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[Pages 212-217]

A Jewish Woman and Mother

Rivka Shoham (Melamed)[1]

Translated by Judy Grossman

With the Shoham family at Kibbutz Mishmar Haemek July 17, 1982

Sara Weiss (Slep):

It was early Saturday morning, in the home of Shmuel Shoham (Spitzer) and Ruth in Kibbutz Mishmar Haemek. Elka Slovo, the sister of Rivka Shoham (Melamed) of blessed memory, was also there.

The women were busy preparing salad, and Shmuel was standing and frying something. The small apartment was filled with warmth. “We prepare an afternoon meal every Sabbath, because that is when all our family gathers together in our home – our children and grandchildren.”

Shmuel took the time to show me a variety of pictures from Rivka's album - each photo and its story – as though he had been there. “Did you know that an airplane landed on the frozen lake in Dusiat?” – he asked me. Afterwards I went to the home of Nava, and her sister Nili also joined us. The two of them sat on the floor and paged through the file containing the private archive of their late mother Rivka. Every once in a while they gave cries of astonishment or wonder over a small note, over beautiful handwriting.

Nili said that she barely remembers her mother, other than that she used to call her “shiksele” [a Gentile girl], “because of my fair hair, and I didn't like that nickname.”

Nava mentioned that the stories her mother told her were not from a children's book, but always about the shtetl, about the scenery, the Sabbath, the people… and she added: “I think that my sensitivity to Jewish tradition is different than that of my friends in the kibbutz, and that is perhaps due to my mother's stories.”

Nava jokingly described an experience she had during a tour of Norway: “We came to a forest there. A forest! I burst into it, ran through its paths, picked its berries – exactly as my mother had told me. I really went wild! Suddenly my mother's fairy tales seemed so real to me: the forest, the paths, and the berries, all really exist!””””

“And altogether” – Nava concluded – “my mother remains in my mind like a beautiful fairy tale.”

Afterwards we went to the home of Levi Ron (Rozenzweig), who was an emissary of Hashomer Hatzair to Lithuania, and we heard his story…

 

The “Trumpeldoriya” Group – May 6, 1932
Standing, from right to left: Bailke Fein, Zehava-Goldke Melamed, Beinishke Yudelovitz, Rivka Melamed, Bailke Pores, Rivka Aires, Chanka Glezer
Seated: Lolke (Yisrael) and his sister Sonia Slovo, Tzilke Shub, Chanka Pores,
Elle-Bailke Glezer, Motele Slep (son of Yudel and Rochl-Gitel)

Chanka Fisherman (Pores): Sonia Slovo, Tzilka and I were too young, and we didn't belong to this group. So it was a great honor for us to be invited and to sit among the elder members.

 

An Outstanding Personage[2]

By Dov Caspi

 

During her childhood, Rivka experienced neither luxuries nor a full belly.

Her father, Yosef Melamed, the owner of a small store in the shtetl, was unable to provide for the needs of his family, which consisted of five daughters and one son: Ella, Rivka-Lesl, Sarka, Zehava-Golda, Sheine-Musha, and Avraham.

Dusiat – a shtetl with a beautiful and glorious landscape around it - forests and rivers surround it on all sides. Dusiat, the town of Rivka's birth, has lawns and blooming trees. Rivka's special character was formed and developed under the influence of the natural riches surrounding her.

She had a heart of gold, and throughout her life – whether in the Diaspora or in Israel – she was concerned about everyone. She was the one to whom people turned with their troubles, problems and sorrows. She developed an extensive exchange of letters with her relatives and friends at that time. Her letters were like works of literature.

She was a font of wisdom and knowledge. She read much and was a talented writer. Everything she touched, she did with sincerity and honesty of purpose. There was honesty and love in everything, including her activities in Hashomer Hatzair and Hechalutz Hatzair.

Despite her ambitions to leave the shtetl and be in an environment of other bright students from whom she could learn – she stayed and finished some classes at high school in Utian [Utena], the neighboring town. Simultaneously, she immersed herself with all her heart in the problems of youth and the cultural activities of the peaceful shtetl, the quiet shtetl – stagnating shtetl.

Thanks to Rivka and a few other crazed believers, there grew in Dusiat educated youth, culturally aware, a generation who valued the pioneering spirit. From them many were involved in the Hechalutz, and today they live in kibbutzim in Israel.

Rivka realized her dream to make aliya to Eretz Yisrael [in July 1935]. With all the blazing of her soul and the warmth of her heart she joined the building and creative constructive life…

Here she built her home and her family. She was proud to have a chance to add bricks and stonework to the elaborate and exalted workers association that was developed here.

And then the great tragedy befell her, when her eldest daughter Yehudit was taken from her, killed in the attack and bombing of Kibbutz Mishmar Haemek (December 1948). In bitterness she struggled with her grief and pain.

Rivka knew about her malignant disease and bore her fierce and terrible pain with courage.

Rivka was an outstanding multi-faceted personage, dear to and beloved by her friends, relatives and all who knew her.

May her soul be tied in the knot of life, and her memory be preserved for eternity.

 

Tisha B'Av[3] Popel [Papilys] 1928

By Rivka Melamed[4]

Rivka's Handwriting at Age Fourteen

 

…And the sun set and disappeared, and darkness spread its black wings and covered the entire universe: all of nature appeared to be angry, and a fierce wind whirled outside and crossed over hills and mountains, forests and valleys, and also landed on the street of the Jews, where it raged even more, and it seemed as though it wanted to uproot all the Jews, along with their homes and possessions; to pull them up by the roots and carry them to Eretz Yisrael on its wings.

Oh merciful Lord, how we have transgressed and sinned in putting down our roots in the soil of the Diaspora. Ah, would that we could bring the pilgrims to the Western Wall… But let us hope that the waters of the Sea of Galilee will yet saturate our roots… We have not yet lost hope.

And thus I sat and daydreamed, and in my mind saw our holy land, the burning Temple …

… The murderers run to and fro with their swords drawn. They don't spare the elderly and children, beat a mother without mercy, and the rivers of blood, warm Jewish blood, flow through the streets, and heartrending cries and screams.

But the heroes… With wondrous bravery the sheep overcame the lions. Our brothers fought and didn't sense the danger, for what is life to them if it is in a strange land, the life of slaves in a forsaken country. It is better to die in the embrace of a loving mother… Zion, Zion, city of our birth, we give you our last breath.

Nothing remains of our living people, only the blood, the rivers of warm blood.

But look, there in the corner at the edge of the Temple, another wall… the Western Wall, which despite all the arrows our enemy shot at it remained staining, standing and waiting for the Children of Israel to return and build a new Temple.

It is already midnight, and the surroundings have become adorned in a kind of beautiful red. The wind has grown silent.

While looking at the white moon and the tall trees I thought that it was I living in Eretz Yisrael and seeing the clear nights of Canaan… Eretz Yisrael that is being built, the proletarian Eretz Yisrael, flickered before me.

In my fantasy I saw Tel Aviv with its beautiful streets, Emek Yizre'el [the Jezreel Valley], and other historic places that were formerly ruins and wasteland, and which have been reclaimed over time by the Jewish National Fund, and the hands of young pioneers worked them and irrigated them with the sweat of their brows, and possibly also with their warm young blood.

They relate that when Kaiser Wilhelm II crossed Eretz Yisrael [1898] and looked at the desolate wastes, without a tree or shade, he said: “Whoever brings shade to this country will rule it.”

It will be thus. We the Jews will bring shade to the country. Our country will not be built in a year, and not in one generation will a Jewish state be built. We will all make aliya to our country together and will till its soil; with the sweat of our brows we will plough and sow and will irrigate it with our blood.

The guest from Eretz Yisrael, Yechiel Halperin, expressed it well:

Grow up young cubs and become lions – lions among Jews. Grow up young scouts, and become scouts for the nation. Grow up Shomrim and become the guardians of Am Yisrael. [5]

Thoughts such as this went through my mind on the eve of Tisha b'Av, when I was in Popel. These moments will remain in my memory forever.

And on the clear nights of Canaan, to the sound of the Jordan River flowing, and when singing work songs on returning from my daily work and sitting with a group of brothers and sisters, members of Hashomer Hatzair, I will remember this night.

May it come to pass in my lifetime.

 

“Kibbutz Ironi Chaim” - Hachshara in Ponevez, 15.1.1934
“As a memento to those days I was working in the kitchen…”
Rivka Melamed (2nd from right), Rachel from Vilkomir (2nd from left)
Zelda Charit, ironing …

 

Footnotes

  1. Rivka was born on Lag Ba'Omer, May 14, 1914 and passed away in 1959. Return
  2. [7] Memorial Booklet of Rivka Shoham (Melamed). Return
  3. The ninth day of the month of Av is a fast day. It is the date when both the First and Second Temples were destroyed. Return
  4. Rivka Melamed, private collection. Return
  5. Tzofim [cubs/scouts] and Shomrim [guards] are the names of the groups of the young members of Hashomer Hatzair. Return

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