Translated by Rachel Ben-Chaim (Rochelle Moss Kaplan)
In memory of my parents
Dina and Betzalel Kolpenitzky,
murdered by the Nazis It was almost as if my heart had a premonition that a big tragedy was about to happen, one that would forever separate me from my family. After ten years of living in the Land of Israel I decided to visit my family in Lenin, where I was born. After I completed all my preparations for the trip, the terrible riots of 1936 broke out all over the country, just a few days before I was supposed to leave. I had to make a very difficult decision, whether to stay home or to go ahead with my plans. But, after making the initial decision to visit my family, I set out.
My first impression, upon arriving in Poland, was very gloomy. Passing through Brisk I noticed broken windows and closed shutters. These were the days of the infamous Przytyk pogroms and the terror of the Endeks in Poland, that even Brisk suffered damages. On the way I met with Jews, spoke to them and even offered them cigarettes from the Holy Land, that I had brought with me. An old Jew, took the cigarette, stared at the Hebrew letters on it and with shaking hands divided the cigarette into two. One half he put into his pocket and other half he smoked. I watched him as he trembled and asked him why he did what he did. His answer was: In another few days we will be celebrating the Feast of Pentecost and I will want to smoke the cigarette from the Holy Land. I was so moved by that, I couldn't hold back my tears. I saw how much the Jews are attached to our Land, to our country.
I arrived at my parents' home towards evening. I was greeted not only by my immediate family and close friends, but most of the town's residents came out to welcome me as well. Because Lenin was close to the border, traffic was forbidden after darkness. If a youngster was late in returning from his girlfriend's house on Friday night, he would have to spend the rest of the night in jail. That is why the town folk rushed back to their homes, leaving me with my family and closest relatives, who remained with me until morning.
I did not like the change that I found in my parents. Ten years had left a noticeable mark on them. In contrast, I found a blessed change in the children, who developed into handsome youngsters.
I spent a few months with my family, and the journeys around the village where I spent my childhood, brought back many memories. There is the Heder where the teacher, Aharon-Leib, of blessed memory, taught me reading and writing. At the time, it was a full day of learning and in the winter we would return home when it was already dark. Each child carried a small lantern which would light up the way through the yard of the infirmary, the local hospital. I remember the fear that gripped us when we passed the gentile patients, wandering around the yard. At that point we started to run, until we were out of breath. The running put out the fires in our lanterns, and that made us run even faster. By the time that we reached our homes, we were out of breath and covered with sweat.
There is the old Synagogue where the children would run to see the wedding ceremonies that took place in the yard, with the old mothers dancing in front of the bride and groom, waving big braided challahs. And there is the Pozharna Hall, where the tremendous red barrels that belonged to the fire department stood. This hall also served as the local theatre and was the venue for their performances. When I passed it I remembered, as a child, how I would recognize furniture, props or clothing that belonged to my parents and was now part of the performance on stage. Once, during a performance, I yelled mamma, that's ours. All that was necessary was to collect various items from each household. That way, everyone took part in the production.
When I walked past the Rabbi's house, I remembered how my mother, of blessed memory, would send me there to buy candles and yeast for Shabbos. Not far from the Rabbi's house was the bath house, covered with moss and its' collapsing roof.
And so I continued until I reached Podlipya Street, where I stood next to the new Synagogue, where my family prayed. The sexton, Reb Chaim, saw me and invited me to enter the Shul. We stood in front of the magnificent Ark that instilled its holiness upon us. And there, to the right of the Holy Ark, in the third row, was my father's seat. No one could ever compare to me, standing next to my father, holding a flag, waiting for the Simchas Tora procession to begin. Upstairs, in the women's section, I sat next to my mother, waiting to hear the Shofar blowing on Rosh Hashana. From there I would also listen to the sermons of the emissaries.
And then I reached Reb Asher's house, where the matzoh bakery, the Gordich, stood. There we would bake the matzos for Passover. Even now I could almost smell the fresh odor of spring blended with the smell of freshly baked matzos. There was a custom in our town that between Purim and Passover, the teenage girls would roll and imprint the holes on the matzos for the needy families that could not afford this addition. For us it was an exciting experience.
Lenin was small, but beautiful. Few were wealthy, the majority were simple laborers modest and honest Jews. In Lenin we had no thieves, snitches or murderers. A happy event in Lenin was celebrated by all, and, if there was a tragedy, it was everyone's tragedy.
During my visit in Lenin a young girl became very ill and had to be rushed to the hospital in Brisk, where she was to undergo surgery. Her parents did not have the money and could not afford such an expense. Word spread throughout Lenin, money was collected and within hours the girl was on her way to Brisk. And that was not the only case of helping one another in times of distress.
Everyone in Lenin, the youngsters as well as the elderly, smothered me with love. They listened with great interest to my stories about life and work in the land of Israel, about the pioneers in the Galilee and the Emek. Their eyes lit up with enthusiasm and it seemed as if they were all prepared to leave on the next boat to Palestine.
The youth were committed and loyal to the Hebrew language. Even the young children babbled a bit in Hebrew. One day I came to the local grocery store when a young girl entered and asked, in Hebrew, for a herring. The shopkeeper did not understand what the girl was asking for and asked her what she wants. Again, the girl answered herring This time I translated what the little girl said and then, asked the girl why she was talking Hebrew. Her answer was we pledged that we were not going to speak any other language but Hebrew and if they don't understand us, let them learn! I was very impressed by that answer and kissed the girl on her forehead. I had a similar experience in my parents' home. My ten year old niece taught her grandmother Hebrew. It was agreed upon that the old lady would donate the tuition fee to the Jewish National Fund. After a few lessons, when the debt mounted up, her granddaughter threatened that she would be forced to confiscate her furniture just as the government would do in those days.
The desire of all of the Jewish inhabitants of Lenin to emigrate to the Land of Israel was so strong, despite the headlines at that time about the blood riots that were raging throughout the country.
When the time came for me to return to Palestine the mood in my parents' house became very gloomy, because my sister was also leaving with me. All of Lenin came to bid us farewell and the parting from my elderly parents was extremely difficult. It was as if we had the feeling that we are separating forever, not only from my parents but from all of the Jews of Lenin
Translated by Jerrold Landau After the First World War ended and the Sluch River was established as the border between Russia and Poland, the town developed in a significant manner from all perspectives.
First of all, they began to build new houses, of course made out of wood. After all of the lots on the old streets were built up, the construction spread to the other side of the pond, on both sides of the bridge (Greblia) until the public school which was at the beginning of the Lachwa Road. Aside from this, a new road was built in the direction of the smithies, on the route that led to the village of Ioviche. This street, which was actually a continuation of the former main road between the pond and the river, then became the main artery of the town, running a length of 1 ½ kilometers. Thus did it happen that the Russian cemetery, which used to be outside of the bounds of the town, was now incorporated into the town between the houses that had been built.
|The little bridge
At the end of that street, to the right, a Catholic church and a mayak (watchtower) were built. In the latter years, a large building was built in which the Soviet Rayasfolkom was located. This street was called The large one, but it also had a nickname Zladiewka.
Lachwa Street also developed during the first decade after the First World War and was filled with new houses.
A large assembly hall was built in the town (Dom Ludowi) with a hall for theatrical performances, cinema, and a club. There was a sports field adjacent to it. At the end of the street that joined with Makowice Street, a flourmill was built, as well as a millet mill, and a wool processing plant which produced felt for farmer's coats, slippers and the like.
An electric power generator was also built there which provided light for the entire town and the area.
The appearance of the town improved because all of the streets were raised by packing them with earth. Thereby, the constant plague of mud was solved definitively. This situation also improved Podlifia Street, which was always the lowest and was covered by water every spring to the point that it was only possible to reach the houses and the new synagogue with the help of barges and rafts, literally like in Venice!
The street in which the Volost was formerly located was paved with stones, as in large cities. Every wagon with iron wheels that passed by would raise a deafening racket.
On the other hand, the new street that was called Zladiewka was wide and always dry. At its widest point, at the end, a small, lovely garden was planted, surrounded by a green fence.
An order was issued to widen the sidewalks to a width of one meter and to strengthen them, as well as to set up the fences near the houses in a straight line and paint them with a uniform color.
Trees were planted on the sides of the streets, which took well and flourished with the passage of the years.
The name of the town, Lenin was a cause for astonishment for everyone. Nobody could understand how a Polish town could be called thus! They began to ad an o' to its name, that is Lenino. Only in 1939, approximately six weeks before the outbreak of the war, did the Polish government decide to change the name of the city to Sosnkowica, after the Polish general Sosnkowski.
However, with the conquest of the town by the Soviets on September 17, 1939, it reverted to its old name of Lenin.
It was a tradition among the young people of our town to celebrate Simchat Torah in our own homes. We would bring the Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) from the Old Synagogue and would take turns being called up to the Torah. Following the Torah reading, Avram'ke, the son of R' Yisrael, would lead the congregation in the Musaf Prayer. My mother, ever the diligent housewife, would prepare cakes and other treats for the feast. Much wine and liquor would be consumed by the guests, and the dancing and celebrating would continue late into the night.
On Simchat Torah of 1903, while we were all dancing to the tune of Next Year in Jerusalem, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a great feeling of excitement and I passionately declared: You shall all see: by this time next year I will be living in the Land of Israel!
I kept my promise.
On the day of my departure, all of the town's people gathered to bid me farewell. I traveled via Kiev. Dr. Mandelstam and Hillel Zlatapolski provided me with a letter of reference for Mr. Ussishkin, in which they requested that he do everything in his power to help me reach Jaffa. Unfortunately for me, I found Mr. Ussishkin in particularly bad spirits , since he was in the midst of a bitter dispute with Mr. Herzl regarding the Uganda question, and consequently, he refused to meet with me.
I traveled from Kiev to Odessa where I met a dear and kind-hearted gentleman, R. Mordcha-le Tzemerinski, who arranged for my illegal immigration to the Land of Israel.
I arrived in Israel and I wandered to and fro for approximately two months , but I never felt settled. So, I began to make my way back to Lenin. I endured many hardships and tribulation en route: the Russian-Japanese War erupted and my journey from Constantinople to Kiev took six months. I was caught without a passport by the Russian police, and then, as the law required in those times, I was forced to continue on my way escorted by an entourage of policemen from village to village, and from city to city, until, at last, completely exhausted, I arrived back in Lenin.
(R. Nachman of Braslav)
Love of the Land of Israel, and the desire to build and settle the land, were feelings that were deeply entrenched in the hearts of the majority of the Jews of Lenin. With the exception of a very small group of elders (fewer than ten in number), most of the Jews of Lenin were devoted Zionists. In 1912, there were already Jews who dreamed of immigrating to Israel. Among those who sought to immigrate was Eisel Reinless Borstein, sister of the well-known teacher and Hebrew linguist, Yehuda Leib Grozinski (Gur), who had lived in Israel since 1887. He was the author of the Dictionary of the Hebrew Language, and was famous for having composed the pocket Hebrew-Hebrew dictionary, in collaboration with Y. Klausner.
In response to our letter to him (to Gur) in which we expressed our wish to immigrate to Israel, he wrote:
My dear young people, you who are strong in body and brave in spirit, whose hearts are as strong as the heart of a lion, you shall surely be successful in settling here.
Needless to say, this response was not one that our parents wished to hear, and they absolutely refused to allow us to go. Since we were dependent upon our parents to finance our journey, the matter was put off, but not forgotten. In the meantime, World War I broke out, and we were all drafted into the army and sent to the front lines. Some of us were killed; others were injured or taken captive by the enemy. When we returned to the town in 1920, physically and emotionally exhausted, we turned our attention once more to our goal of immigrating to Israel.
One day, after the Poles had retreated past Warsaw to avoid the advancement of the Bolshevik troops, my cousin Ephraim Zaretsky and I, along with Pesach Ben Mones Zevin (who lives today in the United States) and Menashe Borstein, decided to set out on the journey to Israel. This is the story of that journey.
In the house of Teitel Oko, where my parents lived, the chief officers of the Polish army set up their base. Being in close proximity to these officers allowed me to befriend some of them, although I found that many of these officers were wicked and corrupt. In fact, many of these soldiers would hound us for bribes, and would follow our every move. On the day of the great retreat of the Polish troops, when these officers were feeling discouraged and despondent, I seized upon that moment to inform them that some of my friends and I, all of us Polish patriots and enemies of the Bolsheviks, desired to accompany them when they left the area. The officers were pleased by this idea and agreed to allow us to come with them. They even confiscated a wagon from one of the gentile neighbors to aid us in our travel.
With a heavy heart, we left our town on the 17th day of Tammuz (an inauspicious date on the Jewish calendar) at noon, leaving behind our dear families to bear the yoke of a cruel and tyrannical regime. At midnight, we reached the forest. The Polish army halted its march and stopped to rest. There I was among a sea of wolves, avowed enemies of the Jewish people, who were ready to attack any Jew just for being a Jew. It is not difficult to imagine how frightened we all were, young Jews, trapped in the midst of the enemy. Nonetheless, we did not despair the light of Zion cast its light upon us from afar, infusing us with hope and faith and the courage to carry on.
After several days of wanderings and hardships, we arrived in Luninietz. At this point, several officers asked us where we were heading. Somehow, we mustered our courage and informed them that we intended to travel to Palestine. When they heard what we had said, they burst out laughing and began to taunt us: You poor fools! Are you really going to go to a desolate and forsaken land? Surely you will die there of starvation! While speaking to them, we discovered that there were some Jewish men among the ranks of these top officers. This discovery raised our spirits. Moreover, it is only thanks to these Jewish officers that we were saved from a bitter fate. The Polish officers wanted to punish us with hard labor, but these Jewish officers came to our defense, claiming that we were not criminals but loyal citizens who were escaping from the Bolsheviks, and therefore, we should be treated with courtesy. The Polish officers heeded their words.
As we continued on our journey, we witnessed death and destruction everywhere. Cities and villages were mercilessly pillaged and set ablaze. Jews were hiding like mice in small holes. Stark images from Bialik's famous poem, In the City of the Slaughter appeared before our eyes, as cruelty and suffering surrounded us. We keenly felt the pain of our brothers and we were determined to leave behind this blood-soaked land.
After further wanderings and tribulations, we finally arrived in Pinsk. We left the Polish officers and rented a room in a hotel. Immediately, even before we had a chance to rest from our journey, we began to plan how we could continue on our way to Palestine. At this point, I would like to acknowledge the courage and quick thinking of our friend, Pesach Zevin, who was always practical and intelligent, determined to succeed and to reach his goals, regardless of how trying the circumstances. He tended to be very talkative and to express his opinions and thoughts in a direct manner. He apparently did not believe in the teaching of our sages: There is a time to speak at length and there is a time to be quiet!
In those days, a law was decreed that one was not allowed to travel from place to place without a travel document, issued by the commander-in-chief of the army. Pesach was not deterred by this obstacle, and he did not rest until he managed to secure for us, with the help of a Jew called Buchman, the required travel documents. And then, we had another hurdle to overcome, one even more daunting than the first. All of the points of entry to and from the city were closed; no one was allowed to enter or to leave, and the one available vehicle of transportation, the train, was packed with soldiers and other people of rank and distinction who had special privileges. Thus, we were now in the midst of a great dilemma, and our anxiety increased from day to day. Yet, Pesach did not give up. He searched relentlessly in every corner, he even formulated a special phrase that he would recite, (in Polish) Koneyachno Povlagadarim, which translated means: There is no doubt that you shall be thanked (rewarded). In other words, he would say to those to whom we turned for assistance: if you wish, we can simply thank you for your efforts on our behalf; however, if you reflect more deeply upon the meaning of our words than perhaps you shall understand that we are willing to pay you in other ways for your services. Ultimately, most people understood what he was telling them, and soon all doors were open before us.
Pesach searched all over until he found an elderly conductor of a train, whose cars were mostly crammed with the belongings of an army general, but included one car which was filled with sacs of mail. After extensive negotiations with the conductor, in which Pesach emphasized our particular circumstances and our lofty goals, as well as his usual hints of more lucrative remuneration, the conductor finally relented. For a sum of 3000 Polish marks, which he requested to collect from us up front, the conductor agreed to hide us in the mail car until the train would reach Brest-Litovsk. Pesach quickly came to tell us the good news and explained in detail what had transpired. Once again , we were taken aback by his diligence, determination, and resourcefulness. However, it seemed to us that this idea was very far-fetched and unrealistic. For who could guarantee us that this elderly man was not simply taking advantage of a group of young, impressionable, and vulnerable Jewish boys, who were seeking a way to get to Palestine through money and their own wits? What would happen, indeed, if after he took our money, he would abandon us to our own devices and we would be left bereft of everything? These doubts tormented us endlessly and prevented us from arriving at a final decision. Pesach noticed that we were vacillating and avoiding making a decision, so he said to us:
Hand me a written referral and I will go ahead without you. At this point, I must add that I had been the head of the Young Zionists of our town and I held the official stamp of the organization. I immediately gave him my approval, took a piece of paper, and wrote a letter of reference for him. I wrote: I affirm herein that Pesach Zevin is an upstanding and honest man, a loyal Zionist, and worthy of all support, etc. In our naivete, we actually believed that such a document would suffice to open doors for him when he would finally arrive in Israel (almost like his magical Polish phrase!)
The letter of referral stated as follows:
|Young Zionist Council of Lenin
We, members of the Young Zionists Council of Lenin, hereby affirm that Zelig ____ has been a bona fide member of our organization for many years. He has always been an active and productive member of our society. We know that his deepest desire and aspiration has always been to live in the Land of Israel. We, therefore, request that the Zionist Council make every effort to be of assistance to our dear friend.
|With Warm Greetings to Zion.
|Chairman Eliyahu ______
|18th of Elul, 5681
As I was finishing writing my letter for him, while struggling inwardly with my doubts regarding this situation, my friends and I discussed the matter again and agreed to join Pesach in his journey. We took our bundles and headed towards the train station. To our great surprise, we found the old conductor there, and after a brief negotiation with him, we entered into a dark and narrow boxcar, and each one of us, in our own corner, whispered a silent and fervent prayer to the Almighty to protect us during our upcoming perilous journey.
For twelve straight hours we sat stooped over, in a painful and tight position, literally holding our breath, in a narrow and stifling boxcar, without letting out a noise from our mouths in fear of the soldiers who surrounded us, just waiting for an opportunity to give vent to their fury and frustration. At midnight, the train started to move and we could finally breathe freely. Due to the clatter of the wheels of the train, we were able to exchange some words amongst ourselves aloud without outside interference. The amount of food that we had packed with us was enough to satisfy our needs; however, our thirst soon became overwhelming. But, lo and behold, at one station along the journey, the door to our car opened briefly and the old conductor handed us a can of water, which helped to revive our bodies as well as our spirits.
The train ride lasted for three days, and on Shabbat afternoon, which that year came out on Erev Tisha B'Av, we arrived in Brest-Litovsk in Lithuania (also known as Brisk). It was an oppressively hot and stifling day. Our train stopped at a distance from the station; from there we were forced to drag our weary bodies and our meager belongings for quite a distance until we reached a hotel. As we entered the hotel, we were informed that we needed to acquire travel documents if we intended to continue on our journey. We overlooked our feelings of exhaustion and almost forgot about all that we had experienced. We quickly hurried to the officer in charge of the city, and to our great joy, we were able to obtain the required documents without much trouble. When this occurred, we could clearly perceive the hand of God easing our path. While were away from the hotel, a group of soldiers came by to draft men into forced labor. Fortunately, the owner of the hotel was a physically intimidating man, and was able to stop them, by virtue of his physical strength, persuasive words, and offers of money. The soldiers were turned away and never returned to harass us.
After Shabbat, we gathered in the hotel some minyanim (groups) of Jewish men, both from the local community and from groups of refugees (like ourselves), for a reading of the Megillah of Eicha. It seemed to me that this was the first time in my life that I actually understood the profound meaning of the Megillah and was personally moved to tears by this ancient scroll. The Megillah's message was very relevant to us in our present circumstances. Each verse and word struck a deep cord in my heart, and seemed to emerge from the depths of the pain and agony of my fellow Jews. And when we reached its concluding verse: Why do You forever forsake us ..return to us, God, and we shall return to You, renew our days as days of Old, we each felt like abandoned and forgotten children who had been cast away by their father.
Despite our weariness from our travels, and the fears that we had experienced over the past few weeks, we still experienced a restless night filled with thoughts about our past, and worries about our uncertain future. The following day at daybreak, we hurried towards the train station. For an entire day, we circled around the station until towards evening we managed to push ourselves into an overcrowded train car. The crowding and suffocation were intolerable, but with great effort we found a little corner for ourselves and our belongings. The train had just passed the twenty-third stop from Brest-Litovsk, when suddenly a group of soldiers from the Helerchikas brigade burst into our car. This particular brigade was infamous for its cruelty towards Jews. As they entered the car, they began with their cursing and started to abuse the Jews in the car; they cut off the sides of the kapote of one Jew, and they cut the beard of another and continued to perpetrate other humiliating and hateful acts. Witnessing such acts of brutality, we were extremely frightened, and could see before our eyes the words from Megillat Eichah: We were a disgrace before our enemies, a mockery to our neighbors We realized that we were in a dangerous situation; but then, to our surprise, we were saved from this terror by a compassionate and beautiful nun, who wore a red cross. She began to tell frightening but fascinating war stories, about how she herself had witnessed miracles occurring to brave soldiers. She also recounted a terrifying story about her brothers who had met a valiant death in the battlefield.
With the strength and conviction of her voice, she managed to stir the passions and to captivate the souls of these savage men, who were calmed and quieted by her words. Suddenly, she turned to our group, winked her eye, and whispered in our ears in Yiddish: They will always live this way, mark my words. When we heard her words, we felt revitalized. Thus, we were rescued through the ingenuity and bravery of a woman, who saved us from the hands of a band of wicked men, and we were able to reach Warsaw in peace.
In Warsaw, we took up lodgings for one month in the buildings for Olim that were under the auspices of the Aliyah Council. Here, they welcomed us with open arms. They investigated our individual histories, and were particularly interested in finding out which occupations we intended to choose for ourselves once we arrived in Israel. Overnight, we all became farmers- workers from birth.
From Warsaw we travelled to Krakow. In Krakow, we handed our passports to the Palestine office so that they could be stamped, which would ensure our legal entry into the country. The next day, we sent Pesach, our loyal and energetic messenger, to collect the passports. Then we discovered that a new problem had befallen us: Pesach was told that our passports had been lost. Pesach began to plead, beg, and bargain with the authorities in all the languages that he knew, all to no avail. He ran from one clerk to the next and accosted them with innumerable questions, recounting our tragic story again and again. They could truly empathize with our difficult situation, for who more than Polish and Russian Jews could understand the saying that was popular at that time: A Jew means a body and a passport! In other words, if you take away a passport from a Jew, it is as if you removed part of his soul.
For over two weeks, we suffered terrible anguish and we wandered lost and helpless around Krakow, until, at last, we were informed that our passports had been found. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge with gratitude the support of the director of the Palestine office, the daughter of Dr. Y. Tahon. When she heard from Pesach about our tragic situation, this generous woman sustained us with a gift of several hundred Polish marks.
Many years after that horrible incident involving our passport, we were able to solve the mystery of what had really transpired. Other Jews, probably war refugees like ourselves, took our passports, removed the photos, and used them to cross the border into Palestine. Many years ago, I met a milkman in Tel Aviv who smiled at me and said: Mr. Nekritch (this was my former name), we both have the same name!
How is that possible? I asked with astonishment.
Well, you see, thanks to your passport in Krakow that disappeared I was able to come here!
From Krakow, we travelled to Pressburg (Bratislava) in Czechoslovakia, which was the city of R' Yom Tov Lipman Heller and R' Akiva Eiger. On the way, we were joined by a young man from Lelchich, named Berel Shapiro, and from that day on we called our group, which now had five members, The Lenin Group. For political reasons, we were forced to stay in Pressburg for one month's time, but this time we were not worried. We were village boys who were living in the big city for the first time, and we were captivated by the beauty and wonders of the city. Our only concern was that by this time our money supply had considerably diminished, and Menashe Borstein was left without a single penny! We managed to find ourselves temporary employment and thus we were able to save some money. Since we were all members of The Lenin Group, we pooled our resources and shared our food; we lived frugally and were satisfied with our lot. And even though we had already experienced our share of miracles, something occurred that in our particular situation could only be considered divine intervention! One day, Menashe Borstein went downtown, to a place where thousands of people pass by each day, and there he found a treasure- a bundle that contained one hundred eighty Czech crowns! We were all delighted by his wondrous find.
From Pressburg we continued on to Vienna, where we spent more than a month. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in the Austrian capital, one of the world's largest cities, famous for its beautiful buildings and castles, as well as its magnificent institutions of art and culture. We toured the city and were thrilled by everything that we saw there. Every day we discovered new and exciting sites. Here we also had the opportunity of hearing lectures from Eliezer Kaplan, Berel Katznelson, Lipman Levinson, Lozinski, and others, who spoke at great length about the Land of Israel and sought to explain the principals of the United Labor Party, which was then in its infancy (it had just recently been founded). Our hearts, however, were more drawn to the Poel HaTzair (Young Labor )party, though the truth is that we did not really grasp the differences between these two groups.
From Vienna, we travelled to Trieste, and from there we set sail for Israel on the freighter ship Bukovina, that was carrying a transport of mortar and charcoal and docked for several days at every port. This journey, that would usually take a passenger ship less than a week to complete, took us twenty four days, under very precarious conditions. Nonetheless, the journey was not difficult for us and did not dampen our spirits. Pesach, a tailor by trade, befriended the sailors and won them over through his expertise in tailoring , by mending their tattered shirts. They rewarded him for his services by offering us more food.
On the twenty fifth of Cheshvan 5681, November 5, 1920, we reached the shores of Israel. On Shabbat morning, the ship docked in Jaffa, and in the afternoon we were already strolling around Tel Aviv, on Sderot Rothschild (Street), that stretched in those days until Nachalat Binyamin Street. We were alone and poor, without homes, without families, and without much hope for employment. Nonetheless, we suddenly found ourselves walking erect and proud. All of the suffering, trials and tribulations that we had experienced in order to come here, completely disappeared, as if they had never happened. Our dark and sorrowful outward appearances now shone with light. For a great and everlasting joy now brightened our countenances. It could only be the immeasurable joy of sons returning to their borders (Jeremiah 31:17)
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