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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…

{Photo page 391: Hashomer Hatzair in Turka.}

[Page 392]

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.”

{Photo page 392: 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,

{Photo page 393: 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

{Photo page 394: 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

{Photo page 396: 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…


[Page 398]

The Aliya of those with Families to the Land

by Moshe Yisraeli of Kiryat Chaim

{Photo page 398: Uncaptioned. Moshe Yisraeli.}

With song, music, and enthusiasm, the people of the city accompanied the chalutzim, members of the youth movements, whose aliya began in 1920. This was not the pitiful situation of the elderly olim and those that accompanied them, at the time that they left Turka to make aliya to the Land. Those people had families with children who had not yet grown up. Those that accompanied them parted from them with mixed feelings. They even ostracized them.

Their aliya began in the middle of the 1920s and progressed very slowly. Unemployment was rampant in the Land at that time. The Mandate government did almost nothing to ameliorate the situation, and many young lands wandered about outside the cities without work for the day. It is clear, therefore, how difficult it would be for a head of a family – older people who were not used to physical labor, and who did not have appropriate means. From their perspective, this was a very daring and brave thing to do – to go to an unknown land with a different climate from their place of origin. Some of them came in the wake of their chalutz children. They struggled very hard and it took a long time until they somehow established themselves. It is fitting to dedicate some space here to recall these older chalutzim, who, through their aliya and suffering, added a serious layer to the upbuilding of the Land.

Zisha Feist

Zisha Feist was a working Jew, who lived his entire life from the labor of his hands. It is worthwhile to note that this nationalist Jew and his wife already knew then, at the beginning of the 20th century, to give to their children the possibility of studying secular subjects and books along with their Torah studies in the Hassidic environment of the cheder. Zisha Feist made aliya with his family, including daughters of school age, following the footsteps of his son, the first of the first of our town to make aliya. His son was none other than Abba Chushai, the well–known leader of the workers, today the mayor of the city of Haifa. I recall that when I went to greet them on the day of their arrival, I sensed, not only from the look on their eyes, their trepidation for what was to come.

[Page 399]

They suffered from no small amount of difficulties until they somehow established themselves in accordance with the conditions of that time. They were happy with their lot. Zisha and his wife died in Haifa at advanced ages, and left behind a large family that is involved in public life in Israel.

Abish Berman

He was an interesting personality among the human landscape of our city. He was a blend of Hassidism and fear of Heaven with worldly knowledge. He was a Hassid of the Admor of Boyan (of Rizhin lineage). Typical of these Hassidim was their boundless dedication to their Rebbe as well as to their external splendor. Abish Berman gathered the Boyaner Hassidim around him – few in number but graced with fine traits of Hassidism, the most important of which was a dedication to mutual assistance. Then, a half century ago, this trait was the main strand of their essence.

{Photo page 399: Uncaptioned. Abish Berman.}

His home served as a gathering place for like minded people. His nickname in town was “The Consul of Boyan.” Reb Abish Berman was also fluent in the vernacular languages, especially German, the language of government. He was the only one of the like–minded people of the town who was a regular subscriber to the official newspaper of the Austria–Hungary Empire, the “Neie Frei Presse” – which was published in Vienna and for which Dr. Herzl served as one of the editors. All information about politics and news from the wide world had their source with Reb Abish. One could meet old and young people in his store every afternoon, debating and exchanging view on current events.

[Page 400]

Aside from his own business, Reb Abish was very knowledgeable about modern accounting in accordance with the principles of that time. He had a fine custom: Every few years he would accept a like–minded lad as an assistant in his shop. Through the work, he would impart knowledge of accounting to the lad, and thereby give him an important profession for life. In this manner, he established a generation of fine businessmen.

It was natural that Reb Abish, as a communal activist with an opinion, did not regard in a positive fashion the breaches in traditional life in the town. When the Zionist movement arose before and after the First World War, he actively objected to it. Later, when it absorbed the best of the youth, including many from Hassidic circles, he remained a very proper opponent. Discussions or debates with those anarchists, so to speak, were not accompanied by curses or disparaging remarks, in the manner of a “holy war.” Rather, with calm and even mindedness, he tried to convince those enthusiastic youths that attempting to hasten the end is a sin against the G–d of Israel…

However, the irony of fate had it that Reb Abish made aliya with his family to the Land late in life. He went in the wake of his daughter Chava who made aliya with the first Hashomer Hatzair group, and died here in her prime. We young people, who remembered the opposition of Reb Abish to Zionism and aliya, welcomed him to the Land not with feelings of victory, but rather with great satisfaction that even people of his nature had begun to wake up to the national feeling.

Reb Abish slowly got settled and contributed to the economy of the Land, which was meager and poor in those days. With the passage of time, he established a group of like–minded Hassidim. I suspect that in the recesses of his soul, he often thought about the correctness of those Zionist youths in the city whom he opposed so strongly.

He died at an old age in Kiryat Motzkin. May his memory be a blessing.

Daniel Artel

Daniel Artel, his wife, and children also made aliya in the wake of their son Aharon, who arrived to the Land in 1920 with the first chalutzim of the “roads”1 era. He was an important person and a serious communal activist in town. He also endured difficulties in acclimatization, especially in his transition from a wealthy situation in his home town to the new situation. However Daniel Artel, with his sense of humor and good nature that did not leave him even during difficult times, knew how to overcome and to establish himself in our Land. He was greatly respected in his environment, the environment of elderly people of his vintage.

[Page 401]

He died in Haifa and left behind a family involved in the life of labor and the workers' movement.

Moshe Nagler (Moshe Feibush's)

In this list of families I will mention Moshe Nagler, who also made aliya in the wake of his daughter, a member of Kibbutz Merchavia in the Jezreel Valley. Nagler, who was called Moshe Feibush's in our town, was an upright Jew. He had lived in a sort of Jewish suburb of our town, where livelihood was earned partially from business and partially from agriculture and farming. He raised his children in the spirit of Torah and labor. He also suffered from difficulties in absorption during that era, but he slowly established himself in a life of labor in the Land, and died at an advanced age. He left behind his children who are involved in teaching and labor, and are doing their part in the upbuilding of the Land.

*

I will mention Yaakov Gerstal in a positive fashion. He was an expert building contractor already in the Diaspora, and he quickly became involved in his profession in the Land.

*

The widow Treiber, who made aliya in the wake of her son Anshel, a member of Beit Alfa and one of the first members of Hashomer Hatzair in our city, settled in Haifa and struggled greatly until she somehow became established along with her children. She accepted everything without complaint, in the manner of G–d fearing women.

Meir Kleist

Finally, it is my duty to mention here our dear friend Meir Kleist, who fell victim to a work accident in the Itlit quarries, which provided building materials for the Port of Haifa. He was still in his prime.

Meir arrived in the Land during the early 1920s, after his return to our town after spending the days of the First World War in Italy. He often entertained the tent dwellers in the Valley of Olives in Haifa, natives of our town who were unemployed, with his joviality and the Italian songs that he had learned while living there.

When he became established after no small amount of suffering, fate was cruel to him. He was killed in a work accident. We will remember him with sorrow and agony.


Translator's Footnote:
  1. Seemingly the era of road construction, as described in the article on page 389. Return


[Page 402]

In Memory of Those No Longer With Us

Manes Bernas

{Photo page 402: Uncaptioned; Manes Bernas.}

Manes the son of Feiga and Leib Bernas was born in Turka in 1903. After completing his high school studies, he continued studying in the high school for business in Vienna. He received the degree of Doctor of Economics from the University of Florence.

Upon his return to Turka, Manes joined the circle of his friends who were very active in Zionism. He was one of the founders of Gordonia, and later one of the active councilors of the chapter. He was a representative of his movement and party in the communal institutions of the town.

When he made aliya in 1935, he joined Kibbutz Kfar Hachoresh. He was forced to leave it for various reasons, and he moved to Haifa. He was a faithful and dedicated member of the Histadrut. He was a member of the Hagana, and was one of the first volunteers for the British Army during the Second World War, despite his older age. On account of his fluency in various languages and his academic credentials, he was placed in the air force, where he fulfilled important and responsible roles.

After his army service, he was accepted as an accountant in the Haifa Kupat Cholim. He fulfilled his role in that organization with great dedication. He was a member of the workers' council, where he was active and dedicated. Manes died in 1953, leaving behind a wife, Leah (nee Langenaur), a daughter, and a son.

L. B.


[Page 403]

Eizik Yitzchak Kurtz

Eizik did not merit witnessing the conclusion of this book. He responded to the editorial committee and wrote an article that is published in this book1. He witnessed the editing, but prophesied that he would not be able to witness the conclusion. A person knows what he foresees. Indeed, he left us before his time.

Eizik was a chalutz. He made aliya with the enthusiasm of Zionism. He participated in the upbuilding of the Land in a fine fashion, and loved every corner of it. All Turka natives knew him as someone who would help any new immigrant from his hometown, and therefore he was nicknamed the “Consul of Turka.” He was one of the founders and active members of the Organization of Turka Natives in Israel, and was the living spirit of the meetings and memorial events of the natives of our town.

He constantly struggled for justice, righteousness and truth in the Histadrut and the government. He was willing to expend his money and energy for the sake of justice. He gave his life on the altar of this struggle.

He did not recover after the death of his wife. He weakened continually until death overtook him. May his memory be a blessing.

A. Shafer


Translator's Footnote:
  1. See page 41. Return


Tovia Artel

Tovia Artel was born in Turka, Galicia, in 1911. He joined the Hashomer Hatzair movement during his youth, and was one of the active movers in the chapter. He spent a brief period with Kibbutz Massad in the Hachshara group in Lvov (he joined Kibbutz Tel Amel in Israel). He made aliya in 1939, and began working in aquaculture. He was modest and dedicated, always in good spirits, with a friendly spirit during his work. He joined the army a year and a half after his arrival, and he was sent to an artillery unit, in which he served for nearly five years in the Land and in Cyprus. When the brigade was founded, he joined it and was sent to Italy. He built his family while in army service, and had a son.

At the end of the war, Tovia returned from the army weary from his many wanderings. He desired to root himself in agriculture, and set himself in a permanent position. We also recognized his enthusiasm and desire to reconnect with a life of labor and society.

He was a quiet, modest man. He was dedicated to his family, loved his son, was faithful to the kibbutz, and forged his way of life there. He drew during his free time, and dreamed of the possibilities of developing

[Page 404]

the arts in kibbutz life. Through his art, he brought joy to the members during festivals and internal parties. During his final days, he dreamed about renovations of the reading hall, which he volunteered to look after. He fulfilled the plans in abundance.

Death overtook him. The evil hand afflicted him and took him from us. He died on the Black Sabbath1.

(From a booklet published by Hashomer Hatzair, Tel Amel)


Translator's Footnote:
  1. See http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Black_Sabbath.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Agatha Return


[Page 404]

Yitzchak Zohar (Shein)

He was not one of the followers who respond Amen.

Itziu did not belong to those who are indifferent and comfortable, who let life pass by them. He approached the problems of our life by first weighing the worthwhileness of the matter. His entire essence was personal independence. He was constantly active in the storm of life. His categorical imperative was his conscience and the internal command such as is common with those forged of hard material.

Itziu was not easy with people. He often came into conflict with friends. However, at the same time, he was not easy with himself. He did not take upon himself the easy tasks. He was not concerned with the “unpleasantness” of stating the “truth” to a friend or to the entire kibbutz. He was always prepared to take the jabs of unpopularity and the danger of “injury” upon himself. He never hesitated to stand alone in his opinion. Alone, but not isolated, for even at times when he remained alone in his opinion, we recognized his spirit and knew that he was drawing from the depths of the clarity of his thought.

The art of pliability and adaptation were not his lot. However, he was graced with one fine trait: in his relationships with friends, he never left any sediment of bitterness – neither in his own heart nor in the heart of his fellow. He would accept the judgment of the majority with willingness and love. We granted him that benefit. Even though he was often in the minority, he felt that he was not speaking into empty space, but rather to the hearts of friends always open to meet him.

*

Itziu was among the generation of the founders of the kibbutz. He was one of the early builders of our Merchavia, to which he remained faithful. His early childhood between the Carpathian Mountains and the rivers of Poland wove the dream of the return to the homeland, to labor, to agriculture, and to the dream of a collective group.

[Page 405]

The fabric of our communal life is a living, building, creative, struggling, agonizing pattern. We do not create stones, stones in the arena of the farm, in the style of the collective kibbutz. Our group is made of cells, living cells; sustainers of the living organism.

Behold, one of those was taken from us. How can we fill the empty space that he left behind?

He drowned in the Kinneret.

(From a booklet published by Hashomer Hatzair, Merchavia.)


Necha Lerer

{Photo page 405. Uncaptioned: Necha Lerer.}

Necha Lerer, nee Bruner, has been taken from us here in Israel. Her revered image will remain etched in the hearts of her acquaintances who appreciated her, especially those who worked together with her.

Her activities already began at home, in the Hashomer Hatzair chapter of her native town of Turka. She left her studies in Lvov and returned to Turka, where she was one of the founders of Hechalutz in the city at that time, and was active as its secretary. At hachshara, Necha worked from sunrise to sunset with the knowledge that this is only the beginning of her pioneering actualization. Her name went before her – who did not know her energy and her good heart?

[Page 406]

Necha made aliya to the Land, where she settled in Kibbutz Nes Tziona. People enjoyed being with her in discussions and debates, and her opinion was taken seriously. She continued with her pioneering tradition when she left the kibbutz. Her work in the Committee of Working Mothers brought her renown in Nes Tziona. Her home was always open for advice and guidance.

Aliya absorption formed an important chapter of her life. She regarded this as holy work. She took care of all day–to–day affairs. She would leave the house and help absorb new immigrants. She left room for others to follow in her footsteps.

Bitter fate cut off her young, pleasant life in the middle, to the agony of her family and the heartbreak of all her friends and acquaintances in Israel

G. G.

{Photo page 406: Turka natives at a memorial gathering in Israel.}

 

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