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[Page 377]


J. In Memory of those who
Fell in the Defense of Israel

Translated by Meir Bulman

 

4 members of the Będzin community fell during the 1936-39 bloody Arab revolt in Eretz Israel.
What follows are essays that Mordechai Hampel published at the time in Zagłêbier Zeitung.

 

Jecheskiel Muntzik

M. Hampel

On Sunday, Iyar 25, 5698 [26th May 1938], fatal fire again rained from all sides upon Upper Hanita. Jecheskiel Muntzik, who was standing guard between upper and lower Chanita, was severely wounded in his stomach. Under a barrage of gunfire, the wounded was transferred to the village yard where he was given first aid. However, the doctor on location instructed to transfer him to the hospital immediately because of the severe wound.

Outside, the battle continued, and our men bravely worked in their respective roles. Under those conditions, the pained Muntzik was transferred to Hadassah Hospital in Haifa. He was immediately taken into surgery but he passed away on the table.

He was in his 20s when he arrived in Eretz Israel, where he would live for only 3 years. In Będzin, he was a member of Tzeirei Mizrachi and HaShomer HaDati. In Eretz Israel, he joined the Histadrut labor union and started working as a manual laborer. We saw him standing on scaffolding, plastering houses in Tel Aviv, or at the woodshop with a saw in his hand. He grew tired of the loud city so he relocated to a kibbutz, but he did not last there long and left. He wondered about his future in Eretz Israel and decided to settle in a village. He went to Kfar Yonah and joined a union of working settlers, Borochov. He was active in public life in Kfar Yonah and was beloved by all.

But he dreamed of a higher purpose in life. Nowhere did he find rest for his thrill-seeking soul. Where to now? Upper Galilee charmed him. Yes. He would go to the Galilee, which needs him as a worker and guard. Chanita was his goal. It was a settling point surrounded by mountains, wilderness and murderers who hate productive lives. If one of Jecheskiel's friends tried to prevent him from going to Chanita he was insulted and hurt.

“My place is there, among the conquerors of the Galilee mountains. Chanita will be ours forever and we will never leave it. A Jewish community will thrive here like in the days of old. The Galilee waits for us to liven it, but who knows whether I will see my desires come true…” was what he told me a short while before he enlisted in Notrim and Haganah.

He did not witness his dream of the future Jewish state's founding come true. Jecheskiel, you did not die in vain!

*

Dov (Beryl) Hayshrik

M. Hampel

He was born in Będzin, 1913, but at the age of 5 he emigrated with his family to Germany. When the Nazis came into power, he made aliyah and his parents returned to Będzin with other refugees who were deported from Nazi Germany.

He worked in Tel Aviv for a while. When the revolt erupted, he volunteered as a policeman on Mt. Carmel. His friends with whom he worked and guarded said that he was the silent type who enjoyed spending time alone but always had a friendly smile on his face.

More than once, he poured out his heart to his friends, “My acclimation here on the soil of Eretz Israel is difficult. I am like a seedling who was uprooted and transplanted onto foreign soil. I was educated within the German culture, which I was proud of until the German beast began trampling over humans. My world was shaken, and I escaped my tormentors. Here, on Mt. Carmel, I again sense the power within me, and it strengthens me and heals my wounded soul. Every stone here is precious to me. These rocks and I have entered a covenant that will never be severed…”

On March 30, 1928, Beryl was declared a hero and the newspapers praised him. Arabs had attacked the workers the Carmel forest, which he was tasked with guarding. A battle erupted between the murderers and our guards, who were led by Beryl. The attackers were defeated, leaving blood marks behind, and the workers were saved. He, of course, celebrated his victory, but did not boast as he just fulfilled the sacred duty of a Jewish guard.

Only 5 months passed before the ambush returned. This time, the end was horrifying; 10 Jewish guards, including Beryl, fell in battle.

Tragedy struck on Av 18, 5698. A truck full of people was attacked. The driver was injured, and the vehicle was stopped. The murderers had hoped for this, and they opened fire from all directions. The few guards returned fire, but the murderers outnumbered them and prevailed. Beryl killed an Arab, but he was mortally wounded.

Knowing the possible fate of a guard, he prepared a will. He wrote “1) I want to be buried on a hill within the Carmel forest. 2) I ask that my parents be sent for and helped settle in Eretz Israel. 3)My few possessions will be given to my family. 4) I wish that my brother will come to Eretz Israel and fill my position as a guard. Long live our homeland!”

Were his wishes fulfilled?

*

Moishel Sandishov

M. Hampel

Moshe, son of Meir Lemel Sandishov (passed away in Israel), fell at his post. When the revolt began, he joined the Notrim. Tragedy struck as he made his way to the police station in Herzliya. The vehicle that he was travelling in tipped over and he was instantly killed. He was brought to Hadassah in Tel Aviv and an honorary guard of police and Będzin members accompanied him.


[Page 378]


He was 31 when he died. He spent 5 years in Eretz Israel. While in Będzin, he joined the youth organizations Freiheit and Hechalutz.

He made aliyah in 1932 and quickly acclimated. He acquired Hebrew fluency. He worked as a carpenter. He was married and a father of 2. He sent for his parents and was infinitely happy.

He always exhibited happiness and a fun spirit. Even when the Second Italo-Ethiopian War (1935) erupted and the skies of the yishuv were clouded as work decreased, he was in a good mood because he was certain that the crisis and unemployment would pass and the song of labor would sound again.

As the recent revolt arrived, he was stricken with terror at the sight of lives being uprooted by desert-dwellers as the smoke columns rose from Israel's burned fields. He thought, “my Land is at risk and I belong at the front!” and volunteered for guard duty.

As a typical man of Haganah, he hurried to every vulnerable and dangerous post, prepared to sacrifice his life for the honor of his nation and his homeland. He spent days and nights at outposts and trenched in Abu Kabir, Gan Yavne, and Kiryat Shaul. He thwarted the attacks of the murderers who lay in ambush for Jewish lives and property. More than once, fire blazed near him and many friends fell beside him, but luck smiled upon him and he left each battle safe and sound. But death awaited him on the road.

His funeral became a demonstration. Many followed the procession. Traffic stopped where his procession passed. Many bouquets were carried by his colleagues from the police, his friends, and members of the Będzin community. The Jewish city honored its son, who fell at his post.

In the old cemetery in Tel Aviv, near the graves of many martyrs, a new grave was dug and will forever hold our Moishel. A dear friend departed, and I am at a loss of words of consolation for his grieving family. I am consoled only by knowing that his 2 young orphans will be raised in the spirit of their father and will be worthy of their father, who was sacrificed at the altar of God and the Eretz Israel. All who knew him will remember him.

*

Yehuda Klajner

M. Hampel

The alumni of the youth groups of Będzin knew him well. How could one not know the humble and quiet Yehuda?

He made his first social steps a decade ago, when he joined the accomplished HaShachar movement of Będzin. He was very young when he was charmed by Zionism.

His simplicity, quiet nature and his self-distancing from all arrogance did not awaken a special interest in us at first. He loyally fulfilled every task given to him without pretension or demands. He slowly acquired our admiration and trust, and with time we recognized his gentle personality. He was one among many who was actualized in his life, work and death.

He encountered many difficulties and roadblocks at every turn after he joined the Zionist movement and planned aliyah, posed especially by his parents, but his love for the land he longed for prevailed and was at the center of thoughts; he would cross seas and land and he would make aliyah because his surroundings were too small for him.

He joined the youth organization Vitkinia, an arm of by the Histadrut Party, and attended hakhshara. 2 years later, he reached the land of his dreams. His group, Bamaale, was yet to be founded. In the meantime, he joined the Kiryat Anavim group and served as a guard. Yehuda, a guard? Yehuda, with a rifle on his back? Who could ever predict that?

From Kirayt Anavim he went on to Chulda, also not his group, to train in agriculture. He was beloved by everyone there and was devoted to his work.

He gathered around him his friends, the members of Vitkinia, who dreamed of founding an independent group in Pardes Channah. He was the group's life force, its initiator and planner but he never saw his efforts bear fruit.

One Thursday after Sukkot, the work in the field was finished and the workers hurried home. The workers' vehicle was attacked. The group members jumped out and sought cover and those who were armed opened fire. The battle lasted only seconds, but the results were grave. 3 members were hit including Yehuda. 2 bullets penetrated his chest and he died instantly. He lived a short life; he was only 24 years old.

In the new cemetery in the rebuilt Chulda (it was abandoned after the events of 1929), three fresh mounds tell us: despite it all, we will not leave Chulda again and the day of redemption is close!

Should I mourn for Yehuda or be envious of his death for his land and his nation? Now he lies with Chulda above him and the Judean Mountains and beneath him.

We the members of the Będzin community in Israel offer our deepest condolence to his grieving parents and his widowed wife, our friend Rachel (née Perlmutter of Rivne).

*

Szmuel Dawid Vardi (Rozencwajg)

M. Hampel

On the eve of Av 29, 5682, 3 young people worked on the road between Tel Aviv and Neve Sha'anan. Fire was opened on them from one of the orchards. A bullet struck Szmuel Dawid Vardi's and died he instantly.

He was 25 years old. He made aliyah from Będzin 2.5 years ago. He worked in Ruhama, Be'er Tuvia, and on the roads Tiberias-Tzemakh and Afula-Nazareth. He began guard duty in Be'er Tuvia, where he was arrested after he banished Arabs who came onto the fields . He was jailed for 7 weeks and a few days ago he was exonerated in court. He joined a workers union in Jaffa, and today, Av 29, He was set to begin work but death preceded him.

(Hapoel Hatzair No. 35-36, 5682, 1922)

*

Szlomo Rembiszewski

M. Hampel

He was a schoolmate of mine who dropped out in order to make aliyah in 1924 as a member of Hashomer and Hechalutz. He quickly acclimated to life and work and Israel, although he was not accustomed to working when he lived with his father, Reb Berisz, who was a wealthy town notable. He studied mechanics and worked as a tractor operator.


[Page 379]


He was saddened by his friends who came with him on aliyah but returned shortly afterwards to Poland without working like him to connect with the Homeland that he so loved. Despite the difficulties he encountered at the start of his journey, he did not complain.

He did not leave despite his mother begging him in her letters to return home like his other friends, but she failed to persuade him because his decision was firm. Her mother's heart predicted what might happen to her son. Indeed, an accident happened while he worked; his leg tripped and was stuck between the wheels of the tractor. His foot was amputated, and he was on the verge of death for a few days. He told his friends during his final hours, “it is better if I die, because I do not want to be crippled for life and be a burden on others.”

His wish was granted and on Av 3, 5686 (1926), he passed away. His friends mourned the Pleasant, gentle and kind Shlomke, who was taken before his 22nd birthday, before he could enjoy his life.

He was buried in the old cemetery in Tel Aviv (on Trumpeldor Street). On my first visit to Eretz Israel in 1929, I visited his grave. At his parents request I renovated his tombstone and decorated it with his framed picture. I placed flowers on the headstone on behalf of his many friends and his family members, of whom only his younger brother in America survived.

Although 30 years have passed, I can still see his smiling face. His eyes reflected innocence and kindness and I will never forget them.


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