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I Dreamt of Being a Farmer in Eretz Yisrael (cont.)

On the Way to Eretz Yisrael

When the time came, the whole group was approved for aliya.

Before leaving, each of us went home to say goodbye. When I came home, my father told me of the rumors going around: Benzi Segal had heard that in Eretz Yisrael they work hard and mine rocks (m'hakt skales!) and I should consider delaying my immigration.

I was not impressed. Even though I could have stayed on in the shtetl as a teacher, I decided to make aliya.

There was an aura of farewell at home. Not only my family escorted me. I rode the wagon, and I recall this girl throwing a goodbye letter to me. Grandma gave me half a ruble, as a donation to the yeshiva in the Holy Land…

I went to Rokishok (Rokiskis), and from there, by train, to Kovno, where we joined the groups from Vilna. We stayed in the Hechalutz center, and worked at odd jobs until it was time to leave.

Twelve of us, men and women, set forth. From Kovno we went to Libava, and stayed in a hotel for a few days. One night, a few of us went to a “Maccabi” club, and my friend Yehuda Klein and I stayed in the hotel. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door, and the hotel owner walked in and said apologetically: “I would like to hear some Hechalutz stories.” While she was talking, our comrades came back, and Leah Kwint, our redheaded friend, scolded us: “Now I know why you wouldn't come with us. As a woman, I'm offended!” We apologized saying it was not a pre-arranged date, but she would not budge.

At the forty-year anniversary of our aliya, we held a party in Netanya, in the house of our friend Ze'ev Agmon, where he handed me a photograph of all of us taken in Libava. I was not in the picture, which made me wonder, until I remembered that it was taken while I had gone looking for my relatives, Moshe Friedman and Zundel Ginzburg, whose son Dov gave me a photo as an “everlasting memoir”, written in Hebrew and dated “4 Kislev” (November 15, 1920).

Chalutzim in Libava on their way to Eretz Yisrael, 4th Kislev 5681 [1851 year of exile]
From right to left, standing: Leah Kvint (“The Redhead” from Kovno), Ze'ev Agmon [Kovno]), Haviva Dagan [Kovno], Aharon [Yanishik], Tzipora Stutchin [Plungian], Yehuda Klein [Shavli])
Seated: Yaacov Goldin-Zahavi [Seirie (Seirijai)], Eliyahu Mitkovsky [Vilkovishk], Monash Band [Kovno], Reuven Dayagi [Vilkovishk]
Yosef: I am not in the picture because it was taken while I had gone looking for my relatives, Dov Ginzburg and his family … Our friend David Shur joined us in Eretz Yisrael.
Yosef Slep
“That is how I looked at the time…”

“As an everlasting memoir from Dov Ginzburg,
4 Kislev, 1851 years of exile, Libava, Latvia “

(In Hebrew)

 

From Libava we took a small boat to the free port of Danzig. The cruise was short, but long enough for us to get seasick. Our stomachs turned, and we commented in jest that we were never going to get to Eretz Yisrael at this rate.

From Danzig we continued to Berlin. During the ticket inspection on the train, the conductor asked us: “How did you get here?” We realized we had done something wrong, and we apologized that we were not locals, and we did not know our way around. One of the passengers pointed at us angrily: “Yuden Schwindel” (“Jews are swindlers”). Some of the other passengers did the same, and even tried to kick us, until we had no choice but to get off the train.

We walked into a restaurant to buy some hot water, and a boy there asked where I came from. As it turned out, his father was also from Dusiat, and I was surprised that the boy knew the names of the neighboring towns.

We continued to Trieste. We roamed the streets, and then boarded a ship heading for Eretz Yisrael.

On the ship, there were some Jews from Safed who were detained in Austria during the war, and were going home. We befriended them. One of them, Morgenstern, a Jew from Transylvania and a liberal Hassid, taught us Hassidic songs and dances. Another passenger wrote down the numbers in Arabic, and I immediately memorized them.

The ship docked at Port Said, and we all went to the market. For the first time in my life, I was in an Arab market, and was very impressed. How picturesque. I picked up some apples, and wrote down my suggested price in Arabic numbers, and showed it to the merchant. And he said in Arabic, “La!” (No!). We met some Jews on the street who greeted us with “Shalom Aleychem”…

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