The first buds of Zionism and its heralds in Korets
by Moshe Dafna (Blovstein)
Transliterated by Sara Mages
At the end of the 19th century, and also at the beginning of the 20th century, Korets was still cut off from commercial and industrial centers, tightly closed, and the influence of western culture has not yet penetrated it. This explains why Zionism appeared late in Korets.
A second reason, perhaps the main one, lies in the fact that Korets was a typical Hassidic city. The Makarov's Hassidim and the Trisk's Hassidim were the intellectuals in our city. Almost all the rich people, the merchants and the factory owners, were zealous Hassidim. When the Trisk Rebbe appeared in the city the streets were full of people. The Great Synagogue was too small to accommodate the many Jews who eagerly listen to the Rebbe's words. The Trisk Rebbe's philosophy was based on a verse from Tehillim: Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. So, it is forbidden to postpone the end and, therefore, Zionism is apostasy to the Rock of Israel and its Redeemer.
Korets' Hassidim boycotted the Zionist movement and threatened their sons and daughters, with all kinds of threats, not to lend a hand to the dangerous apostasy that its name is Zionism. When they learned that their son, or daughter, had joined the Zionist movement, they tore their clothes as a sign of mourning. Go bring Christ (the Hassidim's mocking name to Zionism).
The first buds of Zionism in Korets were interesting. Zionist preachers, from the type of the preachers of HibatTzion, came to Korets. They preached their sermons before simple people in the synagogues, spiced them with quotations from the Bible and the Talmud, and said them in a special melody and great pathos.
One of them remained engraved in my memory. It was a young man from Šiauliai with long hair and unique appearance. In his sermons he brought, for example, the first Zionist, the prophet Ezekiel, who demanded the revival of the Dry Bones from the people. He compared the Jewish nation in the Diaspora to the Valley of Dry Bones and Zionism is the revival dew which will breathe life into them.
The synagogues' Gabbaiim harassed these preachers and turned off the lights during their sermons. There was one preacher, who was firm in his mind and a great believer in Zionism. He shouted at the Gabbaiim; you taught us the Mishnah He who puts out the candle for the patient to sleep, meaning, you're interested that the nation should be deep in asleep in the Diaspora and not wake up
for a revival in Zion. However, we will teach you the Mishnah Bameh Madlikin we would light torches and show you the right road to Zion. At the beginning of the 20th century, a group of spiritual young people, yeshivastudents who were not satisfied with the Zionism of Hibat Tzion and dreamed of a change in values, got together in Korets. At that time I returned from the Yeshiva in NovohradVolynskyi and continued my studies at Skvirer Kloize together with my friend, Berle Schemben, a graduate of TalmudTorah in Korets.
One day we closed the Gemara books, we felt that religious study was not enough and decided to find a way to European education.
This aspiration guided us to Tarbut library, which was kind of a spiritual center because most of Korets' intellectuals gathered there in those days.
The library was under the supervision of HaRav Mitaam [government appointed rabbi], Nehemiah Hershoren. He made available to us the library hall where the first Zionist circle began to take shape. It was a very disappointing beginning. Only a handful of teenage boys and girls, dreaming and hallucinating, joined it.
The circle did its work underground in fear of the Tsarist regime which persecuted the Zionist movement.
One of the first members of the group, Freidel Boymzeger (Bluwstein), tells the following incident in her memoirs: We gathered at Kliefeld, under the mill, in Garbaska Street. We sat in the dark because we were afraid of being discovered. Suddenly one of our friends came in and told us that someone had informed us and the police was about to surround the house. We fled through the windows and ran toward the river. There were many planks in the frozen river. Our feet sank into them, and with great difficulty we pulled them out. In our run we reached the mountain. From there we went out in pairs to the city and mixed in the crowd.
However, the circle continued its modest activities despite the persecution of the Czar's emissaries. We gathered for meetings, gave speeches, sang national songs, and began to learn and speak Hebrew.
The same young boys from Batei Hamidrash and the Kloizim who had previously walked from house to house and collected candles for Lag Ba'Omer in order to place them on the shelves between the Kloiz's tall windows. A memorial candle, a memorial candle, to have beautiful lighting in honor of R' Shimon Bar Yochai the same young boys now walked from house to house and to the shops to sell Colonial Bank shares and Keren Kayemet Leisrael stamps. Those first stamps, whiteblue, printed on large sheets and the price of each one was a kopeck.
I was also one of them. I carried a few pages of stamps, walked from shop to shop and sold them.
Who were the members of the Zionist circle, the founders of political Zionism? It's driving force and chairman was Mr. Yehusua Zalman. He appeared as a preacher and explained the Zionistpolitical movement at its inception. He was a welltodo man with a large warehouse of iron goods. In his hands we often saw the foreign Zionist press
Standing first row in the back,right to left: 1) Yeshayahu Shapira 2) Shalom Shifris 3) Noah Sheindman 4) Avraham Kleiner
Standing second row right to left: 1) Mendel Feinsman 2) MosheDov Golod 3) Sheraga Zavdi 4) Reuven Berber 5) Natan Oberstern
Sitting right to left: 1) Yosef Kleiner 2) Pinchas Avisar (Schwartzmann) 3) Mordechai Zilberman
Lying below: Meir Krosopesach
and inside it the Dzianisz Chronicle. From that we learnt that Mr. Zalzman was an educated man and knew European languages.
In those days fresh force appeared in the Zionist circle, Yani Hershoren, a medical student in Odessa University and the son of the HaRav Mitaam. He made an impression on the townspeople with his army coat with the shiny buttons. Even though he spoke Russian in the group's meetings, Yani Hershoren brought with him from the spirits of Ehad Ha'am and Bialik. In his school years in Odessa he got closer to the great Hebrew writers who lived at that time in this city. Like his father, Yani Hershoren brought the western culture which was different in its essence from the Hassidic way of life that existed in Korets.
Among the prominent young people were Shmuel Finkelstein and his fiancée, Feiga Zitrin. Finkelstein started his studies as an autodidact, later, he left for Kiev and returned from there a certified dentist.
The Finkelstein's home, which was a Zionist home, excelled in his free spirit. It was an aristocratic home, a nest of noble people. It was one of the few houses in the city that was surrounded by a large garden of fruit trees, well groomed by the father himself.
Among the first members is the unique image of Asher Bluwstein, the director of Tarbut library. Bluwstein was possessed with Zionism. He studied it day and night and all his thoughts were subjected to the revival of the nation and the Hebrew language.
He was the first to speak Hebrew in public in Korets. When a person, who knew Hebrew well and not so well, came to the library and spoke Yiddish or Russian with Bluwstein, he didn't answer him unless he spoke in Hebrew.
One of his boldest actions was his penetration into the Yeshiva's walls. Bluwstein smuggled secular Hebrew literature to the Yeshiva. Some of the Yeshiva students kept the book, Hatoeh bedarkhe haHayyim [A Wanderer on the Path of Life] by Smolenskin, and even the sexual book, Haṭṭot Ne'urim [The Sins of Youth] by Lilienblum, in their lectern. All thanks to one of the Lamed Vav [Tzadikim] in our city, Asher Bluwstein, who was one of the pillars of Hebrew culture and Zionism in our city, who dreamed and foresaw that all Diaspora Jews would speak Hebrew at home and outside.
One day, a very interesting figure appeared in the Zionist circle, a man with a deep and profound Jewish education. He had a complete mastery of the Bible, the Babylonian Talmud and the Yerushalmi, and the rich and diverse Talmudic literature. He was Yitzchak Bieber. He came
to Korets from NovohradVolynskyi, Feuerberg's city. Bieber was one of Feuerberg's closest friends and he brought with him the great spirit of, The Dreamer from Zvhil, which was one of the most profound Zionist books.
He was the son of a slaughterer and married the granddaughter of Rabbi Mordechai'le, the Korets' judge. He made a living in our city by giving private lessons in Hebrew. At the same time he studied secular studies and was preparing to receive a degree in teaching at the Russian School.
Yitzchak Bieber was a very educated man and an indepth thinker. He was very popular with the people of the city and everyone respected him and treated him with awe.
A few years later he left for the United States and served as a teacher at the Hebrew Teachers' Seminary in New York.
In the United States he became known as a prominent biblical scholar and also wrote and printed books for the teaching of the Bible that were accompanied by scientific introductions that he authored.
Yitzchak Bieber had a major part in the revival of the Hebrew language in Korets. We had a lot of BeitMidrash students, who were proficient in the Bible and the Talmud, but for them the Hebrew language was only the language of the book, not a living spoken language, because they lacked the scientific element, the knowledge of Hebrew phonetics and the rules of syntax and knowledge of the laws of the Hebrew language.
Yitzchak Bieber took out the Hebrew language from the coffin and breathed life into it. And so was the incident: once, Bieber bumped into me as I was sitting at Tarbut library reading Haṭṭot Ne'urim by Lilienblum. By chance, I let out a sigh. Bieber asked me: What are you moaning about? for your own Haṭṭot Ne'urim? Indeed, yes, I answered. I couldn't find the way to education and for that I'm sorry.
He took me to his home and took care of my knowledge in the Hebrew language for half a year and from that we became good friends.
The first foursome, who vowed to speak only in Hebrew with each other, was created in the Zionist group. My friend, Berale Schmben, and I met with two other members of the group, David Salomoniak and Shaul Didibitzer, and without knowing how and what, the four of us started talking to each other only in Hebrew. It was the first intimate group in Korets to use the Hebrew language, as a living language out of national consciousness.
We also became teachers of the Hebrew language and Bible and by doing so we instilled Zionist consciousness in the heart of the Jewish youth in Korets. We gathered around us teenage girls who studied at the Russian School. We talked and preached the Zionist doctoring to them.
I also want to mention those who were among the first members of the
Zionist circle and worked hard to spread the Zionist idea in Korets. Zitel Schwartzman (mother of the judge Avisar), Aharon Perelmuter, Tehila Finkelstein, Freidel Boymzeger (Bluwstein), Kleifeld, Feige Zukerman (Feldman), and from the young members the poet Czudner and the judge Pinchas Avisar (Schwartzman) who was the second Zionist immigrant from our city.
Remembered for the best is the beloved woman, MeirAba'be, The noodle maker, owner of a noodle factory on Brezdiva Street, who made available to us the large hall in her factory for the presentation of the play, The Matchmaker, by Shalom Aleichem. The proceeds from the play were dedicated to the development and expansion of the Zionist activity in the city.
I saw that there was no point in continuing my life in the Diaspora, in a city hanging upon nothing, so I made the decision to leave Korets and immigrate to Israel. One year, before I had to go to the army, I received permission and financial opportunity to leave and immigrate to Israel. In my hand I had a document from Mr. David Yelin that I could be accepted as a student at the teachers' seminary of Hevrat Ezra which was established at that time in Jerusalem.
I was the only one from Korets, and maybe from the entire area, to immigrate to Israel. I left the city at the end of the summer of 1904.
When I crossed the border near Radziłów, I was forced to give some of my money to the border patrol. I came to Brody in Galicia and in my pocket was not enough money to continue my journey to EretzYisrael. At the immigrants' office a yeshiva student from Brody approached me and invited me to stay in the city for a few months and teach Hebrew in the youth circles in Galicia. Through this work I met Yosef Aharonovitz who came to Galicia a few months before me. He already worked as a Hebrew teacher and Zionist preacher together with Chaim Tretkovar who was a native of Brody and a student in Vienna.
We founded an association for pioneer immigration to EretzYisrael named Halutzei Zion. The goal was agricultural work for the purpose of conquering the labor after Yosef Vitkin's call to the youth to immigrate to EretzYisrael. We later found encouragement in the association's aspiration.
After a year and a half stay in Brody I immigrated to EretzYisrael. It was between Purim and Passover of 1906.
by Meir Panas
Translated by Sara Mages
In our city there was no Zionist General Federation. There were two Zionist parties - Tze'irei Zion and Poalei Zion. The irony of fate is, at the head of these rival parties stood two brothers, Shmuel Finkelstein chairman of Tze'irei Zion, and Motik Finkelstein leader of Poalei Zion.
Most of the party's human material came from the ranks of the youth, some of which were rooted in the Russian language and literature.
We had to do the main work, to make a fundamental change in the spiritual foundation of this youth. We assembled them in a clubhouse and began to read before them, in the Russian language, chapters from our national literature and literature of the Labor Zionist Movement.
The days were very turbulent. The Russian Revolution aroused hidden hopes in the heart that the historic injustice to the Jewish people would be corrected. The Jewish youth started to read Zionist writings in secret and in the underground read and delved into the book Zionism by Sapir. The center of the national awakening was in Odessa where masses broke out in song and dance in honor of the revolution. Thirteen thousand Jewish students demonstrated in Odessa's streets. They were led by the representatives of Hahaver - the federation of Zionist students in Russia.
Leaders of the generation - Bialik, Ravnitzki, Klausner and Ussishkin, sat at that time in Odessa. They called on the youth to prepare for the future because a great hour was about to come.
A seminar for youth counselors was organized. They were instructed to return to their homes in southern Russia and begin Zionist activity among the youth.
As a student of this seminar I returned from Odessa to Korets, after I left it in 1916, and started to organize the youth in Korets.
At that time the youth in our town had to deal with difficult dilemmas. Most was disappointed from the revolution but also couldn't find interest in the official General Zionism.
This youth found great interest in Tze'irei Zion party. At that time we received circulars and pamphlets, which spoke in praise of work, from the center in Russia. The article of Yosef Trumpeldor about Degania was also published. The confused youth saw Trumpeldor as kind of a Guide to the Perplexed. His ideas of Hebrew commune and about life of manual labor, matched the desires of the youth in Korets.
However, Tze'irei Zion party would not have taken root in our city without the great assistance of the Finkelstein family. Not only Shmuel, but also his father, the lawyer Hirsh Finkelstein had a great part in implanting of the party's idea in the city. He served as a Gabai in the Great Synagogue and despite the great danger opened the synagogue's gates for the meetings of the Jewish socialist youth.
The Finkelstein's house stood inside a big garden of fruit trees and the leader of the party, Shmuel, turned the garden into a center of attraction for student youth. The party's meetings, conferences and debates, took place in this garden and the daily work was also done there.
I remember that a conversation took place at the entrance to the garden between two students about the forms of settlement in Israel. This argument was of supreme importance for the party. We received booklets in Russian with the the articles of the agronomists Attinger. He spoke in praise of cooperative settlement based on large mechanized economy. On the other hand, we delved into the words of Prof. Oppenheimer who argued for cooperative settlement based on small individual farms. For us, members of Tze'irei Zion, it was not an academic argument, but a question of life because the party was a party of fulfillment. We got ready for immigration to Israel and the question, which form of life we would choose as workers in Israel, was very relevant.
The party was active in the field of training the hearts. We received a lot of informational material and the writings of the movement's leaders from the center. We were mainly influenced by the articles of Eliezer Kaplan zl and Yisrael Marom (Marminsky), may he live long.
We were mostly educated on the left literature and had a regular subscription for the magazine, Land and Labor, which was published in Kiev and edited by Marminsky.
The party was very much felt in the city and had many key public and cultural positions. However, as a fulfillment party, it was not always possible for it to hold these positions because all its activists immigrated to Israel.
|Standing right to left: 1) Moshe Berez. 2) Shlomo Sirota. 3) Yontel Schneider. 4) Yakov Glis. 5) Golda Schneider. 6) Berel Goffman. 7) Gisia Fuchs. 8) Zeidel Rochorger. 9) Yakov-Asher Kutler. 10) Yosef Kushter. 11) Mordechai Torknitz.
Seated right to left: ) Berel Vigman. 2) Avraham Gilgon. 3) Moshe Bliman (Hadas). 4) Haim Melamed. 5) Leah Melamed 6) Dov Bernstein. 7) Tzvi Barenboim. 8) Yosef Wachbroyt. 9) Elik Karas.
Third row right to left: 1) Yatom. 2) Guralnik. 3) Chaya Pava. 4) Ester Yaronsky (Talpiot). 5) Bracha Berez. 6) Feiga Rosendorn. 7) Yosef Berez.
Fourth row right to left: 1) Yitzchak Linik. 2) Chaim Poliva. 3) Rivka Bliman. 4) Nachum Wassertrum. 5) Ruth Neiterman. 6) Sosel Burstein. 7) Rivka Oshomirsky. 8) Chaya Kotzer. 9) Tzvi Fabrikant.
by David Lidski
Translated by Sara Mages
In 1922, several members undertook the initiative to organize in Korets a branch of the Zionist Labor Party, Hit'achdut -Hapoel Hatzair. Among the first initiators were: Dr. Hanoch Barles (the first principal of Tarbut school), Mordechai Rotberg, Dr. Shmuel Finklstein, Yisrael Melamed, Aharon Sheinker, Yehudah Kiprbend, Meir Gilman, Yitchak Bernstein, and the writer of these columns.
These activists began to carry out informational activities in the spirit of the movement. Many, who believed in the Zionist and pioneering idea, responded to their call and slowly slowly the party began to spread and scored an important position in the public when it appeared as a weighty factor in the Zionist movement in our city.
The party became established and among its members were most of the teachers, pioneering youth, small merchants, officials and independent professionals. In the size of our city it was a mass party because it numbered about 150 members.
The members of the party were especially devoted to the activities of Tarbut and HeHalutz. In addition, they were also active in the work for the national funds, the League for Working Eretz Yisrael, and all the Zionist institutions in the city. It organized Gordonia youth, was active in the Land of Israel office, CENTOS, ORT, and the community council.
The member, Sheinker, represented the party in Keren Kayemet LeYisrael [JNF]. As a competent speaker he managed, with his cleverness and wit, to overcome his opponent and with stubbornness, dedication and loyalty carried out the idea of movement. Dr. Shmuel Finkelstein was the party's representative in the community and in CENTOS. He also served as chairman of Tarbut school.
Our party was represented at the party's center by the member, Yisrael Melamed, who perpetuated his name in his dedicated work for the party.
Yisrael Melamed was a typical Zionist activist, from the best Zionist activists that the towns of Wolyn were blessed with. He believed in the doctrine of A.D. Gordon with all his soul. The representatives of the national funds knew that they had to turn to Yisrael Melamed when they came to Korets because he would stand by them in all the days of their visit.
Despite his progressive worldview, Yisrael Melamed was fond of tradition and revered its rabbis.
Standing right to left: 1) Chaim Musman. 2) Yehusua Steindel. 3) Yakov Rubin. 4) Pinchas Averbukh. 5) Goldberg. 6) Yona Frenkel. 7) Buzia Maliar. 8) Leah Vashkover. 9) Rachel Weinstein. 10) Moshe Litvak. 11) Arye Weinshelboim.
He married Yehudit, daughter of the city's rabbi, who was a faithful wife to her husband's ambition.
Yisrael didn't know fatigue in his work and visited, on behalf of the center, the nearby cities and towns - Mezhyrichi, Ludwipol, Tuczyn and Hoszcza - to organize the party in these locations and to maintain the contact with them.
Our party, which advocated the slogan The Religion of Labor of A. D. Gordon, educated its members to fulfillment. It was among those who introduced the Hebrew language to the young people of the city, engaged in a wide Hebrew-Zionist activity and gave the city a Hebrew character. Indeed, we saw fruit in our labor because many of our townspeople fulfilled their aspiration and immigrated to Israel.
The party was visited by leaders of the League for Working Eretz Yisrael - Pinchas Lubianiker (Lavon), Rashis and Funt. However, the 1923 visit of Avraham Levinson, representative of the Sejm has become a major event in the cultural and public life of our city.
Even though his visit took place on a weekday, this visit brought us a holiday atmosphere and elation. The Zionist youth organization put aside their regular work and participated in all the parties and meetings that we organized in honor of the guest (the party's club house was located at that time in Hirik's house).
Inside the clubhouse the guest was greeted by a formation of youth from Hashomer Hatzair which was headed by members of the leadership, Czudner, Miziritzsky and Mussman.
With the help of Dr. Zeitlin, Avraham Levinson visited the staroste and tried to obtain a permit from him to arrange public meetings and openly manage the Zionist activity. And indeed, after this visit, our party was declared an official party by the authorities and we were granted permission to do our work undisturbed,
Our party began functioning properly and increased its activity in HeHalutz, Gordonia and Tarbut and its strength was felt in the city.
When it stood at the height of its achievements - the bloody flood fell on the city. The murderer assaulted the Jews of the city. There was no escape and refuge, the members of the party perished together with all the Jews of the city and did not realize their lives' dream.
by Meir Panas
Translated by Sara Mages
HeHalutz in Korets was born on the knees of Tze'irei Zion party. It was natural that this party, which drew its inspiration from The Religion of Labor of A. D. Gordon, would bring forth pioneers who had fulfilled their aspirations.
The first buds of HeHalutz in Korets were already visible in 1918. Its messengers were: Arye Kliefeld, Manos Givoly (Solomianik),Yisrael Solomianik, Yerachmiel Gilman, Meir Panas, and a few others that their names were not kept in my memory.
We began preparing for immigration to Israel. We planted vegetable gardens in our city and for days we prepared ourselves for a life of manual labor. Even though the emphasis was placed on agricultural work, because we all dreamed of kibbutz life in Israel, we were not picky and hired ourselves to homeowners in Korets to do all sorts of jobs. We have to remember that at that time we were all students who had never tasted physical labor and the transition to a life of toil was fraught with agonizing difficulties.
We all understood that this revolution was necessary and received everything with love.
We looked forward to emigration. At the Prague Conference of 1920 a union was formed between Hapoel Hatzair and Tze'irei Zion. A. D. Gordon and Eliezer Joffe came to the conference from Israel. They called the pioneering Jewish youth to rise and immigrate to Israel. This call reached our city. Then, we decided to fulfill our aspiration and reach the shores of Israel.
Hit'achdut established immigration centers in Vienna and Warsaw and the period of the Third Aliyah began. Great enthusiasm took over the youth. There was great excitement. Rumors reached us that the youth in Rowne were preparing themselves for immigration. We read in the press that large youth groups arrived to Warsaw from Poland and White Russia and from there continued on their way to Israel.
On 25 June 1920, the signal was given. On that day the first nine member of HeHalutz in our city left for Israel and these are their names: Yerachmiel BenDror (Gilman) now in Kfar Yehoshua; Yisrael Givoly (Solomianik) lives in KfarSaba; Shmuel Zucker (lives in TelAviv); Pinchas Harpaz (Goldberg) in Jerusalem; Meir Panas (Kvutzat Kinneret), Haim Zahavi (Goldman)
passed away a few years ago in Haifa; Shlomo Eisenberg (in the United States); Shmuel Kliefeld (returned to Korets and perished in the Holocaust).
Standing right to left: 1) Shaul Givoly (Solomianik). 2) Zindel Kotlir. 3) Moshe Gechman. 4) Eliezer BenYisrael (Ashel). 5) Arye Kliefeld
Seated right to left: 1) Manos Givoly. 2) Klara Givoly. 3) Leah'ke Tzmukler. 4) Arye Ashe
Third Row, seated right to left: 1) Moshe Don. 2) Michael Sheinkar
However, leaving Korets was as difficult as parting the Red Sea. A Polishmilitary regime ruled the city and it was almost impossible to obtain a travel permit to Rowne or Warsaw. With great effort we obtain identity cards approved by the local government, but they had to be approved by the military authorities. The military commander sent us to the military police department, which was located at the Warshavsky Hotel, and there they beat us with murderers' blows.
Relief and salvation came to us from another source: Young smugglers from Rowne, who were in contact with the army, occasionally came to Korets. They were young Zionists who, in the evenings, sought contact with the Zionist club and pioneering youth. We poured before them our bitter words that we were locked in and not allowed to leave.
In one of this conversation one of the young men advised me to come to a certain hotel in Korets where he arranged a meeting with a military policeman who was one of his best friends.
When I got there, I poured my heart before the policeman to let me escape from the Bolsheviks (the Polish army was in constant retreat) and immigrate to EretzYisrael. My aim was to reach the EretzYisrael Office in Warsaw and from there to continue on my way to my homeland. However, the policeman poured out his rage on me, threw my identity card and exclaimed It is not true that EretzYisrael is your heart's desire, you want to flee to Poland.
However, the young man didn't give up. He tried before the head of police and he agreed to let us leave under these conditions: he had to send two policemen to Rowne. If we get carts, he is willing that the policemen will accompany us and no one would harm us.
I left for the street with Yerachmiel Gilman to look for carters. The streets were deserted because everyone locked himself in his home for fear of the rioters who beat, robbed, and murdered.
With great effort we arrived to Pitzi the leader of Korets' carters. He pondered and finally agreed because his heart broke inside him when he heard our pleas which were soaked with tears.
At 11.30 before noon, two carts arrived behind our house and next to them stood nine members of HeHalutz who were immigrating to Israel. It must be that a bird spread the rumor the street was flooded with men and women who came to say goodbye to us. What kind of a powerful hidden force brought these Jews because we kept our departure from city as a secret. There were scenes that I would never forget: some cried bitterly, and some whished us that we would arrive safely at our destination.
In this manner we, a small handful of Jewish Halutzim, left Korets on Friday afternoon, 25 June, 1920. What did we take for the road? a small backpack with almost no clothes and a few pennies. The religious parents put a sack of Tefillin in the bag, and there was someone who had equipped his son with Sefer Raziel HaMalakh [Book of Raziel the Angel] that, as we know, is a guaranteed remedy against fire.
When we arrived to Hoszcza all its Jews were already dressed in Sabbath clothes. When they saw the carts they called out to each other: Already fleeing from Korets! Here, the first refugees arrived.
At night we arrived to Rowne. There, we learned that we had left Korets only a few hours before the Bolsheviks entered the city. Our friends from Tze'irei Zion and HeHalutz housed us at the Joint's [JDC] shelter for orphans.
We spent a few days in Rowne because it was impossible to continue. The roads were blocked by the retreating Polish army. Miraculously, the porters agreed to let us enter the military train which made its way to Lusk and Kovel.
On a moonlit night we climbed, together with Rowne's Halutzim, to an open car loaded with railroad tracks that the Poles had dismantled in their retreat.
When we entered we imagined that we were already in EretzYisrael and a lively discussion about it began. What will we ask when we reach Israel? A few said: we will go straight to Hamrah (near TelHai). Others were more cautious and said: we will go first to TelHai, There was also one who spoke in praise of city life, and we looked at him as if he was a deserter. As we were still arguing a fire broke out in our car despite the book Raziel HaMalakh. The train stopped and the manager decided that since this car was the last, it was necessary to disconnect it and the train will continue on its way. When we heard this decision it was as if thunder had hit us, but we recovered and jumped, an acrobatic jump, into the front cars.
Toward morning we reached Kovel. We went into town and met a man from HeHalutz in Rowne who was returning from Warsaw. He, in particular, dealt with the immigration of members of HeHalutz. He told us that the center in Warsaw complained that we left for the road without permission because many want to emigrate and we have to wait for our turn.
Instead of permits for immigration this emissary brought with him a bag full of rubber stamps intended for branches of HeHalutz in the Wolyn district. Among them was also a stamp for the brunch of HeHalutz in Korets. The rubber stamp was round, inside was a Star of David, and inside it a sheaf, a hammer and a scythe.
The first act of that messenger was to stamp the permits with the seal of HeHalutz which caused us trouble as I shall tell below.
A few days after we arrived to Kovel we broke into a train, some through the door and some through the window, in order to arrived to Warsaw. Near BrestLitovsk a police guard came in and began to check our documents. In one of us they discovered a document stamped with HeHalutz stamp. The Poles were afraid of the Bolsheviks and when they saw the stamp they were sure that we were communists.
They did not return our documents despite our many pleas, and when we arrived to Warsaw we saw that we were surrounded by the train's policemen. They ordered everyone to get out, but ordered us not to move from the place. We were led to the police station and placed inside a wooden cage which was filled to capacity with criminals of all kinds. We stood pressed and cramped.
We were approached by investigators in civilian uniform who threatened us through the bars: Communist Jews! We'll show you!
Toward evening they began to take us out, one at a time, for interrogation. They asked us, who and what are you, and when we answered that our destination was EretzYisrael, they began to scream: You are liars! You are a communist cell that secretly prepares a Bolshevik invasion of Poland.
With us was a Halutz from Rowne, today the folklorist Dr. A. Bavli. He went to the police chief and asked him: what will happen to us at the end? You did not give us food, and you also denied us the opportunity to contact our relatives to let them know where we are.
The commander agreed that two policemen would accompany him to his uncle. He invited the policemen for a cup of tea and when he became friendly with them he walked with them to Karlovaska Street, the address of the EretzYisrael Office.
The policemen stood up and asked in amazement: This is where your uncle lives? After all, these are offices. Bavli did not get confused and replied that his cousin was working in this place. In this manner we notified the EretzYisrael Office of our existence and then the Sejm began to take care of our release.
A few days later we have been told that we were being transferred to Pubozek an isolated camp of RussianCommunist POWs. They locked us in a narrow room, shaved our heads, arranged us in groups of two and beat us to death. The weak and the slow were beaten with rifle butts.
We received food from the EretzYisrael Office. One day, at noon, an emissary came and told us that very soon we would be transferred to Gorochov farm.
We spent two weeks in Gorochov and from there the EretzYisrael Office transferred us to Krakow. In this city there were already groups of immigrants from Hashomer Hatzair. They obtained visas for us for Czechoslovakia and we arrived in Pressburg [Bratislava]. We were housed in the stable of a Jewish estate owner. They supplied us with British visas and we arrived in Vienna. From there, the group continued and arrived, in August 1920, to the shores of EretzYisrael. I arrived at the end of December of that year because I fell ill and lay in a hospital.
This is the Odyssey of the first members of HeHalutz in Korets, to teach our sons, who would follow us, how strong our love for the land of our forefathers was, and how much suffering we endured until we were able to grace its soil.
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