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[Pages 53-56]

From Thought Into Action

by D. Sinai

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution, the Jewish population in Orheyev began to organize and forge a new way of life for communal life in the city. The representatives of the Zionist organization came to us and awakened the hearts of the Jews of the towns to the Zionist vision.

Youth of 'Bnei Israel' studying

Youth of “Bnei Israel” studying

Seated from right to left: 1. [feh]. Groisman 2. H. Dyukman
Standing: 1. D. Ostrovsky 2. D. Snitkovsky 3. C. Vaynshtok 4. Y. Dyukman

 

In 1918, the year of the Balfour Declaration, we were youths, and we penetrated into the circle of activities in Orheyev. We visited the meetings and listened to Zionist publicity. Our awakening was comprehensive.

In 1919-1920, with the stream of refugees that arrived to our city, many of the best activists of the Zionist movement arrived in our city, leading to a change in the thinking of our youth. The news of what was taking place in the Land rekindled the desire for Zionism and aliya to the Land of Israel in the hearts of the youth.

How jealous were we of the chalutzim when we saw them with their axes and saws over their shoulders, on their way to chop trees or to shovel the snow after a storm during the harsh winter days. This appearance aroused in us, a small group of gymnasium students, a feeling of a need for a revolt against the order of our lives. We gathered together for discussions about the future. We engrossed ourselves in the pages of Zionist literature. The desire was great for the writings of Ahad HaAm. We absorbed his words about the founding of a national homeland – a spiritual center for the Jewish nation, and for preparations for labor, for actualization, for the building of the homeland. We wished to be like the sons of Moses.

We did not find our place among the veterans of that time in Tzeirei Zion. We said that we must forge our own path. We debated extensively about our role in the education of youth, and in consolidating the idea of independence.

We organized small groups for the tasks of publicity and preparation. We saw a lone goal before us – aliya to the Land. We entered into negotiations with the Hechalutz center regarding matters of hachshara, but the path was long to actual pioneering hachshara. We felt that we must create a Zionist atmosphere in the city not only through reading books on Zionism, but also through deeds. We organized flag days for every holiday and festival. We penetrated into the Maccabee sporting organization. We organized a choir and a drama group. We slowly conquered the Jewish street for Zionism and its desires, as we moved over to actual deeds. During the major vacation in 1923 the first group of Bnei Yisrael was organized, who left the house of their parents and ascended the mountain to Rozen's agricultural farm. This was the beginning of our preparation for agricultural work and life in a commune. The first days were difficult, as we stood in a row with “gentile” youths with a spade in the hand – as they doubled their efforts out of suspicion that we wished to impede their work. However, we withstood it and held our stand. How lovely were those days and nights in the field! We were tired after a hard day of work, but filled with the joy of creativity and desire for life. We sat for entire nights and dealt with issues relating to our aliya to the Land. Our hachshara had an influence also on the studying youth who were far from Zionism. Discussions and day to day communal life between the different groups won over the hearts for us. For example, how great were the emotions and joy on the day that the Hebrew University of Jerusalem opened. That day was a day of celebration for the students of the gymnasium. The eyes sparkled from joy and in the hearts there was a prayer that we merit to join those who actualize.

'Bnei Israel' kibbutz members departing for training

“Bnei Israel” kibbutz members departing for training

 

In 1925 – Mordechai Frank, a member of our group, made aliya. He was the first representative who tied Bnei Yisrael to the land. We had to work to expand the circle and to prepare the best of the comrades for actual Hachshara. Then a number of students got up and left their studies, despite the opposition of their parents, and went to Hechalutz for Hachshara. In our first steps, we ran into difficult problems such as: a place to live, work, livelihood. The conditions were difficult, and a difficult internal war was waged inside of us.

With the Hechalutz center, we dealt with the direction of a chalutz (pioneer). We members of Bnei Yisrael felt that a chalutz should prepare himself for a literal life of labor, and for the creation of a cultural community. Our motto was: a person of healthy body and spirit. Indeed, we know how to create this with our own powers, but we were not able to do that which we wished. We left Kishinev, far from the city and its problems.

Pioneers of 'Bnei Israel'

Pioneers of “Bnei Israel”

1. [feh]. Lederman 2. S. Bronshteyn

 

We arrived at the large vineyard where we had to work in agriculture. Suddenly, a physical weakness overtook our members. The Bnei Yisrael group became organized in Hechalutz and returned to Orheyev.

First branch of 'Bnei Israel', 1925-26

First branch of “Bnei Israel”, 1925-26

Below from right to left: 1. S.Bronshteyn 2. M. Zigberman 3. S. Kleinman
In the middle: 1. Sharf 2. … 3. Sinai 4. … 5. T. Averbukh 6. B. Hentin 7. [feh]. Katzovman
Above: 1. L. Kuchuk 2. Y. Ben-Shem 3. C. Naychin 4. [feh]. Etlis 5. Ab. Garber 6. L. Munder

 

We succeeded in attracting a number of members from outside our city who joined us. This was a great source of joy to us. We began to set ourselves up in a rented house in a yard of the Auerbach house. We went out to seek work, particularly in the chopping of trees. We even signed an agreement with the communal council for 3,000 pods of wood. We set out for work. Our parents did not make peace with the fact that we gymnasium graduates had left our studies and turned into woodcutters and water drawers. However we did this with purity of heart, and did not see this as reason for pride or boasting of might. Slowly but surely we penetrated into the yards of the Jews of the towns, and we conducted the work. We also turned to the gymnasium principal Vasilia Vasilovitz with a request for work. We asked to cut wood for him. However, he did not agree – he refused to give over this degrading work to us, his students.

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