Koestler arrived in Heftzeba in 1926, where he underwent a probatory period before entering the Kvutza (as Kibbutzim
were called in those days): his application was not accepted, and his plans for his future life in Palestine collapsed.
With my hopes of joining Kibbutz Heftseba shattered, I entered upon a period of semi-starvation as a Jack of
all trades which lasted a little over a year. I worked as a draughtsman for an Arab architect in Haifa; sold advertising
space for a Hebrew weekly; sold lemonade in the Arab bazaar; had briefly a job as a land-surveyor's assistant in
Tel Aviv and another with a travel agency. But throughout this period of drifting I also wrote political articles
and travelogues which I hopefully sent to European newspapers. Some of these were accepted and thus revived an
earlier ambition to become a writer or Journalist.
My opportunity came when the post of Middle East correspondent of the prodigious Ullstein chain of newspapers became
temporarily vacant. The person who had occupied that much-coveted post. Wofgang von Weisl, was a friend of mine;
he had been given another assignment and recommended me as his successor. To my surprise I was accepted -initially
on probation, soon after as a fully accredited correspondent with a generous salary and headquarters in Jerusalem.
I took up my new post in 1927, just about two years after the night of the discussion with Orochov and the symbolic
burning of my boats.
But Koestler's life as a journalist, brilliant as it was, could not help with the basic fact that living in those
years in Palestine would have required of him a sort of political passion he could not totally feel.
I grew increasingly tired of Palestine. Zionism in 1929 had come to a standstill. Immigration had been reduced
to a mere trickle. Nazism, which was to turn it into a flood, was still a monster being hatched in the womb of
I had gone to Palestine as a young enthusiast, driven by a romantic impulse. Instead of Utopia, I had found an
extremely complex reality which both attracted and repelled me, but where the repellent effect, for a simple reason,
gradually gained the upper hand. The reason was the Hebrew language. It was a petrified language which had been
abandoned by the Jews long before the Christian era - in the days of Christ, they spoke Aramaic - and had now been
revived by a tour de force. By making Hebrew its official language, the small Jewish community of Palestine seemed
to have turned its back on Western civilisation.
I felt that to undergo the same process would be spiritual suicide. I was a romantic fool, in love with unreason;
but I knew that in a Hebrew-language environment I would always remain a stranger; and at the same time gradually
lose touch with European culture. I had left Europe at the age of twenty. Now I was twenty-three and had had my
fill of both Arab romantics and Jewish mystique. I was longing for Europe, thirsting for Europe, pining for Europe.
I asked the Ullsteins for a transfer, and had the good luck to be assigned to Paris. In subsequent years my interest
in Zionism faded; it was reawakened, with a vengeance, thirteen years later, when the gas chambers went into action.