Among the figures of the emancipation movement we must mention the 'Father' of 'Hachalutz Hatzair' in Novogrudok- Ozer Gorodiski. He dedicated all his energy to that movement. He started his activity in 'Hachalutz' and 'Poalei-Zion' and, to develop the activities of 'Hachalutz' further, he established in Novogrudok 'Hachalutz-Hatzair'.
In the movement he was an exemplary pioneer. During the day he was busy at his trade as a mechanic and his free time was dedicated to the movement. He organised the staff of Madrichim. Because of his efforts members were sent to the Seminar of 'Hachalutz-Hatzair', he fostered neighbourly relations with the surrounding towns and spread the word of the movement there. Many of the youth were sent to Israel and cast deep roots there.
I remember the meeting of the members of 'Hachalutz-Hatzir' of Novogrudok and Wselub, which took place mid-way between the two towns. The subject of the meeting was the discussion of the book 'Kidush-Hashem' (martyrdom) by Shalom Ash. The two branches prepared themselves well and it was a special experience.
Another example is worth mentioning: It was decided to establish a library in our branch. The members enrolled to do odd jobs in their free time and the money earned was donated to the library. Many books were acquired in this way. Who could count the activities that were guided by the 'Madrich', the father, the friend Ozer Gorodiski? We established a drama circle together with all the youth movements in town and performed the play 'Masadah' by Yitzchak Lamdan. It was a tremendous success, so much so that after the 'Hachsharah' we were invited to Novogrudok for a second performance. He was active in collecting money for the 'Blue Box' etc. I met Ozer Gorodinski on the 'Hachsharah' in Lida, Nieman and Bialystok; he also distinguished himself there by being a devoted, active member of the committee. He visited the 'Hachshara' branches that were established in the surrounding towns. When 'Aliyah' was stopped, he urged the members to be patient and prepare more people for 'Aliyah', when it would be re-established.
When he arrived in Eretz-Israel in 1933, he could not adapt to the social life. He started a family and was occupied with taking care of it. He moved from one place to the other: from the kibbutz to Tel-Aviv, from Tel-Aviv to Rechovot, where he worked as a guard at the railway station. During the riots of 1936-9 he moved with his family to Jerusalem. And during the War of Independence he fell in the defence of Jerusalem.
All those who knew him intimately considered him a humane and altruistic man. He fulfilled his duty to the last and fell in the defence of his country.
by Bilha Dalet in the month of Iyar, Taf, Shin, Tet (1949)
I won't forget our journey and how devoted he was to his friends, carrying luggage for one or taking care of food for another. That was his character; he wanted to help everyone with things big and small. We came to Na'an as a group. For many of us it was difficult to adjust to work in the Kibbutz, but Kushi immediately found his place in the carpentry workshop. And wherever he was, he carried responsibility above expectations. After a few years he decided to change his job and became a driver. To do that, he had to leave the Kibbutz for a short time. When he returned to Na'an he started a family and built his home there. But again he became involved in disagreements with the Kibbutz and left. When the British Army surrounded Kibbutz Na'an and most of its members were arrested and put behind barbwire, Kushi was among the first to rush to help them. After a few weeks he began to feel that the kibbutz was his place and he returned to Na'an. He started to rebuild his house and was happy in the fold of his growing family. He was a devoted father and took a good care of his own. He was aglow with happiness. When the days of the battles arrived, and death was waiting on the roads, he was going his way as usual. I remember him coming to the packing shed to say good-bye without telling us where he was going. And we did not feel in our hearts that we wouldn't see him again in our midst.
We met for the first time in a truck in a convoy to Jerusalem and later for 6 weeks in Kfar-Etzion, until it fell to the enemy. On one of these days, on a Saturday, I drove a truck loaded with sacks of flour to Jerusalem. On the Sunday I returned to Tel-Aviv to load the truck again, but I did not have a second driver with me to go to Jerusalem. Kushi was in Tel-Aviv then and it was suggested in the 'movement' office that he would escort me, until a new driver could be found.
In the morning we left Rechovot. The journey from the Moshavah (Rechovot) to the road Masmia-Latrun lasted 12 hours. After we passed Ekron the convoy became bogged down in mud and Kushi walked home (to Na'an) and brought a tractor to help extract the trucks. At home he saw his daughter Shlomit for the last time and told her that he was going to Jerusalem and would be back in a few days. Who knew then that he would not see his loved ones and Na'an again! Hours passed as we were extracting the bogged vehicles. In the meantime a convoy on its way back from Jerusalem passed us, and the people said that the road was quiet, they had no problems and no one attacked them. At 7 o'clock in the evening we were ready to continue, but we still waited for another half hour. We were told that a unit of the Palmach in an armoured vehicle left Kiryat-Anavim and was travelling towards us to check the road. When they came the convoy started to move.
We arrived at Sha'ar-Hagai when it was dark. Of course we drove with no lights, the convoy progressed slowly.
Before we left Rechovot, Israel Galili wanted to join us to arrange some money matters for Na'an in Jerusalem. We convinced him not to go because we did not know when we would be able to return. He explained to Kushi what the issue was and asked him to arrange things for him in Jerusalem. That night at 11 o'clock we arrived in Jerusalem with no trouble. All the vehicles that were loaded with 'Tnuvah' products (farm products) were unloaded at night and in the morning they returned to Tel-Aviv. Our vehicles were loaded with flour and were detained for a day in Jerusalem. The next day, a Wednesday, a convoy to Jerusalem was heavily attacked. Eleven vehicles were damaged and were left on the road. It was only on the Thursday night that the convoy managed to open the road to get through to Jerusalem. In the meantime we stayed behind and waited for a returning convoy.
We were told to return to Tel-Aviv on Friday with the convoy that had come the previous day. We assembled, as ordered, at 6 o'clock in the morning near the Hospital Wolach. Kushi had managed to arrange all of the business that Israel Galili asked him to do.
We waited for two hours that morning and suddenly an order was given to go to the Shenler building. The atmosphere in the town was tense, and there was fear of what was coming. We heard exchanges of fire all night.
When we came to the Shenler building we were told to load supplies for Kfar-Etzion. One convoy, which had left the previous week, did not succeed in opening the road. (The enemy knew about this convoy and that was why it had failed). This time they decided to travel secretly.
It was not that simple. Many drivers were not happy to go. Many were members of Kibbutzim, had jobs to do in their Kibbutz and they could not decide on their own initiative what was the best thing to do. There were also problems with the city drivers. After much negotiation it was decided to go. On the eve of Sabbath, till mid-night, they were loading the trucks. That evening a festive meal was given to the people of the convoy. We were 50 drivers in all. Half of us were farmers. At 3 o'clock in the morning a bus collected us from the hotels, but we still did not depart. The preparations took 5 hours. We started to move at 8 o'clock. It was a huge convoy, scores of trucks, armoured vehicles and buses. 120 tons of supplies were loaded. With us went the Palmach armoured units and members of 'Chish'(Cheil-Sadeh, Haganah), who were going to replace the students from Jerusalem at Kfar-Etzion. We arrived without incidence to 'Gush-Etzion' (the Etzion-Bloc consisted of 5 settlements). They were ready for us at the Centre and they unloaded the supplies with speed. It did not take more then 20 minutes. The parking area was spacious and the trucks filled the whole area. Everything was unloaded onto the ground and carts went back and forth to bring the supplies for the settlements. When the unloading ended, a few trucks, and we among them, were instructed to take a load back. We loaded three mules onto our truck, the second truck took a bull and the third one took a plane with no wings. We stayed in the Gush (Etzion Bloc) for no more then an hour and a half. Because Kushi and I were busy loading, we were among the last in the returning convoy. When we were ready to move, reconnaissance planes informed us that the enemy had blocked the road in many places. When we departed the enemy opened fire on the convoy. We were together all the time, Kushi and I. He was in a quiet mood, ready, caring and doing all he had to do.
At the head of the convoy was the bulldozer. When we came to the first roadblock, which was cleared, we saw an upturned vehicle in the ditch beside the road. We did not see the drivers. (I found out later that they had been taken out of the vehicle). We advanced slowly and stopped from time to time until a new roadblock was cleared. All the time we were being shot at from ambushes along the road.
We had reached Nebi-Daniel when an accident occurred. The bulldozer broke down and we stopped. Kushi was sitting beside me. One of his jobs was to look around and observe what was happening. He was guarding the shutter. He shut it and opened it in order to see the road.
We had only a small gun for our defence and we were ready to jump out instantly if the truck would be put out of action. We remained at Nebi-Daniel for an hour and a half until the middle-link(?) together with the commanders turned back and went from vehicle to vehicle ordering all to turn back and return to the Gush. We managed to turn around with the help of a sidetrack. Kushi directed me, so that I would not skid into the ditch. We advanced towards the armoured cars that waited for us and continued to move to the direction of the Gush. Again, we encountered a roadblock that the Arabs, in the meantime, had managed to build. We were ordered to cross the roadblock. At the beginning of the journey we were the last in the convoy, on turning back we were among the first. There was no choice, we started to drive over the piles of stones with our truck and with great effort we managed to cross it. Barbwire was caught in the wheels and tore the brake cables. The truck continued and the wires were striking the bottom the truck. It sounded like a machine gun. But we knew only one thing: we must break the roadblocks and continue our journey. Somehow we reached the Gush. We were fortunate that the tyres were intact and so was the truck, thanks to the armour which was installed in Na'an.
While still driving, we opened for an instant the back shutter and saw that the mules were bleeding and dying. When we were out of danger we started to check our truck. Kushi lay under the truck and tried to pull out the barbwire off the wheels. At Kfar Etzion we sat by the wireless, and heard with dread the broadcasts about the fate of the people who did not manage to return with us. Only 5 trucks and 4 armoured cars managed to return. All the others were stuck, they could not move on nor could they return. For 28 hours they fought the enemy and the mob that was called in from the surrounding area. In Kfar Etzion they asked us whether we wanted to stay or to go on to Revadim. We told them that we wanted to stay. The mountain weather was harsh. Heavy fog covered everything. The rain came down and we were sick at heart. Kushi sent a note to his home with one of the pilots, I think it was Pinyeleh. He told them that we were all right, that we were back in the Gush. He did not forget to inform Na'an that the truck was also OK. He also brought a cheque for 750 Israeli Lirot that was given to him in the 'Sochnut' for Israel Galili. During the next day the Palmach commander came to the Gush (by air of course) and cheered us up. He promised that he would do everything to break the roadblocks in the next few days. But after a few days the situation worsened and we knew that the road was closed and there was no possibility to pass through. Kushi and I made a habit of climbing onto the roof every morning when the weather was fine to observe the surrounds and mainly Na'an, which was so close and yet so far. We could distinguish the clamps of trees in the valley, the houses of Na'an and the silo that looked like a white finger. Days went by and we were still under siege. In the meantime the sky cleared. We decided to work. It felt like being at the front. Sometimes there were barrages of shooting but no raids. We, the drivers and other Kibbutz members who were stuck there, discussed our situation with the commander of the Gush. The only chance was to get out by air. He told us that the queue for getting out was long and the wounded were the most important, but because our right of return to our Kibbutz was recognised, every third person that went out would be a driver. But that did not happen too quickly. The situation in the country and in the Gush worsened. The order was to sabotage Arab roads as a counter act. Apparently some of the British soldiers who were about were hit by 'Haganah' mines. They decided to penalise the Gush and opened cannon fire on the monastery that was in our hands. It was more or less quiet in Kfar-Etzion. Only an exchange of fire was heard now and then.
The situation continued till the end of April. Communication by air grew. The 'Primusim' (Piper planes) that arrived managed to take back four Kibbutz drivers. We were 8 drivers in all and had a raffle to decide on the order of leaving. Kushi was the fifth on the list and he was next to leave, I was among the last. But attacks started again and they were heavier and departures stopped.
On the 4th of May, in the early hours of the morning, the British and the Legion (Jordanian army) opened an attack on the monastery and the observation point, and they captured them.
In the afternoon a disaster occurred, a shell hit the tent were the Palmach unit had assembled, ready to attempt to take the monastery again. Six members were killed and six were seriously wounded. Four of us, Kushi amongst us, took stretchers to carry the wounded to the hospital. The path, which was 500 meters from camp, was difficult, tiring and open to enemy fire. Now and then we had to run for cover with the stretchers. We brought a wounded man - it was Arie Berman, who was in 'Hachsharah' in Na'an - to the hospital. During the attack all the patients were taken out of the hospital and were put down on stretchers in the communication trenches.
On the same night a scout was sent to the monastery and came back with the information that no one was there. We retook it and fortified ourselves again.
With that heavy attack with so many wounded, our attempt of departure was abandoned. We were healthy and needed for defence and work. We went to work on the airfield. Mainly the Palmach put in a great effort to establish the airfield. It was known that the fate of the Gush depended greatly on the airfield because the only contact with the rest of the country was by air. This was necessary for arms, for people to join battle or sometimes to be brought out urgently.
Kushi did any and every type of work, he befriended many Palmach people and local members. He was alert and his spirit did not falter. I could feel that he won the appreciation of the people around him. He managed to get a straw-hat, grew a moustache and was recognised from afar. In the evenings we sat together telling each other stories. Kushi talked a lot about his past, about the farm he had before returning to Na'an, about his family and children. He sat for hours writing letters home, I do not know if all of them reached their destination.
On the 12th of May, Wednesday morning, we were woken up at dawn to the sound of shooting. We lived near the command post and always knew what was happening. After an hour we had heard that the Legion had taken back, after a heavy battle, the observation post called 'Ukaf-Hamuchtar'.
Two units of P.L.M, (Haganah) with their commander wanted to reach the observation post but did not succeed. The field was under heavy enemy fire; they found cover among the rocks but could not retreat either. The Gush commander also advanced with his units towards the monastery in an effort to help the people who were fighting there. At 10 o'clock in the morning the monastery fell. The Gush commander was killed, part of the people managed to retreat to Kfar-Etzion and to Masuot and many were killed. Then the bombardment of Kfar-Etzion started.
That morning I was with Kushi until 9 o'clock. We stayed near the commanding room and waited for instructions. At 9 a.m. a shell fell near-by. It shattered the window panes, we rushed out and saw a wounded local man. We took him to the hospital, a distance of 200 meters. The patients were again carried on stretchers out of the hospital to the trenches.
When I came back from the hospital I saw Kushi but did not see Ernest from Giv'at Brener, who was with us all the time. I found a temporary cover in the trench; the firing did not stop. I felt shells falling near-by I jumped out of the trench into the commanding-room, I found out that the telephone wires were torn and communication to the positions around were stopped. I was sent to one position to find out what they needed, came out, crawling and sprinting from house to house and from tree to tree and reached the house near that position, shouting to them the instructions that were given to me. On my way back I met Ernest and he told me that he and Kushi were being sent to deliver messages. We did not have more to do and wanted to enter the shelter. The shelter had two entrances, one from the house and one from the outside; we could not get into the house because it was completely blocked. We were told to go around the house. When jumping through the window to reach the other entrance, a shell exploded and we were both injured. In the shelter we received first aid.
In the shelter I met Kushi who had returned from his work. I was wounded and talking was difficult. He was concerned about me, but waited with expectation for the next action. Evening fell, the commander came down the shelter and asked all the healthy ones to take weapons and follow him. It seemed that people were needed to take the place of those in the defence positions who grew tired and needed some rest. Kushi was given a rifle, checked it and gave me a good-bye look, then left. I did not see him again.
In the evening the fire subsided. I went up to my room and found there the Palmach people sitting and resting on the floor. They were ready for a counter attack the same night. I remember well the girl who was with them, Rachel Viner; she gave all of them chocolate. Later she also found her death in Kfar-Etzion. Those were the fighters that Kushi and his friends replaced in the defence positions.
At mid-night a unit arrived from Masuot and after inspecting the road it was decided to move the hospital with its workers and injured to Masuot, it was safer there. All were assembled and moved in convoy after convoy. The transfer lasted 4 hours. They walked silently in the dark; the sick were carried on stretchers, the guards in the front and at the back. The Legion sat on 'Mishlat Harusim' (observation post), We passed very close to them. This was necessary if we wanted to avoid the shelling. At a distance of 500 meters we saw the Legion's soldiers with their armoury sitting around small fires to keep themselves warm.
On the following day, Thursday the 13th of May, Kfar-Etzion fell. Kushi was there. The enemy captured most of the people. Miraculously 4 people escaped. We in Masuot knew that it was the last battle. We saw flames rising from the burning village and feared for the fate of the people there. Later we heard that one member got out of there. We could not talk to him, because he was seriously wounded.
Only when we were taken from the Gush to the police station in Chevron, did I see among the group of women prisoners' one girl who was on the last day in Kfar Etzion and she saw Kushi. I shouted to her: 'What happened to Kushi?' She did not answer only moved her hand in a despairing gesture, I understood.
I became a prisoner, and in my heart was the memory of a friend that on the last day was separated from me by fate.
In his childhood he already exhibited his special character. When he reached the age of six he decided to go to school, but the school accepted only students from the age of seven. He did not despair and went to school day after day with his brother, who was a year and a half older. He was leaving home with him in the morning, staying around in the school corridor and after school returning home with his brother. This lasted for approximately two month until the school principal admitted him. He caught up with the pupils in a short time, though the others were older and started earlier.
He was very active during the elections to the Zionist Congress. He distributed propaganda material, facts, figures and so on.
Of course he was a great supporter of number 5 - the League of Eretz Israel Haovedet (the workers of the land of Israel). When the German-Russian war started he was 14 years of age, life worsened day-by-day, even wise adults lost their senses, but he calmly, went from place to place, listened to adults talking, heard the news, returned home and calmed his family down He went on doing what had to be done to ease the suffering. He started, almost without tools, to build a hand- pulled cart; he felt that it would be needed. When the Germans ordered the Jews to leave their homes within a few hours and take only what could be taken by hand, we appreciated the cart that he built.
During the night of the second slaughter, in August 1942, all the Jews in the Pereshike Ghetto were arrested, and no one was allowed to leave. Reuven worked then for the Germans outside the Ghetto preparing wood for the kitchen and carrying water from the well. He sneaked into the Ghetto through the fence, took his four year old sister out and hid her in the wood store where he worked. In the evening he brought her with him to the Court House, sneaked through the wire fence and together they hid in the cellar till the end of the slaughter.
After the slaughter everyone understood that we had no chance to stay alive. Any one who could, tried to sneak out of the Ghetto and escape to the forest, especially the young. Among them was his older brother. After 2 months, his older brother returned from the forest to the work camp in the Court building, in order to pick up people and smuggle them into the forest. He managed to bring out about 30 people, among them his brother Reuven. After a week, Reuven entered the Ghetto with the water carriers (people who carried water to the Ghetto from an outside well), they asked him for the reason of his return, and he told them that a rumour was heard outside the ghetto that the Germans were going to kill the rest of the Jews of Novogrudok. He therefore came to save his parents and little sister, to take them out of the Court House and smuggle them into the forest. It took him many days and weeks to convince his parents to get out of the Ghetto. They could not believe that it was possible to live in the forest in the cold winter with a little girl. He took out his mother, his sister and a few other young people; they were the first to get out when suddenly a German guard appeared. His father was left inside. He brought that group of people to a peasant who was in contact with the partisans, left them there and went again the next morning into the Ghetto with the water carriers to take out his father, but there was no possibility to get out. He waited for a week and the chance arrived, he brought out his father with another 30 people. It was January and it was a very cold winter. We walked, only at night, through the fields and streams. People fell through the thin ice into the river, they managed to get out but their feet were frozen and so were Reuven's feet. Afterwards a story was circulating about him in the forest: When he went back to bring his parents out, he went with partisans who were on an operation mission. On the way he fell asleep and dropped off the sled, when back at base they noticed his absence. He slept for a while in the snow, got up and came together with peasants who drove to the market place in Novogrudok. During his stay in the forest he was suffering, for a long time, with his feet, but regardless of all that he fulfilled all the tasks that befitted his age. He was sick with typhus in the forest, there was no hospital and not basic living conditions but he overcame that too.
After the liberation in July 1944, he returned with his family to Novogrudok. From there he and his brother were the first go to Poland. They settled in the town Chelm.
After a time he returned to Novogrudok, crossing the border on top of a military train that went from Poland to Russia. Once more he came to take his parents out of Russia to Poland. Reuven waited for about 2 months until it was possible to transfer his parents to Poland. Coming with his parents to Chelm, he urged them to leave Poland. He told them that there was no place for Jews in Poland. In the meantime he fell ill with typhus and it took him 2 months to partially recover. He did not wait to be completely cured. Still weak, he joined his family and left Poland with the Brichah (escape) to Salzburg in Austria. They stayed there for a few days and moved to the Foehrenwald camp in Germany. There he started High School studies in the morning and in the afternoon he was trained as turner and fitter in the Technical school Ort. All this time he urged his parents to find a way to reach Eretz-Israel. He, as a young man, could go to Eretz-Israel by Aliyah B (illegal migration), but the parents with their little daughter could not take travel that way and he did not want to be separated from his family. In July 1947 he left Germany with his family and in September 1947 they arrived in Eretz-Israel and were transferred to Beit-Haolim (the house for immigrants) in Bat-Galim, Haifa.
After the 29th of November 1947, when riots started, Reuven was among the first to heed the call for volunteers, but first he did all he could to find a permanent place for his parents, which involved a lot of running around and some times even risk to his life on the roads. He found a home for his parents in Kiryat-Chaim near Haifa and two days later he joined the army. During all his time in the Army he visited home only once, for a day, on Passover 1948. It was the last time he saw his family.
He fell in the battle of Latrun on (Kaf'Alef in the month of Iyar Taf Shin'Chet) 30th of May 1948, It is not known till today where he was buried.
His tombstone is in the section for the Unknown Soldiers in the Military Cemetery on the memorial mountain in Jerusalem, among all those soldiers whose burial places were never found.
His teachers, appreciating his talents, encouraged him to study. He scrutinised every problem thoroughly and in depth and it looked as if he was having fun. He did not study hard for his matriculation exams. He was always ready to help others with their studies and was ready with good advice. He was socialable, able, lively and amusing.
At the age of 14 he joined the Gad'Na (youth units of the Haganah) He put his energy into Hadracha and Chag'am (guide in the youth movement). He attended a course for squad-commanders and at the end of his studies in the Gymnasium joined the 'Notrim' (Jewish guards). He enrolled in an Officers course in Ruchama and was under the command of the 'Notrim' station in Tel-Chaim. His friends and his subordinates liked him. He helped them all he could.
With the declaration of the partition by the United-Nation, he took part in the battles in Abu-Kalbar, Selma, Yazur and Manshia and was noted for his courage. In Yazur he broke into the enemy lines with his attacking unit, without covering fire. He became an instructor in a squad-commanders course in Saronah. He completed a lieutenant's course and served in the 53rd battalion of 'Chativat-Giv'ati'. He went with his people on several missions, such as escorting convoys, scouting, sabotage and mine planting. He took part in the battles of Gat, Nitzanim, Falujah and others. 'I have no right to take care of my own survival only' he used to say. On 21.4.1948 with his platoon he broke into Beit-Daras for the purpose of diverting the enemy from Nitzanim, which was under heavy attack. At the end of the battle he went to look for one of his people and was injured in his leg. When he was carried to an armoured car he was injured twice again by the British, who had appeared in the meantime.
He was taken to the Hadassah Hospital in Tel-Aviv and suffered for three and a half months. Despite all that his morale was high and he was planning for the future. His friends admired him.
He died on the Rosh Chodesh Av Taf Shin'Chet 5.8.1948
You died in a battle in Italy [Monte Cassino]. You fell serving in a foreign army, in a foreign land.
Blessed be your memory.
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