longer had a home. I lived in one of the hotel rooms. I hoped to sell the Palace Hotel soon with the help of some middlemen from the bazaar, pay off my father’s debts, and join my family in Israel with the remaining money.
One of the creditors who was supposed to be repaid when the hotel was sold was a physician, a family friend. Allegedly. It turns out this physician was not as decent a person as Agha Aziz may have thought. Connivingly, he incited the hotel workers against me and made them ﬁle a complaint.
A few days later, a group of police officers with a sealed court order came to the hotel, took away the single room in which I was living, and with the arrest warrant, took me to the local police station. The officer said: “Tonight you are our guest, unless someone bails you out!”
Hassan Baghal, one of the family’s acquaintances, bailed me out, and the workers who ﬁled the complaint started protesting, harassing Baghal and threatening to ruin his life.
The day of the trial arrived. The judge turned to the physician and the workers: “You should be ashamed of yourselves! What did this young man do? You should complain against his father! What does this have to do with him?”
He immediately ordered my release, and sent two officers with me, to make sure the workers don’t harass me.
But the hotel had been conﬁscated and the workers ﬁred. The damage wreaked by the physician’s evil plan was much higher than our family’s debt, and now he was the one who should compensate me with a large sum. But he wouldn’t do it.
My uncle and the physician’s brother-in-law acted as intermediaries and reached an agreement: the physician would give me 25 thousand toman, just enough to go to Tehran and from there immigrate to Israel. I accepted, although this was just a fraction of the real compensation the physician owed us, and went to the physician’s clinic in Rezaiyeh to take the money. As soon as I entered his clinic, the physician yelled at me: “What did you come here for? If you do not leave the premises at once, I will call security to take you out!”
The physician’s sister, the intermediary’s wife, was there, too. Her brother’s unacceptable behavior upset her, and she cried out: “Don’t you have any fear of God? What are you doing to this boy?”
But he wouldn’t listen to her. For this physician, money was the only important thing in life: not family, not compassion, not love, not justice, not guilt — just money.
We were not the only victims of this physician. His income was based on ﬁnding people in need, who would probably not be able to pay their debts, lending them money and then conﬁscating their houses and property. One of the other families he did this to were our relatives, the Cohen family, with six children. After he threw them to the street, the family father had a heart attack and died. It was only thanks to Gollar’s uncle, Nathan Khakshouri, who gave the oldest son a job, that this family was saved from misery. This good deed was rewarded by the son’s hard work, and Nathan not only gained good deeds to his record but also got a good, loyal, hardworking employee. Years later, Khomeini would invade Iran. The physician and his brother-in-law had to leave all their property and wealth behind and ﬂee Iran. The physician’s children were already in the United States, so he had a place to go to after losing his fortune. His brother-in-law, the intermediary, went through the bitterest ordeals, culminating in seeing his only son drown in the sea, right before his eyes. In my darkest times and as much as these people did me wrong, I would never have wished any of them such fate.
I left the physician’s clinic desperate and desolate. With the little money I had in my pocket, I caught a truck to Tehran. There I called my best friend, my cousin Rahim. We met, and I told Rahim the whole story. Rahim, surprised to see me, said: “They told your sisters that you were in jail, and they are crying their eyes out for you!”
Rahim called my sisters. One of them sent her husband to bring me to their place.
And thus, in 1962, at the age of 20, I hit rock bottom, and believed I had lost everything. I came from Tabriz to Tehran to prepare for leaving Iran and then immigrate to Israel. It was there that God gave me the best of boons, and I met my gorgeous wife Gollar.