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[Pages 121-126]

The First Dobrzyners in Israel[1]

by Yehoshua Eshel (Isaac)

Translated by Allen Flusberg

I recall that I was still a little boy in Dobrzyn when an event occurred that shook me up and agitated all the townspeople: one day an ordinary Jew, the baker Mordechai Glitzenstein, picked himself up, took his entire family, and immigrated with them to the Land of Israel. This event took place in 1908 (or 1909). I don't remember how many years that ordinary Jew remained in the Land—two or three years; I don't know what kind of work he tried to do when he was here; nor do I know why he returned to Dobrzyn.

Two or three years later, the entire family of Ephraim Eliezer Granat (Rimon) immigrated to the Land.[2] Granat had run a “reformed” cheder[3] in Dobrzyn, the first of its kind in the town; in it they taught ivrit be'ivrit[4]. My older brother, Yaakov z.l.[5], studied with him and was actually enamored by Zionism. I once visited that cheder together with my now deceased brother, and I remember very well its appearance and the atmosphere that prevailed in it.

In 1913 I immigrated to the Land in order to study in the “Herzlia” Gymnasia [high school] (inspired by my brother Yaakov and with the support of my father z.l. and all of our family). While my family was not Zionist, it did have deep Jewish roots and a clear nationalist consciousness. As a family that lived by agriculture (we had an agricultural farm located about 15 km from the town), we had many discussions about what was going on in the Land of Israel, and we knew all about the beginnings of intensive agriculture there. My uncle on my mother's side, Mendel Baum z.l. of Wloclawek[6], was a “fiery” Zionist, and he was the one who gave me the final “push” to immigrate to the Land. I came on Aliya as a student, and I was a member of the seventh class of the “Herzlia” Gymnasia.

Once I was in the Land I met up with the Granat family—traditional people who were careful to properly fulfil all the religious precepts. Their home was on the main street of Neve-Shalom[7], where they also had a grocery store. A Dobrzyn spirit—in its full, best sense—held sway throughout their home. They enveloped me with great warmth. I continued to meet with them during the first years of World War I, until the expulsion from Yafo and Tel Aviv (1916)[8]. Already at the outbreak of the war my connections with my parents' home had been severed, and my financial situation, like that of my other friends, became particularly difficult. I recall that Mrs. Rimon made a pair of sandals for me out of cords, since I had no shoes to wear. Several times I met the poet Yosef Tzvi Rimon z.l., who was widely acclaimed in those days.

In the beginning of 1914 Shlomo Hartbrot, someone I knew from Dobrzyn, arrived in Israel. He was already speaking Hebrew from back home and was well prepared for his Aliya; he was a pioneer, an idealist, and the epitome of the type of person who came in the Second Aliya[9]. Naturally, he went off to do agricultural work, going up to the Galilee and the Jezreel Valley. He also lived in Merhavia[10] for a while. In 1915 the Germans set up an airfield in Afula for their warplanes. Hartbrot happened to be there for something connected with his work, and he was killed when the airfield was bombed by English pilots. He was buried in the Merhavia cemetery, at the foot of the mountain Givat-Hamoreh (now right near Afula Illit [Upper Afula][11]). His grave is located among those of the pioneers of the [Jezreel] Valley and the members of “Hashomer”[12]. We had met several times. He worried about the things that used to be of concern to the members of the labor movement[13] of the Second Aliya. With his death by happenstance, before his time, we lost one of the most outstanding of our townsmen. He never made it to the last meeting we had arranged. May his memory be preserved in our hearts.

In the spring of 1914 my cousin (second cousin once removed), Asher Dobrzynski, the son of Bina and Hershel Dobrzynski of Dobrzyn, arrived in the Land. He had graduated from an agricultural school in Germany, and he came to the Land for the purpose of settling here as a farmer. In Germany (in Stonehurst) he had studied together with several Israelis, children of farmers here; among them was someone from Rishon-Letziyon[14]—a member of a family who were among those who had founded the village, people from the First Aliya[15]. He [my cousin] was invited to live and work with them. He went to work in their field and in their almond orchard. One day I received word from him that he was ill, and when I came to see him I found him lying in bed with a high fever. I was told that he had malaria; many of the people in the settlement were then coming down with malaria, and it would have been natural that as a new, unimmunized immigrant, he would have come down with it, too. And the only medication for malaria was quinine, quinine and more quinine. When he didn't improve, he was brought to a sort of clinic—a separate room in one of the houses—and I stayed with him to take care of him. I slept on the floor of his room. That was during the very beginning of World War I. When his condition worsened, we brought him to the hospital in Yafo/Tel-Aviv, which was then located in Neve-Shalom, on the coast. In the meantime I was told that when he was in the orchard Asher had gone down into the well to fix the pump. It appeared that going into the well was what had caused his illness—it was not malaria, but rather typhus; and in the hospital they were already treating him as someone who had typhus.

This was during the summer vacation. I was off from school and went to Kfar-Saba to work on the farm of my uncle's son-in-law, Nelkin, who owned a plot of land there. One day I went off to Yafo riding on a donkey, to visit Asher. Just as I left the village I had a bad feeling, and my heart told me that something bad had happened. And apparently I was right. When I reached the hospital, Asher was no longer alive. He had died at the very moment when that strange feeling had come over me, when I was on the road. Asher was buried in the cemetery of Tel-Aviv, the Old Cemetery on Trumpeldor Street.

In the First World War, we joined the Jewish Brigades of the British Army. There were three brigades of this type: one made up of Jews from the Land of Israel, a second with British Jews, and a third with American Jews.[16]

When the war was over, in 1919, a large muster took place of several divisions from the Palestine front that had fought against the Turks. In my brigade I had served as a sergeant of Division 16, the last division of the brigade. I was standing in the rear of my division during the muster; other units were standing behind us.

During the muster, while we were standing at ease, someone put his hand on my shoulder. I turned my head and saw, to my delight, a young man from Dobrzyn, Yitzhak Yeshayowitz, who was a young cousin of the deceased Shlomo Hartbrot. It turned out that he was in one of the American brigades. But how surprised I was that he had spotted me from far away— while I was standing among about 100,000 soldiers—and had recognized me even though we had not seen each other for several years. Our meeting didn't last very long, only a few moments.

In the year 1921, while I was a member of Degania[17], I was called up, as a security guard, to serve in the “Hagana”[18]. I was appointed commander of the Jerusalem district and the surrounding area. During the events of November 2, I was in command in the battles in the Old City (details can be found in “Sefer Hahagana” [Book of the Hagana]).[19]

During one of the musters of the “Hagana”, after the battles were over, someone came running over to me—against all of the rules of discipline, and to the bewilderment of those who were there. It was someone sturdy and radiant—Yitzhak Rosenwaks, the son of Zalman Hassid from Dobrzyn. To the great delight of those who were present, we embraced each other (and certainly that embrace rescued him from disciplinary action).

I met with him many times afterwards, almost always concerning security matters. He was the superb embodiment of the plain people—an individual with a generous, compassionate heart: a Jewish heart. He passed away at an advanced age in Kibbutz Dovrat[20], surrounded by his daughter and grandchildren. May his memory be a blessing![21]

After the “events” of Jerusalem, at the end of 1921, I was one of the first of the settlers at Ein-Harod[22], and afterwards I lived in Tel-Yosef[23]. In 1924 my brother, Yehuda (Isaac), who is now deceased, arrived here. He was sent as a pioneer, coming ahead of his family (his wife, Tzipora z.l., daughter of Avraham Hersh Kohn) to set up an economic, agricultural foundation for his entire family. And indeed, for this purpose he had bought 1000 hectares[24] of land in the Arab village of Sulam, near Merhavia (a purchase that was rescinded for political reasons). He also acquired land—several hectares—on the Carmel, where he put up a shack for living quarters. Similarly he bought about 30 hectares of sand dunes near Akko to set up a factory for making silicate bricks. After some time had passed his wife, Tzipora z.l., also immigrated to the Land, together with their little boy, my nephew Yitzhak Isaac (who came [again] to the Land from Cyprus around the time of the establishment of the State, establishing a home and raising a family here).

Meanwhile the machines for the factory arrived, and Yehuda, together with his family, moved to Akko. While he was waiting for the machinery to arrive, he had had enough time to be a member of the Heftziba agricultural cooperative[25] in the Jezreel Valley for an entire year.

Once the foundations for the factory building had been laid, Avraham Hersh Kohn came to the Land for several weeks; with him was Dobroszklanka of Dobrzyn, who came as the manager of the factory, and a Polish Gentile, a mechanic, whose job was to assemble the machinery. Meanwhile a severe economic crisis suddenly occurred in the Land (1926), and it became pointless to continue setting up the factory. It was all abandoned in the sand dunes near Akko. To pay for all the travel expenses, Yehuda was forced to sell the land on the Carmel; he and all the members of his family went back to Poland. For many years he looked for ways to immigrate again, but he was not able to; and he did not get to continue taking part in the building up of the Land.

In that period another Dobrzyner, Menashe Gutglaz arrived in the Land. He became a member of Kibbutz Nes-Tziyona, but returned to Dobrzyn after several years. I heard about his attempts to return to the Land again—but he, too, did not manage to…

From that point on additional Dobrzyners began to arrive in the Land from time to time; but they are not part of this story, the story of the first arrivals.


Shaya Natan Lipka and Avraham Dor (Dobroszklanka), during the period in which they were counselors in the youth movement of the town.[26]


Female members of “Poalei Tziyon”[27]


Committee of Emigrants from Dobrzyn in Berlin[28]
The writing in German translates as follows:
Committee of the Association of Dobrzyn Landsleute[29] of Berlin. 10 November, 1920


Administration of the Sports Group “Hakoach”.[30]
Sitting, right-to-left: Lipman Rebe, Adam Sterling, Avraham Dor (Dobroszklanka)
Standing: Leib Szeinbart, Menashe Dobroszklanka, Mordechai Goldberg, Nisan Fogel and Aharon Lipka


Translator's Footnotes

  1. From My Town: In Memory of the Communities Dobrzyn-Gollob, edited by M. Harpaz, (published by the Dobrzyn-Golub Society, Israel, 1969), pp. 121-126. Return
  2. See Y. Rimon, “R. Ephraim Eliezer Granat (Rimon) z.l.”, pp. 176-179 of this volume (reference cited in Footnote 1). Return
  3. Cheder = school for young boys, in which studies were dominated by religious subjects. The “reformed” cheders tried to introduce new teaching techniques and a more modern curriculum. Return
  4. Ivrit be'ivrit = Hebrew in Hebrew, a technique in which the Hebrew language (and sometimes other subjects, as well) is taught in spoken Hebrew, with virtually no translation to one's native language. Return
  5. z.l. = abbreviation for zichrono livracha (of blessed memory) Return
  6. Wloclawek is a city located about 60km south of Dobrzyn. Return
  7. Neve-Shalom was one of the first Jewish neighborhoods established outside the walls of Yafo, in what is now part of Tel Aviv. Return
  8. The Granats were expelled as enemy nationals. See Footnote 2. Return
  9. Second Aliya = immigration to Land of Israel, predominantly from the Russian Empire, in the period 1904-1914. See the following Web page (retrieved September 2015): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Aliyah Return
  10. Merhavia was then an agricultural settlement located on the eastern outskirts of Afula. Return
  11. Afula Illit is located ~5 km northeast of Afula. Return
  12. Hashomer (= the Guard, or Watchman) was a Jewish defense organization during the period 1909-1920 whose purpose was to provide Jewish security guards to Jewish settlements. See the following Web page (retrieved September 2015): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashomer Return
  13. Hebrew: anshei ha'avoda Return
  14. Rishon-Letziyon is located ~10km south of Yafo Return
  15. First Aliya = wave of Jewish immigration (1882-1903) to the Land of Israel under Ottoman rule, predominantly from Eastern Europe and Yemen. See the following Web pages (retrieved September 2015):
  16. See the following Web pages (retrieved September 2015): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Legion; http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0011_0_10141.html. Return
  17. Degania, the first cooperative settlement (a form that served as the model for what was later called a kibbutz) was located at the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee. Since 1920 it has been known as Degania Aleph. See the following Web page, retrieved September 2015:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degania_Alef. Return
  18. Hagana (= Defense), a Jewish paramilitary organization, established in 1920 as a defense force against Arab rioters. See the following Web page (retrieved September 2015): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haganah Return
  19. In May, 1921, there were a series of attacks and massacres by Arab rioters on Jews in Yafo and elsewhere. As a result, the Hagana leadership began organizing armed defense forces in various Jewish communities. On November 2, 1921, Arab mobs attacked the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, but were successfully repulsed by the Jewish defenders with the backing of the Hagana. See the following Web page in Hebrew (retrieved September 2015): http://lib.cet.ac.il/pages/item.asp?item=2039. Return
  20. Dovrat is in northeastern Israel, ~10km southeast of Nazareth. Return
  21. For more on Yitzhak Rosenwaks, see his autobiographical essay describing his service in the Russian army before World War I and his labor in German work camps during World War I, pp. 332-353; a photograph from the early 1920s, p. 353; and a biographical essay, pp. 246-247: all in this volume (reference cited in Footnote 1). Return
  22. Ein-Harod is in Northern Israel, ~20km southeast of Nazareth. See the following Web page (retrieved September 2015): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ein_Harod. Return
  23. Tel Yosef, located in northeastern Israel, was founded in 1921. See the following Web page (retrieved September 2015): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tel_Yosef. Return
  24. 1 hectare = 10,000 square meters (~2.5 acres) Return
  25. Hebrew kevutza, the forerunner of the kibbutz Return
  26. From p. 122 of reference cited in Footnote 1 Return
  27. From p. 125 of reference cited in Footnote 1 Return
  28. From p. 126 of reference cited in Footnote 1 Return
  29. Landsleute = immigrants who hail from the same place (Yiddish: landsleit) Return
  30. See Dor, “Institutions and Organizations”, pp. 79-86 of present volume (reference cited in Footnote 1). Return


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