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[Page 294]

History of the Scouts Movement In Kovel

by Eliyahu Mendel

Translated by Ala Gamulka

When WWI was over, the Hodorov family, with its 4 children returned to our town. Among them was Lusia, the third in line, who was around 13 years old.'His great energy and exceptional organizational talents made him seem much older.

We were children and the war had left its mark on us.'We became “militarists” and we played at “war”.'For that reason, when Lusia called for us to come and enrol in the Scouts movement, a semi–military group, it was the right time.'The first to join were students of the Vineberg High School.'I was among them.'We hurried to Lusia's house on Briska Street to join.

The first meetings took place in a large room in the Hodorov house.'We sat on the floor, near the walls that were decorated with military symbols: tents, ropes, bottles, sticks, etc.'We then heard, for the first time, about Baden–Powell and the tenets of scouting.'We held our breath as we listened to stories about the war between the British and the Boers, when Baden–Powell stood out with his brave feats near the city Mafikeng in South Africa.

The movement grew and expanded from one day to the other and there was not enough room for us.

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The Scouting organization in its first years

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In those days the Russian high school, with Shevtsov as its principal, still existed.'Most of the students were Jewish.'We received permission to use its large hall for our meetings.

At the beginning, the movement did not yet have a Hebrew name.'We had strange terminology for orders and commands.'They changed frequently.'The leadership was called “Mifkada” (headquarters in Hebrew) and was headed by Lusia. Other members were Zunia Vertzel, Misha Habakin, Yossi Segal, Geyer, Perlmutter, Gasco, Galperin, I. Schechter.

Our knowledge of Eretz Israel and Zionism was limited.'However, thanks to the scouting movement we began to have a Zionist approach.'There were no Zionist movements in Kovel yet at that time.'The Scouting movement left its mark in us.

We began to search for a Hebrew name.'The literal meaning of Scout is spy.'We were afraid of the reaction of the authorities who could arrest us as spies.'At the same time the Scouting movement was taking root in Poland and other towns in Volyn.'There the Hebrew word was Tzofim.'Lusia accepted this term and we stopped being scouts.'We called ourselves The Organization of Hebrew Tzofim.

In the 1920s, new winds were blowing.'The Bolshevist forces began to invade Poland.'The soldiers of Bodoni quickly conquered Kovel.'A new “Messiah” appeared in town.'A large section of the youth were its followers.'The Scouting movement changed.'Some of the veteran leaders went to work in other locations.'However, the changes did not last long.'In the fifth week of the conquest by the Bolsheviks we met in the Festival of Zelig Roiter.'We expressed sorrow for our misconceptions and we avowed openly that we were wrong.'During this evening, Lusia and other leaders cried aloud.'When we posed for a picture, we joined two pieces of cloth, one white and one blue.'They symbolised the national flag.'We swore allegiance to Zionism and to Eretz Israel.

In the seventh week the Bolshevik invasion was stopped and events moved swiftly.'The war was over.'Much of Volyn was under Polish rule.'New and fresh forces came onto Jewish public life.' The youth stood at a crossroads and looked for direction.'The Scouts movement came out of its spiritual breakdown and was stronger than before.'There were attack by the Bulbuvtzis and Jewish blood was flowing.'In our childish beliefs we realized that there was no place for us in the Diaspora.'Our road led to Zion.'Lusia helped a lot by electrifying us with his speeches about Zionism and Eretz Israel.

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We came under the full influence of the Zionist movement in town.'It even gave us space in the Zionist club.

Inside the Zionist movement there were many changes.'Life did not stop.'New groups were formed and others disbanded.

These changes were also evident in the Scouting movement.'Some of our leaders posed the following question:'Since now there is Hashomer Hatzair in Poland, should we not join it?'It did not take long and some of our members, led by Yonah Perlmutter, formed their own group and called it Hashomer Hatzair.'A competition followed between the two youth movements (there were no other youth movements in Kovel).'From an ideological point of view the two were quite similar.

The only difference between the Hashomer Hatzair (yonovtzi) and the Scouts (Lusovtzi) was that the former had many working young people while the latter consisted mainly of students.'The former held their sticks like rifles while the latter had them under their arms, as do scouts all over the world.

The competition was fierce and it was a difficult fight among brothers. The Zionist leaders tried to make peace between them, but they were unsuccessful.

The Angel of Death interfered and put out the fire in his own way: the father of Yonah, the leader, died.'Yonah now had to earn a living and look after his family.'He did not have time for Hashomer Hatzair.'The members dispersed.

This was not the end of the story.'As our knowledge of Zionism deepened, the Scouting movement was not enough for us.'Many active members wondered: why do we not join Hashomer Hatzair, a national organization?'Hashomer Hatzair had a great influence among the youth.'Our leader, Lusia, objected vehemently.'He was too independent and too impulsive and could not follow instructions from above.

We then turned to Izia Boim.'He was due to graduate from the Russian high school and was a serious fellow.'We chose him as our leader and we contacted the central office in Warsaw.'We thus became part of the world–wide organization of Hashomer Hatzair.

Lusia Hodorov did not give in and he found a place for himself in other towns and cities in Volyn.'In order to bring his movement closer to Eretz Israel, he changed its name to Brit Trumpeldor.'He had many followers among the youth in Lutsk, Rovno, Dubno and Brisk.'

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Hodorov chose an executive committee.'However, when he made Aliyah, the movement petered out.

I want everyone to know that one must not confuse Brit Trumpeldor of Lusia with the one that is part of the Revisionist movement.'They are similar in name only, but not in their ideas.'Lusia was a veteran member and was active in the Histadrut in Israel.'The labor movement was his life's purpose still in the beginning of his Zionist activities.

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Hashomer Hatzair

by Aharon Levy, Mordechai Blorie

Translated by Ala Gamulka

We, the members of Hashomer Hatzair, remember with excitement the rich youthful period when we were part of it.'Some of us are in kibbutzim of the movement and others are not.

The branch of Hashomer Hatzair in Kovel, all through its existence, was a'place of growth, like a limb on a blooming tree.'It represented the workers of Eretz Israel.'Just as the limb is fed by the tree, which influences it and helps it to grow, so the Hashomer branch always was able to elevate the pioneering movement while it was fed by it.

We can assess the influence the movement had on each one of us and the loyalty we felt to it by repeating the phrase: “Shomer once, always a Shomer!”'There was an integration of values that had a refreshing effect on various youth groups in town.'The students were attached to Hebrew culture, while the workers and the poor youth were under the influence of this blessed cause.'Our movement led us on the road to personal and social development, to standing upright and to mixing in society.'Perhaps the movement was not well understood by other Jews and sometimes there was a difference between understanding and opposition.'There was much effort invested in getting recognition as a movement with essential values.

The branch of Hashomer Hatzair in Kovel was established at the time that the general movement became part of Volyn Province.'This was in the early 1920s.'There was never an official sanction by the Polish authorities and we always depended on the fact that our application was lying in a drawer of the area commander.

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“Reporting” by Hashomer Hatzair

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Years later the branch was under the protection of Hechalutz.'It did have official permission.

The first to be taught were physical education, scouting and soccer games.'As the first members matured, there was enthusiasm for social and ideological integration.'Everyone was inspired to become a pioneer.

Members of Hashomer made Aliyah and were insistent on integrating into the work force– even though there was opposition from farmers.'Each person had to struggle to become a laborer and to continue to have work.'All this made those still in Kovel eager to make Aliyah and to be productive members of the proletariat.

In 1925 there was amalgamation with the Trumpeldor Scouts which led to a growth in numbers.'The additional members were ripe for activities.'The location of the club was 5 Fabritzana Street.'It was a side street not far from the main street.'Every member, while passing on the main street, would find the time to check the club even when there were no scheduled activities.'The club was subsidised, with great difficulty, by the monthly fee paid by–” elders”, “scouts” and the “young lions”– ten years old and under.'Some of these fees were dedicated to the movement.'When the funds were insufficient, the adults would contribute to cover the deficit.'They wanted to make sure the club would not fail.'There was also an extensive library in the club.

In 1926 there were new, promising additions.'These were the students of Tarbut high school.'It was a spontaneous movement of students who spoke Hebrew.'The club immediately received a Hebrew hue.'Group conversations and meetings were held in Hebrew.'The high school students brought in a valuable educational background.'The movement to Hashomer Hatzair did not pass without difficulties.'There was opposition to it.'The struggle for recognition became more serious and it continued for many years.'Hashomer Hatzair was seen as a competitor to the educational institutions and not as a complement to Jewish learning.'Even after the separation, when many of our members left and abandoned the Zionist movement and loyalty to the workers of Eretz Israel, the attitude did not change.'The only institution that continued friendly and cooperative relations was Jewish National Fund.'It was possible to work for this cause by donating, from an educational point of view.

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Mishmar HaEmek group

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The organizational activities were expressed in the various levels–according to age.'There were also learning opportunities for adults, a class for principals.'There were also provincial and country–wide gatherings where there was an opportunity for people to meet for the first time.'These were people who would eventually build and work on a kibbutz.'It was followed by the cooperative settlements in our homeland.'There were summer sessions for the youth as well as for leaders.'Those who attended were the ones who showed independence.'We also began a new program– winter moshava– held during the break from school.'It was intended to bring in new people.'These were children who attended Polish schools.'We feared that they would be candidates for assimilation and would remain strangers to Hebrew culture and love of Zion.'This activity was successful and it became the main purpose of our branch for several years.'It also set an example for branches in other locations.

The movement saw self–fulfilment as a main goal.'Each person saw himself or herself as if they were already participating in the rebuilding of the land.'Each one had as a purpose life on a kibbutz and as the solution for all struggles that befell every young Jew.'However, not all of them saw themselves as being able to reach self–fulfilment.'Some of the seniors reconsidered their path.'A plant in the field cannot absorb all the water it is given and the latter returns to its source.'In the same way, some of the seniors did not advance forward.'Those remaining were a small in number, but they were serious and enthusiastic and planned their move to the preparatory kibbutzim.

There was a Depression in Eretz Israel and some people came back.'The branch was then in the hands of a loyal group of leaders.'They knew how to dedicate themselves to educational and internal activities.'These young people did not give up.'At the outskirts of the camp there were a few who gave up the national dream.

In 1929, Eretz Israel was open to Aliyah of pioneers.'Several groups were organized as nuclei for kibbutzim.'Our branch did its best.'We cannot forget the festive meetings that came one after the other.'It was the awarding of the symbols of the movement to the graduates.'The graduates were accompanied to the preparatory kibbutz.'Everything was crowned with singing and admiration for those making Aliyah and joining their groups in Eretz Israel.'In 1929–31, most of the graduates made Aliyah.'It was the time of the 1929 events and the gates of the country were closed.'They were then reopened.'Between the closing and the reopening, many graduates managed to infiltrate and make Aliyah.

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For a while, the activities slowed down, but not for long.'The individual examples of those who were successful in making Aliyah and joining their kibbutz soon brought new recruits.

The years 1933–34 were full of growth within the Hashomer movement in Poland, in general and in Kovel, in particular.'There were 700 members in our town.'The hall on Fabritzana was too small and could not contain all the enthusiastic young people.'They were searching for a purpose in their lives within the Hashomer, scout and Hebrew movements.'The youth came from Tarbut, Herzliah and Klomel schools and they brought an obvious Hebrew atmosphere.'In addition, working youth and students from non–Hebrew schools also joined.'In those years, the movement had a great influence in the Hebrew schools.'They were helped by teachers who saw the value of the movement and its connection to Eretz Israel.'We finally were successful.'The Hebrew teacher realised that there was a cooperative connection between him and Hashomer Hatzair.'These were full partners in preparing their students for their future in Eretz Israel.

There were many new activities planned by the branch.'When the Festival of Pessach came, the children immediately talked of their desire to go to the moshavot– in nature.'They were normally far away from fields and forests.'Our movement tried hard to bring them closer.'Every year, dozens of these “desert children” from the various groups went to the villages and the forests.'Some played or danced or went on hikes, while others discovered agricultural labor.'In these moshavot the atmosphere of kibbutz and Eretz Israel was cultivated.'The villages of Lublinitz, Horodlitz and others became, with time, something very close to their hearts. It was likened to a bridge for continuity.'The winter sessions were also well developed.

One of the main activities was the acquisition of Hebrew language and culture.'The wall posters of the different groups were published quite often.'For a while, the local “Voice of Kovel” published a page in Hebrew prepared by members of Hashomer Hatzair.'There were Hebrew language sessions and the Popular University was famous.'It had weekly lectures on various scientific topics.'We were fortunate in having the best teachers in town as presenters.'In addition, there were evenings of singing in public and choirs.

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The branch leaders were also able to serve the Jewish public that was tired from working hard all year.'They came to see performances of the branch in town streets.'The members of the branch went into the Jewish quarters and were able to encourage them.'On Lag Baomer, all the streets were full of happy and enthusiastic young Jews, parading and singing.'Another important day was Purim.'On that day, Hashomer Hatzair organized groups soliciting donations for Jewish National Fund. They went to homes dressed in costume– always a theme connected to Eretz Israel.'They would sing and present the blue box.'At the end they would meet at the home of the elderly teacher Mr. Prozhansky where they danced and danced.

There were other evenings, full of mystery.'We feted those who completed their training and were, somehow, going on Aliyah B.

The years 1936–1937 were slow.'The economic situation was dire and there was a stop to Aliyah.'There were less members and a lack of leaders.'The branch was smaller.'This was common to all youth movements in town.'Even then, we maintained our status as number one when it came to members and to our work for Jewish National Fund.'It was difficult to hold activities.'It was only a special effort by friends of the movement that permitted us to pay our rent to maintain our club.

In 1938–39, there was illegal immigration to Eretz Israel.'A new chapter was written in the history of our branch.'We had more members, especially from among the working youth, from public schools and from the employed intelligentsia.'They, too, wore the gray shirt of Hashomer Hatzair.'The reason for this increase in numbers was based on the political situation in Poland.'The constant Anti–Semitic atmosphere caused the youth to see that there was only one solution–Aliyah.'Again, as in all times of awakening, our movement was active in Tarbut high school.'During this period, we, created, together with Hechalutz Hatzair, a club for students within the school.'We had assistance from Yitzhak Zukerman, a future leader of the Warsaw ghetto.'It was a productive cooperative effort which brought outstanding young people into our movement.

In addition to educational gains, there were also pioneering ones.'There were more people going to preparatory kibbutzim and on Aliyah.'At that time was founded Kibbutz Hakovesh in Bialystok.'Its members were planning Aliyah in the near future.'At Hashomer Hatzair plans were being made to celebrate 50 years of its existence.'However, the war broke out.'There was much panic. The danger of the Nazi conqueror was imminent.'Everyone understood what was happening.'Suddenly, the Red Army entered town and liberated everyone.'The local Jews received the Red Army with open arms.'It is essential to discuss the work of Hashomer Hatzair at that time.

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Choir of Hashomer Hatzair in 1937

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Kovel was an important crossroad between East and West and it became, from the beginning, an obvious transit station.'Thousands of refugees, mostly Jews, were moving eastward.'Our movement had a useful role.'Our members came to help.'The seniors and the younger members went to the entrance to town, wearing their uniforms, to assist all hungry and thirsty Jews.'The clubhouse became a refuge.'Some of the leaders of the Bund, Dr Erlich and Alter, spent a few days there.'It was said that they were not pleased when they saw wall decorations with themes of Eretz Israel.'They wondered: “How did this come here?”'Our members organized kitchens.'An elderly man, Nehemiah Ber, should be remembered for his support of the youths performing their first social work.

At that time, the members of Hechalutz and the first leadership of Hashomer Hatzair used Kovel as their center of operations.'There was an atmosphere of cooperation and the motto was to stay together with the people and, at the same time, remain true to the dream of Aliyah.'It is symbolic that these young people were entrusted with the universal flag of Hashomer Hatzair.'Shmuel Breslau, one of the future leaders of the Warsaw ghetto, brought it on his wounded body.'We accepted it for secret hiding in a dark cellar.'We swore to each other that we would take care of the flag and we would bring it out of hiding at the right time.

Indeed, we were fortunate to bring the flag to Eretz Israel, through Russia and Vilna, so that it would again fly in front of our youth.

We were troubled.'We recognized the authorities, but we would not give up the idea that we would not reach our country.'Our happiness was mixed with sorrow.'We decided to maintain loyalty to Eretz Israel, to the Hebrew language.'Even the emotional calling of Alter Katzizna, then in Kovel, to convince the Hashomer youth to forget and to make do, did not make a difference.'We were prepared for what came next.

We organized groups for learning Hebrew language, Jewish history and listening to broadcasts from Eretz Israel.'

While we were preparing for what comes next, we heard that there was a chance for Aliyah: in Vilna, which was then given back to Lithuania. Most of the graduates looked north.'On roads that were not really roads, in temperatures of –40 degrees, in constant danger and fear of imprisonment, they managed to reach Vilna.

When the Nazis conquered Kovel, the Scouts remained.'They were entrusted with the future of the club, to look after the interests of the Shomrim in our town.'We heard, through letters and emissaries, that they remained loyal to the cause.'

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A few days before we made Aliyah, we heard about the strong stand of many members, especially Shoshana Perl Sheinbaum, and others.

We discovered that, in Kovel also, there was a group of fighting Hechalutz which consisted of Shomrim and Halutzim who were there during that difficult time.'Kovel served as an important transit station for emissaries– Hantche, Frumka, Tussia and others, who were moving eastward.'The proof for this is the writing on the wall of the synagogue.'The group of Halutzim going to their death demanded revenge.'Signed:'Sheindel Schwartz, Leah Fish, et al.

After the war, those who survived, in Russia, in the forests, in Vilna or in the Red Army, went to Eretz Israel.'They were illegal immigrants and soon integrated in the life of the country.'Many Hashomer Hatzair members from Kovel are now in Mishmar HaEmek, Beit Zera, Shaar Hagolan, Ruchama, Amir, Merhavia and other kibbutzim.'They all remember those days in the Hashomer Hatzair branch in Kovel at 5 Fabritzana Street.

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Some Thoughts on the Hashomer Hatzair Club

by Mordechai Melamed

Translated by Ala Gamulka

There was no other choice for the youth– only our movement.'It is true that there were some young people who laughed at our dreams and called us “Golden youth”.'They were not serious and were not interested in world events, only in having a good time.'The majority of young people felt the need for belonging to the movement.

Who really were the young people who came to the movement?'They belonged to the parts of the community that were used to spending their time in synagogue.'When things changed and the Shtiebel was no longer interesting, they were bored.'At first, they came to the club out of curiosity and to be amused.'Eventually, they became more serious.'They began to understand that the movement was a way of life and a world view.

These people also began to come to Hashomer Hatzair.'The movement received them with open arms.'It knew its role.'This was an educational movement and it was certain that the raw material would become Jews loyal to their nation and homeland.'They would fight for social justice.

It was claimed that Hashomer Hatzair was a movement catering to youth from better homes: intelligent students, and that it was not for the ordinary youths, that it would not understand the working young people.'It is true that most of the members were students, but they originated from the same homes as those who joined Hechalutz Haoved.'They considered themselves to be more proletarian.

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It is also true that Hashomer Hatzair appreciated scholarly people since they were needed to educate the new groups that were joining the movement.

Hashomer Hatzair was able to integrate the educated with the uneducated.'The former gave of themselves willingly and the latter happily accepted.

The movement followed its own Ten Commandments.'Fulfillment of goals was more important than the personal wishes of anyone who was still studying.'Some could not cope and had to leave the movement.'If they did not succeed, the movement itself abandoned them.

The Kovel branch also went through some changes.'At first, there was a group of fellows who belonged to the Scouts, founded by Lusia Hodorov.'They were mostly students.'They then left the Scouts and established the branch.'The Scouting movement had an important position with its activities.'I remember well the “Order Exercise”, the “Ties”, “Alpha Beta Morse”, “Summer moshava” and simple hikes.'Zionist–socialist teaching and activities was also part of the program.'Scouting was mainly done with the youngest group– Young Lions.'The next group–Scouts–were educated in pioneering and Zionism–socialism.'They were taught the meaning of a kibbutz.'They learned about the new life in Eretz Israel and Jewish history, but they still had to understand life in exile.'Scouts had to be well–informed about all these topics.'They learned about it by reading books, in conversations and group activities.'The leader was the head of the group.'When the Scouts knew everything, they were ready to move on to the “Seniors”.'They then received a badge saying “Be strong”.'At the age of 18, Scouts made the move and went to the preparatory training kibbutz.'They were finally beginning to fulfill everything they had learned and for which they had prepared themselves all this time.

There was an ongoing argument between the Zionist movements and the non–Zionists.'The latter saw us as young people having fun, far away from the gray life.'I remember one evening when I appeared as the emissary of the branch and welcomed a new professional union that had formed in our town.'When I descended from the stage after my speech, I was approached by a detective from the Polish police.'He wrote down my name and address.'Then, a few friends, who were non–Zionists came over and said: “We did not know that you know what to do.'From now on we will change our minds about your movement”.

It is true that we were young people having fun.'It is normal for the very young, but this was not fun for fun's sake, laughter for the sake of laughter.

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Hashomer Hatzair branch in 1932–33

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It was what pulled the youths to our branch.'While having fun, the leader knew how to produce cultural and ideological activities.'He knew how to have the youths acquire the seriousness of the movement.'For that reason, there was a library which had materials that involved the youths in issues being discussed.'In addition to literary, historical–nationalistic material there was also a wall newspaper where everyone could express their opinions.

The” literary trial” that was performed also added to the thoughts of the youths.'It is superfluous to mention that the group conversations were the main vehicle for indoctrinating the Shomer tenets.'I remember how we would sit during these conversations.'Everyone participated with an opinion.'These were serious and deep and went on for a long time.'At the end, everyone got up, danced a Hora and let off steam.'Then we sang the anthem of the branch: “We are singing and making Aliyah”.

I remember the beautiful hikes.'One that is etched in my memory had a bit of “resurrecting the dead”.'It was a great summer day, a Friday afternoon.'We went from Kovel to Matseyev and we arrived in their branch in the early evening. We met the locals as they were having great fun dancing.'We joined them.'Suddenly, a wind began and the skies were filled with black clouds.'It began to pour.'When the rain stopped everyone went to their homes.'We went with one of the Matseyev members to sleep in his barn.'We reached another barn, not far from the designated one.'It was raining non–stop.'We entered and lay down on the hay.'We suddenly heard banging on door accompanied by screams: Fire! Fire! It is burning!'We hurriedly got up in pitch dark.'We made it to the door and saw, not far away, that the barn we had not reached due to the pouring rain, was on fire.'It was hit by lightening and the fire ignited.'We instintinctively ran there and we shivered as we watched the flames.'We were up late the following day.'We had a festive meal.'We still were able to laugh, but we all felt the great miracle.

On Sunday morning we left Matseyev early, walking and being jolly.'Suddenly our friends from Kovel appeared.'They almost fainted when they saw us.'They were coming to our funeral because they had heard from an emissary from Matseyev that fellows from Hashomer Hatzair had burned in the barn.'All the eulogies were not needed.

It was a beautiful, productive time when the Tarbut students began to come, in crowds, to the club.'It was the time of “Ben Sham”.'He was a new teacher who came to Kovel and mesmerised the youths.'Under his influence there were many students who joined the club.'Teachers were also interested.

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The new recruits fueled the activities.'The old forces were tired.'The Seniors were good at speaking, but they were unable to fulfill.'They felt uncomfortable and began to distance themselves from the club.'Some of the Seniors joined Poalei Zion or the Communists.'In their place, new forces joined and invigorated the club.

The new stream of enthusiastic students saved the situation.'At the same time, young people who were not studying also joined the club.'They had either completed the Heder or were in Polish schools.'They came to a plowed field and found a new way to live.'This is where the new generation was formed.'It was prepared for its role in the nation and the homeland.'It was ready to march with certainty towards the next day– when the sun will shine in their new land.'It was a fearless generation, full of national pride.'They knew how to fight for their people and their country.

From the Seniors Group to the Hashomer Hatzair Club

by David Perlmutter

Translated by Ala Gamulka

When WWI ended and the refugees returned from far away places, the idea of scouting was brought to Jewish Kovel.

The pride of scouting continued for several years– until the early 1930s.'Since it did not have a pioneering basis, the movement deteriorated due to infighting.

In the low years of 1923–24, there really was no youth movement worthy of its name.'The Zionist movements only functioned at election time or at Aliyah periods.'There were always some adherents who continued the actual work for rebuilding Eretz Israel.

The Jewish youth liked to dance.'The needs of the people were many.'The charitable institutions used the dancing fad and planned many parties.'There was dancing until morning.

The youth were also into the Shimmy and tango.'Special outfits, appropriate tie, shiny shoes, some money in their pockets– these promised a night of fun.

The Seniors did not accept this attitude.

One by one, they came from different social and cultural backgrounds, but they did come.

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They would hear a discussion of a Peretz story or they would judge Raskolnikov (of Dostoyevsky).'They would study geography of Palestine and would look for a purpose for cooperative living.

It was the hatred of the minutiae of daily life, of the petit–bourgeois atmosphere in town, that brought them to this point.

This was the group of Seniors– 10 young men and two young women.

They loved to discuss, to go on hikes and the togetherness.'They were not really seniors…

We were few in number and our activities were temporary.'We joined every Zionist program and anything that had an advanced public feature.'We loved the world and the universal revolution was close to our hearts.'We enjoyed Russian literature that began to reach us.'However, our eyes and hearts looked forward to the Jordan, to Eretz Israel.'This is how we saw the world and communal living.

Our activities were “Question parties” or literary trials.'We managed to attract a loving crowd that was ready to follow all our requests.'We had many functions for Jewish National Fund and similar causes.

One day we discovered that the General Zionists were opening a club and we went into negotiations to join them.

After we promised to behave, they gave us a small room– it was the stage for the adjoining hall.

On this stage, behind a green curtain, we did our work until we took over the house, the yard and the street.


5 Fabritzana

The club had two rooms.'The sign outside said that this was the hall of the Zionists in Kovel.'Inside there were newspapers on tables, various games and a canteen for the visitors.' At first, there were some Zionists who came every evening to spend time reading, playing and drinking tea.'On those evenings we would hide behind the curtain where we talked, argued or listened to a lecture.

The topics were: beautiful literature, sociology, current events. The serious arguments were among the youths who were called Seniors, for some reason.'Soon, the Zionists stopped coming to the club and we had more joiners.'Our parties attracted many young people, as well as children.'The educational movement was established.

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Hashomer Hatzair Club with the poet Shaul Tchernichovsky, z”l on his visit to Kovel

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In those days, the universal movement of Hashomer Hatzair was also growing.'Contact was made with Eretz Israel and emissaries came to visit.'The pioneering basis became the cornerstone of our world view.'In the club there was strong nucleus of pioneering–nationalistic youths.'The purpose of self–fulfilment and educational activity was its motto.

Others left.

5 Fabritzana became the center of Hashomer Hatzair.'It was important in the life of the youths and of the town.

We reached the elementary school students and we formed the first educational groups.'Our success was evident when the students of the Hebrew high school joined us.

There was a good group of counselors and the club grew.'It became an important part in the life of the youths as well as in the Jewish community of Kovel.

Many of our townsmen are in Eretz Israel and they well remember 5 Fabritzana.'They remember with thanks the day they entered this house.

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Hachalutz Hatzair

by Aryeh Rabiner

Translated by Ala Gamulka

I was a student in the third or fourth level of Tarbut high school.'Suddenly, something similar to an electric current passed through town.'It was a current that pulled us.'It was called Pioneers.'We really did not know what it was.'We had heard rumors of pioneers in Eretz Israel, but now we were connected, conquered and infected. We seemed obsessed and we referred to ourselves as Little Pioneers.'(I don' t really recall if we did it ourselves or if we had help).'If there were big Pioneers, why should there not be little ones?…

We organized ourselves in secret, in the underground.'There were three reasons: fear of our parents, fear of punishment by our teachers and the last, the most conservative one, fear of other children.'We did not want them to find out our secret and tattle.'Woe to us if that had happened.

The Hashomer Hatzair club preceded us.'There were some children who were secretly members of that movement.'However, there few in our school.

We began to met in secret– either on a hike, so to speak or a Bar Mitzvah party.'One day, someone arrived from the big city and organized us as true members of Hechalutz Hatzair.'I believe it was Huma Hayot who was then a member of Dror and is now living in Yagur.

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Dina Zatz, z”l, with her apprentices


How strange!'Young Pioneers with their insignia: hammer, anvil and seven stars.'An attractive and interesting insignia.

This was only the beginning.'Our underground activities did not last long because we were unable to do it.'We wanted to show ourselves in the club, in the library, on the way to the club, in arguments with our so–called adversaries.

It seems that during that time, when there were living pioneers visiting– emissaries from Eretz Israel who arrived in Kovel – we were so interested that we were drawn completely to the cause.'We gave our hearts and all our time to the dream of return to Eretz Israel and to its rebuilding by the pioneering settlers.'We worshipped the idea of life on a kibbutz.'The kibbutz, the Hebrew commune, became our symbol, our example, our daily wish to be there with the pioneers who are already achieving the dream.'No one will forget the first parade on Lag Baomer when we walked for the first time with our green flag (a sign of youth then).'We stepped with might, straight, happy and proud of the insignia on our shirt flaps.'We wore hats with a green ribbon.

[Page 316]

This was a demonstration of an awakening youth, ready to give of itself for a better future for its nation strewn in various exiles.

Our hearts beat wildly whenever a new song was brought from the pioneers in Eretz Israel.'We trembled as we listened to songs sung by the conquerors of the swamps in the Jezreel Valley and the pavers of the roads in the north of the country. Every word was learned well.'It can be said that every word strengthened our young hearts.'We were happy to learn another song, another word that the Pioneers of Ein Harod were singing.

Whenever an emissary came, we swallowed his words and drank in everything that came out of his mouth.'We kissed every sound coming from his lips.'Every emissary, even the ugliest one, seemed handsome in our eyes.'To us, he was endearing and romantic like “The Nights of Canaan” that we sang then.'For us, they were personal examples of the great life being developed in our country– the country we were hoping to reach.

I remember this story:'an emissary from Eretz Israel was lecturing to a large crowd.'He was warm and he took off his short jacket.'We noticed that his shirt was torn.'We, the pioneers, saw in it the simplicity of life, but someone in the crowd (probably one of the adversaries of Hechalutz) shouted “Change your torn and patched shirt “.'We, the youth, saw this as sacrilegious and we moved towards the person shouting and we were ready to pounce on him.'We did not change our minds and when we went outside, we waited for the shouter.'I believe he was slapped a few times…

I brought this story to prove and to remember how enchanted we were.'It was so important to us to bring anything that came from our Eretz Israel.

The youthful period passed fairly quickly.'Most of us went to the preparatory kibbutz.'Those who pretended to be a year older managed to do it earlier and others went at the right age.

In our town, Kovel, life was ebullient.

The Hechalutz Hatzair club received many members.'They came, they learned, they danced, they sang they went to summer camps, to camps for leaders, to conferences and meetings.'They then went to preparatory kibbutzim and from there they made Aliyah.'This word attracted us.'Is there an artist who can describe Aliyah of pioneers from Kovel?

Every wagon driver, policeman or boatman in Kovel seemed to celebrate with us the evening when the Pioneers were saying goodbye prior to their Aliyah.'Perhaps they were happy to get rid of some Jews or they were infected with our enthusiasm.'They accompanied the pioneers to the train station singing loudly.'Who did not come to the train station?'Young and old–even though it was midnight.

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Hechalutz Hatzair in Poland– Kovel branch – 3.II.1934

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They filled all entrances to the station.'Did anyone pay to go the station pier?

I remember that, once, the ticket seller was drawn into the crowd and he danced with the pioneers and the Hassidic parents who came to say goodbye to their children making Aliyah, in spite of their wishes.

Where did we hear “Let us be strong”, “Hatikvah” and “Pioneer, make Aliyah”, if not at the train station in our town, Kovel?'Most of Kovel was asleep, but the pioneers were calling “Shalom, Shalom”.'The echoes of Shalom announced a new period for our people.'They left sadness in the hearts of the younger pioneers who were accompanying their older brothers.

The few non–Jews who were with us at the station were confused and a little afraid of the crowds around them.'Some said: “It must be some Rabbi who is leaving or coming to the Jews”.

Who can forget the “Box Evening” in the branch?'Who can forget the questions and answers of those long evenings during the Kovel winters?

Who can forget the immense cold in the hall of Hechalutz at 55 Lutske Street?'In spite of the cold, the hall was filled with life.'We learned, sang and danced.

Who will not remember the small room near the stage?'It was the office that was always filled with dozens of young members who were begging, crying and asking to go earlier to the preparatory kibbutz.'There were also many young women (over 20) who wished to join Hechalutz Hatzair.'Usually, only those under 17 were accepted.

Who would not be touched by the memorial evenings for Gordon, Borochov, Brenner, Trumpeldor that were so emotional?

Who would not remember, with love, the tiny library that served hundreds of pioneers?'Who would not hold, in his heart, the warmth of those special evenings, drinking tea and eating latkes?'We would stay late after a party and speak from our hearts and listen to one another.'Very strong ties were formed between the members and this friendship continues, I believe, till today.

These parties were special.'They were meetings of friends for discussions and closeness.

These summer evenings, when we sat outside on the stairs, we envied the members of Hashomer Hatzair.'We did not have money and we were thrown out by the owner of the club.'We stood outside and we would not move.'We looked at the darkened windows of our club and we cried in our helplessness.'Our cash box was empty and we could not afford to pay the rent…

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Group of Hechalutz Hatzair in Zelini in 1930

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A friend, an adult, came forward and paid some of our debt.'The club, again was full of brightness and happiness.'Young people hoping for a better future returned…

When we speak of Hechalutz Hatzair, we see in front of us the image of our “mother”– Dina Zatz, z”l.

She was an exceptional phenomenon within the Hebrew pioneering background in Kovel at its inception.'Dina was a refined and humble person, full of light and warmth.'She stood out among her contemporaries, her pioneering friends, in that she never lost her youthful enthusiasm.'She also knew how to influence others– big and small.

It seemed like she ignored the term “adult”.'It was just a word for her.'She called everyone– “kids”.'These were her “kids” … She was always on the move, full of life and infecting others with her enthusiasm. She never rested and was totally devoted to the young pioneering movement.'She became its loyal mother and looked after her young apprentices.

Pioneering Kovel cannot be described without Dina and Dina cannot be imagined without pioneering Kovel, its activities, parties, clubs, conferences, summer camps and preparatory kibbutzim.'Her “kids” were an essential part of it.

We recall the shed–house that stood at the end of a side street, empty of homes.'Here, in this shack, she taught the children the first pioneering songs and she inspired them to love the new idea of working Eretz Israel.'All the strong songs came from the work of Dina with her young recruits. It seemed as if due to their excited voices and their songs, the side streets were liberated from their emptiness.

The boys and girls enjoyed being with the simple, straight–forward Dina.'They embraced her with their true beliefs and she gave them her motherly, deepfelt love.'She caressed them warmly.'Many of them did not have this in their homes.

The Hechalutz Hatzair club had Dina– who came from a plain home.'She was able to draw the boys and girls from poor homes and she insisted on keeping the honor of the pioneer.

She taught Hebrew, lectured, counseled and explained.'She sang and prepared programs with which she was successful.

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Hechalutz Hatzair in Kovel


Dina was the moving spirit who encouraged the Hechalutz Hatzair movement.

She established a home in Eretz Israel where she was married.'Her ardent hope was fulfilled when she gave birth to her own daughter.'No one could rival her.'Suddenly, a catastrophe.'Dina became ill and was unable to heal.'She could not take care of her child and she soon died.

Dina, who was so motherly all her life, finally became a mother.'She died without benefiting from the joy of family life.'She had influenced so many others during her life.'When her daughter was born, she, herself, was taken away from this world.'She was still full of love and good intentions to help others.'The cruel destiny stole her away from us.'She went with those who do not return while she was still young.'Her daughter was orphaned and Dina never heard the word “Ima”– she who had worked so hard for the good of the “kids”.

May her memory be a blessing and may she forever remain in our hearts!

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In Kovel there were mother youth and Zionist organizations: Beitar Youth- well known in town; Revisionist-Zionist party; Haoved; Hamizrah party; Gordonia; Freiheit(freedom) and Religious Hashomer.

Unfortunately, we did not obtain any material about these movements and organizations. Their work for Zionism, rebirth of Hebrew and preparation of youth for Aliyah was exemplary. This will not be forgotten. Their memories are bound in the eternal ones of the Jews of Kovel.


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