Translated by Ala Gamulka
Thou shalt make an altar unto me… (Exodus, 20:21)
I met him in Jerusalem. In his face were reflected the feelings and thoughts of an immigrant searching a place for himself in a new life. A life swirling around him.
In his soul there was the romantic dream shared by many of those aspiring to make Aliyah. They dream of Eretz Israel. He was trying to dismiss the tiny sense of doubt gnawing at his beliefs.
Yaakov Cohen knew the demands of life in Eretz Israel in those difficult times. Rumors of doom came from Eretz Israel, but that did not influence him. He accepted, with love, the long difficult years of preparation. He waited patiently to fulfil his life's dreams. He had a distressing time for the first three months after his arrival. As his ship docked, he was immediately thrust into the fiery front of Ramat Hakovesh. There was much fighting and destruction.
It was difficult for Yaakov to get used to new conditions, but he fulfilled his duties with knowledge and loyalty.
He loved life. His face always reflected smiles. His eyes showed happiness. He was blessed to be able to understand the meaning of life. His seriousness and willingness were accompanied by a happy disposition. It was as if he had forgotten to show sadness and suffering.
We knew Yaakov by his deeds and not by his speeches. I met him when he came from Vishkov to the preparatory kibbutz in Grochov. He stood out with his simplicity and great smile, even in bad times in our lives. He did not stop smiling even when he spoke about personal problems. He spent five years in the preparatory kibbutz. He overcame difficulties there. He also had problems integrating in Eretz Israel, especially when it came to his job. All his colleagues praised his devotion. He had much to criticize in our lives, but he was happy with every success and always happily spoke about it.
He was born in Ustiluh, Poland in 1906. He studied in yeshiva. In April 1933 he started the preparatory kibbutz. He was one of the conquerors of Vengrov for the benefit of the preparatory kibbutz. He made Aliyah in March 1938.
Yaakov was modest and quiet. He did not stand out with special traits. He devoted himself to his work in a simple way. He was a good friend and was loved by all. Here, in Ramat Hakovesh, he worked hard with dedication and diligence.
We were together in the preparatory kibbutz and on Aliyah.
We used to meet after work and speak about Eretz Israel and the kibbutz. He dearly wished to see the country, but he did not dare ask the members committee for time off.
One evening, before he died, we sat together. We were a group of friends from Grochov and we talked. Yaakov spoke of the fear he had on a daily basis at work. He was afraid he would not return. The next day Yaakov went to work and did not return. This is how the life of a young, healthy man was cut down.
I cannot forget him my dear, devoted friend.
(from the booklet In Memory of the Eight)
(On the twentieth anniversary of his death 18 Tamuz, 1940)
Yehuda was 14 when the Balfour Declaration was made in 1917. He was already active in Zionist functions and was totally devoted to these activities. He was one of the founders of Hashomer Hatzair and he then moved on to Hechalutz. He established the local chapter. He dedicated all his efforts to this group until he made Aliyah. He helped with preparatory kibbutzim in the area and he educated a generation of pioneers. Many of them are with us here, in Israel. He was active in the drama group, the Hebrew library, Jewish National Fund, Keren Hayesod and the Orphans committee. Everywhere he was either a committee member or an ordinary worker. He always fulfilled his tasks with loyalty. I was sometimes a member of these committees and he always accepted any task.
In 1925, my husband and I were ready to make Aliyah. However, there was a great depression. We received distressing news from Eretz Israel. Many of those who made Aliyah returned to the Diaspora. Although I was married, my parents' influence was strong. They did not allow us to make Aliyah. Yehuda had been drafted by the Polish army, but was liberated. He made us a proposition: he would go to Eretz Israel for two years the time he would have spent in the army. During that time, he would investigate the situation and tell us what to do. We agreed and he made Aliyah and stayed there. Here, too, he was very active in defence for Hapoel in Haifa.
In 1929 he came for a visit to our town. He met a young woman and brought her to Eretz Israel in 1933. He established a family. He still continued his public service.
In spring 1940, he was in our house and he read in the newspaper that Italy was joining Hitler in WWII. It was as if he felt that this was his last spring on earth and he said: I am done for. I will be the first to be killed by the enemy. That is what happened. Six weeks later he was among the first victims of the bombing by the enemy in Haifa. The young tree was cut down at the age of 36.
It is still difficult to accept the fact that Yehuda is no longer with us. May his memory be a blessing!
If one were to fall holding a rifle against a fiery background, the earth will mourn and suffer. The scenery will be enveloped n the bones of man
He was the son of David and Hannah and was born on May 6, 1912 in Ustiluh. His parents were traditional. In spite of his parents' objection, he left home at a young age and applied himself to pioneering work. He went to preparatory kibbutz in 1936 in Sokel. From there he moved to Kielce. He was very active and fulfilled all tasks with dedication and responsibility.
In 1939 he came to Eretz Israel on the ship Colorado. He joined kibbutz Gevat and worked in its water works. His integration into the work world was not easy, but he overcame all difficulties by sheer will. He did various jobs and was proud of the successes of his kibbutz. In 1945 he became a guard in Atlit. There he came into contact with all newcomers. He wrote about his experiences in the kibbutz journal.
He suggested to the United Kibbutz executive to commemorate the names of the last fighters in Poland.
On 29 June 1946, on the day of many arrests in the Jewish community, he was taken by the British and sent to Rafiach. He was one of the last to return from there. On June 11, 1948 he went with other members of kibbutz Gevat to guard the road between the kibbutz and several Arab villages. There was a concentration of enemy forces in the area. He did not return from this outing. He was buried in Gevat.
He left behind a wife and two children.
Aaron was beloved and admired by all his friends. This fact came to light in a compilation published by the kibbutz on the first anniversary of his death. The words expressed are emotional and his character is highly admired. His many activities during preparatory kibbutz and in Eretz Israel are highly praised. Some of his writings are included.
We will never forget him.
Some of his writings:
Remembering the dead at camp
The deepest experience that shook me to my core was remembering the dead at camp on holidays. The shack dedicated to the synagogue was filled with men, women and children. It was lit with candles
Prepared in advance inside hollowed out potatoes. A large table was used for these candles. It looked like a small cemetery…
The candles stood quietly, in rows and rows. Each candle represented a soul. Each candle was a gravestone. If you looked deeply at the candles, you saw eyes. These were tearless eyes, eyes with a frozen flame, eyes telling the stories of simple, honest young lives. They told of lives torn through no blame of their own. The eyes looked straight into your eyes and showed their sorrow.
When the candles began to die out, I saw a man (young? Old?) clasping his hands and sobbing. He was crying and saying: the candle is no longer lit; the eyes are darkened. Who by fire and who by water…?
Have you ever seen a man cry?
And so, I, too, stood silently. I thought to myself: how many candles should I light?
I later found out some details about this man: he came from Yugoslavia and was all alone. His entire family was burned in a small town called Dobitza, by a lowflying German airplane. The building was completely burned down.
Diary of the kibbutz, May 17, 1945
He was the only child of his parents Moshe and Tamar. He was born on 21 Iyar 1930 in Ustiluh. When he was four years old the family made Aliyah. He had a complete religious education. He first attended the Mizrachi school in Kfar Saba and then yeshivot in Petach Tikvah and Jerusalem.
Avraham was a dear person and was modest in his behavior. He belonged to B'nei Akiva and also was a counselor there. At the same time, he learned machinery and worked in the Egged garage in Tel Aviv. He joined Haganah at a young age and spent four years in the movement. He fulfilled all tasks with dedication and exceptional loyalty. He joined the army in the War of Independence and served in the Alexandroni division as a mortar operator. He took part in the battle of Latrun to liberate Jerusalem and fell there on 16 Iyar, 1948.
Everyone who knew him cried, together with his bereaved parents, over the loss of this innocent victim who sacrificed himself for his homeland.
He was buried on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, on 25 Heshvan 1940.
His soul is in heaven.
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