Itzhak and Zacharia Dafna
Translated by Shuki Ecker
As we recall from our childhood in Galicia, our father Zelig Kranz was the district chairman of the Zionist organizations Kadima and Achva which were designed to provide training for new immigrants going to Palestine. He was fully invested in the activities of these organizations and these activities were spread throughout the district. He organized and supervised meetings and assemblies of the organizations, and he dedicated much work and effort to the national funds, the Keren Kayemet and Keren Hayesod.
He was the central figure and driving force of the central Zionist organizations, and thanks to him, there was fraternal collaboration between the General Zionists, Gordonia and the Revisionists, and for this his name was entered into the Golden Book of the Keren Kayemet in 1932. The non-Jewish institutions opposed his activities with the Jewish youth. He decided to make aliya in 1934, after the British authorities imposed limitations on new immigrants. In Israel, father continued his diversified activities in the Zionist organizations in the ranks of the Liberal Party. He was one of the founders of the Israel Zionist Worker Movement and was a member at its head office.
|Upper and second rows from left to right: The third Niunia Ecker, Shoshona Goldstein, Feige Barach, Ehrenwerth, Breindel Szargel, Sara Letzter, the Pelz sisters, Golda Rosen, Meir Sachs, Ehrenwerth Mina, Gertwagen, Shimon Barij
Third row: Moshe Weissman, Zelig Kranz, Merwitzer Yaakov, and Natan Barach
by Ze'ev Levin
Translated by David Goldman
Mordechai was born in Radekhov on Tammuz 20, 5667 (1907). His parents were affluent merchants, and Mordechai was educated in traditional Judaism. From his youth he absorbed information from the sources of Judaism, and always had a great affinity for tradition. He combined the flame of Chassidism with the needs of the period, and all of his actions and deeds merged as a: modern Chassid. He was an enthusiastic Zionist from his youth, and although he complied with his parents and their views, with regard to Zionism, Mordechai was unrelenting and was not influenced by them. At that time he belonged to the clandestine Hachalutz movement, and this was the most romantic period of his life, during which his youthful dreams and future aspirations were woven together.
Mordechai was a pioneer in both theory and practice. He underwent training in Poland and patiently waited his turn to immigrate to the Holy Land. Some of those in his training program ran into material difficulties, and on more than one occasion he contributed his own money to his friends. Following the training came the emigration segment. The argument continued for years at home and his parents remained unmoved on the issue. They considered his emigration to be the loss of their son. During the Chalutz Pioneering period he dedicated his free time to acquiring secular knowledge: he read widely to learn and analyze material in depth. In his hometown he was one of the pillars of the Histadrut Zionist organization and Hitachdut. His three foundations were pioneering, idealism and a strong will, and all were a common thread throughout his life.
In 1929 he moved to Eretz Israel, and this decision was a heavy blow to his parents. Mordechai struggled for a long time over his love for his parents and his love for the Land. However, his common sense overcame his emotions, and ultimately he made the decision and emigrated. After being a settlement member and an agricultural worker in the towns of Rehovot, Kiryat Anavim, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, in 1933 he moved to the settlement of Ein Vered as one of the founders of the moshav. Mordechai was finally happy, after four years of wandering and searching, he found his proper place in the country.
He devoted himself to his new role with every drop of enthusiasm. He established a warm home, and attended to his work with joy and energy, and despite his wholehearted devotion to his farm, he always devoted himself to the needs of the community in his free time. He was a social man, and his work was esteemed everywhere, especially in Ein Vered. He was one of the main people involved in the security of the village, and was always one of the first to serve as a guard and in any other activity, which is why he had many friends in the village.
With his skills and knowledge, he could have easily managed in the city, but he didn't like office work. He found himself and felt best at work in the fields. He could easily adapt to life either on a kibbutz or small kevutza because he was always prepared to pass up on his comforts for the good of the group. However, he specifically preferred life on a moshav with children and the younger generation. He could see the future of the nation and the country: We must do everything and toil with love and joy so that the youth will have an easier life than we have. We are the generation of the desert pioneers and we are paving the way of life for those who come after us. When through his efforts and assistance, his sister Shoshana came to Eretz Israel he did everything possible for her to settle down to a life of agriculture, in a village rather than a city. He was totally opposed to her plans for life in a city and did not back down. We don't have to continue the life of exile here in the Land. When his sister settled in the village he visited her frequently and helped her with suggestions and in action. He was attached to his family with all his soul, despite having moved to Eretz Israel against their will. He never cut off contact with his family back home, and would plan on how to bring them to the Land. He foresaw what was going to happen to them. He tried every possible argument to persuade them of the correctness of his views about life in the diaspora. He promised them that if they moved to Eretz Israel he would give them his farm in Ein Vered and start from scratch. His family members respected him greatly, but they treated him as an idealistic dreamer whose move to Palestine was impractical. Only when World War II broke out did they begin to understand and value him. After tremendous work and endless efforts, his brother succeeded in moving to Palestine, but encountered a cruel fate and died on the day of his arrival.
Mordechai was involved with people and accepted by them. He was unable to understand how anyone could live a life alone without involvement with neighbors. He was always able to offer assistance to those who needed it. His home was open to all, and he was generous beyond his means. This attitude was perplexing to his friends and relatives. They thought he had income on the side, and was only able to make ends meet with outside work. He absolutely loved work and never knew the meaning of fatigue. When he returned from work, he devoted himself to his own land and was happy with every new tree and patch at home or on any other farm in the village. The rapid growth of the village encouraged him and strengthened his faith and trust in our victory. His enthusiasm in his youth never left him. He was the same inside and out, and could never hide his happiness and love of others from outsiders or friends. Everybody used to visit him at home and tell him their troubles while obtaining his assistance in a simple and natural way. He excelled in hosting guests, and had many friends. Even the Arabs respected and appreciated him, and he often advised them and loaned them money. Whether secular or very religious, young or old, everyone visited his home and he found a warm and encouraging word for each and every one of them. He spoke calmly and with a sense of humor. He was able to calm violent winds in a pleasant manner. When his nephew immigrated as a student he treated his nephew as a father would. When Mordechai earned his first 150 lira from his orchard, he offered it to his brotherinlaw because he saw he was in difficult financial straits, despite the fact that he himself had significant debts. He offered his own produce to relatives and friends in town, and would occasionally travel to town loaded with sacks full of produce from his field as gifts to the needy in town. During hard times in town, his friends and relatives knew that Mordechai would never abandon them and would always be their supporter and helper. Mordechai could not tolerate injustice of any kind. Whenever he encountered it he became very angry, and the crooked politics of the British made his blood boil. Thoughtless acts of terrorism, irresponsibility of individuals or parties, and the narrow interests of political parties over the needs of the settlement all provoked him to energetic protest. Despite the fact that he was not religious he was nevertheless attached to the tradition in which he had deep roots. When the Belzer Rebbe moved to Palestine they visited him in Jerusalem (his father was a Belzer Chassid). Although he was a pioneer from Poland he would visit the Rebbe on the eve of Yom Kippur, and would travel to his sister in the town of Pardes Chana and pray in a synagogue on holidays (this according to his sister). Mordechai considered Chassidism a mirror image of pioneering he would say that pioneering is the modern form of Chassidism, and only Chassidic pioneering could light the flame of enthusiasm of both the youth and adults to undertake great things. Mordechai believed with perfect faith that the redemption was fast approaching and soon the State of Israel would be created. The rebirth of the state was at hand, it would be only on a matter of time. Every morning before going to work he would visit his neighbor to listen to the news, then analyze it and head off to work. However, fate was cruel to him. He fell on the very day the State was declared. And his many relatives and friends cried and still cry over him saying that, if only Mordechai had lived to see this great moment he would have been overjoyed and happy. On November 29, 1947 when the United Nations made its declaration about the State, Mordechai was among the first people who traveled to Tel Aviv and danced the night away. Two days before the establishment of the State, on Iyar 3, [May 12] 1948 he visited his sister Shoshana who had lovingly taken care of him after the death of their parents who were murdered by the Nazis. His sister recounted that, on that very day Mordechai was filled with apprehension about the fate of the Jewish community in Palestine. She begged him to stay, but to no avail. He refused to stay overnight. Who knows if I'll be able to come later, so I came now to visit you and your family, but I have to go back. He could not leave his pregnant wife and the villagers in this time of danger, so he returned. When the operation began in Kfar Hess, they came and awakened Mordechai as well, because how could they have an operation without him? As a mortar expert, he was always the first person to take a position in the breach. But this time he was permitted to stay home because of his wife's condition. His friends told him, Be careful, Mordechai, watch yourself, don't go! But Mordechai did not take advantage of his right, and could not stay at home resting in a time of danger. He left his wife affectionately and calmed her by saying, Take it easy, I'll be back in a few hours. When he was lightly wounded on his forehead his friends begged him to go home, but he absolutely refused and instead continued to work until, with a mortar in his hand ready to be fired, he was killed by an enemy bullet. Mordechai remained consistent until he died. The enemy bullet ended his life, but his faith and trust in the realization of his vision will illuminate future generations.
Exactly 19 years passed since I saw Mordechai Weissman for the first time. I came to work as a physician in Ein Vered, and he was one of the first people whom I encountered, because my apartment was near to his. Ever since then, he has been engraved in my memory as a handsome man, strong and joyful. He was a good hearted and sincere fellow who was always ready to help. It seems like it was only a day or two ago, I remember how he would go off to work every morning in the orchard and around the area, and how he would spend nights in that period of the events of 194749 as a guard at the posts. One day he came to me with a letter in his hand that he had received from abroad in which his parents wrote in Yiddish …stay right at home and don't get involved! Evidently his parents found out about the events going on in the country and were warning him. To what extent he followed these warnings is known to all of us….
I still remember one detail that sheds light on Mordechai's personality: one night in the autumn of 1946 in the afternoon a young man from the nearby kibbutz of Kfar Yavetz (which was also part of the area where I worked) requested I come to the kibbutz on an emergency. He was riding on a horse and came alone without weapons. I did not like the idea of going along with the boy without weapons and thereby endangering both of us since we had to go through an open field in a very dangerous area. However, I went to Mordechai's house and knocked at the door. Mordechai awoke, and when he heard me knocking his immediate reply was, Yes, doctor, where do you have to go? I'll be ready in a minute. A few moments later he was ready, and when he heard my request he saddled his horse and got his weapon. Without asking any questions or saying a word, he joined us to visit the patient in Kfar Yavetz. This story typifies his fine character, and it remains fixed in my memory.
Years later during the War of Independence, Mordechai became involved again in things, and from what I heard he was killed in an operation in which he was not even required to be involved.
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