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[Page 276]

15 Years and One Day

by Batya Goldshmidt (nee Perevoznik), Petach Tikva

{Photo page 276: Uncaptioned. Batya Perevoznik Goldshmidt}


I Struggled and Succeeded
15 Years in the Siberian Taiga

I was young when the Soviets arrived in Lithuania. I had not yet turned 20. My father Hillel was a dedicated Zionist. I studied in Tarbut and continued in the Hebrew Real Gymnasium in Kovno. I was active in Beitar, and my entire outlook was directed to the Land of Israel.

Our brick kiln, which was owned in partnership with my Uncle David Yitzchak, was nationalized immediately after the proclamation of the Soviet guard. We were left bereft of an economic base.

I decided to leave home and to get married to my childhood friend Nissan Goldshmidt, an official with Segalovsky, whose enterprise was also nationalized. I got a job with the thought of beginning a quiet life appropriate to the times. However, this was not to be my fate.

Late at night on June 14, 1941, we were awakened to the sound of knocking on our door. To our question, “Who is there?”, someone declared in Russian, “Open up, we are from the N.K.V.D.”. Two of them broke into our small room with pointed guns, accompanied by Reuven Vidzky of the Comsomol Youth. They conducted a thorough search and ordered us to prepare for a journey within 20 minutes. We were permitted to take up to 100 kilograms of belongings. In the darkness of the night, we were hauled to the train station in a truck, accompanied by soldiers. We were forbidden to bid farewell to our parents and relatives. We were brought into a transport car, the doors were closed with bars and locks, and a Soviet guard guarded us.

At a young age, lacking in experience, innocent of wrongdoing, and suddenly I bore the mark of a criminal. Why and for what reason? Where were we going? Large question marks floated before my eyes. I was broken. My world darkened upon me. I wept bitterly and screamed, “Mother!”.

The next day, my mother, father, brothers and sisters appeared. They stood at a distance. They were not permitted to approach. Through the mesh window I could see them weeping as they peered into the cage in which the bird, the apple of their eye, was imprisoned.

The next day, at one of the stops in the darkness of the night, they knocked on the door and asked for Nissan. He was ordered to leave the train. Thus my lad, with whom I had hoped to share my fate in the new exile, was cut off from me. I never saw him again. He perished in the Rashuty Camp in 1942. I remained alone, alone as is written in the Book of Job, “A fire of G-d has fallen from heaven and burned the flocks and lads and consumed them, and I remain alone…”

Yitzchak [Ben-David (Burstein)] already wrote about the tribulations of the journey and my life in the Altai Mountains throughout the year. I will not repeat it.

I will describe in brief what transpired with me in the far-off, frigid Yakutsk region.

At times, a person needs to be stronger than iron if he wishes to continue to live and to come to better days.

[First unnumbered page following page 276. NYPL 389.]

{Top Photo}

Members of Beitar of Jonava: Levi Perevoznik, Nissan Goldshmidt, Yehudit Ferber, Dina Kapol, Yocheved Kahansky, Batya Senior, Moshe Namiot, Batya Perevoznik, Tzvi Suntochky, Babilsky, Biarsky, Yaakov Kapol.

{Bottom photo}

The Siberian winter in the endless forests. Batya writes about her daily routine.

[Second unnumbered page following page 276. NYPL 390.]

{Top photo}

Batya Goldshmidt among the woodchoppers of Yakutsk in Siberia.
1. Batya. 2. Shimon Shapira of Wilkomir.

{Bottom photo}

The expanses of the endless forests and the woodchoppers.
1. Batya.

[Third unnumbered page following page 276. NYPL 391.]

{Two photos with a caption between applying to both of them.}

Batya at work, and measuring rations.

[Fourth unnumbered page following page 276. NYPL 392.]

Batya at work and on a break.

[Page 277]

In August 1942, we received a command from the N.K.V.D. that all of the families who do not have small children should prepare to leave the Karpova Sovkhoz. Wagons hitched to horses were sent. We loaded our belongings, and walked on foot to the city of Biysk, accompanied by the N.K.V.D. guards who were riding on horses. The Wolfovich family and Masha Namiot were with me. The journey lasted for three days. In Biysk we learned that we would be taken to the region of the Arctic Ocean, to the Tiksi point on the Lena River, a journey of 4,000 kilometers. We proceeded to Barnaul and Novosibirsk on open transport trucks, and from there, we boarded the Trans-Siberian railway. After a week of travel we arrived at the Osterovo railway station. From there we continued in trucks on an uncharted route through mountains and valleys, for hundreds of kilometers until the water mill on the Angara River. There, they loaded us like cattle and sheep upon transport barges, and after three days we arrived in a place not far from the port of Mukhtuya (Lensk) on the Lena River.

We transferred to a larger ship, and after we traversed more than 1,000 kilometers in a seven day journey along the downstream of the Lena, we arrived at the port of Olekminsk.

We, a group of four families numbering ten souls, were put up in a room of 12 square meters. The day after our arrival, we went out to work in the taiga that extends the length of the Lena River. Our work was to prepare firewood for the ships. We received portions of bread according to rations. Since we were not used to this type of work under these conditions, we did not reach the quota, and were starving for bread. The cold was minus 40, and it exhausted our strength.

As I was at the threshold of despair, I recalled the admonitions of Yitzchak [Burstein] who was our work director at the time we worked in the fields of the Altai Mountains. If you wish to remain alive you must work well, and whoever acts otherwise will have a bitter end. These words were spoken in the heat of an argument with Yochel Chernman, and her end is known. Thus did I act. I never refused to perform all of the work that was imposed upon me – the backbreaking labor of men. I withstood the test. I had to do so, for I had no relative, no redeemer, and no packages from abroad.

I was transferred to Berezova, also on the Lena, at the end of 1942. There I worked in setting up barges. We would roll tree trunks to the water, and I would ascend the blocks of wood and tie them together. We would tie them six rows high. The barges on the Viliya seemed as toys in contrast to the barges that we prepared. I was the only Jewess there. The Lithuanians there were in the same “Specifraslanska” situation as I was.

In the autumn we took down the storehouses that served as our residences, loaded them on barges and floated them down the river to a place that was called Delgey. We re-erected our houses in the vast forests with our own hands. Two Jewish families from Wilkomir joined us (Shimon Shapira and his wife, today in Neve Sharet, and the Krem family).

I continued working at cutting down trees, making barges, and other backbreaking work until 1948. I became an accomplished professional. In 1947 I received a government prize for dedicated work during the wartime years.

We again packed up and moved 200 kilometers further to opposite the city of Olekminsk. I continued my work of tree cutting in the winter and producing barges during the summer. The system of food ration cards was revoked, and the situation in that region improved.

I was appointed to head staff in 1952. I breathed easily. A heavy burden had been lifted from my shoulders. My job was to allocate the workplaces and to register the quotas. The shortage of workers was made up with political prisoners who were freed after serving their sentences in the prison camps of the Kolyma Peninsula. Without any way to continue their journey home during the winter season when the only means of exit from this area of Siberia was by boat, they tarried with us in order to earn some money before continuing onward. These people were a part of our staff during the long winter.

During the well-known Doctors' Plot of Stalin in 1953, I was suddenly fired from my “high office” as an official in the forest, and sent back to physical labor, which I continued until June 1956.

That year, thanks to my government prize, I was informed that my designation of “Specifraslanska” was removed from me, along with all types of restrictions. I received an identity card with the Hebrew designation, and I was permitted to move throughout all of Russia, with the exception of Soviet Lithuania and an area of 100 kilometers around the capital cities of the Soviet republics.

I seized the opportunity and left the Yakutsk Region. Despite the ban, I went to Vilna. Shmuel Balnik (today in Ramat Hanasi, Bat Yam), a member of the party, with a high government position in the milk combine (like Tnuva), set me up with work and assisted me in registering with the Vilna police as a resident with full rights.

I did not find any members of my family. I immediately began to take interest in immigrating to the Land. I fought for this right for 12 years, and I only received my permit in 1969.

I spent 15 years of my youth in the taiga of the Yakutsk Region, in conditions of terrible cold, fierce snow storms, freezing fog, malnourishment, and backbreaking work which was the work of men. I, the sole Jewess, strode through endless forests up to my knees in deep snow in the winter and in the ice cold water of the Lena in the summer, working together with men, the vast majority of whom were criminals, thieves and murderers – and all of this in order to come to better days.

180 months, which are 6480 days and nights – without a relative or a redeemer! Days and nights filled with tribulations, frustrations, delusions and desires of a young soul; days and nights of lack of sleep and fear of the N.K.V.D. who wanted to capture me in their net and embrace me with a life of danger, slander and causing harm to others. Then they would treat me with a “candy”.

My conscience remains clear. I struggled with them and succeeded.

[Page 278]

One Day in the Siberian Taiga

by Batya Goldshmidt-Perevoznik

In the vast forests, in the desolation of the snow, white prevails. Walls of grey tree branches, adorned with piles of snow, close in from both sides. On the fourth side is the vast span, covered with a white desert, sparkling like ice in the dim light of the moon. This is at the banks of the gigantic Lena River, spreading out below our feet – the silence and splendor of the works of creation.

In this open region, in this ice, an altar was prepared for me upon which I offered my energies and my youth.

The chimneys of the barracks which house us “Specifraslanskas” stuck up skyward. There were about 20 other small wooden huts for the rest of the workers. The chimneys spewed smoke.

It was 5:00 a.m. The early risers had already lit the large oven and were warming the soup, prepared from the previous day. During the night, the strong cold penetrated into the barracks. The windows were covered with a layer of thick ice that was beginning to melt.

I woke up. I breathed in the cold air and tarried in getting up. I had not slept enough. However, the hunger was gnawing at the stomach and the head, and I involuntarily crawled out from beneath the warm blanket.

The light of the dim lantern spread its shadows around. Along the length of the walls were twelve wooden shelves, one meter wide each. These were the wooden beds, called the “nars”. Beside each such bed, attached to the wall, was a wooden shelf. This was the food corner. The passage between the beds was half a meter, and beneath them – all of one's property: suitcases and sacks from the parental home.

The iron oven with its tin pipes reaching up to the chimney was already burning, red from the fire. The wooden beds hung down from the ceiling on both sides of it, and above it were the tattered clothes that were hung up the previous evening while they were still wet, and now they were dry. A small pull, and my patched pants made out of cotton and my pupikia[1] were in my hands, warm and dry. I slid into them, took a few cups of soup and bread, sipped a cup of tea – and already the gigantic bell (brought from some church), hanging on the pillar in the middle of the field was pealing and breaking the silence. It was time to go out to work. I tarried a bit. Immediately the barrack supervisors castigated me with shouting and curses:

“Hurry, daughter of a bitch, lest you be late for work.”

It was still dark outside. Only the stars were shining above, as if they were blessing those going out. How beautiful and frightful was the world around. We went out on foot into the recesses of the sleepy forest. Snow fell at night. The paths were covered and disappeared. Again we dug a new furrow through the cover of snow. We marched through the darkness for an hour. We got hot. The sweat rolled down from under the headgear on the forehead and dripped onto the eyes. The fog was heavy. The minus 50 degrees cold weighed down upon us.

We reached the place of the cutting. We spread out two by two in all directions of the wide area. I and my work partner, a Lithuanian gentile, approached one of the silent trees whose foliage was still enveloped in darkness. We quickly removed the pile of snow around its roots until we got to the layer of frozen ground. I used the axe to slowly chop chips of the trunk until the appropriate depth. Then I moved to the other side and used the saw. We kneeled on our knees or stood bent over, monotonously pulled the saw, and cut this gigantic tree with a humming sound. A small groan was heard. We jumped to the side. The pine tree slowly leaned downward. One more minute, and the giant fell over, raising a flurry of snow. Now we cut the branches with axes, gathered them into a pile, and lit them. The trunk was cut according to the standard measurements. Our quota was eight cubic meters, which was made up by 30-40 trees.

Lunchtime approached. We removed the piece of frozen bread from our sacks and placed it on a wooden twig next to the bonfire to toast it. We also melted snow in a cup. The water boiled and the tea was ready. After an hour of rest, we returned to work.

It was 4:45 in the afternoon. The work was registered by an official of the office. They signed the document – and the fate of the quota of bread and of life was decreed upon you. We cast a glance around, there had been a forest and now there was a dead field. It was time to return “home”. The light was dimming. The sun disappeared behind the treetops. The cold deepened. The pants, pupikia, felt boots and gloves were damp from sweat and the deep snow. I quickened my pace, and in my head there was one thought: hot soup and fresh bread.

When we arrived at the small field we hastened into line at the small store in order to receive our ration of bread: 600-800 grams. Once a month we also received other provisions: a kilogram of sugar, two kilograms of grits, 700 grams of butter, a small bag of tea and two small bags of machorka for smoking. When there was no butter we would receive a kilogram of horse meat in lieu of each 100 grams.

We removed our work clothes when we entered the barracks. Everything was hung to dry. The oven was lit, and the elderly people and children who had remained there had already prepared their meals. We snatched our places near the oven. Whoever was unable to cook their meal had their pot pushed to the side. It was now the turn of the people of the forest.

The meal was ready. I devoured my “delicacies” but I did not have the feeling of satiation. I arrived hungry and remained hungry. There was no radio or newspapers, and all sorts of rumors were spread. Everyone jumped in and said what he wanted. The Lithuanians spread fabricated stories about the German victories. The gnawing in the heart grew. Aside from these stories, we heard words of argument, strife and slander.

It was 9:00 p.m. I hastened to my bed, fell asleep and dreamed about food, love, and days and years gone by.

Tomorrow is another day of work. One of thousands like it.

Translator's Footnote

  1. I am not sure of the meaning of this term – although I expect it is some form of long underwear (the word pupik, Yiddish and Slavic for navel or abdomen, is present).Return

[Page 280]

To Those who are Making the Effort
- Be Strong and of Good Courage!

“Let us Remember” - this is the name of the 50-page booklet that was published by the Geulim School of Bat Yam, which adopted the community of Jonava for itself.

The teacher Riva Shalovich, the organizer of the adoption activities, tells:

“I was raised with the stories and memories, as my late mother used to tell and describe, so that to me, Jonava became a living and well-known town, even though I only spent the first two years of my life there.”

The commemoration ceremony was organized on the 9th of Tevet, 5730 (1970). The occasion was particularly impressive and very moving. The guests - including many Jonava natives - felt anew the experiences of those days, and could not stop the emotions that came to the fore.

The ceremony left a great impression even upon the students who played an active part in or witnessed the proceedings, to the point where they were able to identify with the fate of the people of the town. This is expressed through their impressions:

“I felt literally as one of the survivors of Jonava. Tears began to flow from my eyes,” writes Rivka Shami.

Chaya Loberbaum also testifies to this, “I felt as if I was in that town of Jonava and participated in all the experiences… The identification filled my entire essence… This evening imparted a great deal to me and to all those who were present.”

The rests of the students in the booklet confirm this.

On the memorial day on the 9th of Tevet 5731 (1971), the memorial corner, that is the perpetuation room, in which the students invested a great deal of work and dedication, was opened.

The ceremony began with the words of the school principal Rachel Angel. Then, Menachem Levin and Yitzchak Burstein spoke. A representative of Yad Vashem also spoke.

{Photo page 280: Uncaptioned. The ceremony. The banner at the top reads, “I have made a vow to remember everything. To remember, speak and not forget.}

[Frst unnumbered page after 280]

{Photos page 281: The Perpetuation Room of the Community of Jonava of Lithuania. - three photos.}

[Second unnumbered page after 280]

{Top photo: At the memorial in the Geulim School of Bat Yam, which adopted our town of Jonava. The dais: Zeev Ofek, Y[itzchak]. Burstein, Rabbi Aryeh Lifshitz, the representative of Yad Vashem, principal Rachel Angel, teacher Riva Shalovich - a Jonava native, the daughter of Yentl Solomin, teacher Maoz Shefi.}

{Bottom photo: Jonava natives and the parents of the students.}

[Third unnumbered page after 280]

{Two photos with caption in between: The female students presenting a performance about the fate of the Jews of Jonava.}

[Fourth unnumbered page after 280]

{Top photo: Students of the school at a play on the memorial day.}

{Bottom photo: The students listening to the words of Zeev Ofek. Next to him is the principal Rachel Angel.}

[Page 281]

Many students participated in the performance. They gave expression to their identification in skits, words, and song. Actor Meir Tsoref [Goldshmidt] read an excerpt from Holocaust literature.

This was a ceremony of unity that left a strong impression on all the participants.

On top of all this, we express our esteem and thanks to the efforts of those who led and carried out the adoption efforts - the teachers and students together.

For strengthening our hands - let your hands be strengthened!

A Small Room that Contains So Much

by Riva Shalovich from “Nir”, the publication of the students of the school.

A large group gathered from various places in the Land. They came especially to participate in a memorial evening for the general Holocaust Day, and to open a perpetuation room for the community of Jonava of Lithuania that was wiped out in the Holocaust.

It was obvious that the evening was very precious to everyone. Many years have passed since then, but the memory of the town with all its personalities and people is etched upon the hearts of everyone as a living picture. The gathering evoked memories of youth that ended in pain and great sadness.

The perpetuation room was opened for visitors. The small room includes so much in it - a full world of the life that once was. I looked at the faces of the visitors. Emotion overtook them. They were searching for faces and childhood landscapes that they recognized in the pictures. Stories and trivia were dredged up from the recesses of the past. It was hard to leave the place.

One felt that one was situated in a corner of communion with the destroyed home of one's parents; a corner that is the connecting link between that generation that witnessed the events of the Holocaust with its own flesh and the younger generation that grew up free and secure -- children who attempted to the best of their ability to understand the magnitude of the tragedy, and to feel the pain of the nation.

The adults feel gratitude toward the following generation who are learning to recognize the Jewish towns of the European Diaspora by delving into stories of the life in the town.

Let this be their comfort, and it is no small comfort, for all those who lost their dear ones and for those who survived the Nazi inferno.

By Riva Shalovich,

[Page 281]


by Riva Shalovich

… I was deeply impressed by the perpetuation room, as if we had been in that community of Jonava (Elana Zavdon).

… We heard the sounds of weeping from among the audience present at the ceremony. Our tears also choked our throats. It was only with great difficulty that we held them back. Our part in the ceremony came. We ascended the stage with the feeling that we were part of those people. I must admit that we did not fully understand the meaning of the word “Holocaust”; but after we had heard from the natives of the town what had happened to that community and its people, our hearts were filled with feelings of honor and understanding for them, and for all the people of the Jewish communities who were overtaken by the Nazi destruction.

(Yitzchak Levi)

From the impressions of the students present at the perpetuation ceremony, from the same publication.

[Page 282]

{Photo page 282: Uncaptioned. Children in front of a picture of the town.}

The memorial ceremony opened a wound that may not heal. Perhaps? Is it possible to forget?

The burning question: How could such an atrocity have taken place?

The drama club of our school put on a performance of a chapter of lives of the children in the ghetto, which brought us to tears. It was obvious that memories were brought forth in the hearts of the audience. I attempted to control my tears, with the prayer in my heart that such a Holocaust never be repeated, that we will never again have to weep over communities of Israel.

Orli Mendelson, a grade 8 student.

On the 9th of Tevet 5732 (1972), we gathered together to recall the victims of the Holocaust, as is our custom.

The ceremony began with the reading of Yizkor, and the recital of Kaddish and Kel Maleh Rachamim[1].

Mr. Shani spoke in the name of Yad Vashem. The editor of the book of Jonava, Shimon Noy, spoke about unique stories of the Jews of the town, the youth, and expression of resistance[2].

The actor Meir Tsoref [Goldshmidt] read sections of the book of Jonava and described some of his personal wartime experiences. His words were spoken in Yiddish and were directed primarily to the new immigrants.

The dramatic club of the school, under the direction of Ruth Lifschitz, presented skits of the life of the children in the ghetto. The material of the skits was culled from the books “The Children of Mapu Street,” and “There are no Butterflies Here.”

The meeting between the youth who grew up in the Land and did not know the terrors of the ghetto with the natives of the town blew a spirit of support and hope into all those present.

With this, we fulfill the commandment: Remember, and do not forget! We also emphasize that such a Holocaust will never take place again.

Riva Shalovich, the coordinator of the adoption effort.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Kel Maleh Rachamim is the Jewish prayer for the dead. Kaddish is a doxology recited in memory of the deceased. Yizkor is a memorial prayer.Return
  2. Evidently, resistance efforts to the anti-Semitism of the Holocaust.Return

[Page 283]

In Memory of the Fallen

Yitzchak Pogirsky

by Dr. Shimon Zak from the book “Banim” (“Sons”)

We were both born in Jonava, and we were approximately the same age. I knew Yitzchak (Itzel) already from his childhood, even though we did not study in the same school, for, in accordance with the will of his father, he received a more religious education that I was given.

When we returned to Jonava at the end of 1921 after the expulsion, I met Yitzchak in Kovno as a student of the Real Hebrew Gymnasium. In 1922, we were both accepted to the medical school of the Lithuanian University. The friendship between us strengthened. We sat on the same school bench for two years, always did our practical work in the same group, and prepared for exams together. In 1924, he decided to continue his studies in France. We met again in Strasbourg. He moved to Paris in 1926, where he completed his studies.

When I returned to Lithuania in 1932, I found that Yitzchak had established a family in the interim, and served as a physician in the Lithuanian Army.

{Photo page 283: Uncaptioned. Yitzchak, with a wife and two children.}

He made aliya with his family to the Land in 1933. I made aliya in 1934. He remained in Tel Aviv, and I joined a Kibbutz. We met on occasion, and I always enjoyed my encounters with my old friend.

In 1941, fate brought us together once again. We were drafted into the British Army as physicians. Yitzchak was sent to Egypt, and I was sent to Sudan and Ethiopia. In 1943, I received the news that Yitzchak was no longer alive. He had fallen in October, 1942…

The following are some of his personality traits, as are guarded in my memory. First of all, he was particular and diligent. If he set times to study, nothing could move him from his learning. He had internal integrity. He would carry through to completion anything that he believed in. He was exacting in fulfilling the commandment of “the produce of the Land.” Despite the fact that he was well off, tall, strong and handsome, he did not desire to stand out and did not take any pride in doing so.

The strand of his life was snuffed out in his prime, when he was only in his early 40s.

May his memory be a blessing.

[Page 284]

Yerubaal and Hillel Lavie, Rachel Zisla

Published by Ein Harod

Yerubaal Lavie

{Photo page 284 right: Yerubaal Lavie}

Yerubaal, the son of Rachel (nee Zisla) and Shlomo Lavie-Levkovitz, was born on the 1st of Tammuz 5684 (1924). He was born, raised and educated in Ein Harod. He was orphaned from his mother during his childhood. He was modest in his deportment and upright and of pure heart in his way of life. From his childhood, he was known as being responsible and dedicated to any matter to which he was given responsibility. When he left school, he participated in farm work and the course of life. He was active in local defense activities. His regular work was in the shed. He enlisted in the Hebrew Brigade of the British Army in the latter part of 1944. His stops included Sarafand[1], Egypt, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Holland, and France. When he returned from the army, he joyfully returned to the work of the farm and the realities of life at home. He was employed as an orchard worker. In the latter, turbulent period, he found his role in defense, and dedicated himself to this with his full energy and strength. He became known as a competent leader and filled his role of company commander with responsibility. On the 8th of Adar II, 5708 (1948), he hurried the reinforcements to assist his friends in the Battle of Gilboa and fell.


Hillel Lavie

{Photo page 284 left: Hillel Lavie}

Hillel the son of Rachel and Shlomo was born in Ein Harod on 11 Av, 5689 (1929). His mother died when he was a year and three months old.

From his childhood, he stood out from among his friends in his independence and storied spirit. With the passage of time, when he set out with his classmates from the school and entered the farm along with his friends, he naturally became the center of the group, and the instigator of the spiritual and social activities of his friends.

He chose work in the home garden as his regular occupation.

With the outbreak of the disturbances and the war, he immediately played an active role, at first among the local ranks and later as a leader and trainer of youths and adults. He participated in the Battle of Gilboa in which his older brother fell. Then, he was sent to a national course for leaders. On the night of the invasion, he volunteered to go from the course to the incursion unit of the Palmach in the Negev, and participated in all of its daring activities.

He set out in a convoy of jeeps to bring help to Kfar Darom on June 6, 1948, after the first ceasefire. On his return from the village, on 7 Sivan, 5708 (1948), he was hit by an Egyptian shell.

His body was brought to burial in the soil of Ein Harod on the first anniversary of his death.


This Was His Mother

Hillel was born to a mother - oh, what can one say about this mother? Wellspring of love flowed from her to all that surrounded her. With all these, she was able to keep the depths of the wellsprings of her love for her children…

In one of the letters that she wrote to the father of her children when he was away from home for a few days, we find a praise for Hillel: -- -- -- “Now I think, how great is the power of the children, as I think of Hillel, I feel that all the chambers of my heart are filled with light, joy, and love. It seems to me as if the light of the sun and the chirping of the birds exist only in the merit of children. Everything is wonderful in its beauty and goodness…”

We called him Hillel. She said that our oldest son is called Yerubaal. “He will destroy the idols[2], and he will be the heir to your fighting spirit… This one will be my heir, like Hillel the Elder in Jewish tradition; he will seek peace, calm, and love.”

This was the mother of our children.



Translator's Footnotes

  1. A town in pre-war Palestine, near Ramle. A large British army base was located there.Return
  2. An additional name given to the judge Gideon. The name means “He who fights with Baal.”Return

[Page 285]

Mordechai Herman

by Shoshana and Gershon Vilan

{Photo page 284: Lieutenant Mordechai Herman, the son of Chaviva (nee Persky) and Yeshayahu, fell in the area of the Suez Canal on the 4th of Elul 5729 (August 18, 1969).}

I first met Motti at the beginning of 1964, when I came to lead the Hachorshim Brigade of Hashomer Hatzair in Ramat Gan. I met a unique youth, central and active.

Motti loved nature, and especially living beings, very much. He visited the Negba on the Feast of First Fruits of 5724 (1964)[1]. That entire day, Motti was filled with excitement about the horse races. He wandered around the stable, visited the horse, and inspected it from head to hoof.

Finally, the competition itself came. Motti galloped on a horse with blazing eyes - on the grass at the center of the Kibbutz. Our truck was waiting, and the driver was blowing the horn (in order to return to Ramat Gan). The travelers were already seated and ready for the journey - all of them, except for Motti. He could not part from the horse. “Go, I will return myself,” he shouted to us.

His great knowledge of agriculture astounded me at the time. He took interest in crops, irrigation, machinery and tractors a long time before he began his studies in Hadera.

With his love of nature, he was an ideal member of the youth group.

Motti studied in Hadera for three years.

I only followed him during the first period, at the beginning of his path there. I felt that the period of time in the agricultural school was an important milestone for Motti along the path toward independence and adulthood.

I visited the school twice. I chatted with Motti's advisors. I recall his many stories of his status and his feelings toward the school and the group - how he operated the mechanical equipment for plowing and the equipment in the garage, how he worked as the operator of agricultural implements for the farmers of Hadera. Motti indeed found his place in that school, despite the fact that he had uprooted himself from Ramat Gan, his friends, and even in pushing off his army service.

The connection between us continued even after I returned to Negba. On occasion, on Sabbaths, Motti would come to visit us, bringing some of his friends along. I will admit that each visit left a unique feeling with us.

I remember Motti as a soldier in army fatigues and high army boots, standing in the darkness and stubbornly entering the children's room to take a glance at his sleeping baby. This seemed slightly strange to us, but it was so true to his nature! The older daughter already knew his name and remembered him from visit to visit.

[Page 286]

There were also meetings in the field, several kilometers from the farm. Motti would appear in the field and come to me. I was not at home, and he went to search for me in the field, full of happiness and a smile. He would give me professional advice on the tractor and on cultivation. He was full of joy and faith in life, all exclamation marks with no questions.

My final meeting with Motti was after he completed his course as an armor officer. A mature officer sat next to me, a lad in whom the Israel Defense Forces had placed great responsibility. We exchanged impressions on Sinai and the Suez Canal. Motti told us about his plans in the army. We parted, and he entered his white “Saab”, started it and set out on his way. Shosha, who was standing next to me, said, “See, we knew a land and now he has grown up. Did you ever believe that your “wild” Motti would become a captain?”

Motti had a deep sense of volunteerism: to forge forward, to do, to help, to succeed, to prove himself. How proud was he of his deeds during the Six Day War in Kibbutz Haon, when he took an ambulance and transported wounded people himself, even though he was only a lad in national service.

It seemed that there were no bounds to his wellspring of energy… However … however … Motti is no more; Motti, with whom we were so connected and whom we liked so much, who was so full of youthful plans: flourishing, laughter, and renewal. The heart refused, the logic contradicts, but the reality screams out.


Translator's Footnote

  1. Shavuot.Return

Eliahu Hagalili (Galanreichik)

He was born in 1913 in Vilna and was raised in Jonava. He made aliya in 1933. He fell in the War of Independence, in the Western Galilee in the area of Nahariya, on June 27, 1948.

{Photo page 286: Uncaptioned. A barren tree.}


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