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[Page 453]

Love of Zion

 

From Mezritsh to Yesud Hama'alah

by Y. Menachem Bir of Tel Aviv

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In the year 1879, the known activists Lejb Rubin, [Rabbi] Baruch Meir Rozenblum, and Nachum Szejnman called a meeting with the aim of founding a society whose members would settle in the Land of Israel. The name of the society was “Nachalat Sadeh VaKerem” [Inheritance of Fields and Vinyards][1], and it had 24 members. Each of them paid 100 rubles to purchase land. They elected two members to travel to the Land of Israel to purchase a plot of land to found a colony. They checked out various places in the Land. They found that the best place was in the region of Lake Hula: a flat, good piece of land. The Hula was full of various fish and [and the area offered] other benefits. They purchased 2,500 dunams.[2] An old building that the Arabs called Beika was on the land. The building served as living quarters for the first colonists as well as for their animals.

When the colonists began to arrive from Mezritsh with their families, the building became too crowded, and the issue of living quarters became more severe. They had no money to build houses, and Turkish law also forbade building on agricultural land. The question grew more urgent from day to day. The people found a solution. They learned from the neighbors how to build huts from the material that grew in the Hula swamps.

The longing for Zion which was awakened in the Jews of the Diaspora, especially in Russia, Poland and Romania during those years led to the founding of the colonies of Rosh Pina, Zichron Yaakov, Rishon Letzion, Ekron, and Gedera via the Bi”lu (Beit Yaakov Lechu Venelcha)[3] and Chovevei Zion[4] organizations. The situation of the first pioneers was desperate. There was a risk of things falling apart. The situation was the same in Yesud Hama'alah. Then Baron Edmund Rothschild appeared. He took it upon himself to support a portion of the colonists in Petach Tikva. Gedera and Yesud Hama'alah were left to [the supporters of] Chovevei Zion in the Diaspora.

Funds were distributed in the colony. When the huts were being built, two colonists, an elderly one and a sick one,

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were not able to participate in the work. Huts were erected for them. In the winter, when each [settler] plowed his own fields, some ended their workday early so that they could go to their neighbors and offered their help, [after which] all returned home together. Linat Tzedek and Gemilut Hasadim societies existed.[5] Any guest was provided with food and lodging for the night, despite the difficult economic situation.

In the first year of the existence of Yesud Hama'alah, the Baron arrived for a visit. He spent the Sabbath in Rosh Pina. He set out for Damascus on Sunday. He toured the area along the way, and liked it very much. As he was looking around, he noticed two types of huts near the Hula: one was glistening with white, while the other was covered in dark colors. The Baron asked to whom the huts belonged. Those who accompanied him told him that the dark ones belonged to the workers and the white ones belonged to the Jews who had not been there for long. Since they did not have any houses, they erected huts. The Baron wrote this down in his diary and told those who were with him, “When I return home, you must go back to these Jews and bring them the news that I am prepared to build houses for them.”

After six years of living in huts, the colonists moved into the newly built houses. At that time, a new era began in Yesud Hama'alah. The colony began to blossom. They planted rose bushes for the perfume industry, and a factory was set up. They also planted an orchard of other trees. The settlement served as an [agricultural] experimental station for the cultivation of various trees for other colonies in the land. They planted vegetation to serve as food for silkworms. The silk was sent to the silk factory in Rosh Pina.

[The colonization effort at] Yesud Hama'alah went through different stages. After the first difficult period of getting accustomed to agricultural work, the era of the Baron arrived, which brought prosperity. From the 2,500 dunams that the Mezritshers had originally purchased, the colony was expanded to 13,000 dunams after the Baron took it under his protection. That era lasted for 15 years. Then, the Baron discontinued his dynamic activity for a series of reasons: 1. The Turkish regime became suspicious of the activity of the Baron in the Land and monitored every move he made. 2. The Baron's officers were not infused with excessive love of Zion. They were interested only in their own needs. 3. The proximity [of Yesud Hama'alah] to the Hula marshes – these were 60,000 dunams of land

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in which malaria [was endemic, and from which] the malaria venom was spread throughout the nearby area. The leadership of the colony was given over to the J.C.A. [Jewish Colonization Association] with the hope that it would be more expert in issues of colonization. However, the J.C.A. liquidated all the enterprises, fired all the officers, and paid them compensation. Only those people who [were determined to] bind up their fate with the soil remained in the colony. The J.C.A. was prepared to liquidate the colony under the pretext that people could not exist there, given the bad air.[6] Only thanks to the stubbornness of the colonists and their connection with the soil did the colony survive. The standard of living fell once again. The malaria worsened, but the new farmers clung to the land by their nails, and nothing had the power to uproot them from their soil. They and their successors continued their work in the hope and belief that all of the problems would disappear, and that the situation would improve. Thus did they merit, together with us, to witness the founding of the State of Israel, and they were proud that their great–grandparents were among the first to respond to the call to Zion.

Today, there are 135 families in Yesud Hama'alah. After the Six Day War, the long enemy border moved farther east, and the village grew and blossomed. The people attempted to expand the settlement, to increase the population, to broaden the economic base, and to connect the agriculture with industry. A district school with 240 students exists in the settlement. Wide–spread cultural activity takes place: clubs for youth and adults, readings, concerts, performances, etc.

The first colonists from Mezritsh included: David Eizenberg, Zeev Dov Eizenberg, Zeev Beker, Yosef Gedulter, Shimon Dov Gedulter, Alter Gedulter, Yechezkel Zand, Shmuel Tiliticki, Shabtai Likerman, Pesachja Likerman, Yosef Likerman, Chaim Manzewski, Mordechai Segal, Avraham Felman, Mendel Felman, and [Rabbi] Baruch Meir Rozenblum.

Their followers included: Eliezer Gedulter, Shlomo Gedulter, Yitzchak Gedulter, Moshe Gedulter, Yaakov Gedulter, Binyamin Tiliticki, David Tiliticki, Shlomo Likerman, Aharon Felman, Shimon Felman, and Menachem Felman.


Translator and Translation Editor's Footnotes

  1. Nachalat Sadeh VaKerem – see Numbers 16:14 return
  2. 2,500 dunams – This is the equivalent of about 618 acres (1 dunam equals approximately .25 acres) return
  3. Beit Yaakov Lechu VeNelcha (literally – House of Jacob Arise and Let us Go) – see Isaiah 2:5. For more information on Bilu see: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0003_0_02981.html return
  4. Chovevei Zion – (literally – Lovers of Zion) For more information on Chovevei Zion, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hovevei_Zion return
  5. Linat Tzedek (literally – staying overnight with the sick) – one of the communal health organizations in the Yishuv, in which the community as a whole was responsible for its sick members. Gemilut Hasadim (literally –performing acts of loving kindness). Another communal self–help society. Some examples of gemilut hasadim include clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, burying the dead, and visiting the sick. return
  6. “Bad air” here refers not to the air itself, but to the spread of malaria. return


[Page 456]

Yesud Hama'alah[1]

(From A Journey to the Upper Galilee)

by Yoel Mastbaum

Translated by Jerrold Landau

From my childhood, I still remember the tall Jew with the high hat and wide visor, from under which a half closed eye peered out, quivering with hidden wisdom. That eye saw nothing – and saw everything. This was Reb Lejbel Rubin, or as he was known in Mezritsh – Lejbel the Blind.

That legendary Jew, with a patriarchal appearance that I will never forget, left a deep impression upon me. He often traveled back and forth to the Land of Israel. Reb Lejbel Rubin believed as did the preachers who saw the Land through the lens of the Song of Songs.[2] When he talked about the Holy Land, he spoke of the comparison of the Jewish People to a bride, and G-d as the groom – each awaiting the other. As he spoke, he would be swept into supernal worlds. Yet he was simple and tangible in his deeds. He unhesitatingly purchased a piece of land [in Israel] and built a house. He also organized groups to travel and settle there. It made no difference to him who the travelers were, Hasidim or Misnagdim, young or old – as long their destination was the Land of Israel.

Thus did Lejbel the Blind travel to Israel several times and return even blinder than when he went. While there, he wept at the Western Wall with his weak eyes. The cold stones combined with his hot tears as he begged for mercy: for the old, unmarried Mezritsh girls - that they should be married that year, and for barren women - that they should have children. He brought back various gifts for them. For the older unmarried girls, he brought silk slippers that were rescued from the area around the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.[3] For the barren women, he brought water from the Well of Miriam. My mother had the merit of receiving a bit of that holy water from him, because it portended having many children. A great tragedy took place in our house with respect to that water. The bit of water that my mother received from Reb Lejbel was kept in an earthen pitcher in the cellar. When

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winter came, the pitcher broke due to frost, and the water spilled out. For my mother, things went dark: this was the holy water [drawn] from Miriam's Well. However, there was no reason to worry - thank G-d my mother's wellbeing was not affected… She did not have difficulty giving birth. She had many children and grandchildren without the [benefits of the] holy water.

Lejbel the Blind did not rest. He traveled to the Land of Israel once again and got in touch with three brothers, one of whom was the French Consul in Safed. He purchased a plot of land from them on the border of the Hula marshes. The place was very nice: the Golan Heights were on one side, and the Mountains of Naftali on the other side, with Mei Marom[4] in the middle. It was said that the Bedouins living in that place had found a Coptic inscription stating: you should settle here, and you will have success.

Today, one of the oldest founders of Yesud Hama'alah sat and told about the founding of that settlement: where the first bunk was set up, and which people occupied it, right alongside the animals. Tragic-comic anecdotes came up in this discussion. For example, once, when they baked bread, the cattle ate it all up, and they had nothing to eat. On another occasion, they had to strip naked because of the mosquitos. [On yet another occasion], the cattle got scared and escaped. The settlers gave chase for several days and nights, before they caught them and brought them back. During the early years, typhus and malaria were frequent guests. The elder then remarked with fiery eyes that they were nevertheless always happy; they lacked nothing, and they needed nothing.

The elder talked about a great many more memories from those exciting days, about Reb Lejbel Rubin and other founders of Yesud Hama'alah.

(Davar, 1935). Translated into Yiddish by Tzvi Keshet.


Editor's Footnotes

  1. Yesud Hama'alah – the source of the name is from the book of Ezra 7:9 – “On the first day of the first month the journey up from Babylon was started, and on the first day of the fifth month he arrived in Jerusalem, thanks to the benevolent care of his God for him”. The italicized words connote the meaning of the name Yesud Hama'alah – the start of the journey up. return
  2. The Song of Songs has been interpreted as both a secular love song, and as the love story between G-d and Israel, since earliest times. There was rabbinic discussion as to whether the Song should be deemed sacred enough to be included among the works of the canon. Rabbi Akiva (50-137 CE) strongly believed that it should be. He said about the Song of Songs: “All the ages are not equal to the day when the Song of Songs was given to Israel. For all the Writings are sacred, but the Song of Songs is the most sacred of all (kodesh kodashim – holy of holies)” (Mishna Yadaim 3:5). Many who interpreted the Song more mystically, as a poem of religious love, were often mystics themselves, as Lejbel the Blind appears to be in this story. Mystics were strongly tied to the Land of Israel, and later (16th C) particularly to the northern city of Tzfat (also spelled Safed). For an overview of Jewish Mysticism see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_mysticism) return
  3. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai – traditionally known as the “author” of the Kabbalah (one of the books of Jewish Mysticism). For more information on R. Shimon bar Yochai, see https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/baryochai.html return
  4. Mei Marom was the name of the first colony “kolonia” established in 1872 on the banks of Lake Hula by Yaakov Hai Abu along with the brothers Shlomo and Shaul Mizrahi. This early claim enabled the later Jewish settlement of the Galilee and Hula Valley region. (source: Hebrew Wikipedia article on Yesud Hama'alah).
    In the bible, Mei Marom was the place at which the combined armies of the inhabitants of the Promised Land were delivered into the hands of the Israelites, led by Joshua Bin Nun. See Josh. 11:1-9. return


[Page 458]

Roots

(From the book: Nachshonei Hachula)[1]

by A. M. Charizman of Israel

Translated by Jerrold Landau

David Ejzenberg

He was born in Mezritsh. He was one of the founders of Yesud Hama'alah, and the brother–in–law of Reb Baruch Meir Rozenblum. In Mezritsh, he had business relationships with the gentiles from the surrounding villages, with whom he maintained friendly relations. He did not know about anti–Semitism, and perhaps he would never had known about it had not something happened that opened his eyes.

Reb David related that an educated Pole, who lived in one of the villages, would teach the Polish farmers every Sunday as well as on their holidays. Once he said to Reb David, “You should know that your entire fortune comes from our toil and belongs to us.” Afterwards, when he had seen the impression that his venomous speech made upon Reb David's face, he said, stressing every word, “Your children also belong to us…”. This caused Reb David to shudder. From that moment onward, the Land of Israel became a driving principle of his life.

 

Reb David Ejzenberg

 

Regarding the 24 Mezritshers who founded the “Nachalat Sadeh VaKerem” organization[2], with the aim of purchasing land in the Land of Israel and founding their own colony – Reb David said the following during a discussion with one of the youth of Yesud Hama'alah. “Yes, suddenly after that time, everyone felt inside that it was crowded in the Diaspora, crowded and bitter, despite the fact that we Mezritshers were secure in our livelihood, and that we lived – as is said – with honor. We all had the feeling that the Land of Israel and the Jewish people would not be secure in their existence without agriculture.”

Reb David Ejzenberg was not among the first group of seven

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Mezritshers who settled on the land of Yesud Hama'alah in the year 5643 (1883). In the year 5646 (1886), when Eliahu Szejd was sent by the famous philanthropist[3] to Yesud Hama'alah to take control of the colony, he did so under the condition that those members of the colonies who were still living in the Diaspora at that time would sell their plots [in Israel to the other members of the Yesud Hama'alah community] in order to expand the area [available] for the farmers who were already there. Reb David Ejzenberg was among those who did not want to forgo their plots under any circumstances. He relied on an explicit verse in the Torah, “And he shall sell of his inheritance”[4] – and not his entire inheritance. Since the representative who came to Mezritsh wanted to purchase only an entire plot, he left without any of [R. Ejzenberg's property]. On the contrary, Reb David Ejzenberg decided to liquidate all of his businesses, to make aliya to the Land of Israel with his family, and to settle in Yesud Hama'alah.

Reb David Ejzenberg maintained friendly relations with the writer Y. L. Peretz[5]. When Peretz found out about his decision to make aliya to the Land of Israel, he attempted to talk him out of it. He said that the Land in its current state was wild, and life was difficult and bad there. People suffered from hunger, pillaging, etc. However Reb David did not pay attention to him. He sold all of his possessions, took his family, and set out for Odessa in the year 5646 (1886) where he would board a ship to the Land of Israel.

His wife Hentshe (from Nachum Sokolow's family) was at first against aliya. Her father demanded that his son–in–law give her a get [a bill of divorce] and secure the existence of the children. However, she refused to get divorced, and decided to turn to the Mezritsh Rav, Rabbi Yisrael Isser, of blessed memory. They both agreed to follow whatever he decided. After the rabbi heard their claims, he turned to them and said, “I cannot give you advice that will be good for both of you regarding such a holy matter such as the commandment to settle in the Land of Israel. What I can tell you, dear David, if you travel – travel in good health and arrive there in peace.”

Reb David's aliya preparations of took place at exactly the time when his brother–in–law Reb Baruch Meir Rozenblum returned from the Land. Hentshe used that fact to try to change her husband's mind. “See,” she told him, “Baruch Meir returned from there, certainly not because he enjoyed it, and you are liquidating your businesses, disrupting your connection with all your relatives, and going there?” However, since Reb Baruch Meir Rozenblum himself refused to say anything bad about the Land of Israel, her words had no effect.

When Reb David Ejzenberg arrived in Odessa with his family,

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he, as one of the first of Chovevei Zion[6], saw the need to meet with the secretary of the Chovevei Zion committee, Reb Moshe Lejb Liljenbaum. When he came to him, Liljenbaum took his hand and said, “Your hands will plow?” “Yes, they will plow,” responded Reb David with certainty.

 

Hentshe Ejzenberg

 

On the ship, the family got to know a young man from Tiberias who was travelling home from the Diaspora. He encouraged and calmed Ejzenberg's wife who had been weeping throughout the entire journey.

Later, after they arrived at the port of Jaffa, they rode on horses and camels for three days from Jaffa to the Galilee. Reb David rode with one son on a horse, and his wife rode on a second horse with a small child on her lap. The other two sisters were stuffed into boxes atop a third horse, like two squirmy doves.

Along the way, when Reb David became very tired of riding on the back of the poor animal, he asked the horseman to permit him to travel a bit by foot, but he did not agree. The young man from Tiberias, who was also part of the group, did not heed the Arab guide. He got off his donkey and began to walk beside him. The guide threw him down [to the ground] and beat him with deathly blows. They continued on further, oppressed and humiliated by the incident. Not far from Safed, they were attacked by Arabs who wanted to steal their money. They were saved thanks only to Hentshe's foresight – she had tied their money to the jacket of the two year old child just in time. They continued on after the Arabs searched them and found nothing.

They all stopped in Rosh Pina[7], not far from Yesud Hama'alah. Reb David felt the need to first go to Lasovitzkin, the officer of the Baron [Edmond Rothschild], in order to give over the documents that he brought along from Dr. Pinsker. The officer said that he would need to inquire of officials in Paris about this matter, and, he could not

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permit Reb David to settle in Yesud Hama'alah until an answer was received. Lasovitzkin set Ejzenberg up, however, and provided him with work in Rosh Pina. He remained employed at that job for a few months. The family settled in Safed.[8] Ejzenberg would go to work in Rosh Pina on Sunday and returned to his family on Friday afternoon.

Finally, Ejzenberg was permitted to settle in Yesud Hama'alah. At that time, everyone in Yesud Hama'alah had huts and cabins. Reb Avraham Felman gave him a place in his stable. They emptied the stable and spread out straw mats for a place to sleep. They did not sleep well, however, as the frogs croaked on the ground and disturbed them.

Now, Reb David was settled on his own land, working the ground like a farmer. Autumn, the time for plowing, came, and the rains got stronger. Reb David found a way of protecting himself from the rains – he tied an umbrella to the plow. He took his son to the field, and, as he plowed the ground, he also “plowed” the Torah of Abaye and Rabba[9] with his son.

Reb David Ejzenberg was good–natured, and he quickly made friends with people. The following is told about him and his friend Rozenfeld from Rosh Pina: It was the shmita[10] year. Like his friend Rozenfeld, Reb David raised silkworms. Once, Rozenfeld came with a horse and wagon, which meant that the matter was urgent since such short distances were usually covered by foot. They were happy to see each other, and Reb David showed him his worms. Later, when they went into the house and sat down to drink tea, Reb David asked him, “Now will you tell me the urgent matter that brought you to me?” Rozenfeld answered, “My worms are also mature. I have to give them a lot to eat, and I am short of leaves.” Reb David responded, “Good, let us both go out to look at the trees and estimate the number of leaves [I can give you for your silkworms].” They went out together, and after several minutes of estimating, Rozenfeld turned to Reb David and said, “I can see that there is not much I can take from you. Perhaps you made an error in estimation.” Reb David then interrupted Rozenfeld and told him, “No, I have done it correctly.” Reb David declared to him, “I have calculated how many of the worms have emptied [themselves of their silk]. I realize that since your lack of leaves is greater than mine, it means that your worms empty out more than mine. Therefore I want you to take some of my leaves, so that at least your worms will not empty out more [silk] than mine.”[11]

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As the family's children got older, the situation became more difficult. Reb David's wife Hentshe was a very anxious type. When they built their own house, she would transport water from her parents' house in Mei Marom. There were four metal sheets on a wagon, and she went the distance of a half a kilometer from there to her house in an hour – as Reb David carried the stones.[12]

The entire family worked, and they were not fussy. Everything was made in their own workshop. When their son Ze'ev–Dov was 14 or 15 years old, a dispute broke out between the Arab shepherds and the [Jewish] owners of the flock. The colony wanted to hire a shepherd from among the Arabs in the neighboring village of Izbad, who had formerly owned the land of Yesud Hama'alah. The neighboring Arabs, however, were afraid of the Mugrabim, the clan to which the shepherd belonged. Ze'ev Dov formed a committee in the colony and declared that he was taking it upon himself to pasture the flock for free, and the shepherds must understand that they must not mock the colony. A short time later, when the Mugrab [shepherd from the neighboring town of Izbad] realized that the flocks were being taken to pasture without help, he came and asked that they take him back.[13]

 

Ze'ev Dov Ejzenberg

 

Reb David was an opponent of outside workers, believing that the work should be done with their own hands.[14]

Reb David died on the 6th of Kislev, 5695 (1934).

 

Nachman Moshe Ejzenberg

Reb David Ejzenberg's son Nachman–Moshe contracted pneumonia. The doctors who examined him, however, diagnosed him [incorrectly] with malaria. They administered quinine, which is poisonous for [patients with] pneumonia. They said that when Dr. Hillel Yaffa [eventually made the correct] diagnosis, he put both hands on his head in pain and shouted, “Doctors, you killed a healthy lad! You burnt him with quinine.”

He died on the 24th of Tevet, 5678 (1918) at the age of 20.

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Shraga Ejzenberg

The second son of Reb David Ejzenberg, Shraga Ejzenberg, led the youth who were asked to serve as the [Jewish] guards for the fields of the colony. In 5678 (1919), when General Allenby's Army broke through the Turkish front and marched into the Land, it was still not clear who had authority over the northern part of the Upper Galilee– whether the French or the English. Bands of robbers took advantage of the situation to pillage. The attacks were carried out while the people worked in the fields, and the danger was great during the harvest season, when grain was transported at night.

Shraga was involved with neutralizing the danger. He left home at dawn to transport the grain, not taking any weapons along. One day at dawn, he went out with his cousin Aharon–Lejb Epsztejn, bringing a wagon of oats from the field. As they were loading the wagon near the cemetery, a 15–minute journey from the colony, they heard a noise among the thorns. Shraga asked, “Who is there?” Before he and his 16–year–old cousin had a chance to look around, they had already been surrounded on all sides by a band of robbers.

Since they had no weapons with which to defend themselves, they were forcefully dragged to the mountains by the robbers. They dragged them on the ground by their legs, pulled out their hair, and cruelly beat them. They shouted, “Zionists, Zionists, soon we will drink your blood!” They began talking amongst themselves, and one of them took out a sword and began to wave it over Shraga. At that moment, Aharon–Lejb turned around and ran in the direction of the colony. Some of the robbers chased after him, but, with superhuman effort, he escaped and the murderers did not succeed in catching him.

Despite the fact that this took place not far from the colony, the colonists heard nothing until Aharon–Lejb appeared before them, beaten and naked, with eyes popping out like a madman. Due to his injuries, he uttered only one word, “Shraga!” The colonists understood that a misfortune had taken place. They went out to Reb David Ejzenberg's field where they found the horse and wagon without Shraga. They began to search for him. In the meantime, his parents came running. His dead body was found on Friedman's land in Rosh Pina. They lay him on three rods and began to carry him. The also carried his faint mother

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the entire way. The funeral took place after sunset. The entire colony burst out in weeping upon seeing the parents rend their garments and recite “Baruch Dayan HaEmet”[15] over the second victim [in their family], their beloved and dear son.

Shraga was murdered on the 22nd of Sivan, 5680 (1920).

 

Reb Menachem–Mendel Felman

He was one of the first Mezritshers in Yesud–Hama'alah. From among the ten measures of pain that befell the pioneers of Yesud Hama'alah, nine fell upon Reb Mendel Felman[16] – and how great was the pain? As great as his uprightness and modesty.

Suleiman Abu–Ali, one of the oldest residents of the neighboring village of Izbad, used to come and ask for grain after the threshing in Yesud Hama'alah. Nobody refused him. One day, Suleiman came with his daughter, as usual, bringing a sack. The elder Suleiman greeted Reb Mendel with an eastern double–entendre “Shalom.”[17] Reb Mendel responded 'Shalom,” but since he was preoccupied, he did not raise his head. The old man stood a bit, said “Shalom,” and went away with an empty sack. Reb Mendel immediately understood what happened, and regretted it: Letting the old, important man go away without a gift from the produce of his field! Reb Mendel immediately took a sack, filled it to the brim with wheat, tied it up, put it on his shoulders, and set out with it to Suleiman's tent. When he arrived, he turned to the old man with these words, “Suleiman, I am embarrassed that you had to come to us to beg for a piece of bread. We have not forgotten and will not forget that you and your brothers gave us from your bread in our difficult situation. Therefore, it is our holy duty to bring a gift from our produce to you in your home, so that you will not have to trouble yourself in your old age.”

Reb Mendel Felman, who buried seven children in Yesud Hama'alah in its first years, finally succeeded in raising a son to the age of 22. When it was time for [his son] to enter the [Turkish] army, he tried with all his might to free him [of this duty]. Later, when he had succeeded, his joy was so great that he distributed charity to everyone that he met on the way from Akko to Safed. When an acquaintance remarked to him, “Reb Mendel, what a son you have!” he responded, “You know, my friend, how much trouble I suffered in freeing him from the Turkish hands. So, should I be concerning myself with money? Let

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others also have benefit from my joy. Three months later, when the lad became engaged, and everything was prepared for the wedding, the son contracted black fever[18] and died.

Menachem Mendel himself died of pneumonia on 2 Cheshvan, 5682 [1922].

 

Mindel–Miriam Tiliticki

She was the daughter of Reb Avraham Cohen of blessed memory, one of the first seven Mezritshers who settled in Yesud Hama'alah. She married Reb Shmuel Tiliticki. He was a tinsmith – an efficient worker. He connected his trade with agriculture, so his situation was always good. His wife Mindel–Miriam was always prepared to sacrifice for her fellow. Like a redeeming angel, she would help sick people with dedication.

Mindel–Miriam had a family with children, and a farm with cows and fowl. Reb Shmuel worked in the smithy for the entire day, so the work in the farm fell entirely upon her. With regard to the farm, she could show anyone what to do. The son of her neighbor Alfasi became sick with typhus. Who would want to become involved with such a contagious illness? Who would give him food and drink, and make his bed? A mother with children should not come into contact with such an illness. Mindel came – despite the worries! When she came, people immediately became hopeful and were certain that the sick person would have a complete recovery. Death overtook her in her prime. She died on the 29th of Tevet 5683 (1923).

 

Reb Shabtai HaKohen Likerman

He was one of the first seven Mezritshers who settled on the soil of Yesud Hama'alah.

His wife died in the year 5643 (1883), the year they arrived. She was the first victim of Yesud Hama'alah. There was no cemetery yet [in Yesud Hama'alah]. She was brought on a camel to Safed for burial.

His son Petachya became ill with black fever on the 7th of Sivan, 5657 (1897), and died after a few hours at the age of 23.

His second son Yosef contracted the fever on the 15th of Kislev, 5658 (1897), and died after a few hours at the age of 26. He left behind a pregnant wife.

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The death of both of his sons left Reb Shabtai completely depressed. When his daughter–in–law, the widow, gave birth to her son, she named him after his father, Yosef. When they left the synagogue after the circumcision, Reb Shabtai said, “So, blessed be G–d, you will merit to perpetuate the memory of your father, but I no longer have the strength to live.” On the 14th of Shvat 5658 (1898), six and a half months after Petachya's death and six weeks after Yosef's death, the father himself passed from this world.

 

Reb Yosef–Meir Gedulter

He was one of the first seven Mezritshers in Yesud Hama'alah. In Mezritsh, he had been involved in teaching Talmud to the youth. He arrived in the Land in the year 5643 (1883) and settled on his plot in Yesud Hama'alah. He used up the little money that he had brought with him during the first bitter years of Yesud Hama'alah, and he was left penniless.

When Reb Yosef–Meir reached old age, he asked his son Shimon–Dov in Mezritsh to come to the Land. Despite his good material situation in Mezritsh, the son was not able to oppose the will of his father, who had a strong desire to see his son in the Land of Israel. He exaggerated no small amount about his possessions in Yesud Hama'alah. The son came to the Land with his wife and two children. He took over the plot and worked it together with his father.

Reb Yosef Meir died on the eve of Rosh Chodesh Tevet 5658 (1898) at the age of 72.

 

Margalit, the wife of Shimon Dov Gedulter

She was the daughter of the Rabbi and Gaon Shlomo Ejdelman. She came to Yesud Hama'alah together with her husband and children during the time of the building of the bunks. She bore the burden of the work day and night and suffered along with all the others.

Despite the assaults of fever, hunger, and other tribulations, she spent her last coin to send her son Alter to study in the Talmud Torah in Safed. During her childhood, she had been raised in riches. During the difficult times in Yesud Hama'alah, she had to bake bread to sell in order to feed her family and pay for her son's education in Safed. Her husband worked on the land as well as at the office. Both jobs were insufficient to feed the family to satiety.

She became ill with fever three times. The second time, she became blind from swallowing too much quinine. She died on the 10th of Nisan, 5659 (1899) at the age of 36.

[Page 467]

Reb Shimon–Dov Gedulter

He came to the Land in the year 5648 (1888). He studied in yeshiva during his youth. After his marriage, he became involved in business. As we have already written, he arrived with his wife and two children. To this day, one can still find in the modern house of his son Reb Alter the old bookshelf that Reb Shimon–Dov brought with him, filled with the Vilna edition of the Talmud. He contracted black fever and died on the 19th of Iyyar, 5665 (1905).

 

Reb Alter Gedulter

He is the son of Reb Shimon–Dov and Margalit Gedulter. He was four years old when his parents brought him with them to the Land. His father died when he was 18 years old. His mother had died several years earlier. He lived with four brothers and two sisters. His stepmother took two of his brothers with her to Safed. Two brothers set out for America, and the two sisters remained with him.

 

Alter Gedulter

 

Alter began to work on the household farm with the primitive means of that time. It was especially difficult, since he did not want help from anybody. The first step he took to save his father's ruined farm was to purchase a milk cow, and to use the milk while simultaneously using the cow to plow the field.

During that time, malignant edema was prevalent among the animals. That fate did not pass over Alter's faithful provider of food: she swelled up and died. The young farmer was left with nothing.

At that time, the office [of Baron Edmond Rothschild] in Rosh Pina purchased 30 wagons for the Metula colony and they were looking for someone to transport them. They could not find anyone to do so due to the difficult road. The young Gedulter undertook this task. The office gave him the job, and within a few days, he had succeeded in transporting the 30 wagons to Metula. He earned 180 francs for the work. He used that

[Page 468]

sum to purchase oxen, horses, grain, and wheat to sow for his farm – all in cash payments. Thus, he was able to reestablish his home farm.

Reb Alter Gedulter served as the mukhtar[19] of the colony for 25 years. He always concerned himself with the needy and those in difficult straits.

As mukhtar, he concerned himself with the farmers of the colony, and did things on their behalf with respect to humanitarian needs, but also with respect to work dangers caused by Turkish policy.

Reb Alter had five sons. Even though he was no longer a young man, on account of his willingness to work and his nimbleness, he was no less productive than his sons. His sons were his pride. None of them left the colony, as others had done. They were bound to their father's land.

He was not only the head of his own household, but also of the entire colony. His influence was also noted beyond the border of his colony. From the time of his arrival in the Land, he did not change his place of residence.

The desert folk from the other side of the Jordan tried their luck in his yard on several occasions by sleeping in the barn and following after the animals in their pens, but Alter used to teach them a lesson. He would shout at them with an Arabic word, or a Polish word that he still remembered from Mezritsh. The beatings that they received taught them the meaning of these words.

Alter did not like public speaking. He did not have time to recite history. Everything that his children knew about that time came from their mother, [who spoke of it] while she knitted sweaters for the family on rainy days. From her, they learned everything that had taken place in Yesud Hama'alah. She told them that she said to their father, “You will not suffer in the city. Open up a store in the colony. A store brings income. In the fields, you must sow and you will never be sure if you will harvest.”

It is good that Alter did not listen to her. The soil did not betray them. With time, they built a house and a granary. They had an abundance of produce, cows, and sheep.

Alter had the trust of the desert folk. His younger son asked him on occasion, “Who destroyed your first house and robbed your possessions?” Alter responded, “If you have good character traits,

[Page 469]

the neighbors will also benefit from them. If not, they will send you theirs… The Arabs indeed destroyed my house, but our neighbors, also Arabs, brought me sacks of wheat to appease us.”

Once, his sons came to him at midday with complaints. The eldest one said, “See, Father, what the kibbutzim are doing. Let me go to them for a year to learn new methodologies.” The second one told the following parable, “Why are we working in the dark, whereas in the neighboring farms they work for eight hours and then sit in the cinema?” The third one also had a parable. When the fourth one began, Alter shouted at him, “Enough for today!” and left the room in anger.

He had no peace that evening. He thought about the complaints of his sons and came to the decision that he must not talk to them in a raised voice. The oldest was already 26 years old, and the youngest 16. He had overcome everything. When they went to bed, he went to the children in the bedroom, stood by the door, and said in a low voice, to which they were not accustomed, “I own 300 dunams of land. The land belongs to you. You have obtained it with your work. Do with it as you wish. The earth is good for various crops. When you have the ability, you can expand the barn and the sheep pens. The work can be divided up among you. Everyone will obtain a portion, but together, as in a kibbutz. You should think: that land raised you, and you should not leave it!”

Reb Alter Gedulter died on the 15th of Nisan 5716 (1956).

 

Chaim Menzszewski

He was from the first settlers of Yesud Hama'alah. He was short and slender, a modest person who did not get involved in social matters. He was a smith by trade, and therefore people called him “Chaim the Koval[20]. However, he was dedicated to his small farm more than to his smithy. He was in the field during most of the hours of the day. When the farmers came home in the evening, he would still be following the plow, as if it would cease to exist, were it not for him. When night fell, he would light the lantern, hang it on the plow, and continue with his work.

He died on the 12 Elul 5681 (1921) at the age of 87.

Translated from Hebrew by M. Bir


Translator's and Editor's Footnotes

  1. Nachshonei Hachula – literally meaning Pioneers of the Hula. Nachshon, son of Aminadav, was also, according to Rabbinic legend, the first among the Israelites to dare to enter the Red Sea as the Israelites were being chased by Pharaoh's armies. According to legend, Nachshon entered the waters without waiting for them to part – an act of pure faith and courage. Only when the waters reached his nose did the sea part. For a more complete description of the legend see: The Book of Legends (Sefer Ha–Aggadah), edited by Hayim Nachman Bialik and Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky, translated by William G. Braude, Schocken Books, NY (1992) pp. 72–73 return
  2. Nachalat Sadeh VaKerem – Num. 16:14 is the source of the Organization's title. For more information on this organization, see p. 453 of this Yizkor Book. return
  3. “Famous philanthropist” – Probably referring to Baron Edmond Rothschild. See p. 453–454 of this Yizkor Book for information about the Baron's trip to the area. return
  4. See Leviticus 25:25. return
  5. Y.L. Peretz – Hebrew and Yiddish language poet and writer. For more information see: http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Peretz_Yitskhok_Leybush return
  6. Chovevei Zion – for more information on this organization, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hovevei_Zion return
  7. Rosh Pina was the first Jewish Settlement in northern Israel, founded by 30 families from Romania. For more information, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosh_Pinna return
  8. Safed is about 11 km west of Rosh Pina return
  9. This refers to teaching his son Torah – Abaye and Rabba are two Talmudic sages. return
  10. Shmita – refers to the Sabbatical year, when Torah forbids the working of the land in Israel. return
  11. Reb David seems to be trying to give the leaves to his friend Rozenfeld without making him feel bad about taking them. Reb David points out that Rozenfeld's “method” of feeding his silkworms less (a “method” enforced by Rozenfeld's lack of leaves) has caused them to produce more silk. By taking some of his leaves, Reb David is saying that this will help his own silkworms to produce more. return
  12. Mei Marom was the first neighborhood built on the banks of Lake Hula, near Yesud Hama'alah. It is not clear what the author's description means other than Hentshe would transport water from her parents' home in Mei Marom to her home, under construction, in Yesud Hama'alah, and that this process took about an hour. return
  13. These sentences are a bit convoluted in the original. Apparently the people of Yesud Hama'alah wanted to hire a new shepherd, a Mughrab, from the neighboring town of Izbad. Their existing shepherd, also an Arab boy, was from a different clan, which seemingly did not get along with the Mughrabim. Ze'ev Dov decided to do the work himself. When the people of Izbad saw that the Jews of Yesud Hama'alah had taken the job back due to their clannish infighting, the Mughrab shepherd came back to them to ask for the job. return
  14. The term “outside workers” here seems to refer to the local Arabs. return
  15. A ritual tearing of garments, called keria, is undertaken by close relatives of the deceased after a death or at a funeral. Baruch Dayan HaEmet – Blessed be the True Judge – is a response offered by Jews when they hear of a death or a tragedy. return
  16. The Talmud (BT Kiddushin 49b) offers several variations on the theme offered here of “ten measures of x descended upon the world”. return
  17. The “double entendre” probably refers to “Shalom” as being more than just a greeting – it also might also have included a subtle hint that, as an important man making a visit to Yesud Hama'alah, it was incumbent upon Reb Mendel to offer a “gift” of grain for the sack that Abu–Ali brought with him. return
  18. Kala azar (Visceral Leishmaniasis) or Dumdum Fever. return
  19. Mukhtar – an Arabic word meaning Village Head. return
  20. Kovalis a blacksmith return


[Page 470]

Mezritsh Jews:
Among the First to Come to Build the Land

by Dr. Shoshan–Roz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

(Regarding the founding of the village of Gan–Roz[1])

The founding of the village of Gan Roz in the Sharon was once again related to Mezritsh Jews, who were among the first to come to build up the Land. The village was established through funding from a partnership with the Roz family in America and the “Agaf Hashikun[2] affiliated with the work office. At the beginning of 1957, a celebration marking the conclusion of the building of the village took place. This also marked 90 years of Mezritsh aliya, which had been blessed with the initiative and personalities of its donors and builders in both the city and the village.

 

Over the Walls of Jerusalem

About 110 years ago, (20 years before the founding of Yesud Hama'alah) Misnagdish [non–Hasidic] Jews from Mezritsh made aliya to the Land of Israel. They came to build up the land from its desolation.

The wealthy and scholarly Reb Yaakov Roz[3] was among the first pioneers. He settled in Jerusalem, acclimated very quickly, and became involved in all matters of the community. In this manner, he also became very involved with Rabbi Shmuel Salant, the chief rabbi of Jerusalem at that time. Rabbi Shmuel Salant believed strongly in Reb Yaakov's expertise in Agada and Midrashim.

Reb Yaakov, the wealthy man of Mezritsh and a great scholar, was not satisfied with the dwellings of the “Kolel houses,” or as they were called at that time, the “Goral houses” [lottery houses], which were distributed free once every three years. Reb Yaakov purchased houses and their courtyards with his own money in the Arab Quarter. Together with other activists of old Jerusalem, he also began to purchase land outside the walls of Jerusalem.

Along with his neighbor Reb Yosef Rivlin of blessed memory, “The Builder of New Jerusalem”,

[Page 471]

he undertook to build dwellings that anyone could rent, with very favorable rental conditions, in accordance with the known adage, “Build your home first.” To that end, he participated in the founding of the first bank in Jerusalem, that financed the purchase of land to found the neighborhoods of Me'ah She'arim, Mishkanot, Mazkeret, and Migrash HaRussim.

Reb Yaakov's home served as a guest–house for all new immigrants from Mezritsh. They were helped by him and solicited advice from him about how to insure [the safety of] their money until they could become settled in Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Yesud Hama'alah.

The following is an interesting curiosity about societal life in those days – it was an era of dispute between the Perushim (Misnagdim) and the Hasidim in the Ashkenazi community of Jerusalem. The split between them manifested itself in all areas of life, and spread to various synagogues, Talmud Torahs, yeshivot, courts of Jewish law, [and affected] shechita [ritual slaughter], and burial. Even “mixed” marriages [between Hasidim and Misnagdim] were stopped. Then, Reb Yaakov Roz asked Rabbi Shmuel Salant, the rabbi of the city, and a staunch Misnaged, for permission to allow his son to marry the daughter of a Lubavitcher Hasid. He was motivated by the fact that Chabad [Lubavitch] stood at the center – between the Hasidim and Misnagdim. Reb Shmuel Salant gave his permission and blessed them, “May it be His will that the match will be successful.” He certainly meant the match between the Perushim and Hasidim.

Reb Yaakov's son, Rabbi Tovia Roz, was born in Jerusalem. He was a great scholar as well as a person with whom one could consult. He continued in the path of his father in accordance with the adage, “The sons inherit the deeds of the fathers.” He was very active during the era of Jamal Pasha's rule.[4] During the years of famine of the First World War, Rabbi Tovia Roz was the founder of the “House of Bread and Tea” to help the hungry.

He was involved in various assistance committees, as well as in the united committee to distribute food products that were sent by the Jews of America for the residents of Jerusalem. He did a great deal to organize and unify the “Rapid Help” – to save people from the plagues and cholera that had spread during those years, taking innumerable victims. He also helped Jewish soldiers who served overseas in the Rishon LiYehuda and Maklaei Hamelech brigades. He organized self–defense in the neighborhoods during the time of the Arab disturbances of 1920.

Like his father Reb Yaakov of blessed memory, he also took it upon himself to expand the borders of Jerusalem. He was among the founders of the Kiryat Shmuel and Bayit Vagan neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

Haboker, May 31, 1957


Translator's and Editor's Footnotes

  1. There is a footnote in the original text here. It reads: Near the village of Bnei Zion in the region of Ra'anana. return
  2. Agaf HaShikun – the Housing Office return
  3. There is a footnote in the original text here. It reads: Yaakov Roz was an uncle of Reb Dovid Felman, who together with his wife Sara–Ita were considered to be among the financiers of the Jewish orange plantations in the Land of Israel. return
  4. Jamal Pasha (1872–1922) – one of a triumvirate of Ottoman leaders during WWI. For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Djemal_Pasha return

 

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