The House on Borochov Street

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In 1922, 21 modest homes were built in Givatayim, creating the first workers’ neighborhood in the Land of Israel: the Borochov neighborhood. Only two of the original buildings still are standing today and one of them, that of pharmacist Isaac Isidor Mamlock, is about to disappear.

Mamlock was born in 1877 in a small town in western Prussia to a traditional Jewish family. He studied pharmacy and food chemistry at universities in Strasbourg (then part of Germany) and Rostock. After completing his studies, Mamlock opened a large pharmacy and lab in Berlin, near the Görlitzer train station, with his family’s support.

An enthusiastic Zionist, Mamlock served as a delegate at three Zionist congresses, in Basel in 1903, in Hague in 1907, and in Hamburg in 1909. He represented a Jewish community in Romania and filled in for the delegate from Chicago. His friends included Theodor Herzl as well as Chaim Weizmann. Herzl’s death in 1904 prompted Mamlock to vow to make aliyah. Within three years, he had fulfilled his vow. His fluent German opened doors to him among the Templers, German Protestants who were establishing a series of agricultural communities in the Land of Israel. He soon was employed at a German hospital in Jaffa.

When World War I began, he joined the German army as an officer, serving as a pharmacist. Afterwards, he managed a training camp in Berlin to prepare young Zionists to settle the Land of Israel until he was able to return there himself in 1921. He opened a pharmacy in the Templer colony of Sharona, which was located in what is now the center of Tel Aviv. He also joined a group of idealistic socialists who decided to establish a community of people working in the free professions. In 1922, they founded the Borochov neighborhood, where each member was allocated about half an acre of land to build a home and garden on.

Mamlock received a plot at what is now 11 Patai Street, where his granddaughter lives today. For every morning for over 20 years, he would ride his donkey from his home in Givatayim to the pharmacy in Sharona. This ended in 1944; World War II had reached the Middle East leading the British to deport the Templers, who were German citizens. The pharmacy in Sharona closed. The building that housed it remained standing until December 2008 and the two Washingtonia palms that Mamlock had planted at the entrance to his pharmacy for good luck are still flourishing there.

Mamlock then relocated his pharmacy to 12 Borochov Street, the plot adjacent to his home in Givatayim, and planted two Washingtonia palms by the entrance. By then, the Borochov neighborhood had grown to a small collection of humble homes, with cows and goats grazing in the yards. Most residents were far from well off and if they were not able to pay the local pharmacist, who also served as a doctor in emergencies, they would pay him in kind with the bounty of their kitchen gardens: carrots; potatoes; or watermelons. Patients made their way to Mamlock’s pharmacy from Tel Aviv, Bene Berak, and the nearby Arab villages. He operated it on his own, without any partners. Instead, he relied on one of the neighbors, Naima Levenstein, for assistance.

Mamlock was a naturopath and homeopath who specialized in herbal treatments and alternative medicine, a field he helped pioneer in Israel. Every few months, he would travel to the Dead Sea in order to collect tar and minerals, which he would use to create salves for skin ailments. Chamomile, mint, nettle, and other herbs grew in the yard outside the pharmacy. Even the large eucalyptus tree in the yard – a present from a friend in Australia – contributed its leaves to the cause of healing. He passed on his ideas to his children; his son Jonathan relates that their kitchen was completely vegetarian and that he never ate meat, drank alcohol, or smoked a cigarette.

The pharmacy operated until Mamlock’s death in 1970. Little of the original neighborhood remains; the first residents sold their land long ago and apartment blocs have replaced their small homes and gardens. A similar future awaits Mamlock’s pharmacy on Borochov Street. However, his son Jonathan has been working in recent years to preserve the memory of the neighborhood and its first residents. He donated part of the pharmacy’s contents to the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, where it is on display. He plans to display some of the other equipment from the pharmacy in the entrance of the building that is slated to rise at 12 Borochov Street, memorializing one of the first pharmacists of the Land of Israel.

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