by Berl Greenberg
Translated by Selwyn Rose
He was born in 1913 in Malaya Glusha and was active in the Hachalutz Hatzair. He immigrated to Eretz Israel during the disturbances of 1936-9 and joined the founders of Kibbutz Ramat Ha-Kovesh.
On Tuesday 16th November 1943 he was mortally wounded by British police who had invaded the kibbutz searching for hidden Jewish arms. He died of his wounds in Shechem Government hospital on 21st November 1943.
The village, Malaya Glusha, somewhere in Polesia, with its thirty Jewish houses hidden in a copse of pines deep in the endless forests, hills of sand and streams. The Jews work the land and live the life of farmers, to the extent that one cannot tell which are the Jewish homes and which are those of their neighbors. The earth repaid their toil with abundance and grace and they ate from the sweat of their brow. Their homes were wide open to whomever passed by: they ate of their bread and drank of their water and were favored with the full generosity of their hearts. The house of the Wolinietz family flaunted its luxury among all the homes of the village. The head of the family returned from America and extended his holding. Shmuel's uncle, R' Zalman, taught Torah to the children of the village and told them stories from the Bible and the Mishna. The boy, Shmuel, listens and sees in his mind's eye personalities from ages past. Both near and far to his heart. Shmuel loved his village and went out to work in the fields with his brothers and sisters and his hand was skillful with the scythe, the sickle and the plowshare.
The years 1915-1916. World War. The Pinsk exiles. The Pinsk exiles wander the forests with their few belongings and are welcomed with open arms in Jewish homes. They also arrived at Shmuel's village; naked and lacking everything, they came. With them they brought the atmosphere of the culture of Israel: Zionism, Hebrew literature. From then on a new life began in the village and the surroundings. The Hebrew language was heard in every Jewish home, although the Wolinietz house was the center for everyone. There, was the Hebrew school, the Keren Kayemet, the local branch of Tarbut (school). From there, the sound of singing from the mouths of his sisters, echoed throughout the village, breaking its habitual silence. And in the fields in addition to the peaceful-melancholic songs of Byelorussia, resonated a new sound. A rich Hebrew melody, full of appeal. In that ambience Shmuel the youth was educated and his vibrant heart was charmed.
The end of the war. 1920. General Balachovich, with his gangs, leads the Polish army in the liberation of Poland, the Homeland. He sees the Jewish settlements as the enemy of Poland and turns them into fields of slaughter and desolation. They arrived at Shmuel's village as well. The rioters kidnap the Jews one by one in a central place, leading them like lambs to the slaughter. And Shmuel's eyes saw it all happen. The farmers buried their Jewish neighbors under thin layers of dirt, pillaged and destroyed their houses to extinction. The few remnants return from the forest and gather together the sparse, pitiful broken pieces of their homes, jumbled and spread over the sand. The skulls of dogs unearthed from the common grave. The Scrolls of the Law - brought to a Jewish burial. And the eyes of Shmuel saw it all. Back from captivity. Silence in the fields of Israel. The sound of singing will be heard not in them, neither will they be refreshed. The joy of life has been terminated.
A few years later, on 3rd May, Shmuel chanced to be in a nearby town for a victory parade. A speaker talks about exile and promises freedom to all minorities, even Jews and at the end of the parade marches proudly a group of small youngsters speaking Hebrew, among them Shmuel.
Shmuel is at a crossroads not knowing which path to take. They are many and the lights enticing and beckoning. His parents are pressuring him to go to Argentina, to Cuba and from there to his brother in America. Or perhaps to Vilna to the teachers' Seminary, to complete his studies. Shmuel refuses. And now, suddenly, a new light breaks through: from Tel-Chai to Klosova it sent its beams and conquered by storm the Jewish settlements of Wohlyn. Shmuel had found his way. He was one of three local field workers and he the living spirit. Many movements fought for the attention of the youth and the war extended to his village. One has to stand in the breach. Shmuel was in touch with the center in Warsaw, with the Council in Luts'k and won. He founded the branch of Hachalutz (The Pioneer). The branch gushed forth with life. Conversations, dancing hora, parades, flags and Hebrew Hebrew everywhere, in every corner. If you passed through the village you would think you were in a small settlement in Eretz Israel.
And in the meantime the children of Israel are assimilated in Polish schools. One must save them. And the branch approached the Center. A letter from the delegate, Avraham Grabov placed his feet on highways and byways, by horse and cart, and by foot, in all the distant villages, creating there new branches of Hachalutz Hatzair (The Young Pioneer). He arrives at Malaya Glusha. The work here is not much, but how to escape from the Wolinietz home? Here, he was wrapped in the great warmth, here, he breathes the spirit of the Land of Israel, here the home full of laughter and his joy and laughter is great and causes everyone to roll with laughter. Grabov stays for days in the house. Shmuel is very busy. He helps arrange meetings, create the new branch of Hachalutz Hatzair and in the evenings Shmuel listens to Grabov who sings silently and with dreamy eyes: May you then attain the target, should I not reach my goal.
And the song so shakes the heart and draws the soul to something hidden, concealed, towards an unknown fate. Did Avraham and Shmuel already sense that they will not reach the end of their task, that tragic circumstances will deprive them of their lives and that even after their death they would be so close ..?
A Portrait of Lema Klurman
Bracha Ben-Yehonatan (Lehrman)
Translated by Selwyn Rose
The image of Lema is fixed in my memory together with the creation of our branch of Hashomer Hatzair in Kamien Koszyrski. He was one of the ten boys and girls (all of them about 12 years old), who constituted the founding of the Hashomer Hatzair movement in our town. He was a modest lad, quiet and retiring, who drank every word, every idea, as if they were the words of the living G-d.
His father was a stubborn man, righteous and pedantic. Lema inherited these qualities and while still very young tried to sought to translate the ideologies of the movement into practical terms.
I remember once, it was one Sabbath morning in summer, we all gathered in a copse behind the church. We were holding a debate on the topic: I AM my brother's keeper (a paraphrase of one of the ten commandments of the movement). Suddenly we heard a shouted warning and saw pillars of flames and smoke arose from the direction of Zastawie Street where lived the Gentile peasants and farmers. It was then that Lema stood up and said: Now we will fulfill the commandment 'Am I my brother's keeper' Let us run and help them put out the fire.
And that's what we did; we equipped ourselves with buckets and formed a long line from the well up to the first house that was going up in flames. In Kamien Koszyrski, a fire was a real danger. There was no fire-brigade and no water hoses and all the roofs of the houses of the gentile peasants were thatched. There was always the fear that a fire would spread to the Jewish street as well and on more than one occasion the town hall had been completely burnt down.
It is easy to imagine the welcome we received when we got home wet, dirty and covered in soot. But Lema got a doubly rigorous telling off from his strict father. He confined him to his room and swore that he would not allow him to come and join the congregation as a defiler of the Sabbath and a polluter of Israel.
But that same evening Lema was free to come to our group meeting. But how on earth he managed to escape from his confinement and how he succeeded in evading his strict father has remained a secret to this day. Lema was not one to talk he acted.
Lema emigrated to Eretz Israel in 1933. He was faithful to kibbutz values and precepts and sought zealously in himself and others the concepts of cooperation and equality.
During the battle for Negba he demanded more from himself than ever before. After he had finished his hours-long guard duty, he continued to be active carrying ammunition and worrying about the evacuation of children. During the cease-fire he cared for each and every seedling, pruned and watered every bush and plant.
He fell 8th Elul, 5708 (12th September 1948) while giving aid to a group of soldiers that had entered a mine-field. He left a wife and two daughters.
Asher Shofet (Kibbutz Negba)
Translated by Selwyn Rose
The survivors of Kamien Koszyrski [Kamen Kashirskiy] asked us, the members of Kibbutz Negba, to say something about the life of Lema Klurman (zl). Our archivist began to dig deep into the records of the kibbutz documents and pictures. But we discovered that it was better to leave the papers alone and turn inwards to our memories and our hearts; better to go and visit those same corners that even today, fourteen years after Lema fell in the War of Independence, still whisper his poetic life.
Listen, then, O sons of Kamien Koszyrski and your children, to the story of fifteen years in the life of Lema Klurman in Kibbutz Negba in Eretz Israel and remember his name with love and pride.
Lema Klurman was one of the central figures of the kibbutz. An active participant and a dynamic element from the first moment his feet touched the land until his last day, the moment of his death in action.
His character and status in the kibbutz can be shown by his adaptability and abilities to blend physical labor with social positions. Lema was an ideal example of a working man. He was a specialist in building activities and later worked in agriculture. From time to time he was asked to act as treasurer, in the secretariat or as farm manager or coordinator, rotating between these positions. In his tasks he always displayed total responsibility and dynamism. In fulfilling a task as organizer he could never not do something with his own hands. Eventually he created for himself career that demanded commitment, persistence and a sense of learning and beauty: taking care of all the public lawns and flower beds of the kibbutz. He was one of the garden-landscape artists of the Hill of Gardens (the previous location of the Kibbutz), and later did that for Negba, which, before the battles of 1948 had already earned a reputation for its decorative flowers and trees. The magnificent lawn fronting our communal dining-room is the work of Lema. Before the artillery of the enemy fell silent, Lema went out onto the torn-up lawn, opened up the sprinklers and said: No doubt you'll all laugh at me but I'm going to irrigate the lawn! At that moment it seemed indeed strange but we immediately began to understand that it was a sort of omen that our community was destined to survive and that the enemy would not conquer. Lema's legacy still exists today, the greenery and flowers of Negba tended and cared for with a faithful hand.
Lema was congenial and knew how to laugh and joke even under difficult circumstances and to be one of the crowd. He demanded much from himself and his working day often included overtime. Towards evening, before he stripped off his working clothes, he would be asked, Lema, how are you? And he would answer with the familiar reply, Having a great time! During his little spare time he would indulge himself in his hobby his own small garden attached to his home. He would tend his flower-beds, seedlings and flowers. The few times he changed his living quarters in Negba and he always started anew, leaving for the next tenant a well-tended corner steeped in greenery and flowers.
He demanded from others the same dedication and loyalty in their approach to work. He was the friend of many, and many were his friends but he never forgave nor remained silent in the face of irresponsibility or evasion of work by others.
During the War of Independence he excelled himself as an example of responsibility and care. He fulfilled the position of farm-coordinator and worried about evacuating the property of the farm. With a sub-machine gun on his shoulder and a steel helmet on his head he would stride from bunker to trench, from a collapsing store-room to a loaded truck, in order to fulfill his task of evacuation and as communications officer. During the cease-fire, at the first general meeting of the kibbutz to reorganize the various working committees of the community, he was at the very center of activities. But we were destined to pay a heavy price for the campaign that won our independence. After the cessation of direct hostilities, yet more victims to the mines that had been sown all around us and among them our beloved Lema.
But Lema's life's work remains here, in the place where he built his home and he lived his life to the full, up to the time they buried him for the sake of the state. Here, he married his wife, Zipporah, and raised his two daughters, Ophra and Margalit. Here, from the deepest roots to the soaring canopies of the copses, are the trees planted and cared for by Lema's own hands; here, the spirit of Lema the builder and hero hovers over all, in our hearts, his image lives and is kept safe and in the passage of time has come to symbolize the spirit of loyalty and dedicated productivity.
Simcha Lavi (Leker)
Translated by Selwyn Rose
From the dawn of our childhood until his last day we were friends. Lema was in my eyes, the incarnation of everything that is good in a human being. And from him I drew strength in moments of extreme frustration and confusion.
We were young when we emigrated to Eretz Israel and the birth pains of our absorption and our living conditions were difficult indeed: a life of toil, enforced satisfaction with little material comforts, and danger. Lema coped with all these and his strength spilled over on to me. In his company, I felt as if I were in the bosom of my family. It was because of this that I would visit him every Shabbat.
From the days of Nachlat Ganim until the terribly tragic day of his death, in which he fell rushing to help friends, he was an exemplary man.
To my sorrow I was not present to pay my last respects because these were the days when the state was being born and every man was at his post.
Only on the day of the cease-fire did I get to a smoking and burning Negba, the fighting Negba, deep in sorrow and mourning her dead.
At his fresh graveside, I whispered: On this wooden board is displayed heroism and charm. The name of one endowed with an abundant degree of qualities and overflowing with all the good characteristics ever given to flesh and blood.
Today his spirit floats over Negba, which has been built anew. This is the place in which he believed and whose prosperity is his everlasting memorial.
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