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The Jews Did Not Restrain Themselves (cont.)

Chalutzim at the Hachshara

The idea of immigrating to Eretz Yisrael consolidated increasingly among us after we heard the words of the emissaries and their stories about Eretz Yisrael. The greatest influence was exerted by Yosef Yavnai's (Slep) aliya. We used to absorb thirstily what he wrote in his letters.

I was on hachshara in Yaken [Jakai, a farm near Memel-Klaipeda]. I remember very well the owner of the estate who played a lot of cards. Apparently, in order to cover his losses at cards he agreed to allow a group of Jews to come and work on his estate. Trade relations with the Jews were important to him, and we ended up gaining, even though we worked for free, because the agricultural training was more important to us.

David and Dani Toker and Sara Weiss-Slep trace
their father's steps toward the estate in Yaken, singing the song of the Chalutzim:

“We will be the first one's…” Jakai, September 2007

 

There were ten fellows and two girls there. The work was new for us, and it is interesting that I recall that we had difficulty with baking bread. We received all the necessary ingredients, but no bread resulted from them. We asked for more and more flour, and the inspector didn't understand why we were short of this. The owner of the estate came to see why the bread wasn't good, and finally someone came and taught us how to bake bread properly.

One of us was supposed to drive a team of four horses. He learned how to do it for a week, but without success. He entered the stable with the wagon and destroyed it. The inspector came and said to him (in German): “Du must noch lernen” (“You still have to learn”) “and you still can't drive a team of four horses.”

Our main job was to bring grain from the fields and pile it in sheaves, which was a complete field of learning in itself. The Gentiles feared Jewish competition, did not willingly accept our coming to the estate, and tried to annoy us at every opportunity. The Gentiles were certain that we had no strength and were incapable of working physically. They were truly amazed when they saw that we were capable of standing in the water and building rafts from logs. We prevailed over the work and proved to the Gentiles that we were capable of doing any hard work.

One time a Gentile wanted to show off his strength, and thought there was no one else to equal him. He lay on his belly, a sack full of grain was laid on his back, and he got up and placed the sack on the wagon. Afterwards he came up to me, taunted me and said: “Can you do that too?” I answered him that of course I could, just like him. And I did! And he, the Gentile, looked so small…

We lived in a house that was located outside the estate. There we used to listen to lectures from emissaries about Eretz Yisrael in general and agriculture in particular. I remember the visit by Vilkanski (after whom the Vulcani Institute is named). He stayed with us for two days, and the inspector treated him very respectfully!

“We lived in a house that was located outside the estate” …

Maybe this is the place? Will the Gentile let us go in?

 

 
The well still exists …

 

I was at the hachshara for three quarters of a year. One day Avraham Geller arrived from Kovno [Kaunas], and there was a characteristika[1] to determine who was trained for hard work and who was already ready for immigration to Eretz Yisrael. Assemblies were held in the “kibbutz”, which determined who would make aliya and who would remain in Lithuania. Great importance was attributed to what brought the pioneer to the hachshara, and what motivated him or her to make aliya to Eretz Yisrael.

Finally the day came, and I was the only one to be called to Kovno and join an aliya group.

My mother was opposed to the idea of my making aliya to Eretz Yisrael. She warned me and said that wasn't for me. But when everything was already organized, and it was clear that I was going, she said to me: “Itzikl, whatever you do – do it well! And I wish you all the best.” And I always remembered her words and did as she told me.

 

Footnote

  1. Social, ideological and physical evaluation of the suitability of members for immigration to Eretz Yisrael - ophya”, in Hebrew. Return

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