| Jacob Franco, better known as Jack Bendror, was born in
Jerusalem, in British ruled Palestine. His family, descendants of Jews who
were expelled from Spain in 1492, has lived there for five generations.
His parents were educators who each spoke six or seven languages. The language
spoken at home was Ladino, the medieval Spanish Hebrew dialect of Sephardic
Jews. When Jack was twelve months of age, the family moved to Panama, so
his first language was Spanish. By the time Jack was eight years old,his
parents had become homesick for Palestine and so they returned. Jack was
enrolled at St. Luke's, an Anglican school in Haifa, where the language
of instruction was English, but where he also learned to read and write
Arabic and Hebrew.
The matriculation exams at St. Luke's were the same as those given at Oxford and Cambridge, and Jack's scores won him admission to the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. The very thought of living in the north of Scotland, at Aberdeen, was a chilling prospect for a young man accustomed to the intense heat of Panama and the palm trees and orange groves of what is now Israel. He favored a milder clime and, through the good offices of an uncle in Panama, was admitted to Michigan State University to study engineering. In early adolescence, Jack had developed an interest in the mechanical aspects of cars and trucks, so he decided to pursue a degree in engineering. He washed dishes in order to help meet his college expenses. To his, astonishment the temperature dropped to 20 below zero during his first Michigan winter. It was only later that he learned that Aberdeen stays much warmer than Michigan in winter because of the warmth of the Gulf Stream.
In 1947, during Jack's junior year at Michigan State, the United Nations partitioned Palestine between Jews and Arabs, but almost immediately war broke out. It seemed almost certain that the poorly armed Jewish State would be unable to hold off the British trained Arab Legion of Transjordan and the armies of Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Jack rushed home to help defend his parents, brothers and sisters. He joined the Israeli air force and learned to fly in a government training program. The Israelis had some old German Messerschmitt fighter planes, but they had more pilots than planes, so Jack was assigned to the corps of engineers.
During the War of Indepen-dence, many Israelis with European names wanted Hebrew names as a mark of patriotism in honor of their new country. Members of the air force were permitted to change their names without any legal formalities. Jacob Franco shed his ancestral Spanish name for the Hebrew name Ben-dror, which means "Son of Freedom." He later simplified it to Bendror.
After the war ended, Jack hoped to enroll in the Technion to continue his studies, but there was no money for engineering scholarships in a country as poor as Israel was at that time. He decided to return to the States, this time to New York City, where he enrolled in New York University He supported himself in various occupations: as a longshore-man, as a draftsman, and as a technician, wiring and soldering TV sets for Macy's.