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[Page 389]

In Our Homeland

 

[Page 391]

Our Aliya and First Steps in the Land

by M. and Ch.

Despite all our communal alertness, our father, Reb Avraham–Alter Montag, did not at first permit us to make aliya to the Land. In these matters, he was satisfied to be on the side of Dr. Lewensztejn and not Dr. Cyper. Second, with regards to redemption and the kingdom of Israel, we are to depend on our Father in Heaven, and not to try to force the end…

However, the Hashomer Hatzair movement in Turka during those days, in 1920, thought otherwise. The preparations for aliya were in full force. Those were the days of Tel Hai and Joseph Trumpeldor1, and we were open to any news about what was taking place in the Land.

The most popular song at that time in Turka was “In Tel Hai, there in the Galilee, Trumpeldor fell.” This song was written by a group in Turka, and I do not know how it turned out that this song became an Israeli song…

Hashomer Hatzair in Turka

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Indeed, we were warned that we were liable to be called upon for immediate aliya, and that we must be prepared in all ways, to the last detail, with the first call…

Abba Chushai headed the Turka chapter. Since he wanted to know who was prepared to make aliya, he summoned his people one night: “We are making aliya to the Land!” We presented ourselves at that time, and our level of readiness was determined in accordance with how we presented ourselves…

The pressure on the father of our household to permit us to make aliya increased. Having no choice, Reb Avraham Alter retracted somewhat – he permitted one to make aliya but not two together. The choice was made with decisive simplicity. A lot was cast, and I won…

The following people were in the first group, headed by Abba Chushai: Hela Reifler, Dvora April, Miriam Montag, Chava Berman, Chana Montag, Yehoshua Weiss, Elazar Weiss, Anshel Treiber, and Aharon Rozler. The following people joined us at the Lvov train station: Amnon Lin's mother Chava, and Yosef Fuchs from Zamosc. The lad and girl burst out in weeping. Their mother, who stood next to the train, said to her pioneers: “If you are weeping, come off the train.”

Hashomer Hatzair in Turka
Top right – Abba Chushai

[Page 393]

We went by train from Lvov to Vienna to Trieste. In Trieste, we boarded the Japanese transport ship Nippon to Port Said. The journey took 21 days. We remained in the city for a day or two, and arrived in Jaffa a few days later.

*

After a week in Jaffa, they were about to send us to work. We demanded, and Abba Chushai was particularly insistent, that we be sent to the Galilee. The aliya absorption officers at first opposed this, especially for the girls, but they finally agreed, and we arrived in Rosh Pina.

It was summertime. We began to work on the Rosh Pina–Machanaim road. There were no showers, and we suffered from heat rash. Scorpions swarmed in the vineyard in which we slept. One night, Dr. Radovanski arrived from the settlement and woke us up from our sleep: “You are sleeping on scorpions!” Through his intervention, we later were given two rooms, and we slept on the floor. We barely had pillows for our heads… We worked very hard. We woke up at 3:00 a.m. so that we could finish our work before the heat of the day… We lived below the settlement,

Rosh Pina, 1920

[Page 394]

with Turkanicz, but our eating hall was above. Not infrequently, people did not show up for a meal because they did not have the energy to go…

*

Our first winter in the Land approached. Party activity was increasing in the land. The time of the founding meeting of the Histadrut [Workers' Union] was approaching

The first people of Hashomer Hatzair who made aliya in 1920
Standing Abba Chushai. Right: Yehoshua Weiss, and left Anshel Treiber

[Page 395]

Our group then entered a competition for the paving of the Haifa–Gedera Road. Later, we joined the Shomria group, that pitched its tents in the current location of Kibbutz Yagur.

*

Meir Yaari and a few other Shomrim were then in Bitania Illit. Abba Chushai and Mordechai Shenhavi began to organize the road workers in Shomria. We then forged connections with Bitania regarding the founding of a kibbutz.

Getting used to the hard labor was not all that easy. I remember on Yom Kippur, I was sitting on a heap of stones with regrets and thinking about … home. I was at home, without furuncles, without eye problems. Indeed, I was dreaming about home…

In the meantime, we had to work! The Turka group sent 15 people out to work. There was a competition: who would build the largest gravel heap… However, warts broke out on our hands. Abba Chushai, who should have served as an example, was full of warts… We also had to prepare a meal, without fire, without wood – with some thistles – made of a bit of rice and raisons. At that time, the English paid work wages with food: fish, jam, and flour. People ate this food and licked their fingers! Indeed, there were good times, for the bitter days of unemployment were approaching…

*

The Haifa–Gedera Road

It was the first days of the Histadrut. We began to dream about settlement. Our group, the Turka group, stood out in every place. We had been forged into a unit and we had discipline. We also knew how to sing. With the arrival of additional people from Poland, we began to speak of Beit Alfa and Mishmar Haemek.

With the progression of the work on the road, the entire camp moved in the direction of Haifa. We camped next to the Kishon River. Once, the river overflowed its banks and flooded our tents at night, reaching our beds. Everything sunk in the mud. The group disbanded with the completion of the Haifa–Gedera Road. Some went to Beit Alfa and others moved to Haifa.


Translator's Footnote:
  1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Trumpeldor . The song referred to in the following paragraph (although word order seems to be different so there may be a different version) is here: http://www.hebrewsongs.com/?song=bagalilbetelchai The author of the song listed on the aforementioned website is Turka native Abba Chushai, referred to frequently in this Yizkor Book. He later served as mayor of Haifa. Return


[Page 396]

Breaking Through the Shores of our Homeland

by Meir Hoffman of Ramat Gan

Uncaptioned. Meir Hoffman

 

It was July 1939. The relative heat of the Carpathian Mountains was oppressive. The youth, some of whom were “sitting on their suitcases” waiting for aliya to the Land of Israel, and some of whom were wandering around without anything to do, lacking in any means of setting themselves in any work, streamed to the other side of the river in order to enjoy bathing in its cool waters.

As if to provoke: It was specifically that week when I began my vacation that the awaited day arrived. I received a telegram from the “center” informing me that I was designated for aliya. We (including my wife and my sister) made our final preparations in accordance with the circular that we received. The brief instructions indicated that it was only permissible to take 25 kilograms of luggage. Another set of instructions, all in the negative, followed that. It was forbidden for anyone to know that we were travelling – for the aliya was illegal. It was forbidden to arrange farewell parties. It was forbidden to be accompanied to the train, even by one's closest relatives, parents included.

I will never forget that moment. It is as if it was just yesterday. The “taxi” (a wagon hitched to a horse) arrived. We loaded up the suitcases, and shook hands and gave a brief kiss to our parents. Despite this, a large number of friends accompanied us to the railway station. Our hearts were beating strongly, our hands were trembling – and the train set out… Through the window of the moving train I saw Father and Mother – who were full of concern due to the instructions and remained at home. They were only waving their hands gently, so that they would not be noticed – Heaven forbid.

I cannot forgive myself to this day – why, despite all this, did the farewell have to be specifically in such a manner? Father's last words still echo in my ears: “Who knows if we will see each other again… The situation in the world is unstable – who knows?...” Something unique was sensed in the city. One could hear the marching of soldiers during the nights. They were not preparing, Heaven forbid, for a specific invasion, but Poland was taking the opportunity to settle some sort of old account with Czechoslovakia, and was amassing its army on its borders.

*

[Page 397]

In Warsaw, a delegate from the Land greeted us for the first time. He was also to be the captain of the ship. There, we heard very serious words: the journey was difficult and fraught with mortal danger. The border was already closed in Romania. Only after a three day negotiation were we given the possibility of boarding the shop. The second group that we met along the way was sent back to Poland.

We discussed our ship extensively, but nobody could imagine the difficulties that would happen with the Tiger Hill, sailing under the flag of Panama, that transported 750 of the best chalutzim of Poland. It meandered through the paths of the sea for five weeks, unable to bring its precious cargo to the shores of the Land.

Who can forget the many days and nights sitting together on the ship in the midst of the sea?! The word “home” was woven into every sentence. Complete lack pervaded in every corner: no food, no drinking water, no medicine for the sick. Can anyone forget that terrible night: they extinguished the lights earlier than usual? Everyone was lying on the benches, and suddenly we heard some unique, strange activity. They were dragging “something.” Then we heard something sounding like a eulogy, a casting into the sea – and silence… This is the way we brought our first victim to “burial.” This was not the last.

Again, the sea and more sea. All sorts of rumors. The nervousness grew. Tonight we are going to go to shore. Again, we packed our sacks. We put out the lights, and approached quickly. We also saw hills… Someone whispered, “This is Haifa…” Suddenly a motorboat approached. We heard commands in English and German, the rumble of machine guns – and the boat did a complete turnabout, and started to escape at full speed… We heard about the tragic situation: two additional victims. This was the “welcome reception” of the Mandate government.

Events developed quickly. On September 1, 1939, the radio informed us of the outbreak of the war and the Nazi invasion of Poland. Now, there is no longer any need to preserve the intactness of the ship – there will be no more aliya… There won't be any more people to bring on aliya. There will no longer be anyone to write to. We will not be able to calm our parents and to write to them that we will see each other again…

 

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