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[Page 190]

Those Who Fell in the
War of Independence

 

Translated by Jerrold Landau

 

Eliezer Arkin of blessed memory

by Yisrael Arkin

ruz190.jpg - Eliezer Arkin
Eliezer Arkin

Eliezer was born to Miriam and Zalman Arkin in Ekron on 10 Tammuz 5689 (1929). His father Zalman was the son of Hinda Liba and Reb Yisrael Chaim Arkin, and the grandson of Reb Tzvi Arkin, who was among the first eleven settlers who founded Ekron in the year 5645 (1885) after making aliya from Ruzhany. His mother Miriam was the daughter of Tauba and Chaim Ruchmis (Hinda Liba Arkin and Tauba Ruchmis were daughters of Chaya Tzipora and Reb Zalman Mendel Ruhzansky “The lessee”). Miriam made aliya from Ruzhany in 1927 and married her relative Zalman in Ekron.

Eliezer was their firstborn son. His parents continued in the long-standing traditions of their forbears and occupied themselves in farming. Eliezer was educated in agriculture from his childhood. The difficult economic situation of the family forced Eliezer to bear the burden of livelihood along with his parents from a young age. At the age of eight and nine, one could see him as a thin child, wearing a threadbare coat, going out even on rainy days to take the cows to pasture kilometers away from the settlement. During the summer, one could find this lad among the rows of cucumbers or tomato bushes, and the like.

It was not only the economic pressure that made him into a farmer. There was another, deeper reason, which was primary. Eliezer was born with farmer's blood coursing through his veins. He was born to be connected to the field, the garden, and the barn, or as Mr. Krause, the director of his school (Mikve Yisrael) once said: “Oh, he was born in a furrow.”

He completed public school in Ekron in the year 5703 (1943), and naturally continued his studies in Mikve Yisrael (the same school in which his father graduated in the first graduating class). Here, Eliezer turned to studies more than to his home, and he was successful. He studied in a theoretical manner all those things that he loved, and in which he had been occupied with even before his studies in the agricultural school.

Eliezer concluded his studies in Mikve Yisrael as a member of the 26th graduating class in the year 5706 (1946). Again, in a natural way, he went out to fulfill his duty to the state (without being legally obligated to do so, since the law of military service was only passed later, in 5709 / 1949). He enlisted in the Palmach despite his young age, for he was 17 years old. His training took place in Gvat. Even there, he devoted his primary attention to the innovations and development of agriculture. Eliezer, with the “plow” in his nose, was to go out

[Page 191]

to a commander's course with the first people of the Palmach. The fact that he was accustomed to field conditions from his youth helped him in that course, and he developed into an exemplary fighter and field man.

At the end of the course, the Hebrew insurgence movement set out to its first large-scale activities. This was the summer of 5707 (1947), when the largest Haapala ship, “Exodus from Europe in 5707” arrived. The ship was brought to the entry of Haifa, and the immigrants who were refugees of the sword saw the Land from afar, and “their eyes pined and saw, but they had no power to save themselves.” With force, through the use of tear gas, clubs and live fire, the British transferred the immigrants to three ships and sent them back to Hamburg, Germany. Three of the immigrants were killed during the transfer, and several were injured. The anger was great. The Jewish settlement was shaken up. The spirits of the pre-state fighters demanded action. Then it was decided to bomb the radar that was located on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, which helped the British, who were following after our refugees, to expose and hunt the Haapala ships and send them back to Cyprus or Germany.

The best of the men were chosen from amongst the Palmach training camps, Eliezer among them. One of our fighters fell during the radar attack -- Eliezer. He was wounded as they were retreating from the radar after carrying out the action. His friends wanted to carry him with them, but the wounded Eliezer understood that they were liable to be killed if they were to remain in the area for longer than necessary. He asked them to take his revolver from him and to give his regards to his family and friends. He remained alone, bleeding on the slopes of Mt. Carmel.

For fear of ambush, the British did not enter until the morning. They brought Eliezer to the government hospital in the morning. Even there they did not leave him, but began to wear him down with questioning. Despite his wounds and pain in his last moments, Eliezer did not reveal anything to them. He told them that he was from Ekron and not Gvat (they could have traced down the action in Gvat, but not Ekron). Eliezer died during the questioning.

Eliezer, the sabra of sabras, set out to react to and protest the torment and oppression perpetrated against his brethren, the remnants of European Jewry, refugees from the greatest and cruelest slaughter in history. Eliezer the “plower” did not go out to kill after he was shaken up by the cruelty with which his brethren were treated. Rather, he set out proudly to sound the alarm and warning that we cannot accept such injustice quietly. He fell in his battle.

He was buried in Ekron on the 4th of Av, 5707 (1947)

By Yisrael Arkin

 

Mordechai Arkin of blessed memory

He was born in Gedera on 22 Tevet, 5667 (January 8, 1907) to his parents Tzvi and Chana. After concluding his studies in the Herzlia Gymnasium in Tel Aviv, he worked on his father's farm, and later as the director of the warehouse for citrus packing products for several companies. During the final seven years of his life, he worked as a leading official in the Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem. He was always active in the Hagana. In his Moshav, and during the time he worked at Hadassah, he took various courses, and then directed the group of workers. Immediately after November 29, 1947, he would spent his nights on guard duty in the building, until he fell while on guard duty at the hospital on 27 Adar II, 5708 (April 7, 1948). He left behind a wife and two children. His daughter was born three months after his death. His legacy included a collection of poems.

[Page 192]

Shmuel Rubinowich (Haramati) of blessed memory

by Elka Ines (Rubinowich)

ruz192.jpg - Shmuel Rubinowich (Haramati)
Shmuel Rubinowich (Haramati)

He was born in Ruzhany, Poland on 9 Tevet, 5671 (January 9, 1911) to his parents Eliezer and Bilha. During his childhood, he studied Hebrew, Bible and even Russian from his father, who was a teacher. Later, he studied in the Tarbut Gymnasium, where he excelled in his high level of knowledge, and astonished all who knew him with his brilliant talents. He joined Hashomer Hatzair at the age of 15. At the age of 18, he moved to Hechalutz, and went out to the Shacharia Hachsharah Kibbutz. He made aliya in March 1931 with a group of Shacharia members, and joined the Hakovesh Kibbutz in Kfar Saba. This was the time of the “conquest of work”[1] in the Moshava, and he worked as an agriculturalist in Pardesia, and later in the orchards of his farm in Ramat Hakovesh until his last day. He volunteered for guard duty in 1942, and served on the coast guard. At the end of the war in 1945, he returned to the farm, and to his work in the orchard.

With the bustle of the variegated life in the bustling Kibbutz, he liked to be alone. He was alert to everything that took place, attentive and concerned about everything that transpired on the farm, in the country, and the wide world, daring and independent in his judgments on life and the society, on literature and various cultural events. He was interested in conversation with his workmates. During the evenings, Shmuel kept apart from the group, and was alone with himself “under the broom tree,” under the shade of poetry. He delved deeply into modern Hebrew poetry, poetry of the middle ages, and modern Russian poetry. At times, he expressed the thoughts of his soul in writing.

He hated all formalities and shrank from all harsh words -- he forged his expressions from his heart, and drew them from the depths of his soul -- from ancient languages, from a language that had not become parched and had still preserved its early strength. He would search for fundamentals, and take hold of opinions in their first incarnation, while the realities of the present situation evaded him.

Some of his poems were published in “Maala,” “Davar,” “Mishmar,” “Derech Hapoel,” “Gilionot,” and Mibifnim.” The rest were found in manuscript form in his legacy.

On May 14, 1948, the day of the fierce attack on Ramat Hakovesh, Shmuel was on guard at a front guard post, and he was wounded by a bullet that penetrated the post. He died of his wounds the next day, on 6 Iyar, 5708 (May 15, 1948). He was buried among the victims of the battle of Ramat Hakovesh -- in a plot of land in the orchard in which he had worked throughout all his years at the Kibbutz.

By Elka Ines (Rubinowich)

[Page 193]

 

The Jewish Body

by Shmuel Rubinowich

Translated by Jerrold Landau

This is the ancient body, it is the book
Which was written by the hand of the treacherous times,
It is the phoenix that arose from the ashes,
Supreme over our earth.

It rose up in the smoke of the conflagration,
It was hidden in the crevices of the mist;
It was sold in the marketplaces of Europe
With the label, “Soap of the Jews.”

But it grew from the wondrous ground...
It arose from the ashes of the burnt body,
It broke through the siege and the prison
It took hold and blossomed in its land.

Not the spirit - the body is the book
Of books. Its ancient verses
Even the chapters of Jezreel and Chefer
Are newly engraved on its pages.

Shmuel Rubinowich

 

Translated by Jerrold Landau
Malachi Moskowich of blessed memory

by his father, Baruch Moskowich

ruz193.jpg - Malachi Moskowich
Malachi Moskowich

He was born in Tel Aviv on the 13th of Shvat 5789 (January 31, 1929) to his mother Sonia of the Leviathan family of Ruzhany and his father Baruch Moskowich.

He graduated from the Nes Ziona public school in Tel Aviv. He then studied in the Herzlia High School in Tel Aviv, from which he graduated in the year 5707 (1947).

He was unaffiliated with any faction. He was a member of the older scouts in Tel Aviv. He was a leader in the Chg”m in the high school. He was an athlete. In the year 5707, he received the “Shtam” Cup for his sporting competitions in high school.

He aspired to become a mechanical engineer, and wished to continue his studies in the aircraft building. His favorite subjects were mathematics, physics, and geography.

He was a member of the Irgun for 15 years. Happy and very emotional, he once quietly told me, “Father, tonight, I am invited to be sworn in to the Irgun trainees, and from this day, I will begin to fulfill my role as a member of the ranks, and to take an active role in the defense of our Land.”

He was a good friend, dedicated to the idea, always prepared to help, to the point where he earned a special note in his report card in public school, “He is loved by all his friends.” He was also dear to his teachers, especially in the Herzlia High School.

After the conclusion of his studies in High School, he went with his friends to Hachsharah in Kibbutz Dafna. He had energy and was self-assured. His friends told me that he would encourage them during the most difficult exercises. He excelled as a first aid leader in the battlefield. In any place where he exerted his leadership, he immediately endeared himself to everybody.

[Page 194]

As far as I know, he participated in the battle of Kfar Szold, was injured in his thigh, went to a hospital in Tiberias, and recovered. He made the rounds along the borders of Syria and Lebanon, and, along with his friends, set plans to bombard the bridges over the borders. He participated in the conquest of Tiberias. He would appear in the most dangerous places during the time of the battles, and claim, “I am a lucky person, and nothing will happen to me.” He believed in himself too much. According to his friends, he participated in all of the battles of the Upper Galilee.

Eight days before he fell, he was able to come home for a brief furlough. He was full of life and joy, and was proud that his parents were participating in the battle of independence along with him. He said to his mother, “Don't worry, everything will be good. Every mother must be prepared for the worst possible situation. Do not weep for me. Be proud of your son, he will not disappoint you.” They wanted to set him up as a guide in the city, but he refused, saying, “I will not leave my friends to fight without me.” When he set out he said, “Mother, we will establish the state, and I will return home to you whole and healthy.”

He did not disappoint in his death, just as he did not disappoint in his brief life. He fulfilled his desire and gave his life on the 11th of Nissan 5708 (April 20, 1948), as he was hastening to save his wounded friend in the heat of the battle near Mivtzar Koach (Nebi Yosha) in the Upper Galilee, despite the warning of his commander.

We parents are left with good memories of him, and the great anguish in the heart. However, we are proud of him that he did not embarrass us, that he fulfilled the role that was placed upon him until the bitter end.

May his memory be blessed forever within us.

His father, Baruch Moskowich

 

Tuvia Kushnir of blessed memory

Tuvia Kushnir was born in Jerusalem on 2 Cheshvan, 5683 (October 12, 1922) to his mother Esther, a Ruzhany native, the daughter of Yekutiel the “Linik,” the rope maker, and his father Shimon. His parents were veteran farmers, and pioneers of the Second Aliya.

Tuvia grew up and studied in Kfar Yechezkel. His parents had a farm there. When he graduated elementary school there, he moved on to high school, where he displayed exceptional interest in biology and botany. He conducted various scientific experiments, including grafting and crossbreeding, etc. From his astute observations, he invented important theories. During his many tours throughout the Land, he discovered various species and types of plants that had not yet been known in the Land. With the passage of time, he developed comprehensive knowledge regarding all areas of plant life in the Land, and in botany in general.

He moved to Jerusalem, completed high school and entered university. He studied biology, and during his first two years, he astounded his teachers with his broad knowledge. His independent research aroused the admiration of expert professionals. His ideas and discoveries in biology left a great deal of work for the researchers after his death. He entered military service with the recognition that during the time of the war for the existence of the nation and the Land there was no other choice, despite the fact that he greatly regretted “the loss of time.” Even while he was living in an army base, he studied between one military action and the next. He participated in many actions for the defense of Jerusalem, and fell with the 35 who were hastening to the aid of the besieged Gush Etzion on the 5th of Shvat 5708 (January 16, 1948). He was buried in Kfar Etzion, and his body was transferred from there along with the remainder of the fallen of the Gush to Mount Herzl on the 25th of Cheshvan 5710 (November 17, 1949).

[Page 195]

Yoel Segal of blessed memory

by Meir Sokolovsky

Yoel, the son of Yaakov and Pesha (the daughter of Shmerel the baker from Ruzhany), participated in the battles of the War of Independence in the mountains of Jerusalem, where he fell. Despite the searches conducted by his parents, his bones were not found, and he was not brought to burial. May his memory be a blessing.

 

The Guber Family

Mordechai, the father of the brothers Efraim and Tzvi Guber of blessed memory, wrote to me:

“My father, Tzvi Guber, was a native of Ruzhany, and a resident of this city for most of his life. At the time of his old age, he moved to live in Horodok and was known there as Hershel Ruzhinauer.

I was born in Horodok, but my father sent me to study in the Yeshiva in Ruzhany, between the years 1903-1906. I studied Torah with Rabbi Avraham Shkolnik (who was later an elder of the town) and with Rabbi Shabtai. I took my meals on a rotation basis with the relatives of my father. These were the years of communal ferment in Ruzhany. I absorbed the atmosphere of the town. The impression of those years influenced me throughout my life.”

During the latter years, Mordechai Guber and his wife Rivka led the inexperienced residents of Chevel Lachish, who were beginning to settle this new tract of land. During these days, Mordechai and Rivka Guber gave over their farm to the defense fund.

Mordechai was also elected as the chairman of the civic council of Chevel Lachish.

This family was known for the fact that two of its sons gave their lives for the defense of the homeland during the War of Independence.

This family was discreet in its deeds, diligent with its agricultural farm, and dedicated to the proper education of its sons. The way of the fathers was a sign for the children. The fathers also often enlisted to any vital settlement activity and actual military endeavors. One can learn about the children as well as the parents from the following articles about the sons that fell.

Meir Sokolovsky

 

Efraim Guber of blessed memory

ruz195.jpg [?? KB] - Efraim Guber
Efraim Guber

He was born in Rechovot on 4 Kislev 5688 (November 28, 1927) to his parents Mordechai and Rivka. He concluded public school at the age of 12. The father went out to direct the young Moshav in one of the valleys, and Efraim joined the work of the farm. “My father has not been at home for a year and a half... There was nobody to help my mother somewhat, and she was buckling under the yoke. Out of necessity, I remained at home, while all of my friends were continuing on with their studies.” He had dreams of continuing his studies when his father would return home; but in the meantime, the Second World War broke out. The institutions were calling upon the Jewish settlement to volunteer for the British Army. “If I was of army age, I would have immediately enlisted... We can acquire the Land of Israel only by giving it our blood and fighting for its freedom.” When the father was rejected from the army due to his age and health,

[Page 196]

he expressed his opinion that they were obligated to donate a quarter of their income for the families of the soldiers in exchange. The father accepted his opinion, and signed up to this.

The mother found no rest. Her brothers and sisters were brought there, to the conflagrations and disgrace. “Is it possible that we can have an ideal Jewish home today, when the entire House of Israel is engulfed in flames?” When she passed through a street with her son and saw a proclamation summoning women to volunteer, “We turn to you in every place of your work -- in the fields, factories, offices, house, and wherever you are,” she would ask her son, “What is your opinion? To whom is this proclamation directed?” “To you, Mother,” the lad would respond. He, along his father, would take upon themselves the responsibility for the home, the farm, the ten-year-old brother and the three-year-old sister, even though he was only 14 years old at the time. He would then point out, with contentment, “I know that if there were to be a draft of women, my mother would certainly be among the first to enlist.”

Later, when the mother was in the army, he encouraged the father to move from an assistant farm to a full-fledged farm in the Moshav of Kfar Warburg. He was burdened with the yoke of building the farm. After two years of the mother's army service had passed, he asked her to return home, for he was already able to take her place, even though he was only 15 ½ years old. “Now you must return to the farm, and I will go out to the arms. I do not want Mother to protect me anymore.” The mother understood the soul of her son and responded immediately to his summons. Under her influence, he first entered guard duty and practice service. After nine months, he enlisted in the army, disguised as someone older than his age, with the approval of his parents. Later he served in the Hebrew Brigade, fought against the Nazis on the European front, met Holocaust survivors there, worked among them, and helped with their illegal immigration. When he returned from the army in 1946, he was active in matters of defense of the Land. He helped the aliya into the first eleven points in the Negev. He participated in the smuggling in of the illegal immigrants from the Shabtai Luzinsky ship at Chof Nitzanim. He blended in with them, was deported with them to Cyprus, worked there among the refugees, and returned to the Land.

At the beginning of 1947 he participated in actions in the Negev as a unit commander. During the defense of Tirat Shalom from the Iraqi bands who fortified themselves in Kafr Kubiba, he remained in order to provide cover for his friends after he ordered them to retreat because their ammunition had run out. At that time he was hit by a bullet, and he fell. This took place on the 15th of Adar II, 5708 (March 26, 1948), when he was only 20 years and 4 months old. Excerpts of his diary and letters were included in Sefer Haachim that was published in 5710 (1950) by the Moshavim Movement Publishers and Massada.

 

Tzvi Guber of blessed memory

He was born in Kfar Warburg on 29 Iyar 5691 (May 16, 1931) to his parents Mordechai and Rivka, who were residents of the village. He was the younger brother of Efraim, who had influence on him in becoming rooted to the earth. He graduated the school in the village. Like his brother, he became involved in farming at a young age, and loved it. His poetic soul was exposed from his childhood. It found expression in articles, letters, and attempts at poetry. The War of Independence found him attentive and tense, and he was only 16 ½ years old then. The death of his brother Efraim affected him greatly. He swore over his grave to follow in his path, and he fulfilled that oath. After the death of his brother, he immediately set out along with all of the people of the village to the division of military assistance that guarded those who manned the battlefronts in the areas of Kfar Warburg. When the situation grew more serious, he entered into service in the Palmach. After a long and desperate battle next Cholikiat (Chalatz), where

[Page 197]

not more than 30 lads held their stand in the face of the larger armed Egyptian forces, he provided cover for the division at the only mortar thrower, and he fell there. This took place on 1 Tammuz, 5708 (July 8, 1948).

ruz197.jpg [?? KB] - Tzvi Guber
Tzvi Guber

From this era of his final days, a few creations regarding action and sacrifice were left behind: “Dror” (Liberty) (poem), “Mother” (a poem in prose) dedicated to his mother and all mothers who lost their sons in battle, “Shirat Hakever” (the Song of the Grave), and “Nesher” (Eagle). Only after a year were his bones found, and he was brought to eternal rest in the military cemetery in Kfar Warburg, in a common grave with his brother Efraim. This carried out his will as written in one of his letters, “If I too fall -- bury me next to Efraim. Next to him, I was never afraid, and I will never be afraid.” A common marble gravestone unites the two graves. The inscription is as follows, “Beloved and pleasant in their lives, they were not separated in their deaths.”

The Moshav of new immigrants of Holocaust survivors next to Kfar Warburg was called “Kfar Achim” (The village of the brothers) in memory of the two brothers. The writings of the brothers were collected into “Sefer Haachim” (The Book of Brothers) that was published in 5710 (1950) by the Moshav Movement Publishers and Massada.

 

Dror (Liberty)[2]

by Tzvi Guber

Translated by Jerrold Landau

My brethren, the sacrifice of the nations and the ramp of their altar,
Based upon bereavement and your warm blood --
Will straighten a whipped back, will raise a lowered head,
The copper skies were shaken up with shouts of “Heidad!”
The children of a scattered and wandering nations, “The refuse of the dwellers of earth”
The prey of every scoundrel, persecuted by man and G-d, --
Believe in tomorrow, for us it is a day of light!
In the night, thunderously raise up the banner of liberty!
Despite the foolish calm and the false hopes,
The night is still long, the battle is still cruel!...

From the bowels of the earth that is sated with the flesh of the children,
The breast of the suckling child and the abundance of victims;
The ashes of the furnaces -- where, in endless agony,
For its name -- hell shudders and the rock is horrified,
Our myriads became dust and ashes.
From “living cisterns”, from the darkness of the grave

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A terrible, strangling, gurgling sound can still be heard there,
The echoes of the terrifying cries ascending from the depths;
From the mouth of the “human soap” made from the flesh of children and mothers
To wash the blood stains from the hands of their murderers:
From the kidneys of the graves, from the depths of every pit,
Skeletons burning in pitch will sing out in freedom!

We too have a homeland in the wide world,
A haven for a broken back, a refuge and warm home,
Small -- but ours! Outside of it there is no place
For a nation that has been rejected and persecuted from beneath the heavens!
Wild, overpowering storms howl,
We will not stumble backward; there is a hymn in our mouth: freedom!
Who is afraid of death? A son whose mother and father have been slaughtered?
The daughter of a slaughtered mother? The father of a child who has been burnt:
Brothers! Strengthen yourselves along the way, prepare for battle!
Every gift -- is minimized! Every sacrifice is not great!
We will not fear even if our blood flows over,
Why would we be afraid to fall?
To fall -- will fill the world!

Oh, sons of freedom, straighten your backs, sound a song of praise!
Fortunate is your generation that merited such from amongst the sixty generations!
You are freemen on your soil, your homeland,
Strong as a mighty rock, as free as a tempest!
Your heart strengthens me, Mother! It is good, warm, full of glory
To you we take an oath: We will never betray you!
Take heed: mountain to mountain, valley to valley will say,
Waterfall to waterfall, sea to sea will storm,
Depth to depth will shout out, crag to crag will thunder:
You are freemen here, freemen here, a nation!

Tzvi Guber
July 28, 1948


Translator's Footnotes

  1. According to the Alkalai dictionary, this is a “term used to describe efforts of early Jewish immigrants to do work not generally done in the Diaspora, or done by non-Jews in Palestine.” return
  2. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: His final poem, written when he went out to the Palmach. return

 

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