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Aliya by way of Rovno

by Ze'ev Efod (Pudim)

Translation by Naomi Gal

It was October 1920, the beginning of the Third Aliya. A group of pioneers counting eleven members, from Zlatapol and Shpola, crossed under great danger the new border between Poland and Russia in Ukraine, managed to reach Rovno and got stuck there. We, the members of the group, were illegal in an area held by the Polish Army and we risked punishment and being turned back across the border, but our wish to go to Israel and our Zionist consciousness strengthened us and reinforced our will – and we advanced. We knew that the road would be difficult and dangerous, but still, we took this daring step, and we went on dreaming about our way to Israel when we were on the roads and when we were waiting in Rovno.

And here are some of our experiences in those days, adventures and deep desire at once.

Since our first day in Rovno, we encountered a gracious and welcoming attitude from the city's Zionists and the concern the local activists showed us was boundless. The first to take care of us was Eretz–Israel Office and its devoted personnel. We were given an apartment, they were looking for a job for us, they arranged for temporary documents, they supplied us all our needs. We did not feel alone, but brotherhood and companionship even to the point of sacrifices made for us. I remember that when there were not enough places to lodge pioneers who arrived from across the border, they lodged me and three more friends at the office, secretly, of course. The rest of the friends who arrived with us were lodged in two rented houses at the Volia Quartet, one of those houses had two small rooms, too small to contain all our members, but its advantage was that it was all ours, and the members saw it as their home on the way to Eretz–Israel.

Despite the hardships, we were happy, since while in Rovno we were able to get in touch with the big world and from it, to open a small window to our Homeland. Meanwhile we made contacts with relatives and acquaintances in America. Some of us got invitations to travel to America, but they were unattractive; we did not think about America, we were fascinated with the idea of Aliya and we were not going to change our plans.

The city of Rovno in those days, after the war and the bloodshed in Ukraine, had an air of serenity. After the great suffering from the armies and the different camps (Russians, Ukrainians, Germans and others), which all persecuted the Jews and destroyed its cultural, economic and social life – the Polish Regime seemed more stable and gave a chance for some peace and security. The constant regimes' changes created a lack of trust in general, but still, life was going back to normal. Among the many refugees who were in town some were integrated and connected to certain things, but most were “sitting on their suitcases”, waiting to continue their voyage. In the corridors of the HIAS Immigration Company people were taking care of their affairs, and in the room of Eretz–Israel Office sat pioneers and waited for Aliya, everybody's intention was to immigrate. Our situation as pioneers was less than brilliant, we were hoping for our Aliya but the arrangements were taking time. Yet we did not complain. When material assistance was offered to us – we declined, we did not want to live on other people's expense, and chose to be woodchoppers, any hard work to make a living. Some of us found work at gristmills and some were sent on Passover Eve to bake Matzah…we weren't picky

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about work and fulfilled wholeheartedly the order: “Love the Trade”. Truth must be said that our work was not enough for living, so we had to reduce our food, without telling anyone. On those days we used to visit the city's educational institutions, the kindergartens, the primary schools, the Tarbut Gymnasium, and we enjoyed watching the young generation getting their education. Those children would become the Nation's pride and the makers of its future. The Zionist activists used to come to us and we'd have discussions that usually ended with Israeli songs and sometimes with pioneers' dances while singing. Our living conditions were happy.

I spent Passover 1921 in Rovno. Some of our group went for a Seder with friends, but most of us preferred to spend the Seder together in Tarbut Gymnasium.

After the Holyday we began preparations to move to Warsaw; from there we were supposed to advance toward Eretz–Israel. Although we suffered in Rovno, it wasn't a burden; we were deeply appreciative of the Zionists and simple Jews with whom we had contacts. We especially remember: Yeshayaho Tactinsky, Sonia Onik, Gedalyaho Levi who were active at the Eretz–Israel Office, and Arye Garbouz (Avatihi) who arrived from Israel and guided us toward life in our Homeland. Indeed, the help and concern of all these people for us and for the other pioneers who came to Rovno was huge.

We stayed more than six months in Rovno and we left for Warsaw on April 1922. Here a new problem awaited us: in Rovno we had temporary refugees' documents among the many other refugees who came to this border city – but in Warsaw we had to prove our identity with legal documents. That was the reason they dispersed us among a few places in the city and its surroundings. We went on waiting in Warsaw for an Aliya possibility and all the while we were under the supervision of Eretz–Israel Office.

We waited impatiently for two weeks, first in Warsaw and then in Vienna, and all this time we remembered fondly Rovno, out first host, its benevolent Jews and what they did for us; we wrote them from the road and shared with them our joy and sufferings with every step that took us closer to Israel.

And here are the names of the eleven members who came together to Israel: Simcha Goldberg, Pinkas Raznichnko, Silberberg, Katz, Marionovsky, Laybel Kaparov, Ze'ev Pudim, Zvi Ben–Zion (Zalojin), the brothers Yahushua, David and Mordechai Brodsky. In the middle of July 1922, we reached Israel's shore. The rest of our friends who stayed in Rovno arrived later via the same road. We all carry in our hearts gratitude and appreciation to this Zionist station named Rovno that wrote a brilliant page in the history of the Third Aliya.

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“Union” the Zionist Student Association

by Dr. Asher Bavly

Translation by Naomi Gal

In Odessa there were groups of Zionist high–school students already during World War I, their spokesmen were: Shmuel Ussishkin, Baruch Weinstein, M. Levin (from Warsaw), Schneiderman, Kop and others. Back then, there were in Odessa more than twenty high schools (among them the Lublin Gymnasium, where I was a student, and other schools that were moved from places close to the border). The main aims were to draw the students to the Nation's values, to instill in them the Zionist spirit and to organize them.

The groups used to convene and act illegally, but after the Russian Revolution on February 1917 all restrictions on public–political activities were lifted and soon after, the groups took their place on the stage of the Zionist life in Odessa. From them stemmed a union of Zionist students called “Histadrut” that became at once the center for this movement under the Zionist Union. At that time those expelled by the Czar regime for their political activities came back from their exile in Siberia, among them Granovsky (one of Maccabees' leaders) and Fisher (now Amir, the Israeli delegate in Brussels), who were at the head of the movement. H. N. Bialik, Greenberg, Brodovsky, Granovsky, Fisher and some of the Zionist leaders in Odessa used to speak to the movement's members whose number increased in Odessa and its surroundings.

In the summer of that year (1917) a conference was held in Odessa of the movement's Council that expressed the aspirations of the students in Russia. The echoes of this conference were heard in most of the cities and in every city, associations of the Histadrut were founded. The Balfour Declaration from November 2nd 1917 gave another push to solidifying the Zionist idea among the youth, ages 16 to18.

Many of Histadrut members went from Odessa to the country and brought with them the idea of the movement, which quickly took root among the high–school students. One of these members arrived in Rovno and attracted a deep interest. When I arrived at Rovno a Histadrut association was already beginning its activities. The leaders back then were: Yosef Bookimer, Rachel Katz, (in Moshav Blafouria), Benyamin Gayviner (in America), Ze'ev Zaid (Meshi, in Yifat), Abraham Greenbald (in America), Lea Wassler, Asia Zimmerman, and others, who were deeply devoted to the local association. I joined this association, too. We chose the association's committee and sent its representative to the Municipal Zionist Council in Rovno. We spread our net over Rovno's high schools and attracted more students, male and female. We rented a house on 5 Topoliyova Street (the corner of Kanniejasky) where the association's club was established and recruited many. Dr. Yaakov Berman (Yardeni, in Jerusalem), Dr. Gur–Arye Terlo (Jerusalem), Avraham Wethiem (Jerusalem) Yaakov Edal (Adini – Tel Aviv), Arye Garbouz (Avatichi – Tel Aviv) and other Zionist activists used to give us lectures, and most of the time we lectured to our friends, educating and getting educated in pure Zionism, to the idea of making Aliya and the Zionist endeavors in the diaspora. Our association began to publish our own newsletter Histadrut in Russian, many of us began to learn and read Hebrew and to bring back the Zionist message to our families.

In the spring of 1918 a second conference of Histadrut was held in Kriboi–Rog and I was chosen as a delegate to the conference but for unforeseen reasons – mainly lack of money for the trip–

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I did not travel to the conference and Yosef Bookimer went instead and brought back lots of materials and renewed energies for Zionist activities. The number of our members was back then close to a hundred and we were among the founders of Maccabee and assisted in different Zionist performances in the city. Our association was famous due to our demand from Kossonogov, the director of the State Gymnasium, to let the Jewish students have a break during Hanukah, which caused the expelling of two of the Association's representatives (Bookimer and Bernstein) from the gymnasium. The Jewish Community intervened and protested and a delegation was sent to Kiev, Ukrainian Rada. The education minister in Vinichenko's movement – professor Holodenko – ordered the students should return to school.

Most of the association's members joined the Chalutz and made Aliya – some of them with the first group in 1920.

The First “Chalutz” conference

by Zehava Bat–Itzhak (Birstein)

Translation by Naomi Gal

The call of the Chalutz in Russia in 1917 and then in Poland in 1920 for the Jewish youth to join its ranks and its hopes for the reopening of Aliya to Eretz–Israel entered the hearts in Rovno too. The circular that was sent in spring 1920 by the Rovno Central Zionist Chamber meeting discussed Chalutz, and Aliya was seen as the first step to organize the youth in this framework. Meetings were held, plans were made, and a first group of pioneers from Rovno was assembled and left on their way to Israel.

A vacuum was created when Yaakov Edal (Adini), who handled Chalutz made Aliya to Israel, but soon Shmuel Roznak, the teacher–pioneer, took this yoke upon himself. He headed a special council to organize the Chalutz in Rovno and all of Volhynia under the national Chalutz. The groups of pioneers that flowed from across the Russian border and the craving in Rovno and its surrounding for Aliya, demanded an urgent effort. The situation required alertness and activity and the Chalutz in Rovno was ready.

While the first Rovno pioneers, Koritz and Lozek were on their way, and there was a strong contact with Chalutz center in Warsaw and in other towns, the council decided to convene a Chalutz Conference in Volhynia. The place chosen was Rovno. It was the first council of the Russian Chalutz in the region that was now Polish.

The conference was held in September 1920 in the halls of Tarbut, the Hebrew Gymnasium. The Chalutz Center in Warsaw was represented by Izsak Lowenstein, one of the leaders of the movement in Poland back then. Most of Volhynia sent delegates to the council, that was rich in content, theoretical and practical, and it expressed the aspirations of Volhynia's youth, who were ready for any sacrifice just to be able to make Aliya. In his lecture Lowenstein elaborated on the Chalutz idea, the ways to achieve it and the problems of Aliya. The young minds responded well to these words. It was decided in the conference that Chalutz associations will be organized in Volhynia's communities under the flag of Warsaw's Center, which had mastered its place inside the Zionist Union and in society. The council decided to found an agricultural farm to prepare pioneers around Rovno and to send members for training in Czluchow's Kibbutz. Also, a plan was designed for

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cultural work among the pioneers and most important to increase Aliya to Eretz–Israel by the Chalutz. A Chalutz council for Volhynia was elected and its seat was Rovno, as the main city of Volhynia and as a station for those arriving from across the border.

The delegations that stood out in the conference were: Zdolbunov delegates, Ludvipol, Alexandria, Krippa, Zvhil, Rovno, Lutsk, Koritz, Kovel, Rakitana, Tortshin, Kostopol, Hoshcha, Malinov and others. The delegates promoted the conference's decisions and soon there were Chalutz' associations all over Volhynia.


Volhynia's Chalutz conference in Rovno 1924


The Chalutz Conference in Rovno was very valuable since it directed the pioneers' associations for training, education and Aliya and from there the movement grew and became an important element in the Hebrew World, A second conference of Chalutz was held in Rovno in 1924.

The Chalutz

by Noah Randlema

Translation by Naomi Gal

With the awakening of Zionism in Russia, after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the organizing of the Chalutz in Russia, a Chalutz movement was founded in Rovno. It was a movement aimed to implement Zionism and caused a revolution in the life–style of the Zionist youth, while aiming to train them for productive life and Aliya to Eretz–Israel. This change demanded a mental and physical preparation, education and adaptation and most of all – a real recognition of the fulfillment of the Zionist aspiration in the Homeland to establish there a working and creative society. The booklets published back then about the Chalutz idea and the discussions about the movement among Zeirai Zion, found an echo and took roots in our minds. The term Chalutz became well–known and many of the youth espoused it.

It is only natural, then, that in Rovno, too, the idea of the Chalutz found a fertile ground, since in the diaspora life, searching for idealistic ways to change reality was crucial. Rovno gave birth to pioneers even in the beginning of the twentieth century and incited its youth to rebel against the Jewish Street. The wish to make Aliya to Eretz–Israel was especially strong among Zeirai Zion whose numbers and power grew after the revolution, and it gave new taste and content to their Zionist consciousness.

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The Chalutz Council, Rovno 1921


As in other places in Volhynia, young people began agricultural work in Rovno, and others left for Jewish Settlements in Harsson Region to work in agriculture and prepare themselves for life in Israel. Another group with dozens of members learned crafts in Rovno itself, some training at a local Chalutz workshop, others went to work with private carpenters and in printing houses, young women specialized in sewing and other appropriate crafts, all these in order to adapt to working–life in preparation for their going to Israel. From these ranks the first group of pioneers left for Israel without visas nor any means. Their goods were their will–power and their belongings – hope, confidence and idealism. Thus. they left Rovno one summer day and had many trials and tribulations until they managed to reach their destination and enter the system of life and work. The road was tough, everything was just beginning, unemployment and lack of adequate conditions made absorption in the new Homeland difficult, but the Chalutz loyalists did not despair and faced the challenge. Most of them became acclimatized and grew roots in the Homeland. After them came others and we witnessed Aliya from Rovno that never stopped until the ax fell on the city and its Zionism.


Handwriting on the picture: Women Pioneers carving stones in Czluchow


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The pioneers that flowed from Russia–Ukraine to Rovno in groups set an example to the local Chalutz. Their leaders were Yaakov Sherf, Shlomo Mayansky and others.

Since the beginning of the Aliya in 1920 and the call of the Chalutz Union to the Jewish youth in Poland to come together and prepare for Aliya, the hearts of Rovno's Youngsters were further awakened. The departure of the first group of Rovno's pioneers set the beginning for massive Aliya of youngsters, in groups and individually. The enthusiasm for Aliya knew no border. Unaffiliated youth joined Chalutz in order to be able to make Aliya and when they had to pass the test of training and wait months and years, they accepted willingly. Young men and women left their parents' homes and went to training.


All Zionist Chalutz in Rovno, 1932


As time went by the old generation, the parents, begun coming to terms with their sons and daughters' plans. Many of them saw “relevance” in their sons or daughters making Aliya, and the pioneering idea became popular in their eyes, too. The concept of “pioneer” became a logical way–out in the conditions from 1921 to 1939 in Rovno, as in other cities and towns. Landlords, craftsmen, and ordinary Jews, even non–Zionists, understood the value of their children making Aliya and blessed their choice, aspiring to make Aliya themselves, and with this state of mind thus became closer to Zionism. It should be admitted that what helped considerably the success of Chalutz in Rovno was the National–Hebrew education the children received in Tarbut Institutions, in the youth organizations and the National Sport associations. Thousands of young men and women were knocking on the doors of Eretz–Israel Office to advance their Aliya, and some made Aliya as students to be able to study in higher education's schools in Israel. Some even came as disguised tourists – the purpose of them all – pioneering, building of Israel and its rebirth.

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The Young Chalutz

by Itzhak Ben–Yehuda

Translation by Naomi Gal

During the twenties, at the time of the pioneers awakening, “Chalutz Hazair” (The Young Chalutz) was founded as a brother to the general Chalutz. The Chalutz Council in Danzig in June 1924 called for increased activities for the “Chalutz Hazair” and decided to establish next to every center of Chalutz a special section for this purpose. The pioneering idea was in those days the heart of the youth movements' aspirations, and since children younger than sixteen could not join the Chalutz, and the desire to be part of such organization was strong among younger children – they thought that “Chalutz Hazair” was the solution.

The Chalutz Hazair was born in the eastern regions of Poland (Volhynia, Polesie, Vilna) – regions known as “Crassim” and from there it spread all over Poland. In Rovno, too, a branch of Chalutz Hazair was established in 1925 and although it was small in the beginning, with time it became an important factor and united a large part of the youngsters who craved pioneering and fulfillment.

The elements of education, pioneering–Hebrew, symbolized the special character of the Chalutz Hazair aiming to instill in the young students a consciousness of pioneering, Zionist–Socialist ideas, and prepare them for Chalutz. The means of the Chalutz Hazair were different, but the final aim of fulfilling was the same: training, Aliya and building the country based on work.

The activities of Chalutz Hazair in Rovno were no different than many of the activities of the general Chalutz and both organizations worked together. It was assisted by the Hebrew Culture that took root in the city and made it possible to develop activities and strengthen the movement. The Zionist spirit in the Hebrew schools founded by Tarbut in Rovno and the influence of many of this schools' teachers, who were as well members of the working Eretz–Israel –


With Rovno's pioneers in training in Czluchow

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were an ideal backing to the Chalutz Hazair; hence, the movement gave its soul to the Hebrew School and was active in Tarbut institutions.

For many years the activities of Chalutz Hazair were held in that form in Rovno, until the merge between Chalutz Hazair and “Yugnat (“Dror”) movement in Lithuania in 1934. This had a major influence on the Chalutz Hazair in Poland and of course in Rovno as well. There were long discussions about merging Chalutz Hazair with “Fryheit”, which lately increased its pioneers' activities. The merge was done only in September 1938. By this merge “Fraihiet” became closer to Chalutz Hazair's ideas and together they became a national–educational element among the pioneering youth in Poland.

It is hard to say if this merge had any impact on Rovno, since all the national youngsters in the city belonged to different Zionist youth movements. The Aliya from Rovno continued and all the movements were part of it, despite disagreements. The members were dispersed into different training; they wished to make Aliya as soon as possible. Since there were no visas for Aliya – they broke through back–doors, joined groups that travelled in rented boats, and in familiar methods, typical to these days, left on hazardous roads to fulfill the dream and make it true – hundreds of Rovno youngsters were among them.

A Visit to Rovno's Pioneers' Kibbutz

by V. Lazky–Bartoldi

Translation by Naomi Gal

And here I am in Rovno. I came to the city as part of my mission for Keren–Hayesod. I was walking in the city's streets, meeting different circles, watching and experiencing. Rovno is a special city, what it does for the new Eretz–Israel – is done with fiery enthusiasm. In every given penny – there is a deep national intention. This is not giving just because one has to, in all parts of the city meetings are being held, even on the Volia, the popular–democratic neighborhood of Rovno, meetings in synagogues, very much like the 1905 revolution, and of course, a meeting and a discussion in the local Kibbutz.

It is late at night, close to midnight. In a tiny room, half–furnished, young men and women convene, fire burning in their eyes. They begin singing and then dancing, hand on shoulder, a burning, stormy circle. This is the “Hora” dance, that came from the groups in Emek–Izrael and Emek–Hayarden to the diaspora, to Kibbutz and to training farms, where the Jewish youth prepares itself for a new life, to the renewal of life of work and freedom.


The members of the Kibbutz

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The dance gets fiercer, the music sweeps all over you, hands, feet, shoulders whispering in an inner language, a song without words, but full of intentions – “from my depths I call thee, Eretz–Israel”.

And when the Kibbutz room was full and the dancing all–consuming, a harsh knock on the door was heard and, on the threshold, – the police!

“What are you doing here? What's the meaning of these voices and noises so late at night? Who is here?” and the policemen began searching the room, and investigated, as usual.

We explained that a messenger arrived, he gave a lecture and came to visit the Kibbutz, so obviously we sing and dance at such occasions. The policemen were looking around, staring at the pioneers and me, examined the four walls of the almost empty room, searching for something on the table that was set aside with no cover nor drinks, and one of the policemen asked: “Did you not have a drink of wine…” the question is addressed to me, the lecturer, and my honest answer is: No! They only gave me song and dance…

The surprised policemen turned toward the door and left the room. They probably thought – “We fell into a madhouse! Singing and dancing with no drinking? Is that possible? Is this considered having fun?”

And the pioneers continue their singing and dancing and I enjoyed them. I am grateful to you, pioneers–men and women of Rovno's Kibbutz, that you shared with me, for a moment at least, your experiences and that I tasted your wineless–drunkenness…

The Central Chalutz' Kibbutz

by Avraham Frankl

Translation by Naomi Gal

One of the pioneers' Kibbutz in Rovno was a Training–Kibbutz of the Central Chalutz in which I was member from 1931 to 1933. It had back then around thirty members, men and women, all from towns around Rovno and we went through training, preparing ourselves for Aliya. The Kibbutz was housed on 10 Kosharova Street, we lived and sang there, and left to our work in the gristmills and other places outside the city. In the evenings our adobe was vibrating, the members were coming back from their work, and the pulse of life was exhilarating.

A section of the Kibbutz worked in a clay quarry in nearby Galinka, two other sections were employed in Kostopol; these were branches of the Kibbutz. The seven female members of the Kibbutz went to work, as well. Most of the time we lived in duress, we did not want to accept help from others and our income was not enough to cover our basic needs. All our hopes were for a quick Aliya to Israel and this encouraged us and gave us the strength to suffer. Sometimes we felt that we were already Israelis, although we were in Rovno, dreaming about Israel...

In 1931, before the election to the 17th Congress, David Ben–Gurion arrived at Rovno as part of his trip all over Poland as a representative of the League for the Working Eretz–Israel. Our Kibbutz was lucky to get two tickets to his public address (at Brandt Movie House), they were given to me and to Yoel Gak, and we were sent to represent the Kibbutz in the meeting with Ben–Gurion. We were

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on stage with representatives of other institutions and were introduced to the guest. He was welcoming and spoke with us briefly.

Ben–Gurion's lecture was full of faith and confidence, despite the harsh reality in Israel, he charmed the diverse audience that filled the hall to capacity. Our spirit is strong indeed, we said, there is a point in our sufferings on this foreign land when we are about to reach our Homeland. Afterward we felt that we, the pioneers, were treated with more respect and interest. Ben–Gurion spent two days in Rovno and bade us farewell cordially. We could not have guessed then that in 18–19 years we would have the privilege to see him as the First Prime Minister of Israel.

Not too long afterward, Jabotinsky arrived in Rovno. He too gave a public address and saluted Betar's formation. His sojourn in Rovno served as an homage to the local revisionists and strengthened their ranks.

It was a time of awakening after the 1929 riots in Eretz–Israel that strengthens in us, the pioneers' youth, the ambition to make Aliya. Eretz–Israel's gates were locked, the news arriving from there not too encouraging, but still the ranks of the pioneers grew and there were more and more pioneers who saw Aliya as their future. Among them were the members of our Kibbutz, who eventually had the privilege to make Aliya and take root in the Homeland.

The Group of the Woodchoppers

by Arye Arieli (Kravetz)

Translation by Naomi Gal

In the Zionist ambiance and the pioneers' mood in Rovno during the twenties, a group was organized by the city's youth, a pioneers' group that began in winter 1923 with wood chopping, and indeed they were called “Woodchoppers”. The members of the group, all youngsters, full of life and pioneers' aspirations, went on living at home and met each day to discuss matters of work, training etc. They became famous among the pioneers' youth and the local Zionist's circles for their courage and adaptation to life of work.

Not long afterwards, the group, who was not satisfied with the work and the harsh conditions, moved to Biala on the Hahorin (close to Drombo–Viza), where they worked in the forests and later were accepted by Drombo–Viza. A new period began. This was the first group that left Rovno for pioneers' training and lived in a pioneer group. The members were: Ze'ev Milnov, Nathan Seetchok, Moshe Tavakerka, Ze'ev Finkelstein, Arye Kravetz, Lancher and one woman – Hanna Lehrman. When the group moved to Drombo–Viza, Avraham Frankl joined, he was from the town, had influence there and became one of its leaders. And indeed, he did a lot for the group in different areas and was very useful in the life and existence there.

The group stayed in Drombo–Viza two and a half years, accepting meanwhile new members, and in 1926 decided to move to Czluchow. In this location hundreds of pioneers from all of Volhynia and Poland assembled, including women as well (among them: Portia, Bella Port, Raya Sobol, Parzovsky, Kendelman, German and others), many from Rovno.

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The Main Chalutz; 2 groups of woodchoppers' pioneers in Rovno, Yosef Rotenberg, Yeshaiho Resnik, Simcha Hinkis, David Perlmutar and two others (?)


The group was attracted to this working place for social reasons and its members worked there is a quarry over six months (the end of 1926 till the beginning of 1927). The pioneer pulse in Czluchow in those days was very strong. That year the first Chalutz' House was established next to the quarries (but the Rovno group did not live there). And then, one day, we were told that our group's turn for Aliya had come and the joy in our house was great, we hurried back to Rovno to prepare our Aliya.

In Rovno back then sat Bhatia Benderska, who handled all the Chalutz' and Aliya's affairs. Hebrew and geography lessons were organized and the group members had to pass the course (which took place in Faivel Veldman's house). We were guided by the “Dror” group, which we joined and the enthusiasm in our small camp was great. Friends envied us because out turn came and we were elated. Bit by bit we extinguished our diaspora's past, we took care of the Aliya documents and waited for the Big Day – the day of our Aliya.

Our group left Rovno only in 1918 on our way to Israel. Several causes prevented two of our members from leaving Rovno, but they, too, made Aliya two years later and the whole group was acclimated in Israel – some in Moshav, some in Kibbutz, some in cities – and made their home in the Homeland.

The seed the Chalutz and its guides planted in Rovno's earth bore fruits.

The Eretz–Israel Regional Office

Translation by Naomi Gal

After the closing of the Eretz–Israel Office in Rovno in the years of the immigration of Ukraine's survivors through Rovno to the wide world, when the Aliya movement from Rovno and its surrounding grew, the Central Eretz–Israel Office in Warsaw saw the deep need to found in Rovno a regional Eretz–Israel Office for the Volhynia region. That was in 1924 and different circles were hoping to make Aliya.

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The First Eretz–Israel Office – 1921


As the head of the Galil Office, Pessah–Leib Hirschfeld was nominated, he worked in the first office, and so did his secretary – Israel Dins. The office was opened on Ponietovska Street, at Yaakov Fishbein's house, and a department was founded, whose task was to handle pioneers and their Aliya, as well as the Aliya of tradesmen and workers in general. All the Zionist parties were represented in this department: Zeirai Zion, Union Poale Zion and Chalutz.

The importance of this establishment is demonstrated by the fact that despite the crisis of 1924–1925 in Poland concerning Eretz–Israel, hundreds of people were knocking on the office's doors; especially youngsters who were fascinated by Eretz–Israel. The office had a part in Chalutz affairs and the organization of Aliya from the region, to the point that it was seen as the vehicle to Aliya, but it could not do much because of the limitations, and encountered obstacles caused by the defamation spread by those who left Israel. Still, it fulfilled its aim and was very active, considering the difficult times.

The budget of the regional Office was covered by the Central Eretz–Israel in Warsaw, and it was subject to it. During the years the regional Office was active, refugees kept arriving from across the Russian border and the office handled them together with other institutions.

For a while the Eretz–Israel Regional Office was in Lutsk and was headed by Avraham Waksman.

In 1927 the Eretz–Israel Office in Warsaw closed the regional office in Rovno and since then the immigrants and the pioneers had to go to Warsaw for every matter concerning their Aliya.

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The Regional Council of the Zionist Union

by Ben–Zion Barzilai

Translation by Naomi Gal

After the Central Zionist Chamber for occupied Ukraine merged with the Zionist Central in Poland, the Regional Council of the Zionist Union in Volhynia, that was founded in Rovno in 1925, took it upon itself to centralize things and take charge. This Council replaced the Central Chamber, taking into account the concentration of forces, political reasons and other factors. Rovno's Zionists enlisted in this important task and provided the Regional Council its best activists in those days: Ben–Zion Eisenberg, Shmuel Resnik, Isaak Brik and Yaakov Weisblat (Bar–Midoth). The last one was the council's secretary. In a conference held in Rovno a council was assembled from the representatives in cities and villages: Hikel Weitz and Itzhak Berger from Lutsk, Dr. Landsberg from Ludmir, A. Borek from Kovel, Yona Gleek from Sarny, Shmuel Hordzer from Alexandria and representatives from Austravah, Krementz, Dovno, Koritz and others. The council used to convene every now and then and between meetings the members of the presidency in Rovno were in charge, and there were many important matters.

The Regional Conference of Volhynia's Zionists took place in Rovno on June 30–31, 1925 and on its agenda: Opening, the roles of the Fourteen Zionist Congress (lecturer – Dr. Hides), facilitating Aliya to Eretz–Israel (lecturer – A. Brik), maintenance of the Union in Volhynia (lecturers – S. Berger and S. Roznak), discussions, elections for the Regional Council and other subjects. The Conference had an impact on the process of the Zionist work in the cities and villages of Volhynia and set the roles of the Regional Council in organizing, publicity and propaganda, appearances and representation, funds, Aliya and more. The council was also in charge of general Jewish public affairs, with questions concerning Volynia's Jews as a separate division inside Poland Jews, defending Jewish rights in the borders' settlements, elections for Jewish and general institutions, electing national representatives, participating in social establishments, assistance and more. The council had to be on guard and fight the war of all–Israel on the outside, and the Zionist war on the inside.

The pulse of the Regional Council was strongly felt in Rovno from its first day. In most cases the Municipal Zionist Council included the Regional Council in solving important local questions, and there was an understanding between the two councils. During the Regional Council conferences, meetings were held between the united councils for Keren–Hayesod and the Jewish National Fund (later the league for the Jewish National Fund) in which participated the representatives of all the Zionist movements.

At a certain time, the Regional Council was able to create a bridge between several Zionist parties that were active in Rovno, as long as the Zionist differentiations were not too extreme and the local activists were able to appreciate this understanding. Thus, a full cooperation was achieved in funding the National Funds, in cultural and sport activities and in other Eretz–Israel endeavors. There were quite a few cases in which when representatives of different movements met in united Zionist activities, they were able to rise above their political differences and unite for a common goal. This is how it happened in Rovno and other places in Volhynia, that were influenced by Rovno – the main city of Volhynia back then. As a result, a united council was formed, in which were represented the General Zionists, “Zeirai Zion,” United” Hamyzrahi, Revisionists and more.

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As a result of the elections to the Municipal Council in 1933 the representatives of the Revisionists left the Council and following them the representatives of Zeirai Zion left as well and the Council began crumbling.

The Regional Council lacked a budget for its expenditure and the presidency searched for temporary sources for payments, such as allocations from the profits of the Zionist Bank in Rovno and special projects. The members of this council, who were typical partisans, devoted to the Zionist cause, tried to maintain it with all their might, but then something happened: in the Polish Zionist Camp a separation took place that impacted considerably the existence of the Regional Council.

There were two movements in this camp: the factions “Et Livnot” and “Al Hamishmar”. “Al Hamishmar” members, headed by Izsak Greenbaum, were against expanding the Jewish Union and demanded to maintain the democratic character of the Zionist Union and a radical policy concerning local politics; they supported Chalutz Aliya especially and the working movements. On the other hand, “Et Livnot” faction advocated maximum participation of the private capital in building Eretz–Israel, it was mainly concerned with middle–class people and demanded a moderate attitude to local policies. The difference between the two factions became deeper and the controversy lasted for a long time. This caused the weakening of the Zionist Union in Poland that was felt in Rovno, too, since the members of the Regional Council were from the “Et Livnot” faction and around eighty–ninety percent from Rovno's Zionists were on their side.

But then ‘Al Hamishmar” faction got stronger and conquered the Zionist center in Warsaw. This created an uncomfortable situation for the Regional Council in Rovno. The new Center, aiming to attract Volhynia's Zionists to “Al Hamishmar” called for a Zionist Conference in Rovno in summer 1933 and sent direct invitations to Volhynia's associations unbeknown to the Regional Council. This upset the Regional Council, which did nothing against the conference, but on the assigned day Greenbaum and all the representatives of the Zionist Center (all “Al Hamishmar” members) arrived in Rovno, did not meet with the Regional Council, as if it did not exist, and went directly to the conference, that took place in Hasmonean Hall.

After the conference opened, the representatives of the Regional Council wanted to speak, but they were not given the opportunity. They had no choice but to leave the conference in protest and with them left some of the city's representatives. In an urgent meeting held the same day, it was decided to convene a special conference of the Volhynia's associations related to the Regional Council; almost all of them sided with “Et Livnot”, in order to discuss the new situation.

Since the gap in the General Zionists deepened and the Regional Council was immersed in arguments and was, as well, without monetary means – it began declining. At the same time, the governmental reaction increased and a wave of worries, public, social, national and economical descended upon the heads of the activists, and so, they were unable to pay enough attention to the problems of political Zionism. Meanwhile some activists left Rovno on their way to Israel (Rozenhak, Eisenberg, Wiesblatt and others), which precipitated the complete crumbling of the Regional Council.

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The Association of Purchasing Lands in the Eretz–Israel

by Yehuda Berman

Translation by Naomi Gal

The wish of the middle–class in Rovno to make Aliya found a practical expression in 1924 when the Association “Nahalat Yosef” was founded, its aim being to buy lands in Israel and eventually make Aliya.

In a short period of time fifty people registered in this association, and a special delegate, the writer of these words, left for Warsaw to explore and find out about similar associations that appeared back then in Poland. The idea of settling Eretz–Israel appealed to many circles in the country, and Jewish landlords, who previously did not even think about making Aliya and their affinity was merely religious – were aspiring to connect to the Homeland in any possible way. The earth was sliding from under their feet, their sons wanted to make Aliya, and the fathers, too, were attracted to the idea but the conditions were lacking. Once the association was created, their confidence in their own power grew and quite a few joined, hoping to be strengthened by it. The association endeavored to act in a businesslike manner.

Yosef Steinman, from Rovno, who visited Israel that year, brought news that excited many. The association, that bore his name, planned its affairs according to Bnei–Brak, near Tel Aviv model. When the messenger came back from Warsaw, the association held a public meeting, with the Starrosta permission, where they were going to discuss the association's activities and the performance of its goals in light of the news the messenger brought. On December 28, 1924, the meeting was held in the “Talmud–Torah” Hall, with Yosef Greenfeld as president. Around four hundred people participated from all the city's circles and many of them registered as members of the association. The idea was: “A Jew who wants to settle in Eretz–Israel and has enough means to purchase land, will be able to join “Nahalat Yosef” association and it will handle purchasing for him the necessary land in the right place”, this line attracted many. Enthusiastic speeches were heard in this meeting form Steinman, Berman, Greenfeld and others, and they all stressed what was special in this endeavor – independent of the Zionists. Some agreed with the speakers and their plan, but others saw this as a deviation from the road, how can there be a public Eretz–Israel endeavor outside of the Zionist frame? Especially vehement was Isaak Brik from the Municipal Zionist Council who warned against mistakes, complications and the danger of losing money for investors. There were different opinions, and in the ensued mayhem, the meeting was dispersed without results, but the association founders went on for a while with the plan, until they found out that they were wrong – and had to change their position. It has to be said that the Municipal Zionist Council was not against the initial idea of the association and even decided to support it and encourage people to join, if it were headed by Zionist loyalists.

The rage that surrounded the association did not strengthen it, it began declining before it was established and after a while it dispersed all together, but many of the members who wanted to make Aliya eventually reached Israel, became owners of lands and took root in the land.

The attempt of the middle–class to settle in Israel is typical when it came to their lack of planning and their difficulties. This movement inflicted quite a few sacrifices on its members, but eventually there were positive results, as well, and with all the shortcomings of the founding of “Nahalat Yosef” in Rovno, it does deserve to be inscribed in the history of the last Aliya's as an expression of the wish of masses of our brothers in the last century to return to the Homeland and settle there.

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The Collective

by Michael Guchman

Translation by Naomi Gal

In 1932 a few dozen members came together, they all aspired to make Aliya and they called themselves “The Zionist Collective”. In the beginning, there were around twenty members and with time it grew and became thirty–eight members, most of them professionals who dreamt to begin collective life in Rovno and then continue in Israel. For that purpose, the group rented a small house on Dubenska Street and all the members moved there. The house became their home, and the income of each member went to a common fund. A boisterous pioneers' singing was heard from of the house, full of joie–de–vivre. The members worked in different places and dreamt about the return to Zion. They saw themselves on the way to Israel and their deep hope was that as an organized pioneers' group they will make a quick Aliya and join the builders of the Homeland. Life in the group was in the Eretz–Israel spirit, without individual style, which could have divided the members, the discussions about Eretz–Israel and educational subjects were used as spiritual nourishment to the members who were increasing their knowledge of Hebrew and Israel. That's how the group spent its first year.


The Collective House on Dubenska street – 1932, a woman member (?), Izsak Portnoi,
Eliho Harpak, Moshe Bruner, Moshe Hinkis, Yithaki, Michael Gochman and Itzhak (?)


But then something unexpected happened: the “Collective” family, negotiating their members' Aliya found out that Aliya takes place according to a personal queue only, meaning that the time spent as a “Collective” in the city will not be considered as a right when it comes to making Aliya as a pioneer. A pioneer had to train in all kinds of jobs in specific locations, or in recognized institutions for pioneers' training, while the lives of the group's members

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with all its elevated aspirations, could not replace Kibbutz training. Hence, they advised the group to individually send its members to a few training–programs so that they can adapt to difficulties and get a real pioneer education, and only then, they could be considered as Aliya candidates from these training locations. It was not easy for the group's members to respond to the demands of the Chalutz center, and some were bitter about the attitude toward their organized collective, but there was no choice – the members dispersed in training–locations, most of them in Czluchow, and some left the collective altogether.

Living in Czluchow, and in other places among pioneers, the members understood the real value of pioneers' education, away from their family, working hard in physical labor, lacking basic needs, but in a pioneers' friendly environment, under the influence of the working Eretz–Israel that was well–felt, they now realized how different were the conditions of the “Collective” than those of the Chalutz.

At first, some of the “Collective” leaders hoped to reunite the dispersed members and become a group that would work together and live together in Israel, but as time went by, this hope evaporated once the members began making Aliya with the pioneers' flow, in mixed groups. Those who were lucky arrived through the main road, the others – either arrived with the “Second Aliya” passing through Cyprus Camps or were late to make Aliya and arrived by way of Russia and Europeans' Displaced Persons Camps when Israel was founded.

About half of the “Collective” members who were dispersed made Aliya and are involved with life in Israel; they became part of the Eretz–Israel reality, found their way and acclimated. When they meet at a certain inn they remember the “Collective” dream and the good days they spent together, and they are sorry, deeply sorry, that only part of their members were lucky enough to get to Israel, while the other part wandered to foreign countries or encountered a bitter end by the hand of Nazis.

The Opening of the Hebrew University

by Avraham Rise

Translation by Naomi Gal

Many preparations were made in Rovno for the opening day of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, April 1st, 1925. There was a feeling of celebration in the city and everybody was talking about it. This great, historic day became an event not only to Zionists, but to all the Jews in Rovno and its surroundings, and one can say that in those days the atmosphere was so Zionist and celebratory, that you could see all Rovno as Zionists. All eyes were upon Israel, Jerusalem and its university. It was a temple of science and wisdom that the people returning to their land were building. The excitement was great and included young and old.

At the assigned day, all the terraces on the main street – Third of May – were decorated with carpets and the photos of Zionist leaders and writers, among them stood out the pictures of Herzl, Weizmann, Nordau and Shapira. All the Zionists from all affiliations assembled together in the big synagogue for a public meeting, and a big and diversified crowd occupied the synagogue to full capacity. The national flags and posters were hanging in the entrances and in the hall and marked the importance of the day. The regime representatives, who were invited to the meeting were there, too, and after a thanksgiving–prayer by rabbi Shneor–Zalman Greenfeld, he gave a brilliant speech, rich in content and national–Zionist awakening (the Zionist veterans and activists said that no Zionist could have better spoken than Rabbi Greenfeld did, extolling the great event). After his speech

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R' Yehuda Matiok spoke, he began with “Shehecheyanu” and elaborated on the greatness of the day, explaining the subject of “Out of Zion Shall the Torah come forth”. His words made the hearts tremble. Then Dr. Shvidki took the stage, one of the local Zionist leaders, who explored the idea to establish the University since professor Zvi Shapira started it in the beginning of Zionism, with Dr. Herzl and others' support. As a former student, who tasted the foreign higher education schools with the limitations inflicted on the wisdom–thirsty Jewish youth, he was able to clarify the major importance of having a higher education institute of our own, especially in the Eretz–Israel, for those seeking higher–education – an important link in the rebirth endeavors. He was addressing mainly the youth, for whom the University was founded, and the rich people who were asked to support and strengthen it, and at the same time spoke to the enlightened world and the carriers of the cultural flag.

The last to speak were Tarbut and the united youth representatives and the meeting ended with a mighty singing of “Hatikvah”.

After the speeches, a big parade began with Hashomer–Hazair, Hasmonean with orchestras and the scouts of the gymnasium and other Tarbut institutions with their teachers accompanied by large crowds standing on the lines. The parade walked under a Blue and White flag, while smaller flags floated along the crowded street. Most people closed their shops and left their work to join the parade. It was a national holiday for all.

That evening the students of the Jewish schools in the city and their teachers had their own celebration of the great event in the Zaferan Theatre, in which participated the director of the education department of the Polish Regime and all the schools' headmasters. In the speeches delivered in Polish and other languages, appreciation was expressed for this huge endeavor for the People of Israel in its land and in the diaspora. Among the speakers and greeters, except the education director, were: Dr. Flashner, the director of the Jewish–Polish Gymnasium' Dr. Bahar, the director of the Mathematical Gymnasium, Dr. Bergman, a history teacher who ended his speech with the psalm: “Out of Zion shall the Torah come forth”. The meeting was uplifting and ended with the singing of “Hatikvah”.

Since morning the playground of Tarbut Gymnasium was very busy. In the afternoon, a Hebrew celebratory rally was held with Jews and non–Jews, and was opened by Dr. Isskar Riess, the director. He spoke about Israel's culture returning to its home – the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the capital of the nation and its heart, that will educate the future Hebrew intellectuals who will advance us and allow us to be part of the world's culture. Other speakers appreciated the importance of the University and reminisced about the movement and its dignitaries, while the students and the youth of the national movements crowded the playground, performed exercises, sang and danced. The speeches were over and the rally participants went out to the playground and were drawn, as well, to the dancing; the round grew bigger and the joy in their hearts came out in singing, and all joined in.

It was an unforgettable experience that drew our hearts together and opened the pockets of enthusiastic Jews to the University idea, that their sons would have the privilege to attend, once they finish Rovno's Gymnasium. And indeed, many of Rovno sons made Aliya and received their Hebrew education inside the walls of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.


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