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[Page 157]

How I Came to Immigrate

by Chayim Verdi

Mother registered us – my brother Yitschak and me – for the Polish elementary school. She rightfully thought we should know Polish, the national language, and all that was involved in it… and that was where it started.

Vishnevets, our beloved birthplace, suddenly turned into hell for us. The students at school beat us up, saying we came from “that place.” That place was a sort of permission to beat someone up, and the beatings came with insults that ended with “Jews, go to Israel.”

I didn't know why they hated us so much. What pushed our enemies and friends to unite against us? But when we complained to our teacher, he was of the same opinion: that it was our fault. Why? We couldn't understand. We stopped complaining.

And so it continued, day after day. We suffered, and there was nothing we could do. Once I stood in class thinking about our situation and the troubles our mother's good intentions had brought us. Suddenly, I saw Yitschak surrounded by a group of gentiles, as if he were trapped, and one walked up to him and smeared pork on his mouth. When Yitschak asked him why he had done this, the other boy began beating him up. This time I couldn't control myself. I pulled out a weaving spoke that I kept inside my boot and hit the boy until he bled. Yitschak did the same. We always kept the spokes with us so we could be ready for trouble. We beat them well, a commotion began, and the gentiles ran off to return with reinforcements. They also wanted to arm themselves with an efficient weapon. The principal showed up, and the turmoil stopped.

The principal investigated the situation and pulled our ears, and then it became “clear” to him that it was our fault. He didn't do anything to the boys who had attacked us. We were expelled from school and told to send our father to see the principal the next day. When I asked him why he was only sending us home, he said that, in his opinion, we were the guilty ones.

The next day, our father took us to the principal, who, to our surprise, welcomed father and talked about the incident as if nothing had happened.

Here we learned another fact. The principal was a regular customer at our father's store and owed him money, so he didn't dare insult him, and all his anti-Semitism evaporated. We also learned that a Jew's safety depends on money and bribes. All this was carved into my memory for many years. We also discovered that the Poles and Ukrainians were cowardly and bloodthirsty by nature. After that incident, attitudes toward us completely changed.

***

When I graduated from school, I was already a “big boy,” and I needed to find a “purpose.” At the age of 16, I took a chance and opened a fancy goods store.

[Page 158]

The wholesalers treated their young customer kindly and gave me merchandise on credit… for one day. I picked up the merchandise in the morning and paid for it in the evening. Little by little, I began to succeed, and my business grew. I settled down. I had my own money and even loaned some to my father. I became an independent man, free to do whatever I wanted.

With all that, the memories of my Polish schoolmates still ate at my heart. They had left a deposit of bitterness and the taste of degradation. I had saved money, and I was free to do what I wanted, but my thoughts centered on memories from my days at the Polish school.

One day, a couple of friends came to me, saying that a man from the Pioneer central office in Warsaw was in town and wanted to see them. They suggested that I go with them.

The man was pleasant. He was convincing and knew how to explain things. His words brought me new possibilities for my future and showed me that my situation could be different in a new world.

That same week, I was one of the founders of Young Pioneer in our town. We rented a room and met in our free time. The group grew, words became actions, we matured and transferred to Pioneer and… I was still a merchant.

Little by little, our branch experienced separations. My friends left for training, and to me it seemed as if the town was emptying out. It looked as if everyone else was stepping forward and I was stuck. My progress in business didn't thrill me anymore.

That evening, when I brought my father the news that I was liquidating my business and planning my immigration, was the darkest day of his life. He rebelled against the idea of being separated from me and threatened to hit me and take any other measures available to him.

 

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Dreaming of Immigration in Vishnevets

 

[Page 159]

But I felt that it wasn't up to me. On my first day at the Polish school, I realized that I had to escape from here, and I escaped.

If anyone said that immigration wasn't an escape, I would say to that person:

I wish my father, my friends, and the friends of my friends had run away and immigrated.

And so I immigrated.


[Page 160]

Youth Guard and More in Vishnevets

by Moshe Leshed (Markhbeyn)

To write about the Youth Guard movement in our town, we need to mention the geographical, economic, and social aspects of this remote town.

It was “remote” because of its geographical location; it was cut off from communication with the world around it. It was also cut off from the only mode of transportation in our area, the train.

I remember well the innocent and sincere Jews – wagon drivers – who earned their meager income transporting travelers to the train station in the nearby town (24 kilometers away). On scorching summer days, they used their open carts, and they used their sleighs during the winter. The trip to the district seat during the harsh, snowy winter days was a “mission,” but the real adventure took place during the spring, when the snow melted and the ground turned into sinking mud. At times, travelers got stuck for hours on the road, unable to continue or turn back.

This isolation also affected the town's economy. The only source of income was trade and light industry, and there wasn't any primary source of income, industry, or agriculture. A few Jewish families earned a living from fishing. Those Jews were healthy in body and soul and earned their living honestly from the labor of their hands. Most of the Jewish population earned their income by trading with the Ukrainians who surrounded the town from all sides and supplied the town's food. Jews traded in wheat, fruit, and baskets they wove out of reeds, and their merchandise was exported all over the country.

The town Jews' social life was peaceful. Each child started life and development in the cheder, later in a yeshiva, and at times with higher-level private teachers who taught Talmud and Gemara. I remember those beloved people well: cheder teachers Avrumche and Livushke, and my yeshiva teachers and educators: R' Aytsikel the rabbi's son-in-law, Moshe Aharon, and the “Kazaner,” who was appointed to oversee our “morals” even though we had matured during those years. We can't ignore the strict ethics they embedded in us, ethics that stay with us even today. May their memory be blessed.

***

During the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, after the war, the revolution, the civil war in Russia, and the periods of occupation, when our district passed from the Russians' hands to the Whites and from the Reds to the Poles, a change took place in the general attitude among Jewish young people in our town. They realized that the foundation of Jewish life in the Diaspora was crumbling and felt that they were suffocating socially and spiritually in this small, isolated town. Their awakening took different directions. A few leaned toward social revolution in the Russian revolutionary style. Most realized that their future lay in Zionism, and from there, the lion's share turned toward socialist Zionism.

[Page 161]

For the first time, nonpolitical youth organizations were established, such as the Legion of Hebrew Language Defenders during the late 1920s.

News arrived about the establishment of the first training kibbutzim, such as the one in Klosova and others. Young people worked toward one target – immigration to the Land of Israel. And so for the first time, delegations from Pioneer and Young Pioneer arrived, and their influence was enormous. Meanwhile, the youth organization Trumpeldor Guard Scouts was established, but later it fell apart, and its few members joined Young Pioneer.

At the beginning of the 1930s, when the international Youth Guard movement was established as an advanced revolutionary movement within the Zionist Organization, young people, mostly students in the Tarbut School, which opened then because of an increase in anti-Semitism in Polish elementary schools, embraced a more serious movement.

On 15 Shevat 1932, the branch opened legally under the leadership of a few “older” members. The most creative and most dedicated to the cause was our friend Yakov Ben Yeshurun. We began our activities under very difficult conditions.

Our main problem was ideological wars with the leftist and rightist movements. Our slogan, “Don't listen” (Don't listen, my son, to your father's ethics or your mother's teaching, but turn your ear to…, a song written by Shimonovits), which influenced children to rebel, had a negative influence on parents, mostly the few Orthodox who belonged to the Mizrachi[1] movement.

 

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Youth Guard in Vishnevets
Standing fourth from the right, in full uniform, is the writer of this article.

 

[Page 162]

They declared a boycott against us, and we had to fight hard for each child. At the same time, other competing organizations took advantage of the war for their own benefit.

Our war for survival was very difficult, but we had the upper hand. We believed in the sincerity of our ways, and we were sure we would win. We didn't withdraw from any Zionist activities even though they tried to kick us out. We were always the first to collect donations for organizations like the Jewish National Fund and Foundation Fund.

Education was our first priority. We knew how to teach and enrich the children's knowledge. We established a place in the Jewish street through the power of our innocent belief and our dedication to the cause.

The first of us to realize our Zionism and leave for training increased the movement's status.

The greatest blow to our movement came during the 1930s, when the immigration quota for the Land was cut. Youth Guard graduates waited (after they had returned from training happy and ready to immigrate) for many years. A portion managed to immigrate illegally in the last year before World War II broke out.

In the Land, members of our branch have continued their loyalty to our movement by putting down roots in the country, belonging to the Haganah or Palmach, living in the cities, giving their best to the establishment of the country, and continuing to live there as loyal citizens.

A large, strong group of dear young people from our branch was left without a way out. Your heart always contracts when you look at the pictures of groups or individuals. The vision of the best of our brothers and sisters, who desperately waited to immigrate, passes before your eyes, and with them, the life of the entire town. Street after street, home after home, family after family – and with all our brothers, you cry for the loss of what was once dear to you.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Mizrachi is a religious Zionist movement. Return


[Page 163]

Betar in Vishnevets

by Sore Kitaykisher (Kirshenboym)

In 1930, Zeyde Geler established a Betar branch in our town. I don't know anything about the first few years. I joined Betar in 1932 and stayed with it until 1939.

During my time in Betar, our branch had around 30 members – 30 in the young age group and an additional 20 older members who were loyal to the Alliance of Revisionists-Zionists.

Zeyde invested his best efforts in the branch. Attitudes toward our movement in Vishnevets were unfavorable, and we needed great courage to swim against the current and gain supporters for the vision of Zev Jabotinsky, of blessed memory.

When Zeyde Geler left, Asher Sofer, of blessed memory, took over the leadership of Betar. He also showed great courage and enthusiasm for the cause.

Betar's activities centered mostly on deepening the conception that a total change was needed in Jewish community life: the need for peace and tranquility, the ability to debate and express opinions on all matters, and the need to take a firm stand. We educated the public on defense issues and taught them how to take and execute an order.

For us, Jabotinsky's articles were thought provoking, and we dedicated many evenings to reading and analyzing them. We taught the young people premilitary exercises and prepared them for discipline and self-sacrifice. We weren't given many opportunities to participate in ordinary public events, and we felt a little isolated. We did the best we could to integrate ourselves into the Zionist system that was accepted in many towns at that time. This provoked feelings of jealousy and enthusiasm, which turned into the substance of our activities.

I remember how we, the girls, walked from home to home on Sukkot eve and on Hoshana Rabbah to sell willow branches in order to collect a little money for our fund. I know for sure that our dedication was seen as a model and was a target of jealousy on the part of other movements in Vishnevets.

My cousin, Yakov Kitaykisher, a founder of Youth Guard, once said he could take care of everything for us, but not for seven Orthodox girls who were clueless to what was happening around them.

I was planning to immigrate through the Betar movement. I left in a convoy of immigrants – blockade runners. My movement didn't help me, and I got stuck on the way. I will always remember my branch house as a place where my uncompromised national attitude was formed – the attitude that gave me the strength to cope with all the hardship I later encountered.


[Page 164]

In a Training Detachment in Vishnevets

by Tsipora (Shlayen) Kornfeld

In 1933, a training kibbutz detachment was established in our town. We served as a branch of the Klosov kibbutz, but we didn't get much help from it because we were supported by our friends in the town.

Our group was small, eight men and women. At first we lived in a rented apartment in Makhovits, which was very close to Vishnevets, but when our numbers increased, we replaced our apartment with a larger one.

Our economic situation was difficult, and as was the case in other towns, there weren't many sources of income.

The town's Zionists and its simple people treated us well and tried to help us out.

 

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Pioneer Training in Vishnevets, 1934

 

[Page 165]

Our presence in the town provided an additional layer in the construction of a good Zionist program. But it was difficult to live on admiration alone, and everyone was looking for jobs for us. At that time, many good young people in Vishnevets (as in other towns) were unemployed, and we began to work.

Our main income came from chopping wood and drawing water. Moshele, from my town, a diligent and noble man whose employers were pleased with his services, was one of the best water drawers.

The women also worked at cutting wood, mostly doing light chores such as making piles of wood, collecting kindling, and more.

There were many homeowners whose hearts didn't allow them to hire Jewish children for difficult outdoor jobs in the freezing cold, which were fit only for gentiles. They didn't understand that we needed those jobs not just to fulfill our Zionist duty, but also for our survival – for a slice of bread – and this need put a lot of pressure on us. We didn't turn down any job, not only because we needed the income, but also because we wanted to prove that we could pass the test.

Once after midnight, a kind, warm young man who is now in Israel brought good news: I have a “day job” for you! Get up, quick! Get dressed! We need to go, it's urgent!

We soon found out that someone in his family had died and that the family was afraid to stay alone at night with the dead body. They were willing to pay us for a “day's work” if we sat and protected the dead person. I was the victim, and I watched over the dead body.

Little by little, we began to work. We baked matzos, cleaned houses, and ironed linens, and our situation improved.

The Zionist leaders in Vishnevets wanted to hire a minder to help us financially. We refused, since that wasn't our aim, but they outdid themselves trying to find ways to help us.

I remember that one of our friends got sick and needed castor oil, as it was customarily used then. When we arrived at the pharmacy to pick up the oil and told the pharmacist it was for our Feyge, she doubled the amount.

We attached ourselves to that town with the cords of our souls; the place and people were dear to us. I remember that a fire broke out at the Zaltsmans' home, not far from the kindergarten where I worked. We were the first to notice the fire and the first to attempt to put it out. Meanwhile, we had to save what we could. There was a young man from Grodno with us, and the aroma of duck fat reached his nostrils. He ran to the source of the smell, grabbed a fat clay pot with a layer of fat covering its lip, and ran to the kibbutz with it. How disappointed he was when he found out that under the layer of fat, some ordinary Russian borscht was hiding.

We integrated so fully into the life of the movement that we took on assignments we'd never considered doing before.

[Page 166]

It was assumed that we would immigrate shortly, so to test our seriousness, we were given a larger workload than the others were. Every once in a while we were told, “You're on the verge of immigrating, so we're demanding a different attitude from you – dedication to the cause, etc.”

We were young then, very young and joyful, but worries ate at the hearts of each one of us, worries that we didn't reveal to the people of Vishnevets. We came from poor homes. We were worried about the expense of our approaching immigration and about leaving our old parents behind without someone to support them in their old age, and our future was cloudy.

But Beren didn't know that. To him, we were a successful, personal Zionist experiment. He didn't feel our distress at our lack of money even to buy a stamp for a letter home. He was a dear young man, and we forgave him. We had to be strong in order to forgive because we were young and because Vishnevets was dear to us.

I will remember Vishnevets, a pleasant corridor to my dream parlor.


[Page 167]

Drama Circles in Vishnevets

by Yone Ron

The first emergence of theater in our town was tightly connected to the personality of Avraham Fayerman, of blessed memory, its founder and director.

His interest in theater began when he was young and living in Kishinyuv, where he learned the art of acting, which he transferred to us. He was a talented director, a superior actor, and a comedian. In our town, he always excelled in acting, and the audience and actors appreciated him. His sister (who now lives in the Land) helped him a lot. She supported him at their father's home and whispered the lines in his first shows.

Fayerman was the heart and soul of our town's drama circles. He directed and acted in the shows staged by troupes of all ages (except for the school plays, which I'll write about later). They say that at that time, Ester-Rachel Kaminska[1] heard about him and invited him to come and talk to her in Warsaw. If not for his parents' firm objections, which caused him to cancel his trip to Warsaw, he might have become a professional actor in her troupe.

Fayerman raised the curtain on the stage in Vishnevets, and with his tragic death alongside our townspeople, the curtain lowered on him and his work.

Fayerman and his friends, who created the theater in Vishnevets, did so only as a public service and not for profit. Their idea was to establish an amateur stage, provide quality entertainment to the townspeople, and earn money for social and cultural programs.

The shows were performed only in Yiddish.

I remember some of the first actors: Avraham Fayerman, Malke Layter, Yente Beker, Rivke Fefer, Mishe Korin, and Avraham Leyb Katz, who performed only once – in the show “The Essence of a Jew” – to prove that older people must also participate in shows for the benefit of public needs. Kopel Dobrovitker, Leybtsi Fefer, Nachum Beren, Reyzi Kagan, Avraham Leyb Korin, and others joined later. In time, Feyge Shulder, Gitel Kitaykesher, Rozi Shapiro, Levi Beren, Yisrael Mofshit, Chayim Hirsh Mazur, and the writer of this article also participated.

The first shows took place in Grozinov's flourmill. Later, the theater moved to a large and well-equipped hall in the palace (Zamek), and a number of shows took place at Tirnikov's school.

The repertoire was mixed. I remember the shows but not the order in which they were staged: (1) “Mirele Efrat,” (2) “Two Kuni Lemel,” which Fayerman and Dobromdiker excelled in, (3) “The Brothers Ashkenazi,” (4) “The Jewish Spark,” (5) “Sore Sheyndel the Rabbi's Wife,” (6) “Chinke Pinke,” (7) “Malkele the Soldier,” (8) “The Witch” (or “Koldunye”), (9) “God, Man, and Devil,” (10) “The Penitent,” with Leybtsi Fefer in the lead role, (11) “The Blind Painter,” and others.

[Page 168]

In addition, the Yiddish play “Purim Play” was also performed at the flourmill. Chana Hirsh Lekales played the part of King Ahashueros with great talent. The Tarbut schoolchildren put on the Yiddish operetta “King Saul” under the direction of Volk, the school principal. Yerachmiel Servetnik portrayed King Saul, with Yakov Tenenboym as King David, Yisrael Mofshit as the prophet Samuel, Chayim Tsvi Mazur as the court jester, and many others.

In addition to plays staged in Yiddish, cultural “images and songs” evenings in Yiddish and in Hebrew took place under Duvid Mendelboym's direction. The most remarkable performances were given by Yakov Yakira, as Herzl, and Chayke Mofshit and Yehuda Zinger, with their pleasant and grand voices.

In 1933-34, the Workers' Union established an amateur troupe and staged one or two shows. I can't remember the names of the plays, but I remember that the most outstanding actress was Feyge Sheynker.

The first Hebrew play was “Two Melodies,” which the audience welcomed with great enthusiasm. The principal actors were Tovale Rozental and Hershele Katz. At the end of the play, the actress received flowers, the actor got chocolate, and Leybtsi Fefer walked on stage and enthusiastically talked about the play, which was beautifully performed in the purest Hebrew.

The second play was “Chane and her Seven Sons,” directed by Fanye Chaskelovna Zeyger, the elementary school principal, and featuring actors Yisrael Mofshit, Tova Rozental, and others. That play was also very successful.

The third play, “The Sale of Yosef,” was performed by the Tarbut schoolchildren at the flourmill. It was directed by school principal Volk, and the main character was played by Berele Barbak.

When I write about the history of drama circles in Vishnevets here and list the members' names, I feel that the details aren't correct or sufficient here and there. I regret that I didn't write these things down when they happened. I've also written what I can remember about Avraham Fayerman, and I hope I'll be forgiven for any missing information.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Ester Rachel Kaminska (née Heilperin,1870-1925) was called the “mother of Jewish theater.” An actress in the Yiddish-language theater, she performed in Poland, Russia, the United States, London, and Paris, and she appeared in Yiddish-language films. Return


[Page 169]

An Anti-Semitic Judge's Verdict in Vishnevets

by Yehoshue Ron (Shike Geler)

Young people from Vishnevets were known in the area for their great enthusiasm and awareness of various public programs. They assisted in the library, helped with Tarbut School maintenance, and participated in the string orchestra and drama troupe. They also took part in religious, social, and sporting events. I had the honor of being captain of the soccer team.

The team included teenagers from all classes. Only the best, the strongest, and those who could play were chosen. We practiced on a suitable field on a mountain called “the Kremenets Mountain” because you could see it from the road leading to Kremenets.

The palace grounds in our town had a much better place to practice and play matches, but the authorities reserved it solely for the Polish and Russian teams. We played there only when we competed against a prestigious team. This beautiful field was located inside the palace forest, quite far from the town. The entryway was a tall iron gate guarded by a 75-year-old gentile with pink cheeks and a well-groomed long white beard.

 

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Soccer in Vishnevets – Players and Their Proud Supporters

 

[Page 170]

It happened that before the Polish national holiday on May 3, we received an invitation to play against one of the strongest Polish teams, whose players were students from the palace's trade and agricultural school. We knew they would do their best to win the match in order to demonstrate their supremacy over the Jews in front of the Polish-Russian spectators, at least in the area of sports, because in educational matters they were at a disadvantage.

Winning the match was a matter of prestige for us. We wanted to prove that we could measure up to them in a game involving power and strategy. I gathered the team for intense training and tried to explain to them that our victory would raise the morale of our town's young people. I was extremely excited. I brought up the brave deeds of Judah Maccabee, Samson the Hero, Bar Kochba, and Trumpeldor, and demanded from each one a personal sacrifice for our victory on the soccer field, telling them that the Jewish nation's fate and honor were in their hands.

Most of the spectators were Poles and Russians. The Jews were represented by a small number of teenagers. Luck shined on us from the beginning of the match. The training and our great willpower made their marks. During the first 10 minutes of the match, we scored two goals even though the referee was Polish and far from objective. Throughout the match, the Polish spectators whistled and booed the players on both sides, winners and losers.

I had a very unpleasant incident. My pants split open in the middle of the match, and I was left in an unpleasant situation. Since I didn't have a second pair of pants, I had to continue the match dressed in a spectator's raincoat.

The match's outcome was 5 to 2 in our favor. The hostile crowd, which wasn't willing to forgive us for our victory, began to provoke every Jew on the field. I felt that the situation was beginning to get serious and dangerous, and with two of my friends, I gathered 15 young men to protect the Jews. We pushed the Jewish children and teenagers toward the exit, and we, the team members, created a protective wall around them during their retreat. The Polish teenagers chased us, provoked us, and threw stones at us, but we didn't stop to respond. When I realized that the Jewish group had enough time to reach the other side of the gate, we couldn't hold back anymore, and a serious fistfight started after the Poles assaulted Hershele Senders' brother, who was known in Vishnevets as a fighter. Although they outnumbered us, they received heavy blows from us, and many were injured. We also suffered some injuries, but their morale diminished. We took advantage of the pause in the fight and escaped past the gate to return to the town. The old gatekeeper, who shut the gate in our faces, received a blow in the face from Efraim Yakira's strong hands. Blood started to pour out of his nose, the gate broke open, and we were saved.

A few days later, I was invited to the police station. The officer started to yell at me. He accused me of hitting a large number of people who later needed medical care, the old man included. The officer didn't listen to my claims and demanded the names of the people with me. When I gave him the team members' names, he informed me that he was passing the matter on for judicial clarification.

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For one reason or another, we decided not to hire a lawyer. Betshinsky, the only judge in town, was a well-known anti-Semite. We assumed that his judgment would be severe, so we decided that it was better to save the money so we could pay a lawyer to appeal on our behalf.

The day of the trial arrived, and we were terrified. The prosecutor's words were strong and full of malice and lies, and there were many witnesses for the prosecution. My argument before him was simple. After I had convinced him, with the prosecution witnesses' corroboration, that there were only a few of us, I asked him how it was possible that larger group and not us had been beaten.

I had probably touched a sore spot for the anti-Semitic Polish judge. It angered him that they had degraded his courageous race. Unexpectedly, he reprimanded them for not taking stronger measures, and declared, “I have to acquit the accused for lack of evidence.”

We thanked him from the bottom of our hearts and went to celebrate our second victory.


[Page 172]

From Cheder to the Northern Fence

by Yitschak Verdi (Reyzels)

I remember my childhood days at the cheder of R' Moshe, Asher-Yoel's son, a well-known teacher of young children in Vishnevets. He was the typical image of a small-town Jewish teacher, whose duty to provide his cheder children's first education was imposed on him by the heavens. He taught us reading, writing, the Pentateuch, and Rashi.

Later, I studied Gemara at the yeshiva belonging to the town's rabbi, under his son-in-law R' Chayim Aytsikel's directorship and guidance.

At that time, I had already begun to feel an inclination toward the Jewish people's fate. I understood that our nation as it existed in the Diaspora, with me as one of its sons, had once owned its own land – the Land of Israel. In my dreams, I often saw myself as someone who returned to the long-awaited homeland, and that was my obvious intention. My longing was strengthened by the reality of my time in the Polish elementary school, where the Christian teachers showed animosity toward Jewish children. The Christian children followed their teachers' example and expressed their hostility with violence inside and outside the school walls. We also experienced their hatred of Jewish children on the way to school. When Jewish children passed a Christian home, they were welcomed with warm greetings that included abusive language, barking dogs, and stones hurled at them.

All this made me think how wonderful it would be for the Jewish nation to be free in its homeland, so I joined one of the Zionist youth movements that began to organize in our town – the Young Pioneer movement. p> 

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Fence Builders in the North

 

[Page 173]

Our branch ran a wide variety of activities, such as discussion groups; work to benefit various organizations, such as the Foundation Fund and Jewish National Fund; and activities to promote the Hebrew language. The centerpiece of our activities was to prepare for immigration to the Land of Israel by going to a training kibbutz, leaving our birthplace, extorting approval to leave our mother's and father's table, etc. All that shook us to the depths of our souls and required difficult preparation. Any young person who reached the age of 18 was a candidate for a training kibbutz when he or she received an approval from the central Pioneer office in Warsaw.

When my turn arrived, I was sent with my friend Yakov Chatski to Kibbutz Stolin in the Polesia district.

In Stolin, the members received us with warmth and real friendship, and we were drafted to work immediately. We cut down trees, worked as porters and watchmen, and more. The kibbutz “patrons” were in charge of distributing the jobs. They were a group of Zionist party workers from Stolin who did their jobs out of loyalty and not for a monetary reward. With a number of members, I moved from Stolin five kilometers away to the village of Horin, where we worked at the local sawmill. The mill was operated by gentile workers even though it was under Jewish ownership.

It is important to mention that while we worked with the Christian laborers, we never came across anti-Semitic problems, maybe because the mill owners were Jewish or maybe because they knew we were working there only temporarily.

After a long stay in the training kibbutz, my immigration to Israel was approved by a vote of the general meeting. I returned to Vishnevets and waited to receive the long-awaited certificate. Since it never arrived, the Pioneer central office in Warsaw sent me for additional training, and I left for the Klosov kibbutz.

The kibbutz's main income came from the stone quarry, where I worked for more than a year. For the second time, I was approved for immigration. Since I was required to enlist in the Polish army, the Pioneer central office pushed for my departure, and in January 1937, I left my parents, my friends, and my hometown and immigrated to Israel.

When I arrived at the port of Haifa, my brother Chayim welcomed me with Dov Sofer and Yakov Nudel, of blessed memory, his friends from Vishnevets who had immigrated before me, the same way I did.

It was a time of bloody riots in Israel. When I arrived at Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha, I was drafted into the local Haganah organization.

Belonging to the organization required intense training under difficult clandestine conditions. After a hard day's labor, I had to leave for guard duty and other defense operations.

During the time I mentioned above, the Land of Israel's northern borders were subject to disturbances because they were open to the neighboring countries – Syria and Lebanon – which the ruling British mandate didn't control. Arab gangs smuggled weapons and also engaged in sabotage and murder in Jewish settlements.

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Therefore, it was decided to build a barbed-wire fence along those borders to block the Arab gangs and help guard against them. It wasn't easy to work for many days facing the enemy. The workers had to be protected, and the Haganah took over the responsibility and provided a security force.

One day, a brief notice was posted on the bulletin board in the kibbutz dining hall: “We are asking for four volunteers for a special operation.”

The notice spoke to me. I volunteered and was the first to sign up.

The meeting point was a kibbutz in the Jordan Valley. Volunteers – Haganah members – arrived there from cities, villages, and mostly kibbutzim. At that location, our duty was explained to us, and our training for the mission began that day.

The fence was built quickly, and the security was excellent. Every once in a while, clashes broke out between the guards and Arab gangs, but we always had the upper hand.

One evening after I finished my guard duty, which lasted from sunrise to sunset, my commanding officer, Yitschak Heker (one of the 23 Palmach members whose boat disappeared on their way to sabotage the refineries in Tripoli, Lebanon), met with me and asked if I wanted to join a special eight-man unit for a nighttime ambush. At 18:30 we left for the ambush. We lay quietly at the ambush location, which was about 400-550 meters from the fence on top of a tall mountain inside Lebanon, and waited. Less than an hour later, we heard a rustle and saw some shadows, which began to run away after one of us called out to them.

We began to fire, and we were answered with intense power. When the gunfire ended, we were left with a number of donkeys loaded with weapons and ammunition that the escaping Arabs had left behind. Only then did I reveal to my comrades that I'd been wounded in both legs. Immediately, rockets were shot from our side to summon first aid. With difficulty, my comrades carried me down the mountain on a makeshift stretcher made of guns tied together. An ambulance was already waiting at the bottom.

I was taken to the camp. It was clear that my condition was serious.

That same night, I was taken to Schweitzer Hospital in Tiberias. About a week later, I was transferred to Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva, where my medical care was completed. Thanks to the doctors' and nurses' dedication, I survived. It was they who helped me stand up on both legs.

One chain of days leads from the cheder to fence building in the north. It started hundreds of cheders before my cheder, and it doesn't end at the northern fence; it ends far away from there. But when I review the changes that took place during our lives and the changes that will take place in the future, it seems to me that our power comes from them and that the changes flow from each person from Vishnevets, and that's why this article belongs in Sefer Vishnevets.


[Page 175]

How Yitschak Reyzels (Verdi) Was Wounded

(From the Givat Hashlosha Journal – the Northern Fences)

“…There were a few cases of robbery in the north by Arabs who lived on the other side of the Syrian border. That same day, our friends found a pile of iron posts and barbed wire under some bushes in the field, which the thieves had left behind the day before and didn't have time to take with them. For that reason, a group of guards was sent to ambush them at that location. Yitschak was included in that group.

And when the guards approached the place, the Arabs noticed them right away. The group of guards, which was trapped between two groups of Arabs, began to shoot to their left using their rifles and machine guns. Yitschak, who was left alone in front of the Arabs on the right, shot only once before being wounded in both legs. Immediately he was given first aid, which, by the way, was very well organized. At first, they assumed that he wasn't seriously wounded. He was transferred to a hospital in Tiberias, where his condition worsened. I visited him a number of times, but I don't know if I'll be able to do so again in the near future since we're planning to leave our location and move farther inside the mountains next week.”


[Page 175]

The Northern Fence Builders

by B. Chabas

The following evening, the guard Reyzels, a member of Givat Hashlosha, was wounded. In the clinic hut, a young doctor with a volunteer sparkle in his eye, who was dressed like a laborer and spoke with a pioneer accent, showed us the operating room, which had been dedicated the day before. Stories of the heroism of that time were circulating in the camp. It isn't true that they broke through the fence – they said with excitement – only to bundles of barbed wire and fence-building materials left in the field. And more was said about the wounded Yitschak Reyzels, who was brought to camp on one of the captured donkeys, and about the fact that he never emitted a moan during the long ride. And of the British policeman, one of two who lived in the camp, they said he hugged and kissed the wounded man because he'd suffered silently and bravely.

 

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