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The Aliyah of the Halutzim,
“Artificial Immigration” and Hakhshara Activities

From his – “With Joseph Chaim Brenner to the Land of Israel Sixty Years Ago”,
Mo'etzet Po'alei Haifa, 1969, pp. 29-47

by Mendel Zinger

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Yosef Aharonovitz[1], while staying in Brody and being active in the local club of the movement “Po'alei Zion[2] [literally – “Workers of Zion”. MK], prepared himself to establish the association “Halutzei Zion” [literally – “The Pioneers of Zion”. MK]. He has done so, probably, under the influence of Menachem Ussishkin's[3] “Our Plan”, published in Russia at the end of 1904, which contained the suggestion of establishing leagues of Jewish workers in the diaspora in preparation for the immigration to Eretz Israel [literally - Land of Israel – the biblical name for the holy land. MK]. The main paragraphs of the by-laws of the association of “the Pioneers of Zion” were: a) The association will only accept into its ranks members who are educated, healthy in their body and soul, Zionists, who know our ancient language, of an age less than thirty and bachelors. b) The duties that the association imposes on its members include learning the skills of working the land by reading books and, as much as possible, by practicing it, studying the Arabic language, getting used to speaking only Hebrew, and continuing studies of it. The topics of studies in the “Pioneers of Zion” club included the socialist and political economy doctrines, the theory of preserving one's health, agronomy, geography of Eretz Israel as well as Hebrew and Arabic.

The atmosphere in Brody provided a unique setting for a national-cultural awakening. The city was saturated with the spirit of the Haskalah[4] and the knowledge of the Hebrew language. Educational books written in Hebrew could be found in many houses, and booklets of Yehoshua Heschel Schorr's[6]HeHalutz” [“the Pioneer”. MK], published in Brody, were read secretly even by orthodox Jews. Russian language masterpieces, as well as the spirit of the Russian Jewish communities infiltrated into Brody through the nearby border. The city environs were populated by Ukrainians. However, in the city itself, the Jews, about 80 percent of the city's twenty thousand people, were the majority along with a small layer of Polish government employees and scholars. The city had a public high school, in which German was the language of studies. In this rush of the effects of different languages and nations, the Jews, while maintaining such a high majority, could keep their social and spiritual independence. This was also a fertile ground for growing a new national movement.

In the circles of observant Jews, scholars and their students were treated with high respect. Every one of the crafts common among Jews – tailors, carpenters, servants, bakers and cart owners – had their own prayer houses. Every one of them had a sort of a Rabbi, or a scholar, and the members felt obligated to keep several people around him who studied Torah and Talmud with him, day and night. Any Jew, native of the city, kept a high self-esteem and felt proud toward other nationals and his neighbors. He guarded his independent spiritual values and had a great self-confidence. There was, therefore, no wonder that, with the awakening of the political life in Austria

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under the influence of the Russian Revolution of 1905, and with the broadening of the right to vote to the House of Representatives that induced the awakening of the Jewish national-political movement in Austria, Brody was one of the first cities where the fight for equal national rights for the Jewish people was ignited.

Before the general election in Austria, a supplementary election to the parliament was held in Brody and the district. The Zionists' candidate was Adolf Shtand, who captivated a multitude of voters by storm and later became the nation's darling, exciting the youths and activating them. In this election, the governors tried to hinder the Zionist candidate using violence and forgeries; however, in the general election of 1907, these tricks were not very useful, and Shtand was elected as the city and district representative to the Austrian parliament. As a result, this national grassroots movement, which thrilled Galicia's Jews in general and Brody's Jews in particular, created the groundwork for the pioneering activity among the youths to prepare them for the immigration to Eretz Israel. One group among these youths – most of whom were members of “Po'alei Zion” – was not satisfied with the preparations of its own members for Aliya [immigration to Israel. MK]; the members applied to the Zionist youths in Galicia in a leaflet, urging them to join them in the “Workers - Pioneers” movement and follow them to Eretz Israel. The leaflet, published in Yiddish in 1908, (4 of Kheshvan, 1840 years since the destruction of the Temple as was specified in the leaflet), opened with words of admiration about the “wonderful revolution” in Turkey, emphasizing the excitement of the Jewish youth toward freedom fighting and reminding them of their duty to fight for their freedom in our old-new homeland. “For many years” the leaflet stated, “we prayed for our leaders to receive a charter from the Turkish government, and all of a sudden, the regime totally disappeared. Replacing it was a house of representatives, consisting of representatives of all nations in the state of Turkey. It would be illogical that this house of representatives would grant rights to the holy land, to a nation which did not inhabit it, or occupied just a small part of it. Everybody should recognize the fact that we now have to move our activity to Palestine. Let us examine what we have achieved there and what our activity during the last twenty five years brought us” The leaflet proceeded to provide a short description, in a few sentences, about what has been achieved in Eretz Israel. The leaflet authors asked:” Are we satisfied with what has been achieved so far? Are these Moshavot [farming communities of private farms with common resources. MK], whose owners are Jewish, really Hebrew villages? The answer given by the authors was negative – as long as the workers in these farming communities were mostly Arabs. They continued their assessment by claiming that while one cannot totally exonerate the Zionists in Eretz Israel, “we could blame our own Zionists in any town and city even more, because instead of dealing in “diasporic” theories and arguments about how to win the hearts of the nation's masses, they should have known and understood the life, or rather the suffering of our workers and our youths, who live a sorrowful life, which forces them to emigrate. They could then disseminate true information about the life and conditions in Eretz Israel, and who could secure there a job. It would be much more useful to the Zionist movement than ten large assemblies.”

The leaflet's authors tried their best to prove how beneficial the Aliya of healthy people would be, for Eretz Israel and the immigrants themselves. The authors return to examining the situation in Turkey following the revolution - “if previously, when the country was enslaved, the danger was not as substantial, since neither we, nor other nations were doing much

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there, now many non-Jews would flock to a free Palestine in masses, and we can arrive at a point that when we would be ready to act, the country would be in others' hands! Could we afford to remain silent in such a critical period? No! We, the young Zionists, cannot remain silent. We live in an unprecedented historic hour that we cannot remain silent. In order to correct the mistakes we just mentioned, and in order to move toward our final objective, namely ensuring that Palestine falls into Jewish hands, we gathered and established an association – “Po'alim – Halutzim” [“Workers – Pioneers”. MK]. Many members will shortly immigrate to Palestine from Brody and its neighboring towns, but with that, we would not have fulfilled our duty”. After outlining the lines of action of “Po'alim – Haluzim”, the leaflet ends with the following words: “Comrades, we believe that we are not alone in our thinking that the time to act for the sake of Zionism has come. We are convinced that many of the young Zionists are thinking like us. We therefore call on you not to miss this opportunity, because the time is too critical for us to do so… Only if we all work diligently, our big ideal will come true – to become a free nation living in its ancient land – Palestine!”

The authors of the leaflet were very careful not to insult, with their words, the “realistic” views that dominated in the clubs of “Po'alei-Zion[1] towards Aliya to Eretz Israel, according to which Jewish masses would emigrate to Eretz Israel by a “spontaneous” process only; however, the meetings conducted by these youths and their discussions were filled with the dreams of living and working in Eretz Israel. The “romanticism” of the organization “HaShomer” [“the Guard”. MK], and the willingness to self-sacrifice, attracted the hearts with a massive force; however, when they appealed to the public, or when they needed to voice their ideas and feelings publicly, they encountered resistance. They spent a substantial amount of time carefully wording the leaflet, often erasing words and even whole sentences related to opinions different from the one adopted by most members of “Po'alei-Zion” in Galicia. Only here and there could be found words coming from the depths of the hearts. After completing the formulation of the leaflet, the authors started to look for ways and means to publish it. They certainly did not expect that Zionist newspapers would publish anything that contradicts the thinking and actions of the Zionist establishment. There was a printing-shop in Brody, which belonged to a Jew, but it did not have Hebrew letters needed for printing the leaflet, and none of its workers knew Yiddish very well. A trip to Lvov was not an easy thing to organize; none of the members had a penny in their pockets. After many searches, they found a Jewish worker among the Russian emigrants who opened a lithography shop and worked in it by himself. He agreed to print the leaflet. The price negotiations did not last long, as the subject matter was close to his heart, and he was satisfied with the little the members could afford. They went to work carefully and reverently. The members stood near the worker when he stamped the letters onto the stone, to avoid mistakes, and mainly because they were eager to witness the birth of their spiritual creation.

The creation of the leaflet lasted just a single day. The members started to distribute it among the youths in the city and sent it to members with whom they kept in touch, as well as to newspaper editors. It was a big surprise for them to see their leaflet published in a prominent place in the journal of “Po'alei Zion” – “Der Yidisher Arbeiter” [“The Jewish Worker”. MK], which was published in Lvov, on 6 of November 1908. The spectacular headline “Workers – Pioneers” astonished the members of the group. They rejoiced because many of their hopes depended on the publication of the leaflet.

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In order to better understand the sequence of events that followed, we need to add that the end of the leaflet contained an address: “Po'alei Zion”, attention A”. A was the first letter of the member Moshe Arkin, who was the group's initiator and leader (he came back from Eretz Israel and stayed in Brody for a cure).

The “Workers – Pioneers” leaflet was published in the 40th issue of the journal “The Jewish Worker”. A week later, immediately following the publication, in the 41st issue, Katriel (the political party name of Leon Khazanovitz[a]), came out with a harsh attack directed at the members of the group ”Workers – Pioneers” and the Journal editors for publishing the leaflet. Using sharp bold style, he attacked the group and its members to the point of a personal insult, by stating that anyone can see that the leaflet members are young, and it is not always a good idea to take advice from them. From the editorial comment, Katriel concluded that the “Workers – Pioneers” was established by the members of “Po'alei Zion” in Brody. Based on that assumption he began his questions. His first question was “Mi Samkha?”[5] which in Hebrew means “who nominated you to be leaders”?, and also who allowed the members of “Po'alei Zion” to establish a group of pioneers, and who gave them the permission to distribute leaflets? Katriel continued to elaborate that the questions were asked since the attitude of the party of “Po'alei Zion” toward the issue of groups of pioneers must have been well known to all members. As part of the preparations to the Poalei Zion party's 4th conference, proposals to establish groups of pioneers were published in the newspaper “The Jewish Worker”. At the conference, the issue of Eretz Israel was discussed comprehensively, and the proposal was not accepted. The committee for the affairs of Eretz Israel rejected the proposal to establish such groups, submitted by comrade Arkin. So, here come the comrades from Brody, proceed to establish groups of pioneers, and appeal to the public through leaflets. Isn't that a breach of discipline? When individuals are assembled for the purpose of a journey to Eretz Israel, nobody would oppose them. On the contrary, everybody would accompany them with heartfelt wishes. However, the same is not true when it comes to an association, belonging to a political party, who takes upon itself to establish such groups. By doing that, the association assumes a responsibility that it may not be able to carry out, the hope of the pioneers will not be fulfilled, and they will come back, as many before them did, disappointed. Wouldn't that affect negatively our party? How can such an association be allowed to do something like that without obtaining permission from the party leadership? Our friends from Brody appealed to the Zionist youth in general; however, what do these small groups of bourgeois Zionist have in common with the entire Zionist youth? The intentions of our friends from Brody may have been good, but they did not know that the losses caused by an artificial immigration wave to Eretz Israel, exceeded their benefits. Any ten emigrants who were going to Eretz Israel bustling with hope, would not bring as much benefit if weighed against the potential damage caused by one person who comes back disillusioned. They are naive to assume that just by Hebrew studies which they provide to their pioneers, they prepare them for their survival struggle in Eretz Israel. They exaggerate if they think that they are able to help, in advice and action, the youths, “whose situation here is bad” and they are forced to emigrate. I will only raise one more question: have they forgotten that the conference elected a committee to deal with matters related to Eretz Israel, whose location is Krakow and not Brody? Don't they know that appealing to the public in a matter of general interest such as this, without prior approval of the party center, is a violation of its authority? In conclusion, I would like to say that the comrades from Brody, thinking that they were acting for the benefit of the public,

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may have erred and forgotten about the party leadership. Why would “The Jewish Worker” publish such a leaflet? Wouldn't we find many members of the party, who, relying on the authority of the formal party newspaper, will study Hebrew, which is so close to the hearts of the leaflet's authors, and immigrate to Eretz israel , unprepared, not being suited for the living conditions, and without the need for their working skills? On the eve of the fourth party conference, an article was published in “The Jewish Worker” by comrade Avner, who is not a less qualified expert on the issues of Eretz Israel than our comrades from Brody. In his article, comrade Avner mentioned that calling the Zionist youths in the diaspora to immigrate as pioneers to Eretz Israel, as published in the leaflet issued by “HaPo'el HaTzair” [literally “The Young Worker”. MK][7], was an act of recklessness. With the recent publication, “The Jewish Worker” is repeating the same mistake, something that its own correspondent in Eretz Israel has condemned. Katriel ends with a question: “How do we solve this riddle?”

These words of L. Khazanovitz [a] indicated that he was one of the radical followers of the “natural immigration” theory with respect to Eretz Israel, an opinion held by a substantial part of Po'alei Zion in Russia. According to them, any organized action aiding the “artificial immigration” was doomed and therefore forbidden. As a matter of fact, Katriel's words did not hurt us at all. Even his personal insult, presenting himself as the elder, therefore the smarter one, and us, the young ones, who are not as smart as he and people of his age, did not insult us. His words were an echo of the talk of our parents, who opposed our socialistic and Zionist sentiments. His belief and the belief of his co-thinkers, devout followers of the “natural immigration”, we considered a belief of people who were weak in character and lacking courage. We were even somewhat proud of the fault of hastiness, that Katriel attributed to us. We were also not very impressed by the threat of an accusation concerning our offense of a breach of discipline. We actually wished wholeheartedly to have such an investigative hearing before a party forum, which would provide us with the greatest publicity. Our adversary was too smart to allow us the opportunity for that; however, during our discussions with friends, the content of which reached his ears, and during his lectures in Brody, people provoked him openly: “do you dare to sue us to an investigative inquiry or a trial by the members?” He never dared to try that.

Chazanovitz had strong organizational skills, a brain-man who was able to intellectually convince people with a logical rational analysis. Emotional considerations were not valid as far as he was concerned. Like most of the people of this kind, he was very shrewd and very witty toward the members who opposed him. The opponent of Chazanovitz in the newspaper was A. L. Schussheim[b] who had a warm heart and was open to support every pioneering actions and independent thinking. He was a G-d gifted journalist who kept his civilized manners even during an argument with an adversary, especially within the party. He knew how to protect the honor of his opponents, and avoided using harsh words and insulting remarks. This is why

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his cautious approach vis-a-vis Chazanovitz's sharp attack and his careful words to avoid the sharpening of the quarrel are understandable. Schussheim responded on behalf of the editors as follows: “We have to admit that even with the best of our will, we cannot accept this issue as tragically as our comrade Katriel. When we published the leaflet, we did not have any intention other than providing information to our readers on the mood and power of the actions taken by a certain part of our members. Concerning the matter of “breaching of discipline” I would like to comment that unfortunately I did not know about our party action during this year. When this issue was debated on the pages of “The Jewish Worker”, I was immersed in my own private matters. I did not even read Avner's article. One thing I did know from the party tradition though: that we always treated favorably groups of pioneers who organized independently from time to time. . It would be very difficult to consider the action of Brody's group as a breach of discipline. From the fact that the party did not decide to form groups of pioneers, one cannot conclude that this action needs to be condemned. Therefore there is no room here for talking about a breach of discipline. At most, there is a minor violation of authority. We need not be distracted by the fact that the group was formed only for members from Brody and its environs, and this is where the leaflet was directed at. On the matter of artificial immigration, I am, of course, of the same opinion as comrade Katriel. It would be inconceivable to create artificial immigration, not even among the bourgeois Zionists. The leaflet just mentions Palestine as a good country for immigration, and this is not against the party's view”[c]

Without expanding further about the whole dispute, whose time has passed, I wanted to bring some facts proving that it was unreasonable even at the time. “Po'alei Zion” members who were already in Eretz Israel, headed by Ben Tzvi (Avner), among them townsmen from my own town, Brody, did not immigrate according to a “natural immigration”, but through what was named “artificial immigration”. Mr. Schussheim was right in his note that “Po'alei Zion” treated all groups of pioneers favorably. This was often clearly reflected in the party's journal. I have already mentioned Yosef Aharonovitz's action in Brody as part of the “Zion Pioneers” association belonging to the “Po'alei – Zion” movement. This action was not performed secretly, and was publicized in the party's journal. In the same year, 1906, an article about the establishment of a group “Workers Pioneers” among the members of “Po'alei Zion” in Lodz, was published in “The Jewish Worker” (no. 14, May 18th). We took the name of our group in Brody from that group. There were things that were previously published about our group in the party's journal. This was also what we told comrade Chazanovitz during a face to face stormy discussion when he came for a visit in Brody. He, of course, was not very convinced.

The management of the “Po'alei Zion” association yielded to Chazanovitz's demand, and published a message in “The Jewish Worker” (no. 43) that it does not have any association with the group “Workers Pioneers” and that they allowed the group, as a curtsey, to publish their note in the party's journal. This message of the association's management sparked a storm among the members in Brody (the dispute spread to other cities by our own initiative. As a result, the membership divided between two opposing camps concerning the issue of pioneering).

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I have an emotional need to mention two meetings that can further describe the life in those days. These meetings were a great source of encouragement to the members of “Workers Pioneers” and to me. They greatly helped us to overcome the difficulties we have encountered. One meeting was with Yosef Aharonovitz who served as the first “Hapo'el Hatzair” delegate from Eretz Israel to the eighth Zionist Congress (held in the Hague on 12-14 August 1907) , together with Israel Shochat[8], may he live long. (Yitzhak Ben Tzvi [Israel second president. MK], and Israel Shochat served together in “Po'alei Zion” in Eretz Israel). I am not sure about the formal arrangement but, if I am not mistaken, the candidacy of Yosef Aharonovitz to the Zionist Congress was short several votes, while in Brody there was an excess which was not used, so they combined Brody's votes in order to gain a second candidate form Eretz Israel. It seems to me that these were votes of the “Po'alei Zion” party, or perhaps it was a mixture of votes of “Po'alei Zion” and the “General Zionists” party[9]. In any case, Yosef Aharonovitz came to Brody on September 1st for several days, directly from the Congress, to report to his voters about the Congress. The meeting was held in the offices of the “Po'alei Zion” association in which Aharonovitz was once an active member before immigrating to Eretz Israel (By the way, in this meeting I was nominated to introduce Aharonovitz in front of a big crowd. It was my “maiden speech”, I got mixed up, and could hardly finish my introduction…).

From Yosef Aharonovitz's speech I recall that he was not impressed by the arguments at the Congress, and they were not aligned according to his taste and spirit. In his speech he incorporated a certain criticism oriented at the labor settlements, namely the groups of the communal settlements. We were somewhat surprised, as we were under the effect of the descriptions of these settlements by Moshe Arkin, who came back from Eretz Israel to Brody for the purpose of curing himself. We also followed the speeches of the leaders of “Po'alei Zion” – Shlomo Kaplanski and Natan Gross in the Congress. They both demanded recognition of the labor communal settlements as an action of the Zionist movement. Several members of the “Workers Pioneers” group intended to make Aliya and join these groups. However, in his discussions with the members of our group, Aharonovitz expressed his satisfaction with our activity, which he saw as a continuation of the pioneering action he helped organizing.

The other meeting was with Chaia-Bracha Liberman, who was married in Eretz Israel to Chaim Tzimerman, who was a member in the Um-Juni group (Kibutz Degania A) , and was also among the founders of Yavniel [an agricultural settlement in the Lower Galilee established in 1898 on land bought by Baron Rothschild. MK]. Chaia-Bracha was born in the village of Strzemilcze, near Brody, and made Aliya against the will of her parents. On her way to Eretz Israel, she was hosted by her relatives in Brody. At our meeting with her, she told us about her contacts in Eretz Israel, and about the news she received, which were optimistic about her chances to secure a job in the near future. Chaia-Bracha was beautiful, graceful, witty and full of energy. She charmed all of the group's members.

A farewell event was planned when our Aliya day approached. However, my friend Shalom Kupfer and myself, who were two of the party officials among the immigrants, did not agree to an event together with “Po'alei Tzion” officials. This is how we settled our account with the party leadership, who ended up being very embarrassed.

The journal “The Jewish Worker” published an article (no. 8, February 19th, 1909) as a result of our request, stating that a farewell party was held jointly by “Po'alei Zion” and “Workers Pioneers”.

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The following was stated as a camouflage: “…Following some farewell speeches, Mr. Mendel Zinger added a few kind and warm words which will stay with us for a long time”.

I would allow myself to note that the dispute about our leaflet contributed significantly to the pioneering cause, and helped widening the circle of youths who heeded our call.

The resistance to the actions of “Workers Pioneers” that Mr. Chazanoviz wanted to create, did not receive support from any side and was completely forgotten. Even Mr. Chazanovitz himself did not bring it up again. During the following years, many members of “Po'alei Zion” who were “enticed” by the “artificial immigration” continued to make Aliya from Galicia.

Our preparation efforts were quite primitive. Some members prepared themselves, when possible, by working in the vegetable and flower gardens in their parents' home. In most cases, however, the preparation efforts were limited to spiritual preparation toward a life of physical labor and resistance. The spiritual training was done diligently by reading Zionist newspapers, especially news concerning Eretz Israel, by maintaining communication with people who had already immigrated, and mainly by studying the Hebrew language and reading its literature. The more “advanced” people read the magazine “HaShilo'ach[10] to which they had a collective subscription. They read the magazine jointly, including articles on matters of principle, as well as literary articles published in earlier issues. These readings were held jointly with a group of high-school students who studied Hebrew. During the winter, they would meet alternately at the house of one of the students for joint reading, a lecture or just a discussion. During the spring and the summer days, they would mainly meet “on the dikes” (raised embankments, remnants of the city's fortifications from the previous century, a place for a hike among the trees). They had to read Hebrew secretly. As a disguise, the students used to take with them a textbook from school and put it on top just in case one of the professors happened to pass by accidentally, and insisted on checking what his students were doing. Studying Hebrew was considered to be a very suspicious activity by the teachers. Anybody who was caught doing it, particularly by a Polish teacher or an assimilated Jew, would be risking being thoroughly interrogated whether he or she were a member of a Zionist group. This would be particularly harmful, since they would question the student about his or her progress in the school studies in light of the “unproductive” involvement in this “unnecessary” activity…. On Saturday afternoons and on Sundays we went out together to the large and dense pine tree forests near the city. In the forest we felt free, since over there, the inspecting eyes of the teachers of our friends, the high-school students did not reach. In the forest kingdom we could also often unload the burden of the Torah studies, to romp and to wrestle like any youth of our age. Among the works we read during those days, stood out Y. Ch. Brenner'sAround the Point”. We argued vigorously and lengthily about the content of the story or the novel (we had arguments even on that definition). Those who read previous writings of Brenner, especially “In the Winter”, were comparing Firman and Abramson, and also finding hints for the fact that optimism is stronger than pessimism. “Abramson describes the faith of his nation using pessimistic words such as: “Dark Countries”, Large Goyim” [non-Jewish nations. MK], scattered lambs, scared herd, sheep to the slaughter” – claimed the main speaker – “however, the more dominant were his words in “The Scroll of Yaakov”. For example, at the end of that story Abramson writes:

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“….When he woke up and came into the garden on the top of the mountain, the garden that was located as a small dot on the top, he went past this dot to his beloved children, true to his covenant, to spread his seed which would bear fruit – the glow of the blade would turn over him, and would not let him come through the gates. Haters and Amaleks would fight him to bring upon his destruction, but he would endure. Where would he find shelter? He would escape and encircle the garden. Encircle, and encircle, and encircle – the entire day. His would be filled with horror and he would encircle around and around and around”. Our members persisted in their reading and found proof to this concept in other sections: “…nevertheless, after all of these problems, understandings and considerations, you are indeed alive, and Mr. So-and-so is alive as well, hardly living – but alive! …and what is the conclusion? The conclusion is that people are trapped by the same hidden mystery, and their soul finds this hidden sweetness among all this evil. Therefore…? Therefore we cannot look at life as observers only. We must fight, correct, grow and exalt. Hurling complains against the holiness of life is only an observation! Damned are those who are only observers!” When I went back to read “Around the Point” years later, I recalled the fantasy worlds in which we floated during those days of our readings. There were some verses and segments in these works that every one of us saw as if they are directed to himself or herself. When Abramson, while writing his article: “The Hebrew Creation at the Beginning of the 20th Century”, wrote the words: ”…he saw himself as one of the first Hebrew young pioneers, the Israelis of tomorrow, one of those individuals where the flame of the sublime visions of the great tragedy was set ablaze in their heart, and who found the path and the way toward the deep desirable outcome”, each of us found in them an echo of their own misgivings and hopes.

The members increased their efforts in bringing additional proof to the positive outcome which Brenner arrived at in his “Around the Point” after his own misgivings. However, a most stormy argument erupted around the question of what was this point that the author encircled. We also argued about whether there is only one point, or maybe he meant that there are different points one encounters throughout one's life. In the story itself, hints are actually given to the mysterious point such as:

“Now is the point: what will happen? Time is passing, the days go on, the person is alive, and life continues as usual. On the other hand – a ship became a wreck at sea, what will happen? What will happen? The point was and then…..”
Or,
“…Since that day in which Chava Blumin visited him, and then just went out and left, the point stood as more sharpened, becoming blurred at times and then returned anew causing unimaginable pain…”
Determining the intentions of the author concerning the point was made even more difficult, by different hints such as:
“…The fear attacked him again. He had to master the remainder of his strength to pass over the border, the border of the point. His efforts were in vain, there was no passage. The point cut into his heart. The point was unique, small, black, horrible… He tried to bypass it, to circle around it, a magical circle, his lips mumbling: just a little while, just a little while…, and it seemed to him that he jumped over it - and then he realized that he was mistaken: the point was in heaven not on earth – so how can he pass over it? Clearly, I am totally innocent – he was bursting with a revolt – my nose kerchief is totally white! he cried, but his voice was not heard. The point stands undisturbed. All along the way there is one single point. There is no other. All the way to the point and there is no passage. And generations elapse…”
Since we could not figure out these hints,

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we came to the conclusion that we should not be satisfied just with theories. A better way would be to turn to the author himself and ask him whether he would be so kind as to uncover the secret for us. In those days a secret conference of the Zionist youth was about to take place in Lvov. Some of our members, who participated in the reading of the book “Around the Point”, were among the conference delegates, and they took on themselves to talk to Brenner who lived in Lvov at that time. I do not remember whether or not Brenner provided the solution to this puzzle. I do remember however, that the two youths came back from Lvov full of excitement about the discussion with the author and full of admiration to this “remarkable person”. From their description I understood that Brenner was delighted about the fact that youths in Brody, have shown interest in Hebrew literature and in his works, and the fact that they taxed their brains about what exactly did the author mean in this matter or that, or in this statement or that. I decided to look for the right opportunity to meet with Brenner. When I travelled to Lvov from time to time, I was not distracted from this objective. One time I saw him in the company of strangers, and did not dare to interrupt him. However, at another time I saw him surrounded by people with one of my acquaintances among them. I asked my acquaintance and he introduced me to Brenner. Brenner only exchanged a few polite words with me; however the expression on his face was etched in my memory: he seemed to be someone in which heaviness and tenderness were mixed together. As a matter of fact we can use his own words written about Zalman (in his book “Around the Point”): “the expression on this face broadcasted a unique anguish, devotion and willingness to do good. His eyes were the eyes of a poet that are not satisfied with what is out in the open visible to all, but penetrated to the depth of your soul. When you stood in front of his eyes you felt that they penetrate into you, to the point that you would debate whether to disclose everything you had on your heart, or perhaps to cover up somewhat. Brenner's laughter was innocent, coming from the depth of his heart, loud and jubilant, but accompanied by an echo of sad thoughts: Is there a justification for my laughter? A person standing in front of this face once in one's life would never forget it.

These were the words I used to tell my friends about my impression of my “meeting” with Brenner when I returned from Lvov. Meeting with quotation marks, since my words reflected much of my impression from looking at him before our short meeting and after it, and much of what I imagined about him when I read his works.

[Page 127]

bro127a.jpg
Farewell banquet of the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael [JNF] activists,
on the occasion of the Aliya of Naftali Lerner-Naor

 

bro127b.jpg
A group on Achva and Hanoar Hazioni members

[Page 128]

bro128a.jpg
A group of members of “Zionists Socialist Workers” in the Diaspora

 

bro128b.jpg
A group of members of the Central Aid Organization of the Jews in Germany, EZRA

 

Notes in the original article

  1. Khazanovitz – [A Zionist leader in the “Po'alei Zion” in Galitzia. MK] died on September 7th, 1925, in the village of Valkhova in the Russian Carpathia in the midst of his action among the Jewish farmers on behalf of the “Ort” Society. He distanced himself from any association with the “Po'alei Zion” movement. Return
  2. Aharon Leib Schussheim – [A Zionist leader in the “Po'alei Zion” movement in Austria and a noted Journalist and editor. MK], born in Radem, Galicia in 1879; died in Buenos Aires in 1955. Return
  3. This point was also raised by D. Schtock (Sadan) in the “HaMizrakh” [“The East”], Shvat, Iyyar, Nisan, 5711 [February, March April, 1951] Return

Translator's footnotes

  1. Yosef Aharonovitz – Born in Southern Ukraine and self educated, he made Aliya in 1906, follwoing Yosef Vitkin's “Public Appeal“ to Jewish youths in the diaspora. Unlike his mentor, he believed in the need to know how to work the land, before the land is acquired, so he began his career in Israel as a simple agricultural worker. Later on, he became a delegate to two Zionist congresses and the editor of “HaPo'el HaTza'ir” the newspaper of the party. After its unification with the Labor union party to form MAPAI (The Party of Workers in Eretz Israel), he became one of its leaders and thinkers. Before his death in 1937 he served as the head of Bank Ha-Po'alim (Israeli largest bank, founded by the labor union Histadrut). Return
  2. Po'alei Zion – Literally “Workers of Zion” - a Socialist-Zionist movement founded in Russia in December 1905. Its most prominent leader was Ber Borochov. The movement had expanded to Central and Western Europe and North and South America as well as to Eretz Israel where it established the first kibbutzim. The movement was united by Israel's Ben Gurion with the Ahdut Ha'Avoda movement to form MAPAI party, predecessor of Israel's labor party. Return
  3. Menachem Usishkin – A Russian born zionist leader who made Aliya in 1919. In his pamphlet "Our Program" he advocated group settlements based on labor Zionism. Under his influence the Zionist movement actively supported the establishment of agricultural settlements, educational and cultural institutions, as well as a Jewish polytechnic which later became the Technion in Haifa, Israel. Return
  4. Haskalah – Literally “education“ or “enlightenment” often termed the “Jewish Enlightenment” was an extensive intellectual movement among the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe who advocated empahsis on general secular education and the integration of the Jews as productive members of their local societies. Concurrently, the movement promoted a Jewish cultural revival, manifested mainly in the creation of modern Hebrew-based secular culture. Return
  5. Mi Samkha? – the first two Hebrew words of the biblical pharse: “Who nominated you to be our leader, or a judge between us?“ thrown at the Jewish Egyptian prince Moshe, when he was trying to intervene between two quarrelling people. Return
  6. Yehoshua Heschel Schorr – A Western Galitzian scholar, critic and communal worker native and resident of Brody (1814 – 1895). who was known for his satirical attacks on religious conservatism. He founded and published the HeHalutz magazine which he used to publish and spread his critisim. Return
  7. HaPoel HaTzair [Literally “The Young Worker” - a non-Marxist socialist movement formed in 1905 in Palestine by the Jewish immigrants. In 1930, together with Ahdut HaAvoda (Labor Union) party they form Mapai – “The Party of the Workers of Eretz Israel” headed by Israel's first prime minister David Ben Gurion. Return
  8. Israel Shochat – A Zionist leader, born in 1886, immigrated to Palestine in 1904. Together with others, he helped found the “HaShomer” (“The Guard”) group, a precursor to Israel Defense Force. Return
  9. General Zionists Party - this party, in its many metamorphoses, championed causes such as the encouragement of private initiative and protection of middle-class rights. It was the precursor to the liberal movements and parties formed over the years. Return
  10. HaShilo'ach – Jewish monthly magazine, established by Achad Ha'am in 1896 in Odessa. The magazine was published in Berlin and transferred to Jerusalem in 1920. It dealt mainly with issues associated with Zionism, History of the Jewish nation, and Hebrew and Jewish literature. Return

 

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