« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 414]

In the Paths of Aliya


My Father Emigrated to Eretz-Yisroel

Tzvi Szpira

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

I was born in Zawiercie in 1907 to religious-national (Zionist) parents. As a child, I heard it said that my father, Hilel Szpira, of blessed memory, one of the first Hovevei Zion [Lovers of Zion] in the city and a Mizrakhist [religious Zionist], left my mother (Surale), with very young children, with a large grocery business and traveled to Eretz-Yisroel. This was at the beginning of 1913, at the time when Yosef Spiwak, the son of Shabtai the cantor's son, went to Eretz-Yisroel. At the same time, Yosl Diamant's son also emigrated. These three were the first swallows of the [later] emigration of the Zawierciers to Eretz-Yisroel after the First World War. I remember, as in a dream, when my father returned, sick (caught malaria in Eretz-Yisroel). My mother had to send him money for expenses to return. At that time, right before the Second World War, Diamant's son also returned. Only Yosef Spiwak remained in Eretz-Yisroel. During the First World War, he, like many other

[Page 415]

Jews from Eretz-Yisroel, because of fear of expulsion by the Turkish Pasha, left (on foot, as it is said in his family) through Beirut, Aleppo Halab, Anatolia to Constantinople, where he was during the last three years of the war. Immediately after the end of the First World War he returned to Jerusalem from Constantinople. He was also the first Zawiercier in Eretz-Yisroel at the start of the Mandate times. He later died in Magdiel.

To the first Zawierciers who emigrated to Eretz-Yisroel before the war we can record Reb Yeshaya Szpira, of blessed memory, the son-in-law of the Krimelewer Rebbe, who came to Eretz-Yisroel as a young man. He returned to Poland, became one of the first leaders of Mizrakhi [religious Zionists] and, after the First World War, returned to Eretz-Yisroel where he took an esteemed role. He moved to a settlement during his last years.

As for my father's emigration, I can add that, at the time, he left a large grocery business that my late mother actually ran more than my father. We lived at the time in Berl Poznanski's wooden house, at the corner of Marszalkowska-Hoza. My father was not an impressive merchant. He considered himself a student and he actually left the commerce to my mother. The money that my mother sent to my father for expenses to return home also came from her hard-earned rubles.


[Page 416]

The Zawiercier Shack

Shimeon Fajgenblat

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund


A few weeks after my arrival in the country, I was homeless and did not have a stable corner in which to lay my head.

This was in the year 1924. In Tel Aviv at the time, it was not an easy matter to rent even a small room. The great wave of the “Graboski Aliyah” continued unabated.[1] The construction movement did not catch up with the great wave of middle-income people from Poland. Everyone was drawn to Tel Aviv. Halutzim [pioneers] who had grown tired, who had arrived in the country in previous years left the valleys and moshavs [agricultural collectives] and looked for work and a “metropolitan existence” in the first pure-Jewish city in Palestine of that time (Tel Aviv) and the first pure-Jewish city in the entire world. Because of the lack of apartments, a person without a job (I started working immediately after I arrived) could not save for a modest room. Therefore, I wandered for a few weeks through Tel Aviv of that time.

This was a little easier for me because that was the way for many, for very many. A worker did not have less importance if he did not have a room. He was not more important if he did have a room. In any case, life in Tel Aviv took place mainly in the street. The center was then a bit of Allenby Street near Whitman's or another gazoz [flavored soda] business, not far from what was then the Histadrut [General Organization of Workers] House at Nakhalat Binyamin 2.

There, we would come together in the evenings, for conversations, debating, arguing. It was lively. Sometimes, slaps echoed at the end of such an argument. It was a “wonderful life,” although one's stomach was not always satisfied.

Often, comrades would start to dance the Hora [circle dance] in the middle of the street. And a melody was not lacking – an improvised chorus. Everyone sang and danced along. Comrade “Trask” led the parties (with the poet, A. Szlonski, and other, later well-known personalities). Mainly, these were young people from the Ukrainian

[Page 417]

and Russian steppes. They would walk around with disheveled forelocks and in Russian shirts, with balalaikas and mandolins in their hands and they, with their jokes and spontaneous cheerfulness, would cheer up the unemployed group who then lived on “assistance” (unemployment support) of a quarter pound a week.

Comrade “Trask's” companions worried very little about finding a small room, an apartment, or a bit of living space. Often after such a “Hora dance” and after a wild time amusing themselves until midnight (or after midnight) in a hullabaloo, young men lay down to take a nap on a table or a chair in the half-enclosed terraces (with at least, a roof over their heads…) of what was then the Tel Aviv agricultural cooperative's pleasant, small houses.

* * *

Therefore, it is no wonder that I also had to wander around during the weeks after my arrival in the country.

However, newly arrived Zawierciers did not have the temperament of the Russian and Ukrainian young men. They looked for familiarity; Zawierciers in Tel Aviv were then like one family, something still familiar and experienced by many. The center, the main address


Yosef Finkl and wife

[Page 418]

of the Zawierciers was then Yosl Finkl's confectionary and Yosl Finkl's house (Yosl Finkl remains a central figure among Zawierciers today). When someone needed work (and who did not have a need?), [they] benefitted from Yosl's good-heartedness and dedication to Zawiercie. And occasionally, he gave a secret gift of charity, advice. Yosl and his devoted wife were like parents to the young who had left their own parents in Zawiercie and made an effort to take root in the soil of the fatherland of Eretz Yisroel. Yosl's help gave the Zawierciers a feeling that he was not lost in Eretz Yisroel.

Other Zawierciers, although not as devoted with their body and life as Yosl and his wife, helped each other.

* * *

At this time, comrades told me about the Zawiercier shack that became a thing of renown and is worth recording in the “Zawiercier Book,” because many Zawierciers in various periods found a refuge between its tarp “walls.” I actually paid a visit to the “Zawiercier shack.” There I met Reb Shabtai Khazan [cantor] (Shabtai Spievak), Dovtshe Turner and Yehezkiel Landau. They received me very well and suggested that I should become part of the shack.

At that time, I did not know how the barracks came to be. Even today, it is still not clear to me. Perhaps others will talk more about the details. However, I knew that Yehezkiel Landau had a great part in its rise and that the “Zawiercier shack” was an important “firm,” an important address for Zawierciers who had just left their parents' house.

I, again, found myself in a familiar corner, in the familiar Zawiercier atmosphere of reciprocal loyalty and unlimited friendship.

* * *

Reb Shabtai led the household in the shack. He cooked for us and made sure that we were sated and had tasty

[Page 419]

food. He was particularly busy on Fridays and made sure that the Shabbos [Sabbath] table would have a lot of good things. There even was no lack of cholent [Shabbos stew].

On Friday evening, Reb Shabbat used to light candles and wish us all a good week.

We were literally like one family. When one of us earned, he contributed for the support of the household. Whoever did not earn did not contribute. Reb Shabtai would maintain an exact account.

Dobtshe Turner was chronically unemployed. As far as I remember, he never worked (Yosl Finkl said that he worked with him). However, Dobtshe was a specialist with various good things, and he had his own patents. Thus, for example, he would teach us how to wipe our plates while eating in such a manner that there would not be a trace of food. Thus, one could avoid washing the plate. He also taught us to do a little laundry. He knew this work very well

* * *

Szlenczinski would be a frequent “lodger” at the shack. He would continually live in the shack with interruptions.

Once, I came to the shack after work. Szlenczinski was lying on a bed laughing. From time to time, he took a look at the opposite wall.

– What is it, Szlenczinski? – I asked.

He did not answer and kept choking with laughter.

I looked at the opposite wall and what did I see? A mouse was tied up with a string and was jumping here and there along the wall. Szlenczinski amused himself with this spectacle.

It became apparent that Szlenczinski had caught a mouse in the shack and tied its tail to a string. He hung the entire “Purim play” onto the wall for fun.

Yehezkiel Landau and I – we both worked. Yehezkiel was then a paleczik (worked with plaster). He earned it, but he worked hard. I then worked at carpentry.

Later, Avrahamtshe Sztibl lived in the shack.

[Page 420]

Zaweriecier Shack

This photo was photographed in the month of Iyyar 5687 [May, 1927] in a shack that stood on the border of Tel Aviv-Jaffe in the Aharon neighborhood on Shevzi Street on the way to Neve Shalom



We became acquainted with the people in the shack. It is worth saying a few words about the shack itself.

According to the ideas of that time, the “Zawericier shack” appeared completely respectable This was a large room of four meters by four meters [a little over 13 feet by 13 feet]. It had a wooden frame, over which a waterproof fabric was stretched. The shack had a boat roof – completely handcrafted.

A block of wood stood in the middle of the room – not, God forbid, to serve an earthly purpose for a butcher to chop meat there. The block also did not serve a heavenly purpose, as the black stone (the

[Page 421]

Kaaba) in the holy city of Mecca, in order to prostrate oneself to praise Allah. We still had not been influenced by the Muslims around us.

The block served a purpose between heaven and earth: it supported the roof so that it would not break or fall down…

Right near the block was a table, hammered together from simple boards. The table was not made by a great specialist…

In the mentioned block was a nail on which hung a night-lamp that illuminated the room at night.

Beds on which we slept were next to two walls. The west side was a bare wall without any windows. There actually was a yellowed small window in the south wall without a shutter. This window was closed with a small chain. There was a similar window in the east wall.

One entered the shack from the north side. On the same north side, there also was a small terrace with a small kitchen.

If we wanted to open or close the door, we had to stick our hand through a hole in the tarp and unchain the door from inside. There was no doorknob, no lock.

This seems strange now. However, that is, in general, how things were in Tel Aviv; people slept then with open doors. Thieves – in any case, we convinced ourselves – did not exist in Tel Aviv.

* * *


Once, it was on a Friday night, I came home and I could not believe my eyes. There had been a strong storm that Friday afternoon, accompanied with downpours. The storm suddenly raised the entire roof and tore it off. The shack became soaked in its length and in its width.

Just then, when the problem occurred, Reb Shabtai was sitting calmly with one of his very closest friends, who had come to visit him. They both remained as if amused, without a roof over their heads.

[Page 422]

As soon as Reb Shabtai saw me, he was very happy and he said to his acquaintance: You will see. Everything will soon be alright.

I took a little money, went to buy a few boards.

Two hours later, the shack again had a roof over its head. We were able to prepare for Shabbos [Sabbath].

* * *

We would sit at the table in the Zawiercier shack and write letters to Zawiercie, home to our parents, relatives, and acquaintances. The Zawierciers were, as a result of the Zawiercier shack, connected to Zawiercie itself, as if Tel Aviv and Zawiercie were (as if in merit of the Zawiercier shack) one city.

All Zawierciers who arrived in the country at that time passed through the shack. We gave everyone who came a place to sleep. There were even times when 10-12 men slept in the shack.

Girls and women also would visit us in the shack. However, they could not sleep there because we only had one room.

* * *

Once, a heavy shower lasted the entire night. To my misfortune, just where I was lying, there was a hole in the roof. The drops dripped heavily, right on my bed.

I did not think for long and half asleep I grabbed a raincoat and drew it out over the blanket. I again fell asleep and was satisfied with my “patent.”

However, my remedy did not succeed for long; while I was sleeping, the rain played a trick on me. The drops dripped for so long that they created a depression in my coat where all the rainwater was collected. Since, a young fellow, as I was then, must turn to the other side at least once in his sleep, this happened to me. Turning in the bed, all of the water poured into the bed.

[Page 423]

Half a year after my arrival at the shack, Reb Shabtai left us and moved to the empty, uncultivated fields of the Sharon [Plain], which the Shiek of the Abu Kishk sold for the purpose of Jewish colonization.


Shabtai Spiwak and wife in their agricultural fields in Magdiel


Reb Shabtai was one of the founders of a moshav [cooperative agricultural colony] (later the local council at Kfar Saba, which according to his proposal received the name Magdiel.)

After Reb Shabtai left the shack, Henokh Erlich and Nakhman Fridman began living in it.

At this time, we began to have beehives. The work was very interesting. Henokh Erlich and Nakhman Fridman continued to work with the bees for many years – Nakhman until his premature death; Henokh Erlich to this day.

* * *

Once I traveled with Henokh Erlich to Magdiel to visit Reb Shabtai. He welcomed us very warmly and showed us everything

[Page 424]

he had done in his agricultural fields. He took us to a wadi (during the summer the waterless depression made by a river) that went through his terrain. He informed us that he had planted eucalyptus trees so that the wadi would again be filled with soil.

We could see how his heart grew from joy as if the Divine Presence rested in him and beamed. A strong spiritual pleasure was in his heart so that he was worthy of accomplishing the ideal of his entire life: to be a farmer in Eretz-Yisroel.

The farming was beyond his strength. However, he did not want to leave his Halutzish [pioneering] post, although he was offered the post of a moyel [ritual circumcizer] in Tel Aviv and other activities of his specialties.

After a few years of toiling in Magdiel, Reb Shabtai became ill with angina pectoris (heart disease). He suffered greatly for eight or nine years until the illness defeated him.

* * *

And now again to the Zawiercier shack. There was a wooden floor in the shack. Everyone who visited our shack kept wondering why the floor was so gleaming-white and cleanly washed.

The reason was simple: we did not have anywhere to wash ourselves. We made a shower out of a benzine can (benzine tin can). The can – from which we had constructed a small shower – was hung in the middle of the room from a board that, as mentioned above, held up the roof and thus we washed ourselves. The water ran and spread over the floor. This was fine soapy water. After every shower, we actually also simultaneously washed the floor.

Therefore, our floor always gleamed like that of the best housekeeper.

Translator's note:

  1. Wladyslaw Grabski, the Polish Minister of Finance, instituted economic restrictions on the Jews, resulting in the emigration of a large number of Jews to Eretz Yisroel. Aliyah is the Hebrew word for immigration to Israel. Return

[Page 425]

The Story of the Zawiercie Shack

Yissachar Borenstein

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

The“Zawiercie Shack” was built in the Aharon neighborhood (Aharon Chelouche) at the end of Shabazi Street, - or more precisely between the Arab neighborhood that crossed Jaffa and Tel Aviv, and between the road leading to Neve Shalom. It was an empty lot. The municipality of Tel Aviv wanted shacks to be built there so that a partition ring would be created between the Arab neighborhoods and Tel Aviv at the time.

The shack was built without a license. There was no need for the license either, for the abovementioned reasons. The municipality turned a blind eye and deliberately ignored what was happening in the area in terms of the type and form of construction in neighborhoods such as these. The municipality was interested, as mentioned, in such a partition. Besides that, there was a lack of apartments in habitable houses. The immigration wave that was going on during the days of Gravski grew bigger and bigger, demanding a transitional solution, although certainly not an ideal one, to the housing crisis, which was worsening day by day. At that time, the monthly rent for a room was approximately 5 Israeli Lira. In other words: a large part of the average income of a common person was allocated to a rental payment. Because of this, an alternative was needed until the common person would earn more income.

The late Yehezkel Landau is the one that should be recorded in the history of the residents of Zawiercie in Israel as“The father of the shack”, which a short time later was named in Israel as the“Zawiercie shack”.

In fact, for the sake of history, a fact that is a“trivial” matter must be corrected, but it has the potential to shed light on the dilemmas of the first residents of Zawiercie who came in the early 1920s to Israel. We are talking about the shack but in fact, the“Zawiercie shack” was not even a shack. Yehezkel received from the Jewish Agency for Israel - like the other immigrants at the time who wanted a little purpose in their lives – fabric for setting up a tent. But Yehezkel worked at the time as a plasterer (at the time, he worked very hard) and he considered the matter: we already have fabric. All we need is to get some wood. Instead of a tent, we will make wall frames, on which the tarpaulin (tent cloth) can be stretched.

He said and did. A“shack” was erected, which today is more common and is called Badon (a shack made of fabric). It seems to me that Yehezkel's Badon was then the first in the country, and perhaps the late Yehezkel deserves to receive a certificate of excellence for his“patent”.

My heart aches for the good and pleasant Yehezkel, the dear and devoted friend, whose life in Israel, was difficult, ended so quickly.

* * *

Reb Shabtai Spivak was the minister of the economy in the shack - from the beginning of his settlement there. I think that Yehezkel Landau and David Turner (“Dotshe”,“Dudel”) were the first to reside in the shack, and then Reb Shabtai joined them. After Reb Shabtai moved to Magdiel, the following entered the tent - one after the

[Page 426]

other - Shimon Feigenblatt, the writer of this article (Yissachar Borenstein - the editorial board), Abrahamche Sztibel, Hanoch Erlich, Nachman Friedman, Shidlovsky, Shlenchinsky (he would come alternately to sleep there), Yakobovich, Yankele Ernfrid, David Gnandelman.

Rabbi Shabtai was highly respected by all the tenants of the shack and in general, by everyone who visited the shack because he approached the management of the shack with an idea. It was determined in general that those who were not working would benefit from the general supplies that the tenants of the shack consumed.

He would buy groceries at the grocery store. He would cook and prepare meals at all the regular meal times. He accurately managed bookkeeping. At the end of the week, he submitted an account of how much the people of the shack consumed during the week, and also divided the account among those who worked at the same week.

Reb Shabtai treated us as a forgiving father. However, he was careful and made sure that no one would desecrate the Shabbat. The food was preserved hot because an ordinary kerosene lamp was lit underneath it.

* * *

Among the other original arrangements in the shack, about which others may also write, we had a Sun clock, that is: we placed it on the roof, which was covered with asphalt sheeting (“tol”), a large board, on which a large nail was wedged, which served as a hand for the movements of the rays of light and its shadow. We also had an ironing department. For example, I would do the ironing for the guys, we would iron collars by sliding them around the glass of the lighted lamp. Cholent would be made in a bowl for bathing, which was covered with the lid of a cement barrel, and they would put the bowl in the oven of Finkel's bakery.

After the consumption partnership in the shack was eliminated, the consumption affairs of all members of the shack took on a different character. For example: Yakobovich, Ernfrid and Gnandelman would sleep until 12 at noon, to save breakfast. When noon came, they would go out to a Yemeni restaurant in the vicinity and eat the soup that this restaurant prepared from leftovers of other good dishes.

At the time, a financial aid was distributed to the unemployed, but our friends didn't want to receive aid and deteriorated. They preferred to work - at any job. Many of us worked at Finkel's Deli and prepared cakes and cookies. Those who worked there were: Yissachar Borenstein, Yosef and Yitzchak Spivak, Nachman Friedman, Dudel Turner, and more. Some also worked as security guards.

Shimon and I lived in the shack for four and a half years.

In those days I fell victim to an inaccuracy in the search for a communist. It was a few days before the opening of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Because local distinguished guests had arrived and tourists from abroad, they were afraid of the actions of“Mopsim” (Jewish communists, MAKI at the time). The Jewish Communists argued against the university and its imperialist-colonial mission, thus, the authorities hunted down the communists. Among the Jewish communists in Israel at the time was

[Page 427]

one named Bornstein. So, they arrested me, thinking that I was a dangerous communist (do I look like a dangerous communist? Did I look then?)

After many interventions, I was released from detention.

* * *

And one more thing, somewhat personal and intimate. My friends and colleagues, who were distinct chalutzim (pioneers) at the time, looked at me somewhat suspiciously, since I was wearing a tie (“a salted fish”' as they would say then), and since… I got engaged to a girl who, in their opinion, at the time… was not chalutza enough.

Things improved when my wife – who was from Bedzin - entered the Zawiercie family, helped as much as she could, and was interested in everyone's troubles.

There are things from that period - the shack period - that my wife remembers much better than I do. This is a sign that she has acclimatized between the four walls of the shack and was treated sympathetically by the shack's tenants, and she remembers details as if she were a tenant of the shack.

We raised boys and we also grew old. Decades passed; One went through such experiences, and another went through other experiences. But the shack was an experience whose mark is deeply embedded in the hearts of all the first immigrants to Israel from Zawiercie - to this day…


A group of Zawierciers in Tel Aviv in 1930


« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Zawiercie, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 08 Dec 2023 by JH