Haim Mathelon

Cleaned by: Julia Pappo
Transcribed by: Rev

Interview date: February 28th, 2014

Interviewer: Lisette Shashoua

Location: Miami

Total time: 1:15:52

Haim Mathelon: Born on February 15th, 1928 in Baghdad, Iraq. Arrived in Tehran in 1939. Arrived in Israel (circa late 1940s). Arrived in England in 1950/1. Arrived in Iran in 1951. Arrived in France in 1953. Arrived in Montreal in 1953. 

Lisette Shashoua (00:00:15):

First, we would like to thank you very much for, uh, allowing us to interview you with Sephardi Voices [crosstalk 00:00:24]

Haim Mathalon (00:00:24):


Lisette Shashoua (00:00:25):

Thank you. And I would like you to tell us your name, your place of birth, and [crosstalk 00:00:31]

Haim Mathalon (00:00:31):

OK. My name is Haim Mathalon. I was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1928, and, uh, 15th of February. What else you want to know?

Lisette Shashoua (00:00:46):

Uh, yeah, uh, so that makes you how old? Can I ask you?

Haim Mathalon (00:00:51):

The, what, what do I know? I'm, uh, I'm 90.

Lisette Shashoua (00:00:54):


Speaker 3 (00:00:54):


Lisette Shashoua (00:00:57):

[foreign language 00:00:57].

Haim Mathalon (00:00:57):

Almost. Yeah, I'm 90. I'm an old man.

Lisette Shashoua (00:00:59):

No, you are a very young man.

Haim Mathalon (00:01:01):

Yeah, young at heart.

Lisette Shashoua (00:01:03):

Yes, yes. God bless you. Okay, so now, uh, tell us something about when you were born, your family background, your parents, your grandparents. What do you remember Ba- in Baghdad?

Haim Mathalon (00:01:17):

Well I was... Uh, I was an orphan since I was two months old. My father passed away when I was two months old. Then I lived and grew up with my mother's parents, and in Baghdad until 1939. We, we stayed in Baghdad. Before that, we were in Iran. But as... Uh, we had no... Uh, we were in Iran, we, we had no house, we, we, after my father died, we went to, back to Baghdad.

Lisette Shashoua (00:02:00):

But you were born in Baghdad?

Haim Mathalon (00:02:02):


Lisette Shashoua (00:02:02):

Okay, you're... Okay, so, um, your mother lived with your, her parents, right?

Haim Mathalon (00:02:12):

Yeah, yeah, when we came. We won't have enough.

Lisette Shashoua (00:02:13):

Okay, though, so now you lived with your parents in Baghdad. With your grandparents, sorry. What do you remember of the house, of your grandparents?

Haim Mathalon (00:02:23):

Sure, we were, we were living next to a synagogue [foreign language 00:02:28] they call it, at the time.

Lisette Shashoua (00:02:31):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). You remember [crosstalk 00:02:31]

Haim Mathalon (00:02:32):

And there was a small [foreign language 00:02:35] like a school. They teach you Hebrew.

Lisette Shashoua (00:02:37):

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Haim Mathalon (00:02:38):

There was a guy he was pick us up, pick us up in the morning. So because we couldn't walk on the street alone. Over there on the street, there are donkeys and everything, you can get crushed, really. They take you by the hand and they bring you to that school. [Moreh 00:02:53] was the name of the school.

Haim Mathalon (00:02:56):

This was for the summer. And in the winter, we went to Alliance Israélite. We were registered there, be where we learned French, English, Hebrew and Arabic.

Lisette Shashoua (00:03:12):

Now, do you have any brothers and sisters?

Haim Mathalon (00:03:14):

Yes, I have, uh, three sisters.

Lisette Shashoua (00:03:17):

Younger than you or older?

Haim Mathalon (00:03:18):


Lisette Shashoua (00:03:18):

Older. So you were with, you grew up with your sisters-

Haim Mathalon (00:03:23):

Yeah, well, we grew up in family.

Lisette Shashoua (00:03:24):

Okay. Now, um, do you remember the, the one who took you to school? Was he born, uh...

Haim Mathalon (00:03:33):

Pardon me?

Lisette Shashoua (00:03:34):

The ma- The person who took you to school, to the Moreh.

Haim Mathalon (00:03:37):


Lisette Shashoua (00:03:37):

Was he Jewish? Was here a...

Haim Mathalon (00:03:39):

No it was, it was the [foreign language 00:03:42] in, in Baghdad. He comes and picks up all the young kids that are not trusted to walk alone to school. He takes them by the hand and he has a big, uh, row, as you see sometimes here. You see, uh, uh, ten kids, eight kids. He take them... But-

Lisette Shashoua (00:04:00):

With a rope?

Haim Mathalon (00:04:00):

No, no. He's, uh, he take them to, uh, but he, he was always [tanned 00:04:04]. I always remember, "[foreign language 00:04:07]." You know? He said, "What kind of day is that?" He was bothered. He was an old man and that's, that's it.

Lisette Shashoua (00:04:14):

And he was happy the day was a nice day?

Haim Mathalon (00:04:16):

Pardon me?

Lisette Shashoua (00:04:17):

When he use to say, "[foreign language 00:04:18]?"

Haim Mathalon (00:04:19):

No, the, he'd tanned, he's, he's fed up with the kids and the donkeys and everything.

Lisette Shashoua (00:04:24):


Haim Mathalon (00:04:25):

Baghdad was, at the time, the, there were no cars where we were walking to school. It was, were all narrow, narrow streets, narrow and people just walk there, and some donkeys. The donkey walks in the middle. He's more important. Everybody is afraid there's a donkey coming. You go, uh, you let them go pass so you don't get crushed.

Lisette Shashoua (00:04:51):

And the guy was Jewish? The [foreign language 00:04:53]?

Haim Mathalon (00:04:53):

Of course, yeah.

Lisette Shashoua (00:04:56):

What do you remember of your grandmother or your grandfather, the house?

Haim Mathalon (00:05:01):


Lisette Shashoua (00:05:01):

The, the street?

Haim Mathalon (00:05:04):

We were living in a big house. We were maybe 20 people there. My grandfather, he used to sell, uh, spices. [foreign language 00:05:17] in, uh, in, uh, in Baghdad. And he used to, he was like a doctor. You go there in, uh, uh, to, to his shop. Eh, oh, all the [Battawin 00:05:27] womens the come, "[Abu Azrah 00:05:28], I have toothache." "Abu Azrah, my this, uh..." And it gives them something, like he's a doctor. And he had a book. It's a bit, it's a pity I didn't bring it with me from [Harambam 00:05:39]. You know, that's how to treat, uh, medi- medicine. It was all herb medicine from India and all that. He knew all that but he had maybe thousand items in his shop. And, uh-

Lisette Shashoua (00:05:53):

Harambam was Maimonides, right?

Haim Mathalon (00:05:53):

Was he?

Lisette Shashoua (00:05:54):

Harambam was my Maimonides, yeah?

Haim Mathalon (00:05:59):

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Lisette Shashoua (00:06:00):


Haim Mathalon (00:06:01):

Rambam, that's right. We had a book. They were, they divide the sickness in cold and hot. So if you have a co- eh, if you catch a cold, either it's on the cold side, then they give you hot stuff to take. Then there are, there are, there are, all the spices. And I can name you maybe hundred spices we, eh, we, because we, that's what he was doing.

Lisette Shashoua (00:06:24):

Do you remember any of the spices you were saying?

Haim Mathalon (00:06:28):

No, but, uh, it's, uh, it's, it's hard to, to tell you, uh, I don't.

Lisette Shashoua (00:06:36):

So that's your Grandfather.

Haim Mathalon (00:06:38):

That's my Grandfather from my mother's side.

Lisette Shashoua (00:06:40):

Yes. Uh, and your grandmother from your mother's side, what did she... What did you do on Shabbat? What did you do-

Haim Mathalon (00:06:47):

Shabbat, we go to the synagogue in the morning then we come back home in the morning of the synagogue, on the, in, uh, in... Uh, on Saturdays, we did the [foreign language 00:07:00]. You know, the, the cook is supposed, you are supposed to eat it at noon, but when you come out of the synagogue eight, night, ten o'clock in the morning, it's cold, well, you eat it there. That's, this I remember.

Lisette Shashoua (00:07:12):

So you used to go to the synagogue with your grandfather or your sisters also [crosstalk 00:07:16].

Haim Mathalon (00:07:16):

No, no, no. I go with my grandfather. Men and women are divided over there.

Lisette Shashoua (00:07:20):

But you went together? [crosstalk 00:07:23]

Haim Mathalon (00:07:23):

We went toge- No, sometimes you go be- with him. Usually my grandfather gets up earlier than all of us. We follow later.

Lisette Shashoua (00:07:32):

Ah. Okay, what do you remember of the holidays like the, uh, Pesach, like, uh, uh [crosstalk 00:07:43].

Haim Mathalon (00:07:43):

Yeah. Purim was a joyous time, uh, because, uh, they, we used to get, uh, uh, Purim, uh, uh, they give us some money. And, uh, it, it was a happy time. Uh, they sing the songs are of Purim and all that. And, uh, the holidays, they were very well kept. Pesach especially, you never saw bread, you never saw things like that. You, and, uh...

Haim Mathalon (00:08:14):

Some of us had their special glasses there of wine, and their name printed on them. This is... They are the way before, 50 years, 30 years on p- They bring them out on Pesach. They bring all the dishes and everything special for Pesach. During the year, we don't use that, they stay kosher, and they bring them.

Lisette Shashoua (00:08:38):

And the names of the glasses were there in silver?

Haim Mathalon (00:08:42):

No, no, no, no. They were glasses, uh, right? Uh, ordinary.

Lisette Shashoua (00:08:48):

Okay. Uh, how about your, uh, pa- grandparents on your father's side? Did, did you know them?

Haim Mathalon (00:08:58):

I didn't know them much enough because my father passed away when I was very young. I know that my grandmother from my father's side, I used to... They used to send us to her every Saturday because she had the right to see the kids of her son. And I know that she wouldn't talk to nobody because she had to read the Tehellim, the psalms, you know?

Lisette Shashoua (00:09:23):


Haim Mathalon (00:09:23):

[foreign language 00:09:23] and all that. She had to finish it, and then she talks to us. Otherwise, every Saturdays she, she used to read that.

Lisette Shashoua (00:09:33):

Fantastic. Uh, okay, what do you remember of your, uh, with your sisters when you were growing up?

Haim Mathalon (00:09:41):

Nothing. Yeah, well, what, what, what is... They, they were older than me.

Lisette Shashoua (00:09:46):

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Haim Mathalon (00:09:48):

And, uh, they have their own life. Uh, we, we never fought too much.

Lisette Shashoua (00:09:54):

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Haim Mathalon (00:09:55):

With their...

Lisette Shashoua (00:09:56):

How much difference in age?

Haim Mathalon (00:09:57):

Uh, two years each.

Lisette Shashoua (00:09:59):

Two years each. Okay, now, uh, tell me about your school. You went first to the Moreh in summer.

Haim Mathalon (00:10:05):

The Moreh is nothing, but I went to, uh, Alliance up to the 4th grade.

Lisette Shashoua (00:10:11):

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Haim Mathalon (00:10:13):

First of all, I went to the Alliance where the girls go because I was very young. They take you there. And then we went to the one, the boys', uh, school of, uh, Alliance. And, uh, after the 4th grade until 1939.

Lisette Shashoua (00:10:30):

Were the, uh, schools of the boys and the girls knew each other?

Haim Mathalon (00:10:35):

Yeah, they were next door.

Lisette Shashoua (00:10:36):


Haim Mathalon (00:10:37):

You in Baghdad, so you know.

Lisette Shashoua (00:10:38):

Yeah, but I wasn't in the Alliance.

Haim Mathalon (00:10:40):

No, they were the school and you cross the street. It was given by some, I think, Iraqi rich guys. They went to India and they built. Those a very, very nice, very nicely built.

Lisette Shashoua (00:10:54):

Big, big school.

Haim Mathalon (00:10:55):

Oh yeah.

Lisette Shashoua (00:10:55):

I saw pictures. Uh, okay, so you went to the Alliance and then you left, uh, you left Iraq with your parents. Tell me about when you left Iraq.

Haim Mathalon (00:11:07):

When we left Iraq?

Lisette Shashoua (00:11:08):


Haim Mathalon (00:11:10):

Well, uh, we were not comfortable in Iraq because we didn't have any money there. Our money was in Iran. So we had to go there to live, and we couldn't transfer like... And then it, it, uh, the day we left Baghdad, they killed [Ghazi 00:11:33], the king. It was on, uh, uh, on Pesach Day. Uh, uh, and that, that, that, that's, that's, uh... Then we, we drove by car. It took two days.

Lisette Shashoua (00:11:46):

So it was the first day of Pesach when you left?

Haim Mathalon (00:11:50):

Yeah, well, we were not supposed to, but...

Lisette Shashoua (00:11:53):

So you did not celebrate Pesach that day, or that week?

Haim Mathalon (00:11:56):

No. No. No. Maybe, uh, the night before, maybe not.

Lisette Shashoua (00:12:00):

So you left with your grandparents? And your-

Haim Mathalon (00:12:04):

No, no, with my mother and sisters.

Lisette Shashoua (00:12:07):

Without your grandparents?

Haim Mathalon (00:12:08):

They stayed in Baghdad.

Lisette Shashoua (00:12:10):

OK, so how did you drive? Who drove?

Haim Mathalon (00:12:13):

You... There was Iran Tour. You rent a car and, uh, we were five already. We, uh, we had a full car. Full load.

Lisette Shashoua (00:12:24):

You rent the car and [crosstalk 00:12:25].

Haim Mathalon (00:12:25):

Uh, there were, their rented their drivers that the between Iran and Iraq.

Lisette Shashoua (00:12:30):

And how long [crosstalk 00:12:30]

Haim Mathalon (00:12:30):

They call it Iran Tour. The, uh, the, the, the company.

Lisette Shashoua (00:12:34):

Amazing. How long did it take you?

Haim Mathalon (00:12:37):

Two days.

Lisette Shashoua (00:12:38):

Two days to get to Tehran.

Haim Mathalon (00:12:40):


Lisette Shashoua (00:12:40):

And in Tehran, who was there? Who met you?

Haim Mathalon (00:12:43):

I had, uh, I had my uncles there.

Lisette Shashoua (00:12:45):

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Haim Mathalon (00:12:46):

We had, uh, a house and, uh...

Lisette Shashoua (00:12:50):

Your uncle's the brothers of your father.

Haim Mathalon (00:12:52):

Yeah, my, no, of my mother.

Lisette Shashoua (00:12:54):


Haim Mathalon (00:12:54):

They were there and, uh, we lived wi- with them, we, we took... We rented the house, and one of my uncles that was not married, he was, he wa- he was living with us, too. So we stayed there. And right away over there, I registered into a French Jesuit school, French, uh, uh, priest.

Lisette Shashoua (00:13:19):

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Haim Mathalon (00:13:20):

And, uh, well, we used to pray four times a day, uh, the prayers. At the beginning they didn't know I was, oh, they didn't think there's a jew in this school. And, uh, I will used to pray with them and everything. But after the, the, the, when I, when they knew that there was not Jew, uh, a Christian, they start to give us special lessons. Moral lessons on the side. A priest, Pierre [Leconte 00:13:49] was his name. He used to teach us this, maybe when the others were, uh...

Lisette Shashoua (00:13:56):

How many of you were you?

Haim Mathalon (00:13:58):

How many?

Lisette Shashoua (00:13:58):

How many was he teaching separately?

Haim Mathalon (00:14:02):

Maybe four. Three, four guys. Jewish boys.

Lisette Shashoua (00:14:06):

Who also came from Baghdad?

Haim Mathalon (00:14:09):

One, uh, one, one, two, yeah, came from Baghdad.

Lisette Shashoua (00:14:13):

You know, you were telling me, uh, the day Ghazi got killed.

Haim Mathalon (00:14:16):


Lisette Shashoua (00:14:17):

Were the, were the streets okay for you to... Weren't the streets [crosstalk 00:14:21].

Haim Mathalon (00:14:23):

No, no, no. There were people, uh, Ghazi, they killed, uh, you know. They, they, they, they beat themselves. How come they lost him and all that? It's, uh, it's the way the Arab country run.

Lisette Shashoua (00:14:35):

Okay, so you went to, uh, the Alliance... Uh, no. Sorry, went to the Jesuit, and after that?

Haim Mathalon (00:14:45):

After that, [foreign language 00:14:46]. I went to the Ame- American, uh, uh...

Lisette Shashoua (00:14:52):

Community School?

Haim Mathalon (00:14:54):

Community school. They call it community school then. It, uh, because everybody said, "What you learning French for?" At that time, France lost the war, and Hitler was already in Paris and French who didn't have any value. So we thought it was the best thing to learn the American way and the English way. That's what, that's why we switched from French to English.

Lisette Shashoua (00:15:18):

Okay, so that was in '39, '40? 1940?

Haim Mathalon (00:15:20):

I think '40, '41.

Lisette Shashoua (00:15:22):

'40, '41 when Hitler was already in Paris.

Haim Mathalon (00:15:27):


Lisette Shashoua (00:15:29):

Wow. Okay, so tell me about the school. Uh, do you have memories about the school? The community school?

Haim Mathalon (00:15:37):

Uh, whi- which one? Uh, the...

Lisette Shashoua (00:15:39):

Community school or the Jesuit [crosstalk 00:15:40]

Haim Mathalon (00:15:40):

Yeah, the Commu- No, no, the Jesuit, they were, uh, very strict chr- uh, Catholics. And, uh, the other, uh, the other school, the, the community school was American, still by priest, by religious order. Because who is, uh, only the reli-, uh, religious guys come there to teach or because they have to sacrifice. They don't give them big salaries, but they were people dedicated to religion. They were priest, they didn't care for money. They come there. They were good professors and everything, but they had nothing but a bicycle to drive or something. They're... But they were good sch- good teachers.

Lisette Shashoua (00:16:30):

And the community School? What do you remember of the-

Haim Mathalon (00:16:34):

Community school? At that time, America was in, uh, was at war. And lots of soldiers would come to the community school to sing and show us the American way, and, you know, the, there was some affairs, well, with the, uh... with the American, uh, American Army. Used to come to the school because they were in Iran. In Iran, they had nothing to do. They used to come to the school a lot. And teachers, uh, they, they used to teach and work too.

Lisette Shashoua (00:17:10):

The soldiers?

Haim Mathalon (00:17:11):

Yeah, uh, two, three of them, four of them, yeah. As a matter of fact, some of them I was corresponding with them up to about five, eight years ago.

Lisette Shashoua (00:17:21):

Wow. What happened to them?

Haim Mathalon (00:17:25):

I don't know. They, their, everyone is different country. They are in, uh, in the States, in... And you lose, uh...

Lisette Shashoua (00:17:32):

But up to five years ago. That's amazing.

Haim Mathalon (00:17:35):

Pardon me?

Lisette Shashoua (00:17:35):

Amazing, up to five years ago, you were corresponding.

Haim Mathalon (00:17:39):

Yeah, well we were friends.

Lisette Shashoua (00:17:43):

And these were your teachers? They were your teachers?

Haim Mathalon (00:17:47):

Yeah they were teachers. They were teachers.

Lisette Shashoua (00:17:50):

Okay, what else? Uh, tell me about Iran. You were growing up in Iran? Was there any Jewish youth clubs in Iran?

Haim Mathalon (00:17:58):

Yeah, there were, were... There was lots of Jewish activity all for Israel.

Lisette Shashoua (00:18:03):

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Haim Mathalon (00:18:04):

They, uh, teach us. You take this as extra curri- curricular. Uh, they, they, they teach you how to sing, uh, Israeli songs, and how to go to Israel, and they show you films and they encourage you to immigrate to Israel. We had [foreign language 00:18:27] from Israel. They come in, uh, Iran and they were, uh, conducting schools and teachings and things like that.

Lisette Shashoua (00:18:37):

What year was that? In the 40s?

Haim Mathalon (00:18:39):

It was before the State of Israel. I would say '40.

Lisette Shashoua (00:18:44):

Mm-hmm (affirmative) Okay, and like was there, um, Jewish club scouts? Uh, did they teach you how to, uh, to, to, to shoot?

Haim Mathalon (00:18:53):

No, no, no.

Lisette Shashoua (00:18:54):

No. Zionist organizations?

Haim Mathalon (00:18:58):

Yeah. They were Zionist organizations.

Lisette Shashoua (00:19:00):

Did you belong to any?

Haim Mathalon (00:19:02):


Lisette Shashoua (00:19:02):


Haim Mathalon (00:19:03):

We didn't have to. They didn't, uh, didn't ask. They were not so organized. Politically, there was nothing.

Lisette Shashoua (00:19:12):

Okay so, I, I didn't ask you. In Iraq, did you have, uh, any anti-Semitic, uh...

Haim Mathalon (00:19:16):

In Iraq, of course.

Lisette Shashoua (00:19:17):

What did you feel as growing up, as a child?

Haim Mathalon (00:19:20):

Well, we are, we're, we're afraid from the Muslims? Our parents make us scared. They say, "Be careful the Muslim guy is coming, the Muslim guy..." The... And, uh... Yeah.

Lisette Shashoua (00:19:35):

And you lived in the streets. There were Muslims neighbors?

Haim Mathalon (00:19:37):

There? No. It was Jewish, uh, area. Jewish, like, a Jewish ghetto where I work.

Lisette Shashoua (00:19:44):

So you left in '39 before the Farhud.

Haim Mathalon (00:19:48):

Before the Farhud. '41 was the Farhud.

Lisette Shashoua (00:19:50):

Did you hear anything about the Farhud?

Haim Mathalon (00:19:52):

Of course.

Lisette Shashoua (00:19:54):

What did you hear? When did you know-

Haim Mathalon (00:19:56):

First of all, I lost a cousin there. He went... They went from Tehran to Baghdad. And then a stray bullet hit one of them. You know, for, uh, the, for the [Rabiah 00:20:11] in Montreal. [Fouad 00:20:14] Rabiah, you know, the big guy that's, uh... He had a brother, Edward, two old, two years older than him. He got shot. He ki- he got killed in the Farhud. A stray bullet, just like that.

Lisette Shashoua (00:20:27):

Where was he? In the street? What-

Haim Mathalon (00:20:29):

No, he was at home. Just, uh, there was, uh... On the street, there was demonstration, and bullets were flying, and one came through and killed him. In front of his mother, father, the whole family. They were gathered together, they're afraid, and a bullet came in and hit him in the heart.

Lisette Shashoua (00:20:53):

Anything else you know about the Farhud, about your family? How about your grandparents? Where they okay in the Farhud?

Haim Mathalon (00:21:00):

Oh, they, they left after the Farhud. The, the ones that were stayed, they, they, they came to Tehran. Anyone that had somebody in Iran or something, the people didn't want to stay anymore.

Lisette Shashoua (00:21:13):

But your grandparents were in the Farhud?

Haim Mathalon (00:21:16):

They were in, uh, right, but, uh, they gave up. After the Farhud, my grandfather, he sold his shop and, uh, everything, and, uh, uh, they came to Tehran.

Lisette Shashoua (00:21:27):

So, but nobody went to their house to hurt them?

Haim Mathalon (00:21:30):

No, no, there was no, there was no, uh, there was, they were in an area where... They were safe.

Lisette Shashoua (00:21:38):

Okay. Wow. Okay, now when you were growing up in, uh, Baghdad, did you have any re- interactions with non-Jews, with Muslims, with Christians? Or-

Haim Mathalon (00:21:53):

We were, we were separate. We never visited, we never had Muslim friends. We were completely... Is, uh, we had, we had nothing. Well, we had nothing common with them. First of all, we were, uh, the [kashruth 00:22:06]. You don't eat with a Muslim because he eats, uh, any kind of meat. And we, we grew up, more or less religious because of the, uh, kashruth and all that. We didn't mix up with Muslims.

Lisette Shashoua (00:22:23):

And, and later in Iran, did you mix with the Christians, the Muslims?

Haim Mathalon (00:22:28):

Yeah, because I was in Christian schools. There were all Russians, Armenians. There were all kinds, and Iranians and French. We used to mix them, yeah, a lot.

Lisette Shashoua (00:22:40):

And, um, uh, go to their house, they come to yours?

Haim Mathalon (00:22:44):

A little bit, uh, at that age, uh, not in the houses, no. But we were, we were friends with them.

Lisette Shashoua (00:22:53):

So when did you... Tell me about Iran. You went to school there and then?

Haim Mathalon (00:22:59):

In Iran...

Lisette Shashoua (00:23:00):

In what year?

Haim Mathalon (00:23:00):

... I finish, I finish school. And in the, in the summer of 1943, '44, I worked for the British NAAFI, Na- Navy Army Air Force Institution. We used to sell the things on, uh, by coupons. The soldiers would come so I applied for a job and I improved my English there, and I worked there the summer before I went to the American school. I will, I work... I still have the, uh, passport of that NAAFI where I worked. I was about 14, 15, 16, but they took me.

Lisette Shashoua (00:23:42):

And you would sell coupons to the soldiers?

Haim Mathalon (00:23:44):

No, uh, uh, we sell them goods. They come. We had this store especially only for British soldiers, and they had coupons to buy goods. They can buy like, uh... have a, have a bottle of beer, have a bottle of whiskey, or something like that. And, uh, we used to give them and make the, the... They used to pick us up. They used to come with a truck, pick us up from home every morning. And, uh, they, the, the, the British that had tea time. At 10:00, you, you go for tea. You eat and everything, and then... Uh, but we had the right to buy with our salary as much goods as we want with that money only. Limited to our seller from the store. And it was, uh, much cheaper than outside.

Lisette Shashoua (00:24:37):

So you were 14 when you did that?

Haim Mathalon (00:24:39):

About 14, 15, yeah.

Lisette Shashoua (00:24:41):

You did it for two years?

Haim Mathalon (00:24:42):

Pardon me?

Lisette Shashoua (00:24:43):

Two years?

Haim Mathalon (00:24:44):

No, one year.

Lisette Shashoua (00:24:44):

And then?

Haim Mathalon (00:24:45):

And then the, the, the, the, the war was over. Then I went to the American school.

Lisette Shashoua (00:24:53):

Community school after the war was over.

Haim Mathalon (00:24:55):

After, after, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Lisette Shashoua (00:24:57):

So you were in the Jesuit school when you-

Haim Mathalon (00:25:00):

Before, I wa- Jesuit school I was before.

Lisette Shashoua (00:25:02):

Okay. And then when you went to, to work in the NAAFI.

Haim Mathalon (00:25:05):


Lisette Shashoua (00:25:06):

You were still at school?

Haim Mathalon (00:25:08):

I wa- was at school then but I was switching because people were start, were telling us, "Don't go for the French anymore because the France is de- defeated."

Lisette Shashoua (00:25:19):

Okay. Wow. So you went to the American. And okay, so now you worked one year with the NAAFI. Then what did you do at 15, 16?

Haim Mathalon (00:25:29):

I used to... I had some cousins in Baghdad. And I used to study and then I'd send them some, uh, goods that they were very scarce in Ir- in Iraq. I sent them from Tehran to Baghdad, and, and, uh, we were still, uh, teenagers. But we, we were making a little bit of money on the side.

Lisette Shashoua (00:25:54):

What kind of goods?

Haim Mathalon (00:25:54):

Uh, uh, what you call, uh, threads. You know a thread, uh, it's very... The guy, he was working in a store, and there were no threads and all thing. There were lots of things missing in during the war, and in Iran, we had them. So I used to send it by, uh, drivers. They takes a... I send it boxes. Uh, it, it was not a big business but still it, it, I did that for a while.

Lisette Shashoua (00:26:23):

So you were 15 when you did that.

Haim Mathalon (00:26:25):

Yeah, yeah, 15, 16. Uh...

Lisette Shashoua (00:26:28):

And then?

Haim Mathalon (00:26:30):

And then, uh, I finished. Uh, what did I do? I worked, yeah, I fi- I finished school. I had some money, I made some money there. Then I worked for my uncles in, uh, eh, Israel. There was the Aliya. I used to go there. We used to transfer money from Baghdad to Tehran, to the United States. And when I was in, uh, in Israel, I used to sell the draft of, uh, dollars and get Israeli pounds, I give to the, uh, to, to, to the Olim. They were coming from Baghdad. We did that for a while, it was against the law.

Lisette Shashoua (00:27:18):

Why? Explain to me, why was it against the law?

Haim Mathalon (00:27:21):

Pardon me?

Lisette Shashoua (00:27:21):

Why was it against the law?

Haim Mathalon (00:27:22):

It was, uh, foreign exchange. You are not supposed to deal in foreign exchange while in Israel. Even they put, uh, the wife of, uh, I don't know, one of the ministers, when, uh, she, they found out that she was dealing with that. Uh, it, it's not... It was, it's criminal offense. I got out, uh, they pu- they, they catch me. They put me in jail for about a week. And then, uh, I had to put, to post a bond of about hundred [liros 00:27:59], hu- hundred, uh, Israeli pounds to get out.

Lisette Shashoua (00:28:04):

Which is the equivalent of how many pounds?

Haim Mathalon (00:28:07):

Mine, uh, uh... No, it, it was not hard to get that. So, I made, uh, we did, we did lots of business. We, we were taking money from Baghdad which was very, very hard. We had some Muslim and Turkish drivers. They used to bring jewelry, uh, pounds, uh, cash money, and everything. They bring it from Baghdad to Tehran. From Tehran, with that money, we convert it into dollars. Over there, it was a little bit easy. We keep the dollars in the States.

Haim Mathalon (00:28:48):

And when I was in Israel, I sell those dollars. Like, you want $5000, so much. So I give you a piece of paper and you got to my uncle, he knows. Uh, you, you get paid and I, I used to get the money and then distribute it to the... When I had... People would come and, uh, get the money from [foreign language 00:29:10] they call it, draft. I did that for a... At that time, I was maybe 20, 21 and I was dealing in big money.

Lisette Shashoua (00:29:25):

And it's the people who came to live in Israel from Iraq. The people who had money?

Haim Mathalon (00:29:31):

Well, they had money. But, uh, what they had, they sold the house, they sold everything and they bring them there. But the Israeli Government wouldn't let them get the money. They tell them you have to change it at, uh, is, uh, one pound, Iraqi pound, with one pound Israeli. Whereas it was about a three to one on the market. So this was a big thing. And it was the same thing with the, with the Ro- Romanians, with the guys from Hungary, they were coming from Europe. They had the same problem.

Haim Mathalon (00:30:06):

Israel wouldn't let them transfer the money freely and bring everything free. Like, you know, you are co- going there, Israel should, uh... If you bring a fridge or things like that, sometimes they tolerate, sometimes you have to pay, uh, taxes on it, sometimes there is duty and things like that. Israel was just forming then. They didn't have all the laws that they should have had.

Haim Mathalon (00:30:33):

And, uh, some people suffered because of, uh, they put the... I was, uh, they put me in jail for about a week. Then, uh, I got out with, uh, uh... But, but there was other Iraqis too. The, they touch, they touch foreign exchange, that's what happens.

Lisette Shashoua (00:30:52):

Okay, so you got out of jail and went back to Iran?

Haim Mathalon (00:30:57):

I went back to England, then I want to Iran. Yeah, I went to Iran after.

Lisette Shashoua (00:31:01):

So what did you do in England?

Haim Mathalon (00:31:04):


Lisette Shashoua (00:31:04):

What did you do in England when you got out of jail in, uh, from Israel?

Haim Mathalon (00:31:07):

I was gonna to come to Canada then.

Lisette Shashoua (00:31:10):

What year was that?

Haim Mathalon (00:31:13):

'50, '51.

Lisette Shashoua (00:31:15):


Haim Mathalon (00:31:18):

Then I went into Manchester. Then I came, I went. Then they called me back, they say, "Go back to Tehran, there are a few drafts, some money transfers, the thing is not complete." So I was told by my bosses to go back. And at that time, my passport was Iraqi passport. And it was expired. It was nothing. I went. I don't know how I did it, but, uh, the, the Iraqi passport and it had a stamp of, uh, uh, Israeli stamp.

Haim Mathalon (00:31:53):

When I went to Israel, I went with this Ira- Iraqi passport. As soon as I went in, the clerk put the stuff from Israel on the Iraqi passport. So I had to go and get some, uh, I guess I had some s- Iranian stamps, I put on that. And then in, uh, in Rome, Italy, I went to the Iraqi, uh, emba- uh, embassy and I told the renew my passport. So I give them this passport, I was shaking, you know. It had stamps on it and everything. So they say, "Okay, you have to wait." I waited, then I go in. There is a clerk there. Well, not a clerk. The guy had a go, uh, he, he was going to give it. Then he starts to go through the, my passport. And he starts to asking me questions. "So what were you doing in the island?" I went to Cyprus at the time. He said, "What you're doing in Cyprus? What you're doing-"

Haim Mathalon (00:32:58):

Uh, just at that moment, somebody knocked at the door. Dang-Dang-Dang. So the guy, the, the Iraqi guy, he start to shout, "Si, si, si" in Italian. You know, it means, "Yes, yes, come in." They wouldn't hear, they knock again. So he got up. He was mad. He opened the door, there was a beautiful girl. When he saw a beautiful girl, he said, "Go, Malia Barbara. Go, fill in, fill in, fill in the papers outside." He wanted to be... Uh, got, he, you know, he could act, uh, then, I never saw the guy again.

Haim Mathalon (00:33:34):

He renewed my passport. He gave it just to the [foreign language 00:33:39]. You know, the clerk there. I give them the money of the stamps and I had the passport done just like that. But when I went to Tehran after, and people were asking me, "How you did, do... How did you come?" Uh, uh, I, it's just, uh, by chance it happened. But they say, "You don't want to talk how? How you came in? How we..." Because they want to get out with those passports and everything and they were nothing. Uh, that's exactly what happened. With that passport, I still have it.

Lisette Shashoua (00:34:10):

Wow. You have it? Is it with you here?

Haim Mathalon (00:34:14):

Yeah, I have it in, uh, in Montreal.

Lisette Shashoua (00:34:15):

Montreal? When we get to Montreal, remind me let's take a picture of it. That's...

Haim Mathalon (00:34:19):


Lisette Shashoua (00:34:20):

... a miraculous [crosstalk 00:34:21]

Haim Mathalon (00:34:21):

I have mine, I have my mother's. I have quite a few documents.

Lisette Shashoua (00:34:29):

Fantastic. We need to take pictures.

Haim Mathalon (00:34:29):

Yeah, and that's... We had to go through lots of things. You want to buy a ticket in the plane. You have to buy visas. And Iraq, Iraqi was the worst thing. Now, a Jew and an Iraqi is even worst. You can't buy it, you know. Uh, like, I want to go to Tehran, they want a passport and a visa to Tehran to sell you a ticket with, uh, uh, Dutch airline or these people. And if you didn't have it, uh, then you had problem. Then you tell them, "I want to go somewhere else," and, uh, then you book in the last minute and you jump on the plane.

Haim Mathalon (00:35:08):

Even when I went to Tehran without a visa, Iranian visa, with the same passport, this, the passport was piece of garbage anyway. It was, uh, stamps of Israel and all that. I went to Iran with the same passport. So I landed from the plane. So the guy, he's go, goes through the, uh passport pages. He said, "Where's the visa?" I told him it has no visa. I have no visa. "So you have no visa? You got to jail."

Haim Mathalon (00:35:41):

Then, well, what can I do? So they took me there in the, in the, at the airport, then they took me to court after a few days. But it's funny. At the airport, there was a young boy. He was a classmate of mine in Tehran years back. He was working at the... Anyway, I told him, "Listen. I leave my luggage here, I come back." Then they took me to, to court for coming without a visa. And the thing was only maybe $2, $3 fine. It was not such a big thing, but some people couldn't do that. You know, it's just by chance it happened like this.

Haim Mathalon (00:36:24):

Then, in, un, in Teh- in Tehran, uh, we applied for visa to come to Canada and all that.

Lisette Shashoua (00:36:32):

So what year was this when in Tehran you had no visa and they put you in jail again?

Haim Mathalon (00:36:37):

In jail where? In Tehran? Tehran, they didn't put me in jail. He says, "You go to jail," but he didn't. He, he arrested me, and then he let me go on condition that he keeps my luggage. Over there it's different. He thinks if he keeps his, my luggage I'm going to come back for the luggage. (laughs) So that's how it happened.

Lisette Shashoua (00:36:59):

So you didn't go back for the luggage?

Haim Mathalon (00:37:01):

I did go. I went, I picked up my luggage and I gave him a few dollars, a few whatever at the time. And then, uh, there was no problem.

Lisette Shashoua (00:37:11):

And so you stayed in, in Iran for how long after?

Haim Mathalon (00:37:14):

I stayed for about two, t- two years.

Lisette Shashoua (00:37:17):

Without a visa? You still did-

Haim Mathalon (00:37:20):

Oh, yeah. W- why should I? I'm in Iran. They cannot recognize if I'm Iraqi because I speak Farsi and everything. I'm just like one of them. They don't know me. I, I get mixed up there. Over there, you get a, a policeman, you give him couple of dollars and he will let you go and I, I knew my way over there. I could, uh, I didn't have to.

Lisette Shashoua (00:37:42):

So you went back to Iran and you were still working in the [foreign language 00:37:46] in the [crosstalk 00:37:47] transfers?

Haim Mathalon (00:37:47):

Yeah, yeah, a little bit. We had, uh, some things to liquidate. Then in 1953, I got the... Uh, I came to Canada. We had to go through France because Canada didn't have a consulate or a, uh, in Iran, in Tehran, they didn't have. So you take a, uh, you go to Paris, and over there, they give you the, uh, uh, the visa to come.

Lisette Shashoua (00:38:23):

So you were still single then?

Haim Mathalon (00:38:25):

I was still single, yeah.

Lisette Shashoua (00:38:27):

Okay so you came [crosstalk 00:38:28]

Haim Mathalon (00:38:28):

In, uh, in France, in France, I went to the Sorbonne to study because it was much cheaper. A, a meal outside was 500 francs. But in the university, it was 50. If you, you know, everything was cheaper. So I applied, I passed the test, but, you see, the French that I knew, it came handy there. I've go- I got accepted right away at the Sorbonne. But I really didn't go to, uh, uh, to, to, to be a lawyer. Uh, they say, "What do you want to be? You know what, uh, what c- uh, what do you want to do? Tell me why you want to be a lawyer." So I had to go and attend some classes. They had 3, 400 students and one... And we are supposed to take notes.

Lisette Shashoua (00:39:21):

So how many... How long did you stay in the Sorbonne, in France?

Haim Mathalon (00:39:26):

Uh, a few months?

Lisette Shashoua (00:39:27):

Why did you have to go to the Sorbonne if you're waiting for the papers?

Haim Mathalon (00:39:30):

Because, uh, it's cheaper to live at [foreign language 00:39:34].

Lisette Shashoua (00:39:36):

So you went alone?

Haim Mathalon (00:39:36):


Lisette Shashoua (00:39:37):

Alone or with your family?

Haim Mathalon (00:39:39):

What family? I had no family.

Lisette Shashoua (00:39:42):

No, I mean your parent, uh, your mother, your sister.

Haim Mathalon (00:39:45):

No, all of them were in Canada already.

Lisette Shashoua (00:39:48):


Haim Mathalon (00:39:49):


Lisette Shashoua (00:39:49):

Your mother also?

Haim Mathalon (00:39:50):


Lisette Shashoua (00:39:51):

How come they went before you?

Haim Mathalon (00:39:55):

Because they could go before me. I, I was from one side... Uh, they, they used to send me back and forth, uh, the, the way it was.

Lisette Shashoua (00:40:03):

Okay. So you came to Canada in '53. Tell us what happened when you came.

Haim Mathalon (00:40:08):

I didn't have a penny in my pocket (laughs). I started paymaster. I, I look in the paper. First of all, I went to Jewish vocational training near McGill. I went upstairs. They say, "What do you wanna do?" I told them, "Listen, a clerical work or anything. I am looking for a job." So they give me a couple of addresses. The first address they gave me was Quality Auto Supply, the name of the company. So I had to walk from Sh- [Sherbrooke 00:40:44] Street, yeah, to Jean-Talon. That's where the office was.

Haim Mathalon (00:40:51):

I didn't have money to go in the bus. The bus was 25 cents and I had 15, something like that. So I work, I go there. So the guy, uh, he, he interviews me and everything. And he says, "Oh, when you want to start to work?" I told him, "Anytime." He said, "Go sit there." So I got the job. And I stayed there for a little while.

Haim Mathalon (00:41:17):

Then I went to the University Of Montreal on [VJ 00:41:24] Square downtown because I wanted to get some more education to fit here. Because here, when you go for a job, they ask you, "What did you do before?" What do I tell them, I was transferring money? Wh- wh- no, I, I, I, no, but really this is the way it was. I didn't know what to say. So I, I got, uh, uh, you, you learn.

Haim Mathalon (00:41:53):

Now, it's just stories but at the time, I was scared and everything. But now I look at it back, I laugh. But really, it was difficult, hard.

Lisette Shashoua (00:42:04):

So you, you went, you worked as a clerk with the Jewish Vocation?

Haim Mathalon (00:42:10):

The, the, the, the Jewish Vocation, yeah, they gave me the job. Then when I went into business myself, I thought to pay back the Jewish Vocational Training. I will hire people from them. They send me such garbage. The send me such guys, no good at all. Lazy, good for nothing, really. But I, really, I wanted to repay them back and th- they send me Moroccan guys that would sit there and, "We don't want this. We want that, we want..." uh, you know, ve- very independent. They didn't send me good people. Just it happened that way. It could be that they could send better people. But I had, uh, I cou- I couldn't, I couldn't hire from them. I hired and I had to fire them again.

Lisette Shashoua (00:42:56):

So tell me, so-

Haim Mathalon (00:42:57):

When I was paymaster, I was hiring people, uh, right and left. I was in charge of, uh, hiring. Pe- people come apply for jobs to me. And I could, uh, place them on a site of electrical or this... They were electrical contractors, the standard electric.

Lisette Shashoua (00:43:19):

So pay- pay- what are you called? Paymaster. What's paymaster?

Haim Mathalon (00:43:23):

Paymaster, he makes the checks for you at the end of the week, of the month. We calculate. You know, you come, I have a card. You have 40 hours, uh, you worked and 2 hours overtime and, uh, you c- calculate all that, how much money. Then you make the deductions for the unemployment insurance, for income tax. At that time, they were, uh, two income taxes. No, there was only one, only the federal. But now, we pay federal and provincial.

Haim Mathalon (00:43:58):

So, uh, but when I was doing that, I got a good view of what, how the people live here, how much they make, how, how the, the structure of society, how they buy everything on credit. I get calls all day. It's, uh, the guy's buying a fridge. They call me. Is he good? Does he pay? Does he do this and that? And when they make applications to [Eaton's 00:44:23] and places like that, they ca- uh, they call the paymaster to verify their job. And, uh, I start to know more.

Lisette Shashoua (00:44:31):

What year was that? How many years were you at paymaster?

Haim Mathalon (00:44:36):

Maybe two years, three years.

Lisette Shashoua (00:44:38):

What year?

Haim Mathalon (00:44:38):

Then I, then I went-

Lisette Shashoua (00:44:39):

What year are we talking about?

Haim Mathalon (00:44:40):


Lisette Shashoua (00:44:41):

What year are we... You arrived in '53...

Haim Mathalon (00:44:47):

1956, I went into the car business. I came to Canada in 1953. About two years, two and a half years. Sometimes I was without a job, sometimes, uh...

Lisette Shashoua (00:44:58):

So what made you... How did you start with the car business? And were you married or still not married?

Haim Mathalon (00:45:04):

Uh, when, when I went to the car business I was, I was just married.

Lisette Shashoua (00:45:08):

Okay. Tell-

Haim Mathalon (00:45:09):

And all, all, all her family, they tell me, "You are an idiot. You are making your money now." They're afraid that if I leave my job, I do... I won't be... I will starve. But there wa- there, there's a guy, uh, Na- Nassir [inaudible 00:45:22]. He's dead now. He was working selling cars on for [Harrold Cummings 00:45:29] on, uh, [Decarie 00:45:31]. And, uh, he was a little bit, uh, car business, you know, car business. And I talked to him a couple of times and, uh, I told him, "Hey, maybe we... You find something."

Haim Mathalon (00:45:42):

Anyway, one day he comes, he put $10,000 and I put 10. So we had $20,000 capital, and we rented a place on Decarie and, uh, we went into business. The first year, this 20,000, we had to asphalt the place, buy a shack, buy permits, insurance. We had only four, $5,000 left capital. So I went to the bank manager, Mr. Tanner. I told him, "Mr. Tanner, we have only 4,000 left." He says you put four, I put four. So we had $8,000 capital.

Haim Mathalon (00:46:27):

The first year, we had a, uh, a [foreign language 00:46:32] uh, um, uh, um, turnover, a quarter of a million dollars with $8,000 capital. When I took it to the bank, he couldn't believe.

Lisette Shashoua (00:46:45):

So when he put four, it was a loan he gave you?

Haim Mathalon (00:46:48):

Yeah, yeah, he ga- we had 4,000, he loaned us four. But after, he could, I could borrow all I want. I was going good, uh, relation.

Lisette Shashoua (00:46:58):

Did you need to borrow?

Haim Mathalon (00:46:59):

Well, listen, what can you do with $4,000?

Lisette Shashoua (00:47:02):

No, after, after.

Haim Mathalon (00:47:04):

After, I used to finance. Uh, if you buy a car and you buy it for $1,000, you give me 300 down, the 700 to finance. So I give the contract to the bank, the bank gives me the 700.

Lisette Shashoua (00:47:21):

So how many years did you do that?

Haim Mathalon (00:47:23):

You want to know everything about my life, eh?

Lisette Shashoua (00:47:27):

Of course.

Haim Mathalon (00:47:29):

How many years? Up to 19... It was after Castro came to power. Up to 1960, '59. No. When, when was Expo?

Lisette Shashoua (00:47:47):

It's '67.

Haim Mathalon (00:47:48):

Expo '67. It was, uh, uh, uh, during Expo up to ni- '53 to '57, I was more or less in the car business. Afterwards... So this guy, Nassir, I mean, anyway, he left and...

Lisette Shashoua (00:48:15):

Yeah, [foreign language 00:48:15] left the business?

Haim Mathalon (00:48:17):

He's dead now.

Lisette Shashoua (00:48:17):

Yeah, but at the time, he left the business or he died?

Haim Mathalon (00:48:17):

No, uh, you see, we had, eh, customers in Ontario. In Hawkesbury, we had a good client. He would buy anything. So [foreign language 00:48:29] went to Hawkesbury and he bought a shack and a place there, and he's sitting there swimming and then drinking and everything. And he keeps on calling. "Did you have any cars? You, uh..." And, and he left me here alone. And he was sitting there, uh, I told him, "Listen. N-O, no. I don't work with you no more." He tried. He said, "I give you 40, 50%, 60%. We still together." N-O, no. I left him. And I went on my own.

Haim Mathalon (00:49:02):

He was taking advantage, you know. Uh, he was not producing, uh, and he was, uh, thinking that he's doing... Uh, he criticizes everything I do. Everything I buy is no good, everything I sell is no good. So I couldn't take that.

Lisette Shashoua (00:49:20):

So you, you went on your own also in the car business, obviously?

Haim Mathalon (00:49:24):

Oh, yeah.

Lisette Shashoua (00:49:24):


Haim Mathalon (00:49:25):

I went on my own, uh, leasing and I leased trucks and cars.

Lisette Shashoua (00:49:34):

Fantastic. So tell me now, let's go back to when you got... How did you meet your wife? How did you get married to [Naima 00:49:41], when did you get the children?

Haim Mathalon (00:49:44):

You didn't tell me you're going to ask me these questions. No, I'll tell you what...

Lisette Shashoua (00:49:48):

Surprise you.

Haim Mathalon (00:49:49):

No, no, I... First of all, I had, uh, girlfriends, Canadians. Out of the faith, faithful, you know, but I didn't want, I, I, I didn't want to do that. We were... And then, uh, I wanted to marry somebody from Iraq, maybe, or from somebody c- closer to my mother, you know, 'cause I was living with my mother. So and, uh, this guy named [Levy 00:50:22], may he rest in peace. He came here and, uh, sh- she came with him and, uh, they invited us. There was a guy [foreign language 00:50:35]. He's in Switzerland. Now he's dead. We knew him from Iran. He invited us and invited her and other people.

Haim Mathalon (00:50:45):

And me, I, I wanted to, just to get married to settle, you know. I didn't... I was not too fussy. So that's, that's how.

Lisette Shashoua (00:51:00):

Okay. So what year did you get married?

Haim Mathalon (00:51:01):


Lisette Shashoua (00:51:01):

Okay. So tell me about the children, about, uh, w- what did you do, uh...

Haim Mathalon (00:51:06):

My, my wife, couple of... She had, uh, uh, miscarriages couple of times and we went through a very hard time. Then we had, uh, the kids.

Lisette Shashoua (00:51:20):

You have two.

Haim Mathalon (00:51:21):

Ah, yeah.

Lisette Shashoua (00:51:21):

You have a girl and a boy.

Haim Mathalon (00:51:23):


Lisette Shashoua (00:51:24):

Alvina and...

Haim Mathalon (00:51:25):


Lisette Shashoua (00:51:27):

And Solomon. And you chose Alvina's name how?

Haim Mathalon (00:51:28):

I told you, through the catalog that's... When you go to the hospital, they give you a list of names when you have kids. The first one was Alvina or the second one. It's okay.

Lisette Shashoua (00:51:41):

It's a nice name. Okay-0

Haim Mathalon (00:51:43):

But her real name is Rifka. This is her Hebrew name.

Lisette Shashoua (00:51:47):

Yes. So tell me when you... Uh, uh, the kids grew up in Montreal, obviously.

Haim Mathalon (00:51:53):

Pardon me?

Lisette Shashoua (00:51:54):

The children grew up in Montreal.

Haim Mathalon (00:51:56):


Lisette Shashoua (00:51:57):

Okay. Now, you belong to a synagogue in Montreal?

Haim Mathalon (00:52:01):

Listen, first of all, when they were going to kindergarten, and after kindergarten, they... My son has starts to ask me questions. "Daddy, who's stronger? You or Jesus?" You know, their religion, it's a Christian atmosphere. Then I thought, "Well, that's it." Uh, they... We have to put them in a Jewish school. So I went to tell [Motora 00:52:32] and I took the kids with me. And there was a Mrs. uh, a teacher, uh, she was the professor, uh, she was running the place. I told her I want, I want to put them near, uh, to study.

Haim Mathalon (00:52:50):

Then they want to charge me, I think, 7 or $8,000 a year, whereas outside, public school is free. So I told them, uh, it's difficult, but I'll try and, uh, anyway, after a while they want me to bring them my income tax return, see really how much I made, what I do, what I pay, sons of bitches, you know. They, they should encourage people that want to. They don't. It's all bullshit. But anyway, the...

Lisette Shashoua (00:53:27):

Finally, what did you do? You... They stayed there?

Haim Mathalon (00:53:31):

Of course, they stayed there. They stayed in there. Uh, uh, they had to have a little bit help because they went into second grade, they didn't know any Hebrew or anything. And, uh, they instead... I brought them a private teacher. I ask the, the, the, the, uh, the lady at the school, "Can you tu- can you recommend?" She send me a girl by the name of Sarah. She says she will teach them. She'll bring them up to date 'cause they were behind. They were at the first grade, second grade. They had to learn a little bit to catch up with the rest. And they were okay after.

Lisette Shashoua (00:54:14):

Bravo. Uh, I did not ask you, in Iran, did you go to a synagogue there? In Iran?

Haim Mathalon (00:54:20):

Of course. We go to a synagogue. There was one synagogue, Iraqi. We go there only on the ho- holidays. We get together and... But during the year like Saturdays and things like that, there were, uh, other Iranian synagogues, Russians. There was lots of Russians in Iran. After the revolution of 1917, lots of Jewish Russian people came to live in Iran, and they had their synagogues, their schools more or less. Some of them, uh, became, uh, ambassadors in, for Israel and Moscow. Some of them went ahead in life quite a bit. There was lots, uh, lots...

Lisette Shashoua (00:55:07):

So the Iran i- the Jews in Iran were not only Iranian Jews, they were from Russia also?

Haim Mathalon (00:55:14):

No, no, there were Iranian Jews. Listen, look at Purim, it's all Jewish, uh, it, it was in Iran. It, uh, it was, uh, 500 years after the, uh, the, after Christ. That's why they have Purim.

Lisette Shashoua (00:55:30):

Okay. Now, now, uh, you mix with the Iranian Jews or not?

Haim Mathalon (00:55:36):

Why not?

Lisette Shashoua (00:55:37):

You did?

Haim Mathalon (00:55:38):


Lisette Shashoua (00:55:38):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haim Mathalon (00:55:39):

We played with them, we go out with them and...

Lisette Shashoua (00:55:42):

Where did you know them from? Community school?

Haim Mathalon (00:55:43):

Pardon me?

Lisette Shashoua (00:55:44):

Community school was I- a lot of Iraqis, no?

Haim Mathalon (00:55:47):

Iraqis and Americans and...

Lisette Shashoua (00:55:49):

But not, um, not Iranian Jews?

Haim Mathalon (00:55:52):

But you have neighbors, you have, uh, friends, you have ne- friend of a friend. No.

Lisette Shashoua (00:55:57):

So in Iran, you grew up with Jewish atmosphere with not, uh, any Jew? It wa- you mixed with all...

Haim Mathalon (00:56:06):

There was no restriction. I had lots of Armenian friends, lots of Russian friends, lots of English, British, uh, uh...

Lisette Shashoua (00:56:12):

Any Muslim friends in Iran?

Haim Mathalon (00:56:14):

Some, some, some. Very few because, the Muslims, they, uh, they think we are unclean, what you call, uh, they don't want to touch... If a Jew, if you drink with that glass, after you go they, th- they break it because, uh, those Shiites, they're fanatics, they're fanatics in their religion, the Shiite people. So...

Lisette Shashoua (00:56:46):

Uh, do we need a light? Do we need to turn on the light?

Speaker 3 (00:56:53):

Um, you know, we can open the cur- uh,

Haim Mathalon (00:56:56):


Lisette Shashoua (00:56:57):

No, no, not fini.

Haim Mathalon (00:57:00):

When do I get my check?

Lisette Shashoua (00:57:01):


Speaker 3 (00:57:01):

It is getting a little dark.

Lisette Shashoua (00:57:05):

It's getting a little dark. I'll turn-

Speaker 3 (00:57:05):

The sun has come, come behind us.

Lisette Shashoua (00:57:06):

Should we turn, open the thing or the light?

Speaker 3 (00:57:08):

I don't know, it's the light? If it's, if it's okay? Let's just, let's keep going. Keep going.

Lisette Shashoua (00:57:11):

Shouldn't we turn this light on?

Speaker 3 (00:57:13):

Oh, no. No, no, no, no. We've got, we've got, we've got these lights. [crosstalk 00:57:16]

Lisette Shashoua (00:57:17):


Haim Mathalon (00:57:18):

You were sitting all the time here?

Speaker 3 (00:57:19):

I'm sitting all the time here.

Haim Mathalon (00:57:21):

I didn't see you. I see you just now.

Speaker 3 (00:57:23):

I am very quiet.

Lisette Shashoua (00:57:24):

He's quiet. Yes, you are the star. We have to let you shine as the other [crosstalk 00:57:31]

Haim Mathalon (00:57:30):


Lisette Shashoua (00:57:37):

So we went over the school, okay, uh, whenever. You know, I just [crosstalk 00:57:42]

Speaker 3 (00:57:42):

I, I have a, I have a question. Could I throw something in which you haven't covered?

Lisette Shashoua (00:57:45):


Haim Mathalon (00:57:45):

You have a question, yeah?

Speaker 3 (00:57:45):

Yeah, yeah. J- just something that you haven't covered. When you left Iraq in 1939...

Haim Mathalon (00:57:53):


Speaker 3 (00:57:53):

... and you went by car...

Haim Mathalon (00:57:54):


Speaker 3 (00:57:55):

... You're, uh, wh- how old... You're 11 years old, 12 years old?

Haim Mathalon (00:58:00):

About, about, yeah.

Speaker 3 (00:58:01):

What was the situation in Iraq at that time for the Jews? Was there [crosstalk 00:58:06]

Haim Mathalon (00:58:07):

Okay. In that, that time [crosstalk 00:58:07]

Speaker 3 (00:58:08):

Hang on. Tell, tell Lisette [crosstalk 00:58:11] hang on.

Lisette Shashoua (00:58:10):

You look at me, look at me. Wait, wait, [foreign language 00:58:12] let him start the camera.

Speaker 3 (00:58:15):

Like, what was it like for the Jews that, that prompted you to leave? What was going on?

Haim Mathalon (00:58:20):

I'll tell you, I'll tell you, when you tell me.

Speaker 3 (00:58:21):

Go ahead.

Lisette Shashoua (00:58:21):


Haim Mathalon (00:58:21):

At that time...

Lisette Shashoua (00:58:21):

No, look at here.

Haim Mathalon (00:58:24):

At that time, Iraq was a kingdom. In Iraq, Iraq started with Faisal I in '19 after the Versailles Treaty. In 19, uh, '19, just after the war. And then they put Faisal I as king of Iraq and then his son, Ghazi, he, he, when the first one died, Ghazi came in, it's his son. And at that time, it was, when I left, it was Ghazi that was killed, that died. He had an accident with the car. He had, uh, he hit a post, a column was fell on his head and he wa- he, he was dead.

Haim Mathalon (00:59:15):

And what were the... The Jews, they were scared, uh, just the same. A Jewish guy can never take a Muslim guy to court. He's, he, th- th- he's threatened, they will kill him. They... You can't.

Speaker 3 (00:59:30):

To Lisette.

Haim Mathalon (00:59:30):

Can I tell you a small anecdote?

Lisette Shashoua (00:59:34):

Of course.

Haim Mathalon (00:59:37):

A guy by the name of [Ruben Rabia 00:59:39]. Before the First World War, he used... He's my grandmother's father. He used to sit in a coffee shop and sell, uh, grain and, and do, do, uh, do business in grain, lentils, things like that of the time. So in that small coffee shop, he used to bring lots of customers. So one day, he didn't get along with the coffee shop owner, the tea shop or... So the guy, the guy, he lost all of his customers. He came and he killed him. He killed him with a, uh, knife.

Lisette Shashoua (01:00:27):

Because he did not go to that...

Haim Mathalon (01:00:29):

Because, because he's changed, he changed the place. Now, when he got killed, his sons, he had four sons, they say, "What can... How can we live here?" They're afraid that the guy will come kill them too. Instead of taking it... They know who killed him. Then they wouldn't... They were afraid to go to court or, uh, nevermind, uh, he would come and kill them. So what they did in 1910 or 8, they went from Baghdad to Manchester, England. They took some lessons in Iraq and then they went to the States. And some of them, their family is still in the States now. My sister is married one of their siblings or this is and that.

Haim Mathalon (01:01:18):

And, uh, th- th- this is, this is the situation. So they, they were afraid, they were so much scared of... So they had to leave because they left their business and everything. They were threatened. They were scared.

Lisette Shashoua (01:01:39):

So that you said they studied, they took some studies in Manchester and then they went to, to...

Haim Mathalon (01:01:45):

Pardon me? No, they went to Manchester just to, to, to, to travel, to get a boat. Then, then...

Lisette Shashoua (01:01:50):

In those days...

Haim Mathalon (01:01:50):

Uh, pardon me?

Lisette Shashoua (01:01:51):

In those days, how did they get to Manchester? By air?

Haim Mathalon (01:01:56):

Uh, they go, they go by, uh, by, uh, donkeys and everything to Beirut. From Beirut, there was the boats, take them to across the Mediterranean and they go. And then when they were in Manchester, they took a boat to go to the United States. On the boat, the people told them, "Listen, are you idiot? Why do you go to United States? Come to Calgary, to Winnipeg." No, Winnipeg... Calgary, Calgary, yeah. They told them, "Come." The- there was the Homestead Act. They give you free land if you put a fence around it and spent so, shh, and you use, you live in it. They give you free land and everything.

Haim Mathalon (01:02:41):

So they say, "Okay." They didn't get, uh, off the boat in Montreal or... They went to Winnipeg. When they, uh, they went to Winnipeg, they went from the boat from the train to the station to ask what to do, what to, to take some information. One of them froze and they took him to the hospital. The guy is dressed like Baghdad and he went to Winnipeg. (laughs) The poor bastards, they came, they lived two, three years in Montreal, because I met some of them were still alive when I came here.

Haim Mathalon (01:03:15):

They were, they lived couple of years in Montreal and then they went to New York. And now, they are, uh, the, the original four brothers, none of them is still alive. It's their children and grandchildren and great, great...

Lisette Shashoua (01:03:32):

But did they manage to get this free land or they never did?

Haim Mathalon (01:03:36):

They di- well, th- they ne- they never went to Winnipeg. They went, they went to New York and they opened shops to sell, like any Jew, uh, socks and, uh, th- that's what they know. They are not farmers. They are not farmers, the idiot. They, they have nothing. They don't know how to, uh, to plant and...

Lisette Shashoua (01:03:55):

(laughs) Great. Uh, one more question. When you left from Iraq, uh, uh, uh, Ghazi was actually a Nazi.

Haim Mathalon (01:04:06):


Lisette Shashoua (01:04:06):

Ghazi, the king, Ghazi, was Nazi.

Haim Mathalon (01:04:10):

Well, you say that.

Lisette Shashoua (01:04:11):

But that's what they think he was, a Nazi sympathizer.

Haim Mathalon (01:04:14):

That's what they think, yeah. Maybe he was a pro... Everybody, when they see, even you see a big fighter of boxing or something, if he's, if he's a champion, you start to sympathize or something. That's the way it was with Hitler. Ghazi, a Muslim, had nothing to do with the, uh, nothing in common with a German guy but, but the Germans, they had very good propaganda machine. They had radios that would, uh, give speeches in Arabic and, uh, uh, s- stir the people up. They had very good propaganda machine. And they attracted some Muslims.

Lisette Shashoua (01:04:58):


Haim Mathalon (01:04:58):

And you see, th- there was, uh, the, the... In 19... When, when was the to- the... Rashid Ali. Rashid Ali al-Gaylani.

Lisette Shashoua (01:05:08):


Haim Mathalon (01:05:10):

'41. He wa- we- we- because they... There was a lot of propaganda for, uh, for the, for the, for the, for Hitler. And the American and the British, they were there since 1918. So to get, uh, people were fed up with the British. I mean, th- it was easy to stir the people. They'll tell them, "The British are robbing you. They take their oil and everything and we stay poor." And, uh, that's what happened.

Lisette Shashoua (01:05:43):

Okay. Uh, now, did you need the, uh, y- your passport when you left Baghdad? Did you use your Iraqi passport to go to Iran?

Haim Mathalon (01:05:52):

When I left Baghdad, I was on my mother's passport. I was too young to have my own passport. My passport that's here is issued in Tehran.

Lisette Shashoua (01:06:03):

Mm-hmm (affirmative), okay. And you're lucky that they renewed your passport.

Haim Mathalon (01:06:08):

Pardon me?

Lisette Shashoua (01:06:10):

A lot of people, they did not renew their passport.

Haim Mathalon (01:06:14):

But they did not... it's, it's, it's... But I told you how I went to, uh, what's his name to, uh, in...

Lisette Shashoua (01:06:20):

[inaudible 01:06:20]

Haim Mathalon (01:06:20):

Uh, in Rome.

Lisette Shashoua (01:06:22):

How did you get to Rome? Why were you in Rome?

Haim Mathalon (01:06:28):

I was given orders to come to England for transferring money, for business-wise.

Lisette Shashoua (01:06:35):

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Haim Mathalon (01:06:35):

But I really... They give me orders to do things but I didn't have the proper papers to do them, and I had to do it on my own and I had a hard time.

Lisette Shashoua (01:06:44):

You managed the problem.

Haim Mathalon (01:06:45):

Pardon me?

Lisette Shashoua (01:06:46):

I say you managed. So tell me now, uh, you... In Montreal, you were, uh, part of the, um, Spanish and Portuguese synagogue.

Haim Mathalon (01:06:58):


Lisette Shashoua (01:06:59):

Say it.

Haim Mathalon (01:06:59):

I'm a member. What do you want?

Lisette Shashoua (01:07:02):

"You're member of the Spanish-"

Haim Mathalon (01:07:02):

Yeah, so I, I worked a little bit for them, uh, uh, the committee of, I don't know, house committee or things like that.

Lisette Shashoua (01:07:13):

In the synagogue. When?

Haim Mathalon (01:07:13):

Uh, about 15 years ago. 20 years ago. Uh...

Lisette Shashoua (01:07:16):


Haim Mathalon (01:07:18):

Uh, you know, everybody, they want their name, they want to be, they wa- th- they, they, they want themselves [foreign language 01:07:26], Naim met this guy, uh, uh, [foreign language 01:07:31]. Uh, the guy that were in power, they won't let anybody break into their, the- the- their own way.

Lisette Shashoua (01:07:40):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haim Mathalon (01:07:41):

I didn't care.

Lisette Shashoua (01:07:43):

Okay. So, n- now...

Haim Mathalon (01:07:46):

I think, I think your dollar is over. Your, your money, what you give, is finished.

Lisette Shashoua (01:07:50):


Haim Mathalon (01:07:50):

Can she start? Can she question more?

Lisette Shashoua (01:07:54):

No, it's... We're nearly finished.

Speaker 3 (01:07:55):

Almost done. Almost done.

Lisette Shashoua (01:07:57):

We're almost done. We're almost done.

Haim Mathalon (01:07:58):

No, it doesn't matter.

Lisette Shashoua (01:08:01):


Haim Mathalon (01:08:01):

No, I enjoy it. Listen.

Lisette Shashoua (01:08:01):

Good. You're a great talker. That's fantastic. Uh...

Haim Mathalon (01:08:07):

For me, it's very easy when you have to tell the truth. You don't have to...

Lisette Shashoua (01:08:15):

Okay. So when you came to Montreal, you initially settled, uh, in an apartment? Where?

Haim Mathalon (01:08:22):

I went to my uncle's house.

Lisette Shashoua (01:08:24):

Okay. And then you got married?

Haim Mathalon (01:08:29):

And then I rented, I moved out, then I got married.

Lisette Shashoua (01:08:34):

Okay. D- did you find difficulty adjusting to life in Montreal?

Haim Mathalon (01:08:39):


Lisette Shashoua (01:08:40):

Not within-

Haim Mathalon (01:08:42):

First of all, I had a big advantage. I could speak French and English easily and this helped a lot. I, uh, I felt almost at home, you know. Uh, it doesn't matter. But, uh, when you have... Here, lots of people do... Can get away with one language. English or French alone. But when you are bilingual, you will be surprised.

Lisette Shashoua (01:09:07):

Until [crosstalk 01:09:07]

Haim Mathalon (01:09:07):

When you take a job, the first thing they ask you if you are bilingual.

Lisette Shashoua (01:09:13):

And, uh, till when, what year did you have your, um, company, the car company? When did you close it?

Haim Mathalon (01:09:21):

Maybe six months ago? 10 months ago. I used to lease. I used to rent trucks.

Lisette Shashoua (01:09:29):

You rent trucks to other people? You buy-

Haim Mathalon (01:09:31):

No, no, no. Like, uh, suppose David [Gabay 01:09:35]. He has a business of truck, trucking and everything. Sometimes, he wants to buy trucks and I financed them. I borrow from the bank maybe at 3% and charging 4%, for example, you know. But, uh, it's, it's difficult. It's small margin but, uh, you have to know what you are doing. I used to do that until, uh, 6, 7 months ago, uh. And then I get... I, I didn't renew my bond.

Lisette Shashoua (01:10:09):

And now you're happy retired. You, you spend how much time [crosstalk 01:10:13]

Haim Mathalon (01:10:13):

Not so happy. I'm not happy. Retired.

Lisette Shashoua (01:10:13):

How much time do you spend in Florida?

Haim Mathalon (01:10:19):

How many times?

Lisette Shashoua (01:10:20):

How much, how many months in Florida?

Haim Mathalon (01:10:22):

I really don't know. Maybe a couple. One month, two months. It depends on my kids, my grandchildren. They're coming, uh, my daughter is coming on this second or third of February.

Lisette Shashoua (01:10:36):

And how many grandchildren do you have?

Haim Mathalon (01:10:37):

I have seven grandchildren and three great-grand.

Lisette Shashoua (01:10:45):

Oh, congratulations. Wonderful. They must have a lot of fun with their grandfather.

Haim Mathalon (01:10:54):

I don't know.

Lisette Shashoua (01:10:54):

I'm sure.

Haim Mathalon (01:10:57):

No, but we are friends. "Grandpa, we love you, we love you, we love you." They call all the time.

Lisette Shashoua (01:11:03):

That's wonderful. Uh, okay. Now where do you consider home for you? We're finishing now. Where is home for you?

Haim Mathalon (01:11:17):

Where is your home for a Jew? Where? All the world, whatever, Israel, here. But really, being a Canadian citizen and everything, this is my home because they give me a citizenship and a passport. Before that, I didn't have a passport, I didn't have identity, I had nothing. But here, uh, we came where they accepted us. They gave us, uh, passports. We can, we can go all over the world.

Haim Mathalon (01:11:46):

You don't know the value of a passport and all this freedom until you lose it. When you don't have it, then you, you can't even take a train here without. But, uh...

Lisette Shashoua (01:11:58):

True. And what do you feel your identity is?

Haim Mathalon (01:12:06):

What do you mean?

Lisette Shashoua (01:12:08):

You feel yourself an Iraqi Jew, you feel yourself a Canadian Jew, you feel yourself... What, what is your identity?

Haim Mathalon (01:12:17):

I don't know. Maybe Iranian, Iranian-Jew because I g- my formative years were all in Iran. I was, uh, between nine, nine years old and 20s, 23rd. That's your formative years, it was all in Iran. And, uh, that's the culture we, we got.

Lisette Shashoua (01:12:41):

So you feel you're an Iranian-Jew? If somebody tells you, "What are you?"

Haim Mathalon (01:12:49):

None of your business.

Lisette Shashoua (01:12:50):


Haim Mathalon (01:12:52):

(laughs) Because really, it's a, it's a question some of them, they do. And, uh, it's hard to say because really we don't belong nothing. I could say Israel. Really, at heart, what I love is Israel. The... From every president, anybody that comes in power and everything. I seem vis-a-vis Israel. What is his, uh, his position? Like Trump. He's good with Israel. He can be bad with other things. But me, I, I tilt towards him because he is, he's not afraid.

Lisette Shashoua (01:13:36):

Okay. Is there a me- what message did you want to give to anybody who is gonna watch your interview? What is the message you wanna give them?

Haim Mathalon (01:13:45):

Hard work. There's nothing else. Really, it is hard work. That's life. If you think it's going to come to you without, uh, hard work or some, uh, you are fooling yourself. You have to be tolerant, to tolerate lots of things.

Lisette Shashoua (01:14:19):

Anything else you'd like to add? Any...

Haim Mathalon (01:14:22):

You added enough.

Lisette Shashoua (01:14:23):

(laughs) You were amazing. You were wonderful. Thank you so much.

Haim Mathalon (01:14:30):

How? So where is the check?

Lisette Shashoua (01:14:32):

Oh, it's in the mail.

Speaker 3 (01:14:36):

It's in the mail.

Haim Mathalon (01:14:36):

Uh, in the mail? Yeah.

Lisette Shashoua (01:14:37):

In the mail. (laughs)

Lisette Shashoua (01:14:38):

It's fantastic. That's... And all the advice at the end is great. H- hard work and tolerance.

Haim Mathalon (01:14:46):

I didn't hear.

Lisette Shashoua (01:14:47):

[inaudible 01:14:47] advice at the end is fantastic.

Haim Mathalon (01:14:50):

What did I give?

Lisette Shashoua (01:14:50):

Hard work and tolerance.

Haim Mathalon (01:14:53):

Yeah. Well, this is the truth.

Lisette Shashoua (01:14:54):


Haim Mathalon (01:14:55):

Nothing comes easy, believe me.

Lisette Shashoua (01:14:58):

Oh, I, I forgot to ask you if you had anti-semitism in Iraq. You said, yes, you are afraid of the Muslims. I did ask you.

Haim Mathalon (01:15:06):

Everywhere... Listen, my... The guy that they killed, this guy [inaudible 01:15:09] and everything. Because just he was a Jew, the guy killed him when he moved from one shop to the other.

Lisette Shashoua (01:15:17):

Yeah, from one, uh, from one coffee to that other coffee shop.

Haim Mathalon (01:15:18):

To, to another coffee. The guy lost his job.

Lisette Shashoua (01:15:22):

Yeah. Yeah.

Haim Mathalon (01:15:25):


Lisette Shashoua (01:15:26):

Fini. Thank you very much.