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I Dreamt of Being a Farmer in Eretz Yisrael (cont.)

On Hanukah, December 1920, we arrived at Jaffa.

“Haaretz”- Hebrew newspaper, 26 Kislev 5681


Zvi Livne, as a delegate of the commission, greeted us there. We stayed for a week in a hotel in Nahalat Benyamin, Tel Aviv. We strolled around the streets of the city. We bumped into a few “MOPS “ (Communist group) who tossed at us: “Naye korbanot” (new victims). We visited the Herzliya Gymnasium, and saw a Yemenite lad selling newspapers and calling aloud: “Ha'aretz!” I was very impressed with Tel Aviv, and found it much bigger than anticipated. We walked on the beach, and I think we even worked as porters for a day or two.

From there, I was sent to camp Yibne. This was on the train route to Qantara, in Egypt, and our job was to fill sand bags to prevent the rails from being flooded. In camp Yibne, there were groups from various locations. There were also American Jews, veterans of the “Gedud” (Jewish Battalions in WWI – “Gedud 39”), and many MOPS, and there were not infrequent exchanges of heavy blows. I remember the MOPS insisting on speaking only Yiddish.

In Yibne we stuck together as the Kovno Group, and were joined by another member, from Galicia. Some workers from the “Labor Brigade”[8] tried to influence us to join them, but we preferred to remain in our intimate group.

In Yibne, I changed my name from Slep to Yavnai, in honor of my first work place in Eretz Yisrael, and the Jewish city Yavne and its Hakhamim (great scholars).

When there was no further work, I was sent to work on the Haifa-Jeddah “kvish” (road). There were a lot of workers there from the Kishinev Group, the Krim Group and the Koritz Group. Later, at family gatherings, I would often run into one of the members of the Koritz Group, Chaim Goldman (Zehavi), and we would reminisce about those road-paving days. Also from that period, I remember the booklet “Kehilatheinu” (“Our Community”)[9], and the vibrant ideological arguments of “Stam Chalutzim” (non-affiliated pioneers) with the members of Hashomer Hatzair, who had just arrived in Eretz Yisrael fresh from the Russian Revolution…. Most of these two groups were disillusioned, and a few took their own lives.

I don't remember the work being that hard or exhausting. We did not mine rocks, but worked with gravel. And in my letters home, I wrote we were singing, dancing, and climbing up to Mount Carmel. …

From the Jeddah road we moved to Nahalal, where we drained the swamps. I contracted malaria and was treated with shots. Avraham Hartzfeld came to visit us there, and convinced us to join Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar, since they desperately needed help. Two of my friends and I went to “spy” there, and liked it, so we came back to Nahalal, and aroused the enthusiasm of all our friends. One of the “spies”, who was the oldest and the most practical, was not very impressed, but we had decided to join anyhow.

Camp of the Chalutzim on “Kvish Haifa-Jeddah”


“For everlasting memoirs! For my lovely cousin Hedva [Sheine-Freidl] Orlin, Shana Tova, Happy New Year!
'Avoda' - A group of workers on the Kvish Haifa-Jeddah, Eretz Yisrael, 23.9.1921”

From right to left, back: Yaacov Zahavi, Chaim Bernstein, Yosef Yavnai
Front: Ze'ev Agmon, Zvi Rom, Haviva Dagan

Yosef: Except for Haviva, all of us went to Ayelet Hashachar, and David Shur, Dov Zingol and Oved (Arbeit) were already with us.

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  1. Gedud Ha'avoda V'Hahagana named in honor of Joseph Trumpeldor. The driving force behind this organization was Yehuda Kopelewitz (Almog). Return
  2. The booklet “Kehilatheinu” was edited by Hashomer Hatzair on “Kvish Haifa-Jeddah” Return

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