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A Difference in Opinion between the World He–Halutz
and the Local Branches

While the Romanian He–Halutz believed that the organization should accept only members from the training kibbutz and the ones who finished the training, the World He–Halutz Organization counted as members all people who believed in the movement but were not members yet!

The Romanian leadership believed that accepting all people will lower the standards of He–Halutz.

These differences were topics at all conventions and councils and were also visible at the distribution of the funding from the Zionist management. The Romanians demanded that[1] the organization avoid artificial growth. They requested that future Congresses be held in Eretz Israel in order to create a strong connection between the Labour Union and the He–Halutz movement. They also suggested that the He–Halutz headquarters be moved to Eretz Israel. All these suggestions were strongly rejected.[2]

The fight between the Romanian He–Halutz leadership and the leadership in other countries (Poland) became very clear at the Danzig Congress (March 21, 1926). Sh. Shechter, the leader of He–Halutz from 1925 until 1931, when he immigrated to Eretz Israel, said:

[Page 226]

“The most important point is for the halutz education to be concentrated in the Kibbutz setting, because a member who joins the movement has to prove that he is dedicated to the application of the He–Halutz principles.” Other leaders, among them Bogdanovsky, said that enlarging the movement will further strengthen the organization, but the Romanian leadership rejected that. Yitzchak Nusbaum (Ben–Aharon) agreed that the most important element of the success in Eretz Israel is to belong to a working kibbutz and that all the people who are not training in the He–Halutz can only be considered “candidates” and not full members.

At the Fifth Congress in Danzig (September 1927), A. Dobkin presented the following statistics: Of the 18,520 members of He–Halutz, only 4,140 were in training: in Poland from 9,029 members only 1,217 people (13.5%) were in training and in Romania from 496 members – 397 (80%) did the training.

These discussions continued for a long time! In his letter to the newspaper Ha–Atid (The Future), issue 68 of Nissan 5689 (1929), Sh. Shechter recommended to:

  1. Facilitate the Romanian branch to join the International organization because of the important work it is performing and to disregard the fact that only the people who are taking the group training are considered members
  2. To increase the budget for training in Romania according to the training needs and the requests of the agricultural enterprises
[Page 227]

In their response, the editors of the newspaper ignored Shechter's recommendations and mentioned only the availability of 300 new certificates. It became clear that the leadership in Poland maintained their position that all youth interested in He–Halutz and its activities are considered members.

 

The fight for survival

The economic crisis and the immigration blockade of 1926–1928 left their imprint on the He–Halutz movement and caused a decline in the number of halutzim. Some were conscripted to the army and some were attracted by the communist propaganda which took advantage of the decline in the He–Halutz movement. The only people still coming to training were members of the Ha–Shomer Ha–Tzair and Gordonia. In 1927, the training numbers dropped to 496 instead of 678 in 1925; and in 1928 only 351 people were in training.

Despite the low numbers, the situation in Romania was better than in other countries as shown in this table published in Ha–Atid (The Future), issue 60, from 15 December 1928:

 

Country Independent farms
No Percentage
Permanent Training groups
No Percentage
Seasonal Training groups
No Percentage
Total
No Percentage
Poland 66 7 420 43 479 50 965 100
Galicia 65 17 206 54 110 29 381 100
Romania 91 26 200 57 60 17 351 100
Other 93 13 279 38 354 49 726 100
Total 315   1,105   1,003   2,423  

This table indicates that in Romania 83% of training took place on independent farms and in permanent training groups and 17% in seasonal short term groups, while in Poland 50% of training took place

[Page 228]

in independent farms and in permanent groups and 50% in seasonal groups. Despite the difficult situation, the movement was experiencing, the Romania He–Halutz was performing well and the proceeds from the He–Halutz Week grew in 1927 compared with 1926.

 

Proceeds (in Lei ) from the He–Halutz Week in Bessarabia, 5687
(Erd und Arbeit, no. 9, March 3, 1928)

Kishinev 31,564 Floreshti 3,851 Dundusheni 1,000
Beltz 28,953 Soroca 3,616 Sholdaneshti 1,000
Akkerman 19,450 Capreshti 3,360 Valea lui Vlad 980
Sicureni 16,482 Rezina 2,900 Chinishautz 860
Leova 15,601 Faleshti 2,832 Tirnova 910
Orgheiev 15,546 Reni 2,490 Lencautz 800
Romanovka 14,000 Sculeni 2,246 Chiuchiuleni 590
Bender 13,037 Chimishlia 2,185 Neforotova 585
Lipcani 8,900 Kahul 2,165 Raspopeni 550
Ungheni 8,685 Vadul Rashcov 2,025 Kitros 550
Novoselitza 8,000 Ismail 2,000 Bravitza 510
Brichani 7,900 Alexandreni 1,865 Sircova 455
Killiya 7,566 Bairamcea 1,795 Lipovan 384
Vertujeni 6,200 Marculeshti 1,611 Pripichani 355
Khotin 5,400 Pirlitz 1,450 Kimricheni 300
Kaushani 5,350 Dumbraveni 1,317    
Tarutina 5,000 Romancautz 1,210    
Teleneshti 4,305 Namtzani 1,090    
Ataki 4,175 Paraval 1,045    
Chadir–Lunga 4,030        
Totals: 285,314 Lei

[Page 229]

Massada – an alternative to Billicheni

The Billicheni farm succumbed to terrible disasters. First, the drought caused the harvest to practically die and not produce even seed for the next spring; then, because of the location of the farm near marshes, cholera spread among the halutzim. The horses were transferred to the Jassy farm and the rest was abandoned.

Fortunately the cholera did not last long and the land in Bilicheni was exchanged in February 1928 for a similar size land (112 hectares) on a nearby location named Odaia Rosie (The Red Room), situated on a hill.

A new farm named Massada was set up entirely with funds of He–Halutz – a first such farm in the Diaspora.

The beginnings were very difficult due to the lack of funds. When Sh. Shechter moved from Chernovitz to Kishinev to replace Joseph Barpal, he helped raise money for installing the necessary irrigation equipment to bring the water from the fountains to the fields. With the help of the Chernovitz community, 115 thousand Lei were allocated to establish a dairy farm with ten cows and a poultry coop. They also planted a vegetable garden and an orchard. All these expenditures caused deep financial pressure and debt on the farm.

The farm received great help from Iehiel Krasiuk, a successful businessman from Beltz, who came to manage the farm. He decended from a well known Zionist family and he coordinated the seasonal training groups who gathered in Beltz.

Until 1940, when Bessarabia was annexed by the Soviet Union, Massada served as a permanent training farm for the halutzim as well as a social and cultural centre and a testing ground for communal living and work.

[Page 230]

Massada became an exemplary Degania, a centre for the trainees of Gordonia, just as the farm in Jassy was a centre for Ha–Shomer Ha–Tzair.

 

The Seventh Council

The Seventh Council[3] took place in Jassy on 2–4 Tevet 5689 (15–17 December 1928) and coincided with the resumption of the immigration, known as the Fifth Aliyah. The following people presented, reported and lectured: David Barsky, Akiva Goldshtein (Goshen), Israel Gilad, and Shimshon Shechter.

Due to the difficult situation, the training slowed down but did not stop and the groups continued to work and only stopped because of the blockade. The Council undertook to raise the cultural level of the members and provide equal training in all the four Romanian provinces in order to overcome the cultural and religious difference of the members. The Council approve immigration for David Barsky, Israel Gilad and Israel Zetzer (Zohar).

The following people were elected to replace them: Alexander (Shura) Fishman and Dov Mushinsky (Mishali).

The news about the resumption of immigration was received with great enthusiasm by all candidates waiting to immigrate. Group 33 and members of Ha–Shomer Ha–Tzair represented the majority of the 150 people who came to the assembly. They were greeted and lectured about the role of the halutz immigration by Akiva Goldshtein (Goshen), about the Kibbutz movement in Eretz Israel by I. Perenson and about the group organization. The Central Committee presented this group with the blue and white flag to celebrate the resumption of Aliyah.

A few days before the Council, Chaim Barlas, director of

[Page 231]

the Immigration Department of the Jewish Agency came for a visit to the Jassy and Massada training farms. He also participated at the meeting of the Friends of He–Halutz in Jassy and visited the He–Halutz Headquarters in Kishinev. He expressed his appreciation for the training progress in spite of the two year immigration blockade.

At the time, the number of members of the halutz youth was more than 5,000 people: Shomer Ha–Tzair had more than 3,000, Gordonia – 2, 000 and He–Halutz Ha–Tzair more than 200. Due to these facts the Central Committee decided to approve an urgent operational program and organize a seminar in Jassy and Massada in order to prepare for immigration and settlement. On 26 December a meeting of experts such as the agronomists Tenenhoizer and Yitzchak Bronfman, Akiva Goldshtein (Goshen) and agronomist Chaim Feigin from the ORT School took place in Jassy. Also present were leaders from Friends of He–Halutz from Jassy and Beltz.

The following table illustrates the fiscal situation of the farms in 1928:

Location Number
of people
Size of the
farm in hectares
Livestock
size
Investment
capital in Lei
Gains
and loss
Massada 60 112 ha:
88 ha cereal fields;
24 ha fallow land
6 cows,
9 horses,
2 colts,
10 calves,
140 poultry
2,361,712[4] Loss: 80,208
Jassy 40 43 ha agricultural
30 ha sand pits
20 cows
1 bull
7 calves
5 horses
70 poultry
808,715[5] Loss: 135,811
Totals 100     3, 170,427 Loss: 216, 019[6]

Massada: It was decided that due to the poor market condition:

  1. The dairy farm and the poultry coop will not be further developed
  2. The farm will use the best land for field crops
[Page 232]

Jassy:

  1. To get better thoroughbred cows in order to ensure production of 150 litres milk a day which will be sold in closed bottles
  2. To reduce the vegetable garden from 6 hectares to 1.5 hectares
  3. To build a modern coop for 300–400 poultry and set up an incubator
  4. To use 27 hectares for field crops

 

Group 33 breaks the immigration blockade

On January 17, 1929 the ship “Sinaia” with 152 immigrants (108 halutzim and 44 immigrants) left Constantza and arrived in Jaffa on January 20. This was the first ship to break the long immigration blockade.

57 halutzim were from Romania, 51 were from Poland and Galicia and 2 were from Ha–Poel Ha–Mizrachi. The Romanian group was lead by David Barsky, Israel Zetzer (Zohar) and Israel Geler. Israel Geler, who led a group of 16 from the Shomer Ha–Tzair, was the coordinator of Shomer Ha–Tzair in the North of Bessarabia and Bucovina and coordinator of the He–Halutz branch in Bucovina.

10 people who arrived late for the “Sinaia” embarked on the “Dorostor” on January 24. In total the group numbered 75 people.[7]

Among the professional immigrants were Gad Podvisotzky (Brahiyahu), one of the leaders of the “Palestinian Section” of Maccabi in Kishinev and his wife Sima.

The ship sailed in very stormy weather that lasted more than 24 hours and finally arrived in Jaffa where they were met by Chaim Halperin, secretary of the Immigration branch of Jewish Agency and by Chaim Barlas and Beit–Eli from the Zionist Federation of Eretz Israel. The immigrants were received with great enthusiasm and the same evening they were invited to attend a show at Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv.

David Ben Gurion and Levi (Shcolnik) Eshkol greeted the immigrants at a very large reception with more than 1200 guests. The ceremonies finished with a special show presented by the Ohel Theatre[8] and by an invitation to a reception at the Tel Aviv city hall organized by Mayor M. Dizengoff.

Footnotes:

  1. Due to the 4th Aliyah failure Return
  2. Ben–Tzadki (L. Glantz), Erd und Arbeit, Kishinev, no. (94) 3, & Shvat 5686 (1926) Return
  3. Ha–Atid (The Future), no. 62, Warsaw, January 15, 1929 and Ha–Poel Ha–Tzair, no. 13–14, January 18, 1929 Return
  4. Land and buildings – 2,012,922 lei, livestock – 196,450 Lei, equipment – 152,340 Return
  5. Buildings (the land was a community asset) – 325,179 Lei, livestock – 254,921, equipment 228,615 Lei Return
  6. The loss was calculated after 170 Sterling Pounds were allocated for managers' training and 10 Sterling Pounds were given to the He–Halutz Ha–Mizrachi –(Religious He–Halutz) Return
  7. Alim (Leaves) 24, He–Halutz Centre, Kishinev, Shvat 5689 (1929) Return
  8. Davar (The Word), 9–13 Shvat, 5689 (1929) Return

 

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