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Jidauka, You Have Nothing To Do Here!” (cont.)

 

Hachshara in Birkenheim [Lithuania]

Chaim Levitt: When I came for a visit to Lithuania I gave Batya a picture, saying, in Hebrew: “Batya, on the first day of your new life, be strong and firm, like the waves of the Kinneret [Sea of Galilee]. Go forward until you achieve your goal.

Le'hitraot [see you] in our country. Radviliskis – May 5, 1924

Approximately 200 people worked in agriculture on the estate. Six of us Hechalutz members joined them. The Gentiles knew that we were students and had come to learn agriculture. We worked for food and a very small amount of pocket money, apparently to prevent the Gentiles from expressing opposition to our working there. We ran our own kitchen, and once a week we received supplies from the owner's wife. When it was my turn to go to her, it was really torture for me! That anti-Semite used to leave me standing by the door for over an hour, just like a beggar at the door, and I used to hear her saying to the cook, in German: ”Ach, die Juditze kommt heute.” [Ah, the Jewess is coming today]. When I heard the word Juditze, I used to fume with anger!

Zamke-Zalmen Friedman (later Rivka's Orlin husband) was with us, a real “wild man”. I remember that the inspector came to the estate and asked Zamke, in German: ”Wo warst du den?” [Where were you?] Zamke answered him: ”Ich war di beheimes aroistreibn“ [I was taking out the cattle – in German mixed with Hebrew and Yiddish]. The inspector, wearing glasses and carrying a cane – he looked like a real Nazi – again asked: ”Ich frage den, du, wo warst du den?” [I am asking, you, where you were?] And Zamke repeated: “ ”Ich war di beheimeth aroistreibn.

This was repeated several times and the atmosphere became tense. I whispered to Zamke: “He doesn't understand what beheimeth [cattle] means. Can't you see that he is getting angry? Say “vieh“ [cattle in German] and not ”beheimeth“.

Zamke spent several years on hachshara but did not receive a certificate [British permit for immigration to Palestine]. He emigrated to South Africa, and there, together with his wife Rivka Orlin, he set up a farm of his own. His son Yehuda Friedman made aliya to Israel not long ago, with his wife [Hadassa] and children [Ilana and Dani. The young son Gidon was born in Israel]. I would have been very happy to host them in my home.

We worked long hours on hachshara. We sometimes even worked twelve hours a day, particularly at harvest time. They worked with machines there, and we had to collect the bales quickly and place them in rows.

Several hachshara sessions used to gather on the Sabbath to hear about Zionism. In the evenings we learned Jewish history and other things from pamphlets. Emissaries used to come, and we had discussions with them. Today such emissaries are ridiculed, “the white collar workers”, but then we related to them with respect. We understood that someone had to live in the city, send letters, prepare programs, etc. We knew that that work needed to be done. However, when someone like that received a certificate, we used to grumble and say, in Yiddish: ”Er hot nisht geshvitzt“ [He didn't sweat]. I remember that I also reacted that way: “I am waiting. Me they tell to wait my turn!” And how we waited for certificates!

We used to sing, in Yiddish:

Wos toig mir Jabotinsky
Un Weizmann der professor
Az foren kein Palestina
Darf men Englishe pesser?
What use is Jabotinsky to me
And Weizmann the professor
When traveling to Palestine
You need English passes?

 

We heard about the difficult situation in Eretz Yisrael while still in the Diaspora. I remember that Pinchas Rashish[1] came to hachshara as an emissary, and that he sat on the floor like us and told us about the nature of Eretz Yisrael, in Yiddish: ”S'iz vist un pist.” [It's empty and desolate].

 

 
Avraham Levitt, son of Getzel and Michl (nee Levitt)
To Batya, on the occasion of your leaving the Memel district. Iyar, 1926

 

 
The Yaken Battalion, Memel, 1926
Batya Levitt is in the top row, center
Middle row, seated right to left: Miryam Landsman (from Shantz, Kaunas),
Rochke, David-Dodke Krost (the coachman), (-), Abba Abelewitz

Bottom left: Moshke Gurwitz

 

 
Photo Studio L. Balk, Memel

 

Hurry and Assist the Jews in Eretz Yisrael

When my hachshara period ended, I came to the Hechalutz Center in Kovno and told them that I had nowhere to go (as my father had erased me from the list of his children…), and requested to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael and asked them to provide me with a job in the meantime. My job was to collect dues. There were rich Zionists in the city who paid “dues” to Hechalutz. I collected these dues and received a commission.

There I met Yitzchak (Abel). He wasn't on hachshara, but worked as a clerk at the Hechalutz Center. Yitzchak offered me a certificate, on condition that we got married, and absolutely not fictitiously. I answered him simply and frankly: ”To make aliya to Eretz Yisrael, I would even marry an Arab if he proposed marriage to me…” Aliya to Eretz Yisrael was the most important and real thing to me.

I was the only one from Dusiat on hachshara at the time. I decided to go on hachshara, because otherwise I couldn't receive a certificate, and without it, it was impossible to make aliya to Eretz Yisrael. And I wanted to make aliya! The young people from the small towns had no way of earning a living there. The Zionist activists took advantage of this moment and turned us into idealists. We believed in our right to Eretz Yisrael, although we assumed that the Arabs would not accept this right of ours. We heard about the massacre in Hebron right before our aliya, and we wanted to be in Eretz Yisrael as soon as possible, so that we could help the Jews. After all, yeshiva bochers [students] from Lithuania had been slaughtered there! The riots didn't frighten us. I fully believed that if an Arab tried to attack me, I would overcome him first.

 

The revolution of the Lithuanian fascists broke out on December 17, 1927. The remnants of Jewish autonomy were officially liquidated on January 24, 1928. The new laws and edicts economically restricted the Jews and in fact blocked the younger generation's access to almost all the free professions.

 

… You have to read about it in the Stimme newspaper. As you know in the Seimas, where the majority was from the left [wing] and they were the leaders, the right had nothing to say. That annoyed them greatly and they overthrew the president and the government and took control. All the positions and authorities are in the hands of the right wing. They entered Kovno …

In the meantime there is pandemonium. You aren't allowed to go outside after ten PM. You aren't allowed to assemble. And Maccabi is also closed, because cultural and sports activities are forbidden.

The study courses, which used to take place from 8-11 PM, and sometimes even go on to midnight, are also forbidden now. That is how it is throughout Lithuania.

My dear one, this is the right time to finish with Lithuania.[2]

 

 
Hechalutz Movement in Kovno, 19th of Adar A, 1929
Right to Left, top row: Breinke Dvorkowitz (second), Masha (with necklet - today in Beth Zera), Eliyahu Walberg (extreme left).
Middle row: Masha (first on the right - today in Kfar Masaryk), Batya Levitt (first on the left)

 

Footnotes

  1. Pinchas Rashish, the emissary from Eretz Yisrael, was very fond of the Jews of Lithuania. Although he was missing a leg - when walking he used to strike the ground with his wooden leg - he crossed the length and breadth of the country [Lithuania], and the Jews rushed en masse to the public assemblies in which he would arouse the enthusiasm of his audience and win their hearts with his speeches, which were full of pathos and juicy idioms. (Hayu Halutzim B'Lita, [There Were Chalutzim In Lithuania“ 1916-1941], p. 79). Return

  2. Excerpt of one of the letters sent from Dusiat by Dovid-Leib Aires to his brother Yitzchak Orez in Eretz Yisrael. The letters are not dated, but it is possible to estimate when they were written according to the events mentioned in them. Yitzchak Orez kept them in a silk stocking, together with the letters of his mother-in-law, Shtirl Pores, Feigitzke's mother, as well as of other family members. Return

 

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