eilatgordinlevitan.com

 


 

 

 

 THE BOOK OF ILYA

Book of Remembrance

[Yiddish subtitle]

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Editor:

                                                                                                                                                                                   Aryeh Koplovitz\Israel

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                     Editorial Board:

Eliezer Shapira\Mexico                                                                                                                                                                                                            The late Tuvia Ben Chefetz\Israel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                           Published by the Association of Ilya Descendants in Israel - 1962

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With the help of a generous donation by our town members - the Shapira brothers in Mexico

and with the cooperation of Ilya descendants in the U.S.A., Argentina and Israel


                                                                                                                                     NOTES ON THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION

 

 

 

                                                 Translated by Milette Shamir, August 1993, January and February 1994 - Boston, MA

 

 

 

 

                                    This English translation represents only a portion of the Book of Ilya.  Translated portions of the book are shown in bold on the translated Table of Contents to the Hebrew edition, and include pages 9-22, 69-78, 145-210, 267-276, 305-316, 339-402, and 421-454 in the Hebrew version.  The corresponding Hebrew pages are shown in [brackets] in the left-hand margin or the text of the English translation.  The translation was completed with the support of Richard and Florence Koplow of Lexington, Massachusetts in the United States and part of the North American diaspora of Ilya Koplovitz's that emigrated from the town in the late 19th century.  Conversion of the translation into this format was done by Doug Koplow.

 

                                    Names of most names for places, people, and foreign words (such as Yiddish) were translated phonetically.  Spelling for these words in English should not be viewed as precise.

 

                                    All footnotes shown in this translation are from the original Hebrew.  Endnotes were not in the original Hebrew version, but were added by the translator to enhance the clarity of certain terms, concepts, and organizations not necessarily familiar to a non-Israeli reader.


                          TABLE OF CONTENTS*

 

Preface\The Editor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

Dedicated to Her Image and Remembrance\Aryeh Koplovitz. . . . .15

 

 

                                     Part One:

                               The Historical Ilya

 

The Town's Origins\A. Avi Avihud. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21

The "Hagar-Tzedek" Affair\A. Avi Aviva. . . . . . . . . . . . .23

Rabbi Menashe of Ilya\The late Tuvia Ben Chefetz. . . . . . . .35

Ben Porath\Aryeh Ben-Abba . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37

Ilya as a "Hostel" for Torah\A.B.A.K. . . . . . . . . . . . . .69

      The Great Yeshiva in Ilya\-"-. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .71

      The Scholar Rabbi Reuven of Dinburg\-"-. . . . . . . . . .73

      The Scholar Rabbi Moshe Shlomo Khari\-"- . . . . . . . . .74

      The Scholar Rabbi Shmuel Zelig\M.TZ. . . . . . . . . . . .77

      The Scholar Rabbi Wolf Broide\-"-. . . . . . . . . . . . .78

     The Scholar Rabbi Moshe Yisrael Shapira\from

                                Sefer Ha'Yovel. . .79

     Rabbi Ya'akov Efraim Nachmin\Chaim Levin . . . . . . . . .81

     The Scholar Rabbi Avraham Eli Remez\Moshe Shlomo Balaks. .82

 

 

 

                               Part Two:

                       Between the Two World Wars

 

Arainfir[i]\Yossef Vinetski - Mexico. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .89

Mein Heim-Shtatele Ilya[ii]\Eliezer Shapira - Mexico . . . . . . .91

The Ties between Ilya and Eretz Yisrael[iii]\Aryeh Koplovitz. . . .145

The Zionist Movement, its Actions and Courses\Aryeh Bar Droma

                                                and Ahuvah Teitelbaum 211

[8]   From his Legacy\ Tuvia Ben Chefetz, blessed be his memory . . 233

My Ilya\Devorah Sherman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 264

My Ilya (a poem)\A., Miriam's husband . . . . . . . . . . . . 267

From the Remembrance Notebook\Eliezer Dinerstein U.S.A. . . . 269

With the Hebrew Brigades\A., brother of Malkah K.. . . . . . .271

Gashtalten On Anshtalten[iv]\Leibe Gitles. . . . . . . . . . . . 277

 

 

                                    Part Three:

                                   The Holocaust

 

Der Untergang von Ilya\Die Radactie[v]. . . . . . . . . . . . . 303

Yizkor[vi] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 305

The Names of the Martyrs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 308

The Tale of the Wandering and the Tears\David Rubin . . . . . 317

At the Place of Slaughter, in the Ghetto, and in the Forests\

                     Bat Sheva Riar (Bronstein). . . 339

 

The Struggle for Life\Shraga Solominski . . . . . . . . . . . 373

Ein Die Finzere Taag[vii]\Zoshka Gitliez - America. . . . . . . . 403

The Holocaust\Yonah Riar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 421

A Hand to Friends,to a Sister,and to Parents\Aryeh Koplovitz. 441

      Ya'akov Lapidoth (Yankole)                "    " . . . . 442

      Ya'akov Bronstein                         "    " . . . . 443

      Reuven Koplovitz and his Mother           "    " . . . . 444

      Mordechai Rogozinski                      "    " . . . . 445

      Shlomo Zalman Sherman                     "    " . . . . 446

      Eliyahu Avriel                            "    " . . . . 447

      My Sister Malkah                          "    " . . . . 448

      My Parents                                "    " . . . . 450

 

 

                                    Part Four:

                        The Sons of Ilya in the Diaspora

 

Die Amigratzia in America[viii]\Fon Ilyer Zamlong - New York . . . 455

Die Amigratzia in Argentina\Dar Radacter. . . . . . . . . . . 459

Ilyer Ein Argentina\Salaman Koplovitz . . . . . . . . . . . . 462

Undazara Landslite In Mexico\Dar Radacter . . . . . . . . . . 464

Yazt Axistiranda Ilyer in America\Dar Radacter. . . . . . . . 465


[9]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Introduction

 

                                    With excitement and awe, stooping under the burden of our sorrow, loss, orphanhood and helplessness, we present to the reader The Book of Ilya.  This is our modest contribution to the communal tombstone, erected to immortalize the memory of tens of thousands of the communities of Israel, and millions of brothers, who perished in the hands of the Nazi enemy and his helpers:  who were tortured, starved, murdered, burned, and killed in strange ways - during the days of the horrendous Holocaust, the like of which never occurred in the history of our people and of the world.

                                    We have no words to describe even the minutest part of the vivid life of our town and the dimensions of the tragedy of its destruction, a tragedy that took place before the very eyes of the indifferent and uncaring people of the world.  The Holocaust - that cut down a third of our people - cannot be measured by its astounding results only, without considering the quality of those who perished.  We lost our best creative talents, who would have been able, perhaps, to provide a more fitting and appropriate description of the town's life and the dimensions of its tragedy.

                                    And although we are not worthy, fate has assigned this mission to us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            *           *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         *

                                    After much effort, the collection of material for the Book of Ilya is completed.  We can now bless the effort and say that the job was not an easy one, for many reasons; because of the scarce numbers of our town's residents in the world who survived its destruction; since the community's records, where the main events of the town since its establishment were probably written - were destroyed; for lack of reliable sources from which we could glean information on the ancient town and its history; due to the fact that most of the survivors, who live in Israel, are relatively young, and did not have time to absorb within them the town's culture and history, and the few that did, lost it during their many travels and struggle for survival.  All of the above prevented us from presenting a correct and  full picture of the glorious past of the town and its effervescent life in the period between the two wars.  In addition:  we should consider the objective fact that the main burden of writing this book was assigned to only few people [10] and that flawed the description.  Despite all, we tried to summarize what was available under the present conditions and to include it in the book.

                                    It is our duty to gratefully mention all those who gave of their time, energy and abilities, material or literary, to the writing of this project.  First and foremost, let us bow our heads before the grave of our town's resident Tuvia Chefetz, rest his soul, who initiated the idea and forced us to materialize it, taking the editorial task in his own hands.  But how strange sometimes are the ways of fate.  The man who longed to commemorate the town did not manage to do so, and died before the project began.  May his memory be blessed and retained forever in our hearts.

                                    With gratefulness we mention our town's members, the sons of Tzemach Shapira, rest his soul, from Mexico and the U.S., that thanks to their moral support, their crucial financial contribution, and their constant personal involvement - our tiny birth town, Ilya, gained this eternal tombstone.

                                    We are proud of the respectable appreciation letter to our friends the brothers Shapira, written by Mr. Yossef Vintzki from Mexico, and hereby publish it verbatim with much pleasure:

 

" [in Yiddish] ......."

 

[11]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            *           *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         *

                                    A heartfelt thanks also to Mr. Chaim Levin from the Kibbutz of Ramat Hakovesh.  Despite the fact that the man is past his prime, he did not worry about his health and came to see us in the evenings, to tell of his memories of the town's events.  Let us wish that we will all have the privilege of blessing him on his 120th birthday.

                                    [12]  Hearty blessings to all of Ilya's sons in Israel and in the diaspora:  in the United States, Argentina and Mexico.  Especially to Zusman Geitlitz, Shlomo Koplovitz and Eliezer Dinerstein and to the members of the committee for the union of Ilya's descendants in Israel.   To all the friends who contributed their writing, money, pictures and time to the publication of this memorial book - our deep thanks.  All have a considerable part in the project of commemorating the town and its martyrs.

                                    To my friend and work mate, Matityahu Bar Ratzon, for his advice on editorial matters and his interest in the progress of this work - my warm blessing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            *           *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         *

                                    To my dear and loyal wife Miriam, who encouraged me to continue work despite the many difficulties and unpleasant obstacles I faced - I send the blessing of a loving and admiring husband.

                                    This book enfolds a long history of the life of a tiny, ancient and lively Jewish community, and the details of its final destruction are at your disposal.  Let it serve as an eternal tombstone, to bring together the generations of the past, the present and the future.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The editor.


[13]

- P H O T O G R A P H -

 

 

The Shapira Brothers, the main contributors to the publication of the memorial book.  Standing from right to left:  Ya'akov, Yehoshua, Gershon.  Seated:  Eliezer

 

[15]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Aryeh Koplovitz

 

                                                                                                                                                                                       On Its Image and Memory

 

                                    A "Yizkor" book for the lives that were lost; for the dear souls that were cut down; for whole families who perished; for babies who were slain; for infants who were torn to pieces; for traditional values that were uprooted; for temples that were burned - and for a tiny and ancient community that was erased from under God's heavens.  A book to immortalize the lives, actions and death, of simple as well as outstanding people; of those who contributed in their actions to the aggrandizing of our town's spirit and name among our people and in the world; and of all those who perished in strange deaths, invented by the Satanic enemy, in the period of the most tragic Holocaust in the history of our people.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             *          *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         *

                                    Although our tragedy is too large to bear, and is inconsolable; although our eyes shed tears over our huge and cruel loss, these are but one drop in the general suffering and morning of the nation.  When we now immortalize our pure and dear martyrs, we are but adding our tears to a sea of blood and tears; a sea of loss, sorrow, orphanhood and destruction that cries from the depths - Revenge!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             *          *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         *

                                    Our town Ilya was like thousands of other Jewish towns attacked by the destroyer, but at the same time it was different.  Despite its outer similarities to others, it had its own character,[ix] just like people of the same age, tradition and education have different personalities.  Maybe its nickname - "silken sacs" (Ziedne Tarbas [in Yiddish]) reflects its character best:  poor and proud.[x]  Despite the fact that most of the Jewish population lived in want, with tightened belts and in poverty, the sons were never seen begging in other towns, although many of the poor of the vicinity swarmed our streets.  Our poor were hungry in secrecy, but were embarrassed to stretch their hands out for alms.  They slowly diminished, but pinched their cheeks to seem blushing in health.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             *          *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         *

                                    The economic base of the town was meager and the Jews' hearts were drawn especially to matters of the spirit, which changed shape with every generation.  Thus [16] our town Ilya nurtured men of stature in Torah and values, of dimensions that were very wide in proportion to its Jewish population.

                                    Two famous people, who have a guaranteed place in history, contributed to our small town Ilya's fame.  First is Hagar-Tzedek,  Graff Pototzki, who is forever bound with our town.  The second is Rabbi Menashe from Ilya, of the disciples of the Ga'on from Vilna, the messenger of light and enlightenment and the rebel against conventions; the first preacher for the productivization of the Jewish street; the persecutor of underage marriages; the rebel against poverty and fighter against ignorance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            *          *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         *

                                     The fact that genius, famed rabbis occupied the rabbinical chair in this tiny town, testifies to the Talmudic and moral level of the Ilya Jews and made our town famous in the Jewish street.

                                    The Ga'on Rabbi Aryeh Leib Shapira, better known as Rabbi Leibale Kubner, occupied the rabbinical chair in our town and from there moved to Kubno.

                                    The Ga'on who is well known under the name Rabbi Leibale Umner from the town of Uman.

                                    The Ga'on Rabbi Reuven from Dinburg known as Rabbi Reuvale.

                                    The Ga'on Rabbi Shmuel Ben Yehoshua Zelig - who made aliya in the beginning of the 19th century.

                                    Four of the loyal disciples of the Rabbi Menashe Ben Porath, better known as Rabbi Menashe from Ilya, learned Torah from his lips and eagerly drank from the sources of his wisdom.

                                    The Ga'on and God-fearing Rabbi Moshe Shlomo Khari, to whom miracles are attributed.  And lastly, he who perished so tragically in the Holocaust, before the eyes of his parish, the Rabbi Avraham Eliyahu Remez, bless his soul.

                                    Be the memory of the righteous blessed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             *          *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         *

                                    In honor of our town we must mention also the existence of a large yeshiva, headed by the sharp and well-versed Ga'on, Rabbi Moshe Yisrael Shapira.  Hundreds of students, sons of Torah, swarmed to the Yeshiva to hear Torah from his mouth, and Ilya's residents took care, with all their hearts and souls, of the students' every need.

 

                                    [17]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             *          *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         *

                                    As we erect a tombstone today for the commemoration of the town of our birth, we will also praise the wonderful chapter of the blossoming of the Zionist Movement, in each and every one of its branches,[xi] in the period between the two World Wars.

                                    The deep plough of traditional Jewish education and the dream of the Return to Zion that many generations suckled and absorbed in their hearts, surfaced after the end of the First World War.  The buds of the organized Zionist Movement, that first trickled among closed circles now increased and conquered wider strata from year to year, until it appeared an overflowing river that sweeps along everything in its way.  By the outbreak of the Second World War, our ENTIRE town Ilya was caught in the flames of belief in the Zionist Movement..

                                    What was - is no longer there.

                                    We now cry over the dear hearts that beat there, that stuck with their faith, that bubbled with life and dreamed and struggled.  Now the destroyer cut all this down and it was erased from under God's heavens.  The old cemetery, commemorating life, creation and tears, was plowed over and turned into a field, and with it, a long and glorious history of about 600 years disappeared:  generations of Hasidim, Ga'onim, the righteous, the innocent, the honest, pioneers and warriors, were swallowed by the earth.

                                    Earth! do not cover up their blood.

                                    Yitgadal Veyitkadash Shmei Raba...


[21]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A.  Avi Avihud

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     On Its Origins

                                                                                                                                                                                   (The City of Elijah the Prophet)*

 

                                    Ilya is in the Vileika region and about 30 kilometers away from the town; it's in the Vilna District and about 150 kilometers away from it, and was built on the western bank of a brook called Ilya, which is a rivulet of the river Vilya that flows into the Nimen, on its way to the Baltic sea.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             *          *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         *

                                    The origins of our town are clouded in thick fog.  Different opinions set different dates for its supposed origination, ranging between the 14th and the 15th centuries a.d., but there is no doubt that it is hundreds of years old.  The only reliable facts that testify to its early existence we found in a Polish historical geographical dictionary from the year 1882, part 3, pages 258-269, according to which as early as in 1634, that is in the first half of the 17th century, there was a Christian church, a Jewish synagogue, and more in Ilya.  In addition, the afore said geographical dictionary establishes the fact that our town Ilya developed from the mansion of a prince of the house of Redzivil, which name was Ilya as well.

                                    One of the theories as to the origins of our town has a credible historical-legendary background, and is fit to be presented to you:

                                    At the end of the 14th century Prince Witold ruled over the Lithuanian princedom.  He was a brave, heroic man who fought courageously all his life, and struggled against the Tartars and overcame them.  He encouraged his soldiers to acts of heroism by granting knighthoods and large estates for mansions.  The prince was a distinguished soldier but also a wise statesman and settler.   By these actions he achieved two aims simultaneously:  the widening of the borders and their protection on the one hand, and the loyalty of his knights on the other.  One of his heros, to whom he granted large areas around our town, was called Redzivil.  It seems that this Redzivil was the father of that famous dynasty in Polish history, the Counts of the House of Redzivil.

                                    [22]  The ancient legend tells:  "when this Redzivil first reached the spot, to survey the area and find a location for his mansion, he did not find one piece of land worthy of immediate cultivation.  Thick forests lay in front and behind, especially huge pine trees.  His searches throughout that day yielded no results.  The man despaired and in the meantime the sun had set.  His fatigue increased moment to moment, and he thus hurried along, aiming to reach the border of the forest.  Suddenly he came across a river that blocked his way.  Before the man made a final attempt to get out of this unlucky situation, he decided to rest a bit to gather strength.  In the meantime, night had descended, the man's fatigue overtook him, and he fell asleep.  He dreamt that, lo and behold, Elijah the Prophet stood near him, encouraging him and whispering: upon dawn you will find your way, don't be afraid, I will be with you, and you will expand westward and eastward, and your descendants will be men of fame."

                                    The man who woke up in fright, discovered that Elijah the prophet has disappeared, and made an oath to call the river and the mansion that will be built - Ilya, after Elijah the prophet who came to him in his dream.  And the man indeed fulfilled his oath; the mansion that was built on the spot and the river were called Ilya.

                                    Prince Witold - who was kind to the Lithuanian Jews, granted them rights and even published statutes for their protection - continued in his settlement policies.  The forest withdrew to make room for the plough, and many mansions were built in the area.  Thus the first Jews appeared in the mansions; as tenants, managers and tax officers, who for obvious reason chose of their own free will to concentrate in one spot and live together.  Thus our town Ilya originated and became a historical given.

                                    Now it is no longer there.


[69]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       A. B. A. K.

 

                                                                                         Ilya as a "Hostel" for Torah

 

                                    Although Ilya was a tiny and poor town, it served as a hostel and center for Torah.  It's a fact that on its rabbinical chair sat famous, genius rabbis, who achieved glory there, and then moved on to bigger cities and their names became known throughout the diaspora.

                                    One should not credit mere chance with this phenomenon, since chance is usually a singular and exceptional event - and this is not the case here.  This fact relates to almost all of Ilya's rabbis, with the exception of a few that due to modesty and humility refused it.  We can suppose therefore that this is no simple matter; that this fact was probably deeply rooted in the town and its atmosphere.  It seems to us that the close ties between the rabbis -- the spiritual shepherds of the town, and the Jewish population -- their herd, were ties of mutual fertilization.  Jewish Ilya influenced more than a little the spiritual transcendence of its rabbis, whereas the rabbis bestowed their grandeur and splendor on the former.  It follows that the rabbis found ample and convenient grounds in Ilya for their public and spiritual growth.

                                    We do not have biographical and general details on all of Ilya's rabbis since its establishment, but the little that is known is enough to prove its singularity and our above claim.

                                    We did not include in the list of Ilya's rabbis that famous Ga'on, Rabbi Menashe from Ilya, the late Ben Porath.  Although this genius lived in Ilya most of his life and had great impact, he never occupied the rabbinical chair.

                                    The second to be known and famous in the rabbinical world as a genius in Torah and morals, is Rabbi Leib Shapira rest his soul, who occupied the rabbinical chair in Ilya and managed to reach the rabbinical chair in Kubna and became famous in the world under the appellation - Rabbi Leibale Kubner.  His descendants - sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, served and are serving to this day as glorious links in a chain of rabbis and heads of Yeshiva.

                                    The third to be known in the rabbinical world as a marvelous genius, sharp and well-versed, is our Rabbi Reuven Halevi Levin rest his soul.  As his predecessors, he too occupied the rabbinical seat in our town and when he became famous he was invited with much splendor to the big city Davinsk where he became famous throughout the diaspora under the name of the Ga'on from Dinburg.

                                    [70]  The fourth, the Ga'on Rabbi Shmuel Ben Yehoshua Zelig rest his soul, occupied the rabbinical chair in our town, but served in a dual role:  the town's rabbi and the head of its yeshiva.  He became known in the diaspora as a genius, and active and prolific creator.  Like the disciples of the Ga'on from Vilna, he too the left that rabbinate, made aliya, settled in Jerusalem and published a few compositions known to this day.

                                    The fifth is our Rabbi Moshe Shlomo Khari rest his soul, the son-in-law of Rabbi Leibale Kubner.  He was a humble, pious, righteous man in everything he did, innocent, withdrawn, and many acts of miracle are attributed to him.  The elderly told that he was interested in the mysticism as well, and our small town constituted a suitable place for him, from where he refused to depart.

                                    The sixth is our rabbi Avraham Eli Remez rest his soul, a distinguished student, a gentle soul, a respectable and enlightened zionist, a servant of the public, and widely educated, he was the last rabbi of the town and perished there before the eyes of his parish. May his soul be blessed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             *          *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         *

                                    The origins of the big yeshiva in Ilya are unknown as well, and some say that the seed was sown by Rabbi Menashe from Ilya.  There are sources that testify that it was extant at the end of the 18th century, headed by the Ga'on Rabbi Shmuel Ben Yehoshua.  In any cases, clear details are known only from the period of the 80s in the 19th century, when it was headed by the Ga'on Rabbi Moshe Yisrael Shapira rest his soul.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             *          *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         *

                                    It is appropriate that we mention another fact typical of the wise students of Torah in our town Ilya.  They did not settle for turning the town into a fortress of torah, but went ahead to conquer important positions especially in the large cities in Lithuania:  Minsk, Vilna, Bobroisk and more.  Among the known and famous as heads of yeshiva in Minsk:  Rabbi Ya'akov Lachovski, known as Rabbi Ya'akov Zabrir, Rabbi Naftali Hertz, Rabbi Leib Akman, Rabbi Gronam Akman, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Parsafa, Rabbi Shlomo Yo'el, the great grandson of Rabbi Menashe from Ilya, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Sherman, Rabbi Moshe Chatan Kostsakres, Rabbi Ze'ev Wolf Broide, who served as the head of the Bobroisk Yeshiva and the Ga'on Rabbi Yitzchak Pines, head of the law court in Minsk.

 

[71]

                                                                                                                                                                                  THE GREAT YESHIVA IN ILYA

 

                                    It is well known that our town Ilya served in the past as an important hostel for the students of Torah.  Many of Israel's geniuses and the masters of Judaism of Lithuania and Byelorussia in that period, learned there how to swim in the sea of Talmud.  But now, when we are attempting to raise the forgotten, to light an eternal candle for our town, its personalities and actions, we unfortunately do not have reliable sources on its glorious and distant past, to describe the yeshiva that served as a lighthouse and shone forth with its Torah and wisdom.  It is especially hard now to research and verify chapters of the past, since the community's book, where the important facts and events that happened in our ancient town were recorded - was destroyed along with the whole Jewish population.  But from a few clues in the limited sources that we hold we can deduct that the yeshiva was established about 180 years ago, and had its ups and downs; periods of blossoming when she swarmed with students, and years of diminishment and decline.  And again came days of ebbing and following them days of slump and destruction.

                                    According to one version, the seed for the Yeshiva in Ilya was sown by Rabbi Menashe (Ben Porath) the Ilyite, when he established a circle of Torah students, in an attempt to root the studying of Talmud in the grounds of logic and action, rather than in the sophist method that was used in the past.  Like his great rabbi, the Ga'on from Vilna, he too saw in the existing method of studying a method intended only for the talented few, but an obstacle for the widening of the circle of students that would encompass as large a mass as possible.  In his opinion, it was crucial to heal and simplify the studying of Talmud.  There were many among his students who, for the most part, later became famous in the Jewish world as distinguished rabbis and geniuses:  Like Rabbi Leibale Shapira known as Rabbi Leibale Kubner, Rabbi Aryeh Leib Umner, Rabbi Reuven Levin, known as the Ga'on from Dinburg, and more.  These facts have some support in the book "Beit Natan" by Rabbi Nachman Kornil from Jerusalem, which was published about 120 years ago.  The list of patrons supporting the book - along with the Chief Rabbi of that period Rabbi Avraham Ashkenazi and others - includes also the Rabbi Shmuel Ben Yehoshua Zelig, who is presented as Ilya's Rabbi and the head of this yeshiva.  More details on the Rabbi Shmuel are published in a series dedicated to the great rabbis of our town.

                                    In a later period we find additional proof for the existence of the yeshiva in our town.  In an article published in the newspaper "Hatzfira" no. 166 from the year 1891 we read:  "in the last 10 years the Ilya yeshiva is blossoming [72] and flourished and many of Israel's students go there to acquire Torah and knowledge.  Heading the yeshiva is the Ga'on Rabbi Moshe Yisrael Shapira who raised its level and made its name known in public.  The righteous and humble rabbi of Ilya Rabbi Moshe Shlomo Khari does much to satisfy the needs of the students.  Although Ilya is a small town, it supports the yeshiva students almost on its own and supplies for their needs generously."

                                    Later in the "Hatzfira" article the event of the exploitation of the name of the Ilya Yeshiva is brought forth.  It was made known to the community, that a certain man travelling in Russia was presenting himself as the messenger of the Ilya Yeshiva and was collecting money and contributions for it.  The Ilya community thus issues a open request not to comply with the man's wishes, who presents himself as the messenger of the yeshiva, because no one has been sent to collect funds.  The public is asked not to believe him, even if it sees a letter signed by the rabbi, for the letter is a forgery.  One can presume that the "messenger" misled our humble and righteous rabbi.  The writer adds:  Ilya's small community is proud of its own ability and that of the generous Zaldovitz of Minsk - to provide for its students honorably, and does not need the alms of the public at large.

                                    The reputation of Ilya's yeshiva began to decline after its head Rabbi Moshe Yisrael Shapira left its role as director and moved to the United States, to serve as the Chief Rabbi of Ilya's descendants in the New World.  Details on the Ga'on Rabbi Moshe Yisrael are brought in the series on the Masters of Torah in Ilya.

 

[73]

                                                                                                                        THE GA'ON RABBI REUVEN HALEVI LEVIN, MAY THE

                                                                                                                                                    MEMORY OF THE RIGHTEOUS BE BLESSED

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Rabbi Reuvale Dinburger

 

                                    Our marvelous Rabbi Halevi Levin was son to the rabbi of the town of Smorgon.  While still young, he showed transcendent talents and exceptional studiousness.  When he matured, he was sent to Ilya to learn Torah from the famous Ga'on Rabbi Aryeh Leib Shapira, who was the head of the court of the town of Ilya and was later known as Rabbi Leibale Kubner, when he was in the rabbinical chair in the town of Kubno.

                                    His great rabbi, Rabbi Leibale, was the one to pave the way for him to the Torah, to honor and glory, and to bestow upon his the adjective prodigy.  Indeed, he became known in public as the prodigy from Smorgon.  When he was ordained a rabbi by his great rabbi and other Ga'onim, Rabbi Reuven departed from his distinguished teacher and served as a rabbi in many towns, but when Rabbi Leibale was invited to serve as rabbi in the big city Kobno, Rabbi Reuven returned and settled in Ilya, succeeded the chair of his rabbi, and glorified our town Ilya with his presence, and ameliorated its reputation.

                                    It did not take long for his name to become famous throughout the diaspora, and the city Dinburg-Davinsk invited him to serve as a rabbi.  The son-in-law of Rabbi Leibale Kubner, Rabbi Moshe Shlomo Khari, succeeded him in our town Ilya.  Now began the important period in the life of Rabbi Reuven Halevi, and his name became known throughout the Jewish world as Rabbi Reuvale Dinburger:  as a transcendent Ga'on, a well-versed and profound teacher, as one of the important pioneers.  Rabbis and Ga'onim of his generation turned to him for all their difficult questions from far and from near, and his name rose to prominence throughout the diaspora.

                                    In his private life he was a humble, kind, congenial person, righteous in all of his deeds and pious in all of his actions.  He was sharp, clever, and his rulings were celebrated for their logic and simplicity.  He was very much loved by the masses of Israel, and accepted by all the generation's great.  The name Rabbi Reuvale Dinburger was carried throughout the diaspora with admiration and respect.  In the last 8 years of his life he glorified the rabbinical chair of Davinsk, and from hence was invited to the yeshiva up above at the age of 71, and the entire house of Israel mourned him.                

                                   

[74]

                                                                                                                                                                OUR RABBI MOSHE SHLOMO KHARI,

                                                                                                                            MAY THE MEMORY OF THE RIGHTEOUS BE BLESSED

 

                                    Our teacher Rabbi Moshe Shlomo Khari arrived in our town Ilya as the son-in-law of the rabbi, the Ga'on Rabbi Aryeh Leib Shapira, who was later known in the rabbinical and Jewish world as the Ga'on Rabbi Leibale Kubner.

                                    The main characteristics of our Rabbi Moshe Shlomo Khari were:  genius, modesty, innocence and awe of God.  When the honorable rabbi the Ga'on Rabbi Aryeh Leib Shapira was invited to gloriously serve as the chief rabbi of the town of Kubno, his son-in-law, Rabbi Moshe Shlomo Khari, refused to occupy the vacant rabbinical chair, for reasons of humbleness and honor.  He recommended that the rabbinate be passed on to Rabbi Leibale Kubner's distinguished student - the Ga'on Rabbi Reuvale Levin, later known in the world as the Ga'on from Dinburg.  Only after Rabbi Reuvale was invited to serve as the chief rabbi of the town of Dinburg, did Rabbi Moshe Shlomo agree to succeed the rabbinical chair in Ilya.

                                    Although Rabbi Moshe Shlomo was a genius in Torah and well-versed in Jewish Law, as was appropriate for the Ga'on Rabbi Leibale Kubner's son-in-law and for the famous brother-in-law of Rabbi Raphael of Velozin, of a widely branched and deeply rooted rabbinical family of generations, it is his innocence and righteousness that made him famous in public.  Different legends and facts circulated about him that demonstrated his innocence and integrity.  Even miracles were attributed to him, and we will hereby examine some of them.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                     A Humble and Withdrawn Man

 

1)  One day it became known in Ilya that a resident of the town, a Jew known as Berale Bashas, was arrested by the Russian police, accused of stealing horses.  The rumor spread quickly in town.  One of the landlords thought it right to bring this to the Rabbi's attention, Rabbi Moshe Shlomo, and to deliberate as to what is to be done.  When our Rabbi heard the story, he became very angry, and admonished the teller harshly for crossing one of the explicit "Do Nots" of the Torah: "Do not gossip," "Do not bear false witness," "Do not embarrass your friend in public," etc.  Of course, Rabbi Moshe Shlomo did not believe the teller.  "Such a story is impossible," he continuously claimed:  "it is explicitly written:  Do Not Steal."

 

[75]

2)  As mentioned, our rabbi was an innocent man,  withdrawn and distant from worldly events.  When his name became known, he was invited to participate in a rabbinical convention in the town of Dolhinov, at a distance of about thirty kilometers from our town.  The only means of transportation between the two town was of course the horse and wagon, and it took about 4 hours.  After the honorable rabbi passed about half the distance, he turned to the driver and asked:  is this still Russia?  To the driver's response: "yes," our Rabbbi muttered:  it is indeed, then, a huge country.

 

3)  As a withdrawn man he was deeply absorbed in his Talmud studies day and night, and did not feel at all what was going on around him.  One night he studied in his room by candlelight, and did not hear at all that his little child was crying and wailing.  His father-in-law Rabbi Leibale, who was woken up by the howling, went to calm the child down, but was extremely surprised to see his son-in-law awake and studying Talmud, not hearing what was going on around him.  In order not to interrupt his studies, Rabbi Leibale turned to calm the child down himself.   After an hour, the whole situation repeated itself.  The child burst out crying and again Rabbi Leibale went to the baby to calm him, although Rabbi Moshe Shlomo was still awake and studying the Talmud in front of him.

                                    The following morning, Rabbi Leibale turned to his son-in-law, Rabbi Moshe Shlomo, and demanded that he grants his wife a divorce, since he does not participate in the burden of raising their son.  To Rabbi Moshe Shlomo's amazement, Rabbi Leibale told him the incident of the crying at night, but Rabbi Moshe Shlomo apologized and explained that he did not hear nor feel the baby crying.  To that extent he was deep in his studies of Torah.

 

                                                                                                                                                                      The Righteous shall Live by his Faith

 

                                    In the year 1905 when rioters made pogroms in the Russian Jewry, encouraged by the government to plunder and kill, rumors reached our town that conspiring peasants decided to take advantage of the weekly market day, when tens of thousands of peasants gather for market exchanges, to rob the property of the town's Jews.

                                    Shocked and sorrowful, mourning, their heads bowed down, the Jews walked about upon hearing this intelligence.  Their first deed was to go to the town's Rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Shlomo the righteous, the knower of the visible and the hidden, to tell him of their misfortune. [76]  When the rabbi heard of this, he declared a small Yom Kippur.  All the Jews from old to young gathered in the synagogue for public prayer, and the rabbi himself passed in front of the holy ark in order to eradicate the evil of the verdict.  At the end of the prayer the rabbi turned to his flock and encouraged them to trust in God's assistance, that will arrive instantaneously.

                                    After these consoling words, the spirits calmed down a bit, and the belief in the strength of Israel overpowered the hesitation and fear of danger.  The public dispersed to their houses, and with relief the grocers opened their businesses.  At the very same time the leaders of the conspirators gathered in the Jewish bakery, to get drunk and cheer themselves up toward the operation.  Although this was winter and it was cold and snowy, loud thunders were suddenly heard.  One of the bolts went into the bakery, where the conspirators were gathered, hit the leg of a small Jewish girl, and tore her shoe off without hurting or scratching her leg at all.  On the other hand, this thunder bolt cut off the right hand of the head of the conspirators.

                                    On hearing the thunder, the peasants who were about to plunder were frightened, and they embarked on a quick retreat from town, accompanied by their shouts:  "The Jews are throwing bombs."  Indeed, the hoped for miracle, that the Rabbi Moshe Shlomo promised, occurred.

 

                                    Many years after his death, the elderly still insisted on his mystical force, and his holy name was uttered by all with awe and respect.

 

 

[77]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          M. TZ.

 

                                                                                     THE GA'ON  RABBI SHMUEL BEN YEHOSHUA ZELIG, REST IN PEACE

 

                                    At the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, the Rabbi Shmuel Zelig, rest in peace, served as the rabbi and the head of the Yeshiva in our town Ilya and its vicinity:  Khachenchitz, Viazin, Susenka and more.  Rabbi Shmuel was a hard-working student, an active public servant, and a capable writer.  This we gleaned from his book "Minchat Shmuel," that was published in the year 1802 in Vilna.

                                    As a talented pedagogue and a student of the Velozin Yeshiva headed by Rabbi Chaim, he tries in the aforementioned book, that constitutes an interpretation of the "Brachot" tractate, to use the method of the Ga'on from Vilna.  That is, to explain the chapter simply and succinctly, in order to demonstrate to the young Torah scholar how to get away from endless sophistry, that would confuse him and distant him from the core of the matter.  Rabbi Shmuel hopes that his thesis on the "Brachot" tractate will serve as precedent for his generation's scholars, encouraging them to publish other books in that spirit, which would make swimming in the sea of Talmud easier for young students.

                                    As was appropriate for his generation of the school of the Ga'on from Vilna, he left the rabbinical crown in Ilya and made aliya to Israel and settled in Jerusalem.  Here too Rabbi Shhmuel continued to serve the public with faith and devotion.  According to Mr. Pinchas Graveski's book "In Memory of the First Chovevim" Rabbi Shmuel published another book in Jerusalem, in 1809, called "Gates of Tears."

                                    Apart from his being a scholar and a believer he also handled the public affairs of the community.  He especially struggled to provide for the poor and unfortunate among Jerusalem's Jewry.  The many who lost their property received secret gifts from him without ever knowing who the anonymous giver was.

                                    Rabbi Shmuel's name was made known in Jerusalem as a master of Torah, and among his many close friends was also the chief rabbi of the Ashkenazi community in this period.  He was famous, much loved, and popular among the Jerusalem community, and his name was blessed by all its Jewish residents.  In the year 1818 Rabbi Shmuel died and found a place of rest in The Mount of Olives.

 

May his memory be blessed.

 

[78]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          M. TZ.

 

                                                                                                                     THE GA'ON RABBI ZE'EV WOLF BROIDE REST IN PEACE

 

                                    Rabbi Ze'ev Wolf was born in 1851 in the city of Minsk that is nearby our town.  As was the custom these days, the youth turned to the Torah Hostels, distinguished himself there by his wonderful dedication and by his rapid and clear comprehension abilities.  At the age of 18 he was ordained a rabbi by the Ga'on Soloveitsik, the head of the court of the city of Lutsek, and later the rabbi of the town of Brisk.

                                    He was 19 when he reached our town looking for a hostel for Torah and for the right atmosphere for studying.  In our town Ilya he married Mrs. Yachne of the house of Hotner.  His wife was the one to carry the burden of providing for the household, and thus allowed her husband to study and teach Torah uninterrupted.  And indeed Rabbi Wolf climbed from stage to state and became famous as a master of Torah.

                                    Since his marriage and throughout his residence in Ilya, he would allocate time for Torah with the local Rabbi, the righteous Rabbi Moshe Shlomo, and they would both learn together laws and especially the "Shulchan Aruch" tractate.

                                    At 30 he was already well known and accepted in wide circles of Torah in Lithuania and Byelorussia, and was thus invited to head the Broisk yeshiva and during his 25 years of service he brought forth many distinguished students.

                                    During the First World War Rabbi Wolf returned to the city of his birth, Minsk, and along with his colleague the Ga'on Rabbi Leib Rubin from Volkomir in Lithuania, he established a yeshiva and continued to teach Torah.  The end of the First World War and the stabilization of the borders between the states left him in Minsk in Soviet Russia, whereas our town Ilya, a distance of only 60 kilometers from Minsk, where his family lived, was considered a part of the state of Poland.  This situation saddened his spirit and drew near his end..

                                    On passover 1931, when he was 80, he was suddenly called to the yeshiva up above, and a letter from an anonymous writer, who risked his life and crossed the border for that purpose, told his son, Ben Zion Broide, that his great father was no longer alive.

 

May his soul be blessed.


[145]

Eternal Light          

 

For my parents Abba and Gitah Koplovitz, of the house

of Broide, and my sister Malkah, who perished

in the Holocaust of our people; this on the eve of the resurrection of Israel.                                     

May their souls rest in peace.   

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Aryeh Koplovitz

 

                                         The Ties between Ilya and Eretz Yisrael, Past and Present*

                                                                                                     (approximately two hundred years of aliya[xii] from one town)

 

                                    Like burnt firebrands, to which providence allowed the privilege of coming to live in independent Israel, it is our duty to erect a memorial for our town and for its Jews, who once were and are no more.  Our modest contribution will be in telling the wonderful stories of aliya, from the distant past and from the period between the two World Wars.  These stories testify to the tight bonds between our town, Ilya, and Eretz Yisrael; bonds that passed the tests of time.  We will unravel here chapters of grandeur, magic and longing, chapters saturated with yearning for Israel, for aliya and for Zionism, and stretching over a period of approximately 200 years.  Since some of these tales refer to previous generations, however, and since they were transmitted from generation to generation orally, it is possible that here and there the facts are strewn with fiction.  We will do our best, hence, to accurately transmit what others told us and also to describe the characters of immigrants from our own time and pass all this on to the next generations.

                                    Numerous factors spurred the different generations of our town to make aliya, but common to all was the love for the land.  Whereas the first generation was moved mainly by deep religious fervor, whereas the next generation came in order to fulfill the mitzvah[xiii] of settling the land, whereas those who [146]    followed went to Eretz Yisrael to die and be buried there, afterwards a turning point has occurred:  namely the development of the nationalist ideal.  Now came to the land olim whose hearts' desire was to settle and build it.  The motive of those who followed them was the vision of the resurrection of Israel; then came olim who carried in their hearts the readiness to struggle against the conqueror and to liberate the land.  We have now arrived at the year 1948, and the next olim, who fought for the independence of Israel and sometime have bravely fallen in the battle field.  The state was born.  Olim from our town who were wandering across Europe picked up the immigration to Israel.  Every survivor directed his steps towards Zion.

                                    Even today, as these words are being written in the year 1961, during the State of Israel's thirteenth anniversary, we still see a feeble stream of olim from "over there" seeping in; their ragged limbs arrive from the valley of tears, to take cover underneath the shadow of the developing state of Israel.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                     And Our Eyes Shall See

                                    The vision of the Jewish people and its love for the land intertwined for thousands of years.  With his mother's milk, the Jewish child received the love and yearning for the land.  Already in his childhood his lips were trained to mumble:  "and our eyes shall see the return to Zion."  All this stamped in him the indelible mark of love and yearning.  Thus a secret and burning chain of desires and dreams was formed, that he carried with him throughout his life, in joy and in sorrow, until his descent to his grave.

                                    To counter his impoverished and gloomy life, a life accompanied by constant anxiety and fear from the hostile and conspiring goyim surrounding him, he immersed himself in faith and in the memories of the Bible that were planted in his heart as a child and that awoke in his imagination longings for a glorious past...For we, too, were once a free people in Eretz Yisrael.  A people like any other people:  with our own royal habits, with our own governmental rule that provided days of war as well as of tranquility.  But as long as we were rooted in the land, we knew no despair.  There always came a leader who put himself at the head of the camp and for the most part succeeded...  Eventually we were conquered.  The people were exiled, disseminated among the goyim, and lost its independence.

                                    Close to two thousand years have passed and the people began to recover.  Despite their wide dispersal and their oppression through the generations, and because they were special and different from others, their spirit never failed.  From the its depth, joyfully and sorrowfully, they turned their soul to Zion and to the renewal of national freedom.  This longing passed from generation to generation and thus

[147]                penetrated the souls of our fathers.  As Judaism suckled from the roots of the holy and ancient

Hebrew tradition, thus our fathers' fathers carried in their hearts, in the darkness of the prolonged exile, the vision of complete salvation.  In their hardships and their wanderings, they dreamed about it.  Granted, in their difficult living conditions, in their fear, in their poverty, most of them were forced to be content with merely pure prayer.  But in all periods there were a few, courageous and heroic, who stood up to fulfil their soul's desire - to immigrate to the land of their fathers.

                                    The yearnings for Zion are no shorter than the length of the exile itself.  But we shall skip over some of the better known facts of the history of Israel.  In all periods of the bitter exile a few groups and individuals fulfilled the mitzvah of the return to Zion -- before and after the destruction of the First and Second Temples, in the middle ages of the false prophets, and so forth.

                                    But these facts do not bear a particular relevance to our town, and we will now examine the direct participation of our town members in the various aliyot.

 

                                                                                                                                                                               The Aliya of the Hasidim

                                    The history of the Jewish people in the diaspora is inherently tragic:  due to our loss of national independence, to our willing or forced segregation, and due to our historical destiny.  Providential trials of tribulations and pernicious edicts, throughout the exile years, created a series of additional disasters, based on continuous suffering on the one hand, and the hope for salvation on the other.  Despite our people's famous persistent and adamant faith in its Protector and Savior, the prolonged disappointments that it suffered created fertile ground for the actions of various radical visionaries.  Even if their motive was the hastening of redemption for the oppressed and suffering people, the outcome was disappointment and conversion.

                                    Many God-fearing believers were swept away by this tragic whirlpool.  Such was the fate of the supporters of Shabtai Tzvi, of Ya'akov Frank's Hasidim, and of others.  These tragic fates taught the leaders of Israel in the next generations to fight every new movement while it is still in its diapers, and to ban every new idea while it is still fresh.

                                    Our purpose is not to explicate the origins of the Hasidic movement, its incentives and goals.  This has been done by various historians and writers.  Our present purpose is merely to clarify the background, to shed light on and explain the reasons for the bitter and persistent struggle between the Hasidim and their adversaries.  To our town Ilya, located as it is in the planes between Lithuania and Reisen, the Hasidic movement arrived in a later generation and in its HABADic manifestation.  The

[148]                creator and spiritual founder of the Hasidic movement in our area was Rabbi Shneor Zolman Meladi.  Although he was not among the direct disciples of the Ba'al Shem Tov, but rather a student of a student, of Rabbi Ya'akov Yossef, he was nonetheless discovered to be a gifted thinker of Hasidic learning and foundations, and a creator, founder and preacher of great stature.  The core of this Hasidic learning is to instill optimism and joy of life into the grim existence of the people.  His ideas were based on the Zohar writing, the Ari and the Kabbala, and he gathered these in his well-known book "Tania."  He assumed that these ideas will provide firm foundations for the survival of a people that tribulations and disappointments brought to decadence and moral disintegration.  The group that gathered around him was called HABAD, an acronym for "Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge."

                                    The most important Talmudic authority during this period and in area was undoubtedly the Scholar Rabbi Eliyahu from Vilna -- better known as the GERA.  Among his principles were the objection to the sophist method of learning Talmud, prevalent in his generation and before.  Instead, he offered a more simple and practical method of learning.  In addition, historians mark the fact that he prescribed the study of nature, mathematics and astronomy as necessary for the plunge into the Talmudic sea and for fathoming its bottom.

                                    It is not our intention to deviate and describe the magnitude of this divine man and his many actions.  This is not the task prescribed.  We would like to explicate, mainly, the affair of his persistent, bitter and prolonged war against the Hasidic movement; a war that was undoubtedly the main and primary reason for immigration of Hasidic groups to Eretz Yisrael two hundred years ago, and among them the first olim from our town.

                                    The dissemination of the HABAD groups in our area in those days was slow and hesitant at first, and encircled especially groups who did not include the biggest scholars and champions of Torah.  The basics of the HABAD teaching were understood by the masses as the preferring of faith, joy of life and fervor over reason, learning, and knowledge of the Talmud, and hence their attraction to it.  Moreover, the habit of condescension of the scholars of that period towards the lay "masses" hastened the growth of the Hasidic movement and contributed more than just a little to its integration.

                                    The Scholar Rabbi Eliyahu from Vilna, the light of the Diaspora in this period, who knew the magnitude of the disasters brought about on the Jewish people by messianic and segregational cults, was horrified by the development of the Hasidic movement.  The HABAD movement that rose in his area seemed to him to be a new edition of these messianic cults, but of a larger scope and greater force.   The

[149]                danger seemed real, and so he countered it with a war of annihilation.  During this struggle, that took place in Lithuania and in Byelorussia, extremists on both sides used horrible and forbidden measures that even led to the interference of state authorities and to the arrest of the Rabbi and of the Scholar both. Of all the men who tried to reconcile and to prove to the Scholar that his fears were not founded, that no danger threatened Judaism from the HABAD movement, none managed to convince him.  Even the special attempt of Rabbi Menashe Ben Porath, of our town, one of the Scholar's closest disciples, to personally examine HABAD by visiting the house of Rabbi Shneor Zalman, has not managed to sway the Scholar from his rigid position.  The internal war persisted, accelerated and reached new heights of hatred.

                                    Those were hard and bitter days.  This futile hatred amongst the clan of Israel grew and flourished, and was especially felt, bitter as poison, in the small towns.    Those were days of sighs and hardships for the Hasidim, but for their persecutors as well.  Imagine this:  in a small town, where a few hundreds of families emerged, grew, and formed together, tied to each other with family and neighborly bonds, suddenly thirty families segregate themselves from the crowd.  The majority of the town were inspired by the Scholar, and thus saw the segregationalists as a real danger to its existence and to the existence of the people as a whole, and started a warfare against them.  They were barred from participating in public prayer, stripped of the privilege of "going up to the Torah," their children forbidden to participate in Torah education, no one would have any contact with them - they became virtually lepers exiled from the camp.  Those were dark days for the HABADs and heavy blows were dealt to them.

                                    And despite all this, they would not capitulate.  The blows toughened them and developed strong feelings of mutual help among them.  Although most of them were of the lower classes and with scant material means, they began to recover, and with their special kind of enthusiasm began the construction of an independent temple, "Shtibel."  The few men of means among them carried a very heavy financial load, but the poor, too, endeavored to help above and beyond their meager means.  But even taking all this into account, it is doubtful whether they could have survived the financial strain on the one hand and the loneliness on the other, if it weren't for their decision to accept a widely branched family, one of the sons of which was involved in the tragic "Hagar Tzedek" affair.  Now both sides reached out for each other and their loneliness subsided.  The lone family joined HABAD and the HABAD people embraced it.  This covenant allowed both sides to widened their social circle and the basis of their sustenance.

                                    As long as the Hasidim were faced with hardship, they found the power and the energy needed to cope with the obstacles.  But when the tensions eased a bit and they found themselves in a relatively tranquil position, they realized that in the final analysis they were isolated.  This isolation increased day

[150]                to day and weighed heavy on them, especially on the sensitive and wealthy among them.  When no other solution was found, they decided to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael in order to resolve their special problem.  Thus originated a consequential movement to make aliya among the Hasidim, including some of our town's people.

                                    Rabbi[xiv] Isaac Meir Ben Yossef was a tenant of a flour mill in Ilya for almost his entire life.  When a boy he was orphaned from his father, and instead of continuing his studies in the Cheder[xv] and moving on to the local Yeshiva, he was compelled to enter the work force at an early age, to provide for his small sisters and brothers and for his widowed mother.  The man indeed succeeded in his task and achieved a firm financial basis, although at the expense of knowledge of Torah and education.  As a wealthy and recognized community member, that has money but aspires for respect, he tried to gain the latter through public work and honorary community service, but his status as a layman hindered him from doing so.  The educated town's people, who were the most influential in public affairs, rejected him for this reason and he thus became embittered.

                                    The formation of HABAD in the town served him, thus, as a springboard for his ambitions.  He felt that his time has now come and his dreams of becoming an important public figure will now be realized.  Instantaneously, he joined the Hasidim and they provided him with wide grounds for public action and for achieving respect.  Rabbi Isaac Meir now financed their actions and took care of their organization.  Thanks to his energy and material means, the required sums for the construction of the "Shtibel" were now raised.  Under his initiative and financial support, a HABADic scholar was summoned to instruct the children of the Hasidim, and his every need was supplied by the Rabbi:  he ate his bread and sheltered in his house.  All this made gave him the right to be considered a pillar of the HABAD community in our town.  All was well, then, and Rabbi Isaac Meir was adorned by two crowns:  wealth and respect.  But fate decreed otherwise, and the tables soon turned.

                                    The young scholar Rabbi Naftali Ben Yehuda, a hard working genius well versed in Talmudic law, was accepted as part of the family at Rabbi Isaac Meir's house, for the preceding eight years.  He was a gentle boy, perhaps ten years old, when his father brought him from far away to the Ilya yeshiva, so that he could acquire knowledge of Torah and wisdom.  The director of the Yeshiva, who liked the boy very much, managed to put him in a wealthy household so that he would be able to devote all his energy to the Torah without lacking for anything.  Thus the boy arrived at Rabbi Isaac Meir's house, where he turned Bar Mitzvah and grew into a handsome youth.   He made progress in his Torah studies and in his manners and earned love, respect and deep appreciation.  But, as we shall see, action has to be preceded by thought.  Rabbi Isaac Meir, a man of action, had been devising for some time practical plans concerning the young scholar Naftali; he wanted, with all his heart, to have him wed his beautiful only

[151]                daughter, Esther, who was about to come of age.  Despite his public success, the fact that he was but an ignorant layman caused him unimaginable suffering.  Giving his daughter in marriage to a studious and distinguished Torah scholar would have compensated him for his suffering.  He did not doubt for a minute that this plan would succeed, especially since he was not only rich but also an important activist in the HABAD congregation.  The fruit was ripe - all he needed was to reach out his hand and pluck it.

                                    Rabbi Isaac Meir's wide involvement in the HABAD congregation and his enthusiastic support, took as of late all of his time.  No other cause occupied now so much of his attention and energy, as if he wanted, by his special efforts, to catch up with the years of no public involvement that were forced upon him.  Suddenly fate interrupted and loaded the dice.  His secret ambitions were shattered to pieces.  Still debating how to raise the proposal to his future son-in-law, to speak frankly and negotiate the terms, his wife informed him that the desired son-in-law left the house never to return.  He was shocked.  The nightingale for whom he has builded the gilded cage flew away.  Although this was a blow, he did not lose his senses.  Recovering his serenity, his pragmatic and clear brain devised a plan to return Naftali, the intended groom, to his house.  He understood that in this case the most promising means of doing so would be direct confrontation, but he hesitated to do so for various reasons.  After further deliberation, he decided to plan a "coincidental meeting;" this was the only plan that could result in success.  Since he knew his place of abode, and his hour of return at night, Rabbi Isaac Meir was able to ambush the future groom.  The planning was impeccably precise.  The meeting with Naftali, that occurred at a late hour, seemed absolutely coincidental.

                                    "Greetings, Naftali," began Rabbi Isaac Meir, "what a coincidence.  From whence are you coming and where are you headed?"  he continued to ask, side-tracking the conversation.  When he felt that the conversation flowed easily, he asked, as if by the way, "why do we not see you in our house lately?"  The answer that came was hesitant and mumbled - part apology, part evasion.  But Rabbi Isaac Meir did not let go of his victim until he discovered the complete truth.  The reason had to do with the ties between Rabbi Isaac Meir and HABAD.

                                    The young scholar Naftali stood there ashamed and embarrassed and whispered between his teeth, hesitantly and self-justifiably, "I cannot do harm to my benefactor, but be informed that the GERA from Vilna declared the HABAD Hasidim to be heretics and prohibited any connection with them."  To the emotional response of Rabbi Isaac Meir the miller, namely that these allegations have no basis in fact or truth, the young scholar answered that the GERA undoubtedly knew what he was saying!  "Who am

[152]                I to doubt his deeds and words?  His words are my law."

                                    Cold sweat covered Rabbi Isaac's face and his vision grew dark.  He felt that he was about to collapse.  Such a blow has never been dealt to him in his life, and he realized that his beautiful dream was evaporating.  He lost his balance, but did not collapse.  His physical strength proved itself.  Although the young scholar continued with his apologies, explaining his tough situation and his double loyalty, these words did not register in his brain.  This condition persisted for a few minutes.  Slowly he began to recover and his brain began to work.  His tongue, that was temporarily silenced, now recovered its nimbleness.  Despite all, he could not refute the allegations.  He stammered:  "only your good and the good of my daughter count, I am already old, my entire copious wealth was accumulated for your sake.  Do you really believe me to be a heretic?"  His heart told him that his response permeated the soul of the young scholar.  He felt that the latter's perseverance has slackened, that a crack appeared in the wall, but in order to conquer it completely an additional assault was needed, and for that he did not have the required strength at the moment.  He set the date, therefore, for the decisive assault that will take place in a meeting held, according to his suggestion, at the young scholar's house.  Rabbi Naftali, whose nerves and conscience were undermined by this conversation, tried to clarify the futility of such a meeting, but he was not strong enough and was forced to agree, on the condition that the meeting will take place in the middle of the night, in an isolated place outside town.

                                    They met in the middle of the night.  Rabbi Isaac Meir, the miller, a practical man of much experience in life, was full of ideas and arguments.  The young scholar virtually collapsed under the weight of his reasoning and was convinced that his arguments were correct - and yet he did not yield.  "What will the people say?" he claimed, "my friends, my acquaintances, the heads of the yeshiva and the entire town?  I can not!"  To this emotional defense Rabbi Isaac did not have any answer.  Morning dawned already and a solution was not to be found.  Suddenly, the miller's face brightened.  The brilliant, saving idea arrived.  The appropriate and desirable solution to both sides was found:  marriage and immediate aliya to Eretz Yisrael.

                                    "For years now," began Rabbi Isaac Meir, "you have been dreaming of immigrating and settling the holy land, and now I give you my blessing and my assistance - I will give my daughter a generous dowry, that will last you for the trip and for sustenance for the rest of your lives.  This is your opportunity.  All over, Hasidic groups are organizing now to make aliya to the holy land.  My wife and I will settle our affairs, God be willing, and join you soon.  This, to my mind, is the plan that will solve

[153]                all the problems and difficulties."  The young scholar Naftali was astonished, and in his excitement he became tongue-tied and could not utter one sentence.  His excitement was understandable.  His life's dream was about to come true.  As a sign of consent he was only able to extend his hand.

                                    As the sun came up the two sides parted company and went each his own way, having sealed the agreement with a handshake.

                                    Not many days went by before the young couple disappeared from the town.  The mystery was solved when Rabbi Isaac Meir parted from the HABAD people before his family's immigration to the holy land.  Rabbi Isaac Meir the miller promulgated the exciting news himself.  These two families, therefore, were the first olim from our town, from the HABAD congregation, and they opened the way for additional others.

 

                                                                                                                                                            The Aliya of the GERA's Disciples

                                    The relationship between the Hasidim and their adversaries in our town and in Lithuania in particular were reflected most clearly in our previous chapter.  In one sentence we would have described it thus:  The hatred between the camps was abysmal.  Only one interest did they share in common, the longing to make aliya to the holy land.  But even here one aliya was different from the other, in three salient features:  in its motives, its composition, and its organization.  In contrast to the motives of the GERA's disciples, that were purely religious, those of the Hasidim were, granted, mainly religious, but not solely; in any case not for the Lithuanian Hasidim.  They had other motives:  to be released from the continuous tension produced by the struggle with their adversaries and by the constant harassments.  The second difference between the two camps of olim had to do with the age component.  While the makeup of the Hasidic aliya was diversified, from young to old, the GERA's disciples were almost all elderly.  And another difference.  While the Hasidic aliya was almost a unique and spontaneous act, the aliya of the GERA's disciples was organized in stages and with discretion.

                                    The first olim of the GERA's disciples came while he was still alive.  But their organized aliya started, in fact, after his death, in the beginning of the 19th century, when his disciple Rabbi Baruch of Shkelov became their leader.  This aliya was better organized, and included the provision for the olim's sustenance once they arrived in the land, using links between Eretz Yisrael and the diaspora.  In our area the center of organization was in the town of Volozin, that was famous especially due to its well-known Yeshiva.  Here the organization work was done thoroughly and with much thought; the result of a

[154]                calculated and well-tried out plan.   The material difficulty that the Hasidim in the Holy Land had to endure served as warning to the GERA's disciples.  They thus dedicated their utmost efforts to the material side of the problem, in order to allow for an aliya of copious dimensions, even for the poorer classes, and to deprive them of suffering.

                                    The first of the GERA's disciples from our town to make aliya was Rabbi Reuven Tzvi, a distinguished scholar and a God-fearing believer, but too much of an enthusiast.  The idea of making aliya and settling the land captured his heart; he was addicted to it with his heart and soul and daydreamed about it, when he went to bed at night and when he woke up in the morning - constantly.  But the organizational arrangements, that took many years, displeased him.  His tempestuous nature gave him no rest.  He wished with all his heart to bring about the salvation, and for that reason he traveled a several times to the organization's center in Volozin but returned empty handed.  Out of frustration he even turned to the GERA and complained about the slow preparation and the postponement of salvation.  The response, namely that lengthy preparations are crucial for the success of the aliya, did not convince him.  He accepted the ruling reluctantly, but upon the GERA's parting he made preparations to be on his way.  His wife's attempt to dissuade him, to control him, did not succeed.  Her claim that one must follow the crowd was not heeded to.  When his efforts to convince his older sons to join him did not succeed, he made aliya on his own.  Only 10 years later his wife and sons joined him.

                                    Rabbi Moshe Ben Ya'akov, from the congregation's leading members, product of four generations of scholars, public figures and men of action, stood at the head of the candidates for aliya in our town.  Still in the prime of his life, He was tall, lofty, and handsome.  His soft and smiling eyes radiated kindness, his black beard was strewn with first grey hairs on the background of his fair face, and his blushing cheeks added a special noble grace to his appearance.  Smart, moderate and popular, his speech was slow and calm, convincing, and every sentence he uttered was weighed and measured.  He was a wealthy man, partially from inheritance and partially self-made, earned by his work as a supplier for the big landlords.  The fact that he could approach the landlords at any time and could talk with them freely in their own language added to his weighty public position.  All these combined, naturally earned him the leadership of the community.  His influence was thus very big and everything that crossed his lips was accepted unflinchingly.

                                    However, Rabbi Reuven Tzvi's struggle to hasten the salvation and his sudden aliya by himself, that caused the family's disintegration, agitated the spirits and undermined the position of Rabbi Moshe Ben Ya'akov, the leader.  The candidates for aliya, that up until then relied solely on his discretion, now began a vocal and public debate.  Although the majority condemned Rabbi Reuven Tzvi's hasty behavior, there were many others who condemned Rabbi Moshe's slow pace of action.   In fact, this storm contributed to the hastening of the process of immigration of the GERA's disciples from our town.  From

[155]                now on the pressure on Rabbi Moshe Ben Ya'akov increased.  Some of the candidates complained and demanded the hastening of the aliya.  Following this development, Rabbi Moshe began applying pressure on the organization center to quicken and to spur the process. In the mean time, the preparations were completed, the candidates settled their businesses and packed their belongings.  On Lag Ba'omer holiday 1809, eight families from our town made aliya, all from the GERA's disciples, and Rabbi Reuven Ben Tzvi among them, all in all 54 people.  All the town's people saw them off to their new life, the Torah scrolls carried at the head of the procession.

                                    The year 1959, the State of Israel's eleventh birthday, was also the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of this aliya; and the decedents of those olim, who are dispersed throughout Israel, gathered to commemorate that historical event, known in the history of the Israel as the "Vision of Zion" Aliya.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                  The Aliya of the "BILU"

                                    Whereas we could only describe the aliya of the Hasidim and of the GERA's disciples of our town on the basis of general impressions transmitted from generation to generation, without being able to separate fact from fiction, we have now reached a period that was witnessed by the reporter of these facts, my late grandfather, Shalom Sheftel Broide, may his memory be blessed, when he was still in the prime of his life.  Also, our town's member and our friend, Mr. Chaim Levin, may he live long -- who now lives here with us in the State of Israel at Ramat Hakovesh -- labored to tell us the facts as they occurred concerning this period and the one immediately to follow.  We can now progress with assurance and describe with detail the olim, using the facts related to us by the above witnesses.

                                    Again we see our town contributing its share to the general aliya effort, with renewed force.

                                    Every period and its own problems, every aliya wave and its own motivations -- and this time they were the pogroms in Russia.  Since the Hasidic and GERA's disciples aliyot and until this current one, the people have advanced significantly.  Due to the French Revolution and its principles, due to leaving the Ghetto, and to other factors, lofty national sensibilities were awakened among the people.   The place of the former aliya motive -- religion --  now was taken by national consciousness, that developed and found expression in the "BILU" movement, the latter being an acronym for  "House of Ya'akov, let us go."[xvi]  In contrast to the former aliya objectives, to go to the land in order to live there in a holy and pure manner and to grace its soil in death, the BILU olim posed the objective of returning to the land of the fathers in order to rebuild it and lay the foundations for auto-emancipation.

 

[156]

The Aliya of Rabbi Yerucham Chefetz

and his family, may their memory be blessed:

 

                                    The spread of the BILU ideas that created strong waves amidst parts of the Jewish youth in Russia, lit a youthful fire in the heart of our town's member Rabbi Noah Hotner.  Since the man was on the brink of old age and could not join the young BILU's and participate personally in the fulfillment of the ideal, he decided to contribute his share indirectly.  The fact that his financial situation was stable and firm, since he was one of the proprietors of the glassware factory "Hota," and the fact that his young son-in-law was an enthusiastic supporter of BILU, made the accomplishment of his mission easier.

                                    Rabbi Noah Hotner's desires integrated well with those of his young son-in-law, Rabbi Yerucham Chefetz, from Rogtsov.  The former granted his approval to his son-in-law's ideals with the appropriate Hasidic enthusiasm.  Moreover, he promised him considerable financial support for his getting settled in the land.  While Rabbi Yerucham was still walking around in our town Ilya, making the preparations for the aliya, he was already daydreaming and planning his life in the new country:  how he would be integrated into the new liberated society, that is in transformation from an old way of living to a new one, one that his father's-fathers did not know of.  How he and others like him will lay the foundations for a new construction.  How he would plant the vulnerable seedling that may grow into a multi-branched tree, deep rooted in the earth under the skies of the future national liberation of the people.

                                    At the completion of his planning, Rabbi Yerucham and his wife made aliya to the land and joined its pioneer builders at the mother settlement[xvii] and the planters of its citrus groves.

                                    This event left a deep impression on the town and opened the way for other families to make aliya.

 

                                                                                                  The Aliya of the family of Rabbi Mordechai Zafran - Mazal,

                                                                                                                                                                          may their memory be blessed

 

                                    Mr. Mordechai Tzvi Zafran, a young scholar from the town of Cloria in Lithuania and an active BILU member, visited his uncle's house, Rabbi Moshe Mazal, in our town, before leaving for Eretz Yisrael.  Although he was a temporary guest, he did not abstain from preaching the ideal he believed in and wished to realize with all his heart.  He infected every young man or woman that came into social contract with him with the germ of his fervent belief and with the vision of redemption, first and foremost the members of the household that accommodated him, his uncle's house, the entire Mazal family. The

[157]                atmosphere at Rabbi Moshe Mazal's -- him being the son-in-law of Rabbi Benjamin Broide, was saturated with Torah, enlightenment, lofty social background and wealth, and it captured the young scholar's heart.  Here the young and cultured youth found peace and pleasantness.  This pleasant environment that charmed him was completed by the figure of the young and graceful daughter Tzvia, who was an enthusiastic believer in the same ideals that he harbored.  Slowly their acquaintanceship deepened until their hearts beat as one.

                                    The next development was almost natural and certainly understandable:  the young scholar took his cousin, Miss Tzvia, to be his wife, and together with her and other BILU's they directed their steps towards the land of their fathers.  When they got there they settled in Petach-Tikvah and built their house and their future.  The wife's conceiving of a child caused particular happiness to the couple because their first child would be born in Eretz Yisrael.  But tragic and cruel fate decreed otherwise; the happiness was destroyed.  In giving birth the wife died, on the land that so attracted her and that she so loved.

                                    The Mazal family, remnants of the house of Rabbi Liebel Kubner, may he rest in peace, from the father's side, and of a multi-branched family tree of Torah scholars and men of action on the mother's side, were astonished by this tragedy; they were hard-hit but not conquered.  "The lord gave and the lord taketh away," muttered the head of the family, the scholarly, innocent and honest head of the family, when they learned of the bitter disaster.  But Rabbi Mordechai Zafran's emotional request arriving from Eretz Yisrael, to allow him to renew the tie with the Mazal family that he so respected and admired, cleared a bit the bitterness.  "It is decreed that the dead will be forgotten," mumbled Rabbi Moshe Mazal.

                                    Accompanied by mixed feelings, both hers and her family's, the second daughter, Miriam, started towards Eretz Yisrael and towards her fate, to fill in the position of her sister as wife and to be a mother to her first child.  The shocked Mr. Zafran, that has been mourning for a long time over the wife of his youth who died so tragically, gradually found solace in the organization of the first school in Petach-Tikvah and the instruction of the children.  He recuperated and waited for his second wife - Miriam.  Entering his household, she found considerable courage and quickly adjusted to the new life, to being her sister's child's mother and a loyal wife to her husband.

                                    For many years, Mr. Zafran enthusiastically continued the instruction and education of children.  He saw his career as a crucial pioneering mission and thus raised generations of students.  But in his spirit he always remained the pioneer.  When he realized that the teaching track entered a smooth course and seemed well-established, he sought other pioneer jobs in the virgin land.  The ideals that he espoused and preached when he was still abroad never abandoned him, and were always the guiding light of his life.

[158]                Since he saw himself as a founder of the future nation he preferred to volunteer for the creation of the first pockets of Jewish self-rule, in which he saw the core of the realization of the independence dream.  Thus he undertook the role of secretary to Petach-Tikvah's central committee.

                                    Despite all this, he did not abandon the mitzvah of building and developing the land, and fulfilled it with his own two hands.  He planted by himself orchards and citrus groves that bloom to this day.  With his second wife, Miriam, he knew happiness and longevity.  He raised a large family, that settled in numerous settlements in the land.

 

                                                                                                                                                        The Aliya of Rabbi Benjamin Broide,

                                                                                                                                                                              may his memory be blessed

 

                                    In spite of the fundamental change that occurred in the olim's composition and the objectives of the Aliya, some elderly people continued to make aliya in their old age to grace the land's soil.  In this trend, too, our town participated directly.  One of those olim is my grandfather's father, may his memory be blessed.

                                    My late great-grandfather, Rabbi Benjamin Broide, was a descendant of a lofty family of Torah scholars, most of whom were also men of action.  Tall, broad-shouldered, aggressive and full of self-confidence, despite being a scholar and a religious man he did not shut himself up in the domicile of the Torah;  Despite him being a successful merchant, a major supplier to all the big landlords in the area whose doors were always open for him, this too did not suffice.  He undertook the task of public work as well, a task which he carried out with love, loyalty, pride and determination.

                                    He had two seemingly contradictory, but in fact complementary, characteristics:  aggressiveness and gentleness.  His public tasks he performed with determination, candor and persistence.  But in his private relationships with people and in the circle of his family he was accommodating, indeed as pliable as wax.   Outside his private business and his public work, he adopted an additional "career" as a "chanter against the evil eye."  Every child that became sick was brought first and foremost to Rabbi Benjamin to be "freed" from the evil eye.

                                    He loved his wife, grandmother Sarah, deeply, and canceled his own wishes for the sake of hers. He consulted on every issue, small or large, public or mercenary, with her, and her influence on him was decisive.  My late mother Gitah, may she rest in peace, told me some facts that illustrate the magnitude of grandmother Sarah's influence on grandfather:  sometimes (when people outside the family were present) one look from her sufficed to indicate to him the position he should take.

[159]                                                    Although he was on the brink of his senior years, he was still a healthy and agile man.  Still at the height of his activeness, grandmother Sarah hinted to him that he is no longer a young man and that the time has come to fulfill their soul's desire and to make aliya to the Holy Land.  The subtle hint became a command, and he immediately began the preparations needed for aliya.  While he was distributing his many assets to his sons, his wife fell ill.  He shut himself in her room and would not leave her bedside for months -- and she, before shutting her eyes and returning her pure soul to her creator, entreated him to make aliya to Eretz Yisrael.

                                    Grandfather Benjamin Broide, may his memory be blessed, indeed fulfilled her request and her last will and made aliya on his own.

                                    He was fortunate; his material means allowed him to remain independent in Eretz Yisrael.  He was lucky not to require the "chaluka"[xviii] that poor, elderly olim of his age usually needed.  Therefore, he felt good, and in his letters to his children abroad, letters that were filled with love and vision, he expressed his sorrow for coming to Eretz Yisrael at such an advanced age, that prevents him from joining actively the builders of the new settlements.

                                    He had merely two years to live in the country of his childhood dreams and to enjoy its radiance and splendor.  Still healthy and feeling well, he was suddenly attacked by yellow fever that forced him into a sickbed from which he never arose.  He died, and his grave was dug in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives.

                                    May his soul be blessed.

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                        THE SECOND ALIYA

                                                                                                                            Isaac Mazal, son of Moshe and Tibel, makes aliya

                                    The days of tension and pogroms that the Jews of Russia underwent were caused by the awakening of the masses to fight for freedom against oppressive rule of the Czar and his government.  Aiming to weaken and oppress the spirit of liberation that increased and encompassed many throughout Russia, the Czar Government directed the anger of the masses against the Jews and gave criminal elements a free reign to spill their blood and thus acquiesced the dissatisfied and freedom-thirsty masses.

[160]                The fact that Jewish blood was being spilled to crush a revolution, and that Jewish blood was also needed to oil the wheels of the revolution, gave rise to sad thoughts in the hearts of many of Israel's youth and led to the conclusion that there is no existence to the Jewish people outside an independent Eretz Yisrael.

                                    We return again to the same family, this time to the elder brother Isaac.  The teaching he received through his ties with the "Chovevei Zion"[xix] organization, namely to love Zion, led to the natural step of him joining the second aliya, and indeed Isaac made aliya with his friends from the second aliya and settled in Petach-Tikvah.

                                    The crucial meeting between the two primary aliyot of this period - the aliya of the 1880's called "BILU" and the Aliya of the 20th century called "the second aliya" - was difficult, problematic, and rather painful.  Although they shared a common goal and their motives originated from the same source, they could not reach a common understanding.  The fervent and militant socialist baggage brought by the people of the second aliya estranged the BILU's; whereas the employment of Arabs by the BILU's was coolly regarded by the second aliya people.   It was resented especially since it resulted in the difficult absorbance of the second aliya people into the scant agricultural work- opportunities of these days, a phenomenon that caused bitterness and an acute struggle.

                                    Our acquaintance Isaac Mazal's final stop was at the mother of settlements, Petach-Tikvah.  And this was natural.  First because, like most of his friends among the new olim, he too was recruited to agricultural work at the settlement closest to the port of his entrance at Jaffa.  Second, because his married sister Miriam lived in this settlement and was already rooted in the local community and has been for the last fifteen years.  But the latter reason did not turn out well.  Precisely because of the family relation, he found himself in a difficult and unpleasant personal situation.  Why?  Because he undoubtedly belonged to the second aliya, considering the date of his immigration and especially his social outlook; whereas on the other side, the one behind the barricades, according to his views, the unsympathetic group that objected to his friends' labor rights, stood his sister and brother-in-law and others like them, veteran residents of the mother settlement.

                                    His inner conflicts continued until the notion invaded his brain that he was no longer trusted by either side.  In debating his friends he did not wholly agree with them, and more than once made the

[161]                claims of the veterans of the settlement and defended their point of view; whereas in his sister's house he felt that justice was on his friends' side and heatedly and fiercely fought for their position.  The conflict increased from day to day and reached new heights.  He felt that due to his unique personal situation -- the fact that he was stuck in between --  his loyal friends stopped consulting with him and began to doubt whether he still deserved their trust.  On the other hand, it seemed to him that in his sister's house too he felt reservations and caution directed towards him.  He walked around gloomily, and no longer had the force to glide over the abyss and fight for his soul and conscience; he needed to make a choice, and the choice was hard and complicated.

                                    He reached the end of his rope at the last shift of labor in which he participated with his friends, especially since this time he needed to stand, fists raised, against friends that he had the honor to meet at his sister's house, from the BILU veterans of the settlement like herself.  This confrontation completely shattered the gentle Isaac; the too-tightly-wound string broke, and he fell ill.

                                    After his recovery there was a turning point.  His sister, who carefully and with solicitation followed the stages of his disease, understood suddenly that it had to do with pricks of his conscience, and that the solution would therefore have to be found, first and foremost, in the area of pioneering.  Indeed the crucial need for physicians in the new and suffering settlement convinced him that the proposed track was best suited to his pioneer ideals for which he has sacrificed so much.  Our Isaac thus took a new and important path.  With the help of his sister and brother-in-law he started for the University of Beirut and graduated there from medical school.  Upon his return he became a doctor in Jerusalem.

                                    For over 40 years he guarded the health of the Jews of Jerusalem under pioneer conditions.  But most of his time was devoted to the inhabitants of an elderly home in Jerusalem, to ease the suffering of the aged and the lonely during their final days.

                                    May his soul rest in peace.

 

[162] 

                                                                                                                                                                        Mr. Meir Dizengof Visits Ilya

                                    A few weeks before the visit of this important guest from Eretz Yisrael to our town, the Jewish population was already full of commotion and alacrity.  It is no small thing to have the privilege to see a Jewish minister from Eretz Yisrael, and especially when it was reported that this Jew is also the special envoy of the famous and glorified Baron de Rothschild.  Could one miss such a rare opportunity?

                                    During the few weeks of anticipation, the air was filled with legends, rumors, tales and interpretations as to the purpose of the visit.  The curiosity to meet a Jew from Eretz Yisrael and see him in person completely vacated the houses of the town.  Every inhabitant, young to old, streamed to the entrance of the town to meet the distinguished and rare guest with blessings and enthusiasm, carrying the Torah scrolls in their palms.

                                    The second in order of importance to received the attention of the crowd and who was glowing with happiness was the host Rabbi Noah Hotner, one of the proprietors of the glassware factory.  Mr. Meir Dizengof's mission was to visit him.  Mr. Meir Dizengof, who later became famous as the founder and the mayor of the city of Tel-Aviv, turned to the Hotner family, the proprietors of the glass factory "Hota" near our town, in the explicit purpose of receiving their help in the instruction and perhaps the importing of a few specialist, for the construction of a similar factory in Eretz Yisrael.

                                    The Baron Rothschild, also known as the "Great Benefactor" was at that time in the midst of his constructive activities for the development of the land.  Having planted grapevines, he founded some wineries but in order to export their products abroad and make them marketable, he required a local factory for the manufacturing of bottles that will serve as containers for the exported wine.  The Benefactor saw in this project yet another stage in the development of the land and in the creation of further labor opportunities for the Hebrew worker.  The success of the plan depended, of course, primarily on the importing of experts, preferably allies.

                                    Our town member Mr. Noah Hotner, who had strong emotional and family ties to Eretz Yisrael, wanted with all his heart to help its construction and development, and therefore did not hesitate for a moment to comply with Mr. Dizengof's wish.  Happily and willingly he provided him with the required

[163]                experts.  Although this act of generosity caused the local factory considerable material loss, there was no happier man than our Mr. Hotner, especially when Mr. Dizengof appeared publicly in the local synagogue to deliver greetings from Eretz Yisrael and thanked Mr. Hotner publicly for the important and generous help that he gave for the development of Hebrew industry in Eretz Yisrael.

                                    Mr. Dizengof's emotional farewell to the Jews of Ilya and the aliya of the experts that he chose to construct and work the glassware factory in Eretz Yisrael, were most impressive events, and very many remembered them for years to come.

                                    The factory intended for the manufacture of bottles was indeed constructed in 1903 at Tantura in Samaria, but unfortunately it did not stand the hard tests faced by the pioneering Hebrew industry at that time and was doomed to failure and liquidation.  But the families that made aliya became rooted in the land of Israel. 

 

                                                                                                                                                         THE ALIYA OF THE CHALUTZIM[1]

                                                                                                             Aryeh Mazal (Chaim Leib) and his Father's Household

                                    Although 35 years of life have passed, his image still stands in front of me, as I saw him in my childhood, close to his aliya in the middle of the 1920's:  squat, broad-shouldered, in the prime of his life,  wearing a hard, black bowler.  His fair face was full, meticulously shaved and embellished by a black "Chaplin" moustache, and expressing strength.  He strode with a cane in his hand, that had a round ivory handle.  His shoes were polished shiny and his whole being testified to glory and splendor.

                                    When Aryeh Mazal made aliya, the foundations of the town's Zionist activities were shaken; Zionism was still in its diapers, and he was one of its leaders. Especially hurt was the Keren Kayemeth Le'yisrael[xxi] that he led for years.  He not only preached Zionism and was the main spokesman for the Keren Kayemeth, but he did the "foot work" as well, going from door to door to explain and seek donations.

                                    He suckled his love and yearning for Eretz Yisrael from two separate sources;  The first was, of course, the fountain from which all generations have drank - the Bible, and the second, the one particular [164]       and real to him, alive and bubbling:  his ties with his sister and brother who made aliya dozens of years ago and became rooted in the land.

                                    He grew up in a house characterized by a tangible Zionist atmosphere.  The conversations that took place in his parents' house about the land were not dreams and yearnings, but facts and reality.

in responding                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Keren Kayemeth Le'yisrael

please mention                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Vilna Bureau

no. 1920

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Permit

 

                                    Comrade L. Mazal of the town Ilya, Vileika region, is a hardworking activist and for many years worked endlessly and faithfully for the benefit of Keren Kayemeth Le'yisrael, in his town. 

 

                                    All national and Zionist institutions are asked to accept and recognize him.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Keren Kayemeth Le'yisrael

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            General Bureau in Vilna

 

                                                                                                                   Paper issued by KKL to Aryeh Mazal before his aliya

 

 

The frequent letters from his sister, who was one of the Petach-Tikvah firsts, told of life's conflicts and of a tough and pungent reality.  The letters from the brother, the veteran Jerusalemite doctor, raised the particular problems of the eternal city.  Therefore his zionism was less ethereal and more practical.  This is perhaps the reason why he devoted most of his strength to the Keren Kayemeth, which was concerned with the large task of redeeming the land.

                                    To Aryeh's praise we should say that he never believed the imaginary ideas of a "redeeming revolution"; even when his friends were burned with their faith - he was concerned only with Zionism.

                                    Suddenly the Czar's chair was jeopardized and Aryeh Mazal was asked to go to the front to aid him.  But our moderate and sensible friend did not get overly excited over the Czar's invitation and did not make haste....  Instead he decided to alter his identity:  he grew a large beard, equipped himself with the papers of an old man, and disappeared from the scene. At first he tried to hide at his relative's in other towns, but when the searches were made more severe and the chimney, into which he inserted

[165]                himself at the last minute, saved him from being captured as a deserter one time, he took a saw and an axe, bribed somebody, and appeared in a new identity:  that of a forester....

 

                                                                                                                                                                       -  P  H  O  T  O  G  R  A  P  H -

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                          Aryeh Mazal as a forester

 

                                    The regime collapsed and the "comrades" assumed power.   They now began an energetic and open search for draft dodgers and deserters and thus they arrived at the forest.  The representative of the authorities -- apparently also from the seed of Avraham our father -- looked at Aryeh Mazal's face and asked:  "what are you doing here?";  "I chop wood" -- responded our Aryeh. "His visage is not that of a 'worker'" -- declared the representative.  "I do not work with my face but with my hands," responded Aryeh, -- "well, then, show me your hands" -- commanded the representative.  And when he looked at his hands he added:  "neither are your hands those of a worker"....  After a moment's reflection he thundered:  "come with me!!"  But Aryeh escaped once again.

                                    His Zionist activities, began before the First World War, was cut short and renewed only after the end of the World War when he and his friends in action, younger and older, returned from great Russia and the renewed Poland.

                                    The days were those of post-war hardship, hunger and suffering.  Aryeh Mazal, returning to his home at the end of the war, was found suitable to head the community and was elected to this position

[166]                unanimously.  From now on he devoted his time to the problems and worries of the collective:  organized the project of "Brother's Aid" of the United States, intended to ease the hunger,  took care

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                 -  F  A  C  S  I  M  I  L  E  -

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                Community stamps and

                                                                                                                           the stamps of the chair and the secretary - 1920

 

 

of the organization of medical service, with the kind help of "Oza."  He was elected to the position of the community leader, and re-organized community life.

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                      -  P  H  O  T  O  G  R  A  P  H  -

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                        Aryeh Mazal in his

                                                                                                                                                  years as head of the local community

 

 

 

[167]                                                    Since he fulfilled his job with decency and honesty he sometimes was forced into confrontation with the authorities, but he did not recoil, and as a result was arrested and put in jail.

                                    When he made aliya along with his father's household , his parents, Moshe and Tibel Mazal, and his sister Yocheveth, settled in Petach-Tikvah, while he was absorbed in Jerusalem.  There he gave assistance to his brother the doctor in easing the pain of the elderly in the United Elderly Home in Jerusalem, in their last years.

                                    He now rests from his life's labor in Jerusalem and is still strong, clear, and active, and contributed generously for the erection of the memorial for the town.

 

                                                                                                                                  Tuvia Ben Chefetz, may his memory be blessed

                                    At the end of June 1959, in the early hours of morning, I was startled by a discordant buzz of the door bell.  When I opened the door, there stood my childhood friend Yonah Riar.  In answer to my question of what his sudden visit so early in the morning might mean, he responded:  "I need to find out something urgent from your wife."  While they were talking, my heart predicted that something unusual has happened, some disaster occurred.  As they were whispering and consulting on now to tell me of the disaster, I surprised them by guessing what has happened. 

                                    Tuvia! Dear Tuvia is no longer with us.  We are left stricken, astonished, depressed and shocked, gloomy, widowed and orphaned.  Surrounded by mourning and abysmal grief - we cry over the biggest loss and the tragic and sudden death of our town's member, our friend, Tuvia Ben Chefetz, may his memory be blessed, who left for the house of his creator, for God has taken him away.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                *     *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       *

                                    Only yesterday he glorified with his image, his appearance, and his astonishing stature, the streets of the eternal capital; only yesterday he spoke from the stage of Beit Ha'am[xxii] in Jerusalem and educated the public; the day before yesterday he eulogized on Kol Yisrael -- the Israeli Broadcast Service -- the martyrs of the most horrible Holocaust in the history of our people;  only yesterday he still walked among us and glorified with his presence our town's assembly; only yesterday he was alert, and alive, and as full as a pomegranate with plans for action in the future -- but modest, humble and shy.  And now?  "There was a man, and behold:  he is no longer," "Before his time he has died, and the poetry of his life was stopped in its midst;"[xxiii]

[168]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                *     *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       *

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                      -  P  H  O  T  O  G  R  A  P  H  -

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                            The late Tuvia Ben Chefetz (1899-1959)

 

                                    I was a small child of maybe four years of age, and he a tall lad of 19.  Only his tall stature is engraved in my memory of that time -- he was taller than the rest of the people.  then he disappeared from my sight.  When I grew up I discovered the astonishing and tumultuous story of his life:  the shaking off of the illusory revolutionary ideas; the leaving of his mother's household; the thirst for knowledge and wisdom; the conquering of cultural and scientific values and the aliya to Eretz Yisrael.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                *     *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       *

                                    Like many young people of his generations, who cultivated foreign fields in their youth, Tuvia became addicted to lofty and illusory ideals of freedom with his entire tumultuous soul.  But fate decreet that he would be liberated from these illusions, although not without inner-conflicts, sufferings, hardship, disease and imprisonment.

                                    Tuvia began a new life upon his release from prison.  First and foremost he desired Torah and knowledge, and with all his youthful energy he plunged into the fountains of knowledge and drank until he was saturated.   First he was a student at the Polish gymnasium, through the Hebrew seminary for teachers in Vilna.  But this did not suffice; the desire to plunge into the sea of knowledge and science

[169]                brought him later to the university of Berlin, where he studied law and economy, but he turned to Zionist activity as well, this time to "Po'alei Zion,"[xxiv] first in Vilna and then in Berlin.  He thus shaped his fate with his own two hands and found his way towards life in the land of Israel.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                *     *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       *

                                    While in Switzerland, recovering from a serious illness, he met his future wife Victoria.  He made aliya to Eretz Yisrael, settled in Jerusalem, and build a nest for his family.  Fate wanted him to serve the Hebrew public and educate it with his ideas, to preach for faith and vision in the State of Israel - a far cry from the ideas he worshipped in his youth.  For thirty years he stood at the head of Bet Ha'am in Jerusalem and lit an eternal fire of deep faith in the hearts of the masses with his enthusiastic speeches.  For thirty years he walked the streets of the capital, until he became a virtual part of the scenery, a rock among its rocks:  salient, sculpted, strong, tall and exalted.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              *       *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       *

 

                                    When the horrid tragedy of the Holocaust was discovered, the extermination and mass destruction that included Ilya, his home town, and its Jews; when her scorched remainders, burned by the hellish fire of the destruction, began to assemble in independent Israel, he made an appearance among them.  He stayed with them, encouraged them, and induced them to commemorate the town and its martyrs, by publishing a memorial book.  It was the talented and educated Tuvia, of course, who undertook the weighty task.

                                    Suddenly, we were orphaned.  Although he tried to make haste, he was not privileged to begin the project that he so wanted to create.  Now he is gone, and the heavy task fell from his wide shoulders to ours, but his will shall be done.  We will try to be worthy of it, and will do the best of our limited abilities.  And may God help us.

                                    Tuvia Ben Chefetz, the elected and the glorious member of our town in Israel, was plucked away suddenly, and his grave was dug in the mount of eternal rest.

                                    May his soul rest in peace.

 

[170]

                                                                                                                                                               Nechama Rogozinski - Meirovich

                                    If you were to ask our town Ilya's people for Nechama, I promise you that the majority would not know who you are referring to.  Some might not even know that you are speaking of a girl from the town.  But if you were to ask for Nechemka - I swear by my "tzitziyot"[xxv], that every single member of the town would stand up and exclaim:  of course!  Which is to say, everybody called her Nechemka, her friends as well as her foes.  There must be something special about her temperament.  She is hard to argue with.  This is how I remember her as a twenty-year old in our town, and this, or similar to this, is how she still responds today, after so many years.  In one phrase:  an eternal youth.

                                    I knew her father well and admired him.  An educated man, he was of a beautiful spirit and free in his opinions.  In his youth he cultivated foreign fields and carried to the Jewish street the fervor of the revolution.  With the rise of Poland he stayed on that side of the border, a fact that determined the rest of his life.  Although his opinions were already shaped, he was tolerant to the opinions of others; he listened and he considered, and debates with him were easy, free and pleasant.  When I visited his house I was still a lad and Motke his son was of my best friends.  Fate was cruel to him.  Still a newly-wed, his wife died and left Nechemka, still a baby, and Motke, an infant, to the grace and mercy of providence.

                                    He married, went into commerce and succeeded, and thus allowed his daughter to have an orderly high school education - something very few of our town had.

                                    There was no considerable age difference between us, only a few years, but we were of two different worlds.  I was a small boy and she already a blooming and attractive young woman:  her face contours very alert, her hair golden and a bit curly, her eyes small, blue and smiling, her mouth tiny and arched, an eternal laugh rolling charmingly over her lips.  Despite her small stature and her round body she was proportionate, agile and quick.  Her intonation was clear and her voice carried to the distance.

                                    The father's success in commerce did not last long.  The educated, the revolutionary and the merchant do not often combine in one body.  Despite his tumultuous past, he was a very naive man, and his partner cheated him of his share of the business.  Thus the decline began, and forced Nechemka to stop her studies and come back to town.  And the father was forced to return to his previous occupation -teaching, and he taught Torah to Israel's children and raised a whole generation of Hebrew speakers.

[171]                Years past and the Zionist movement made its assault, and conquered every house, and our Nechemka was taken captive.  The next development was natural:  joining the "Chalutz,"[xxvi] undergoing training, and then aliya to Eretz Yisrael.

                                    After a pause of a few years, Nechemka was the first olah from our town in the beginning of the thirties.

 

                                                                                                                   Esther Laberferb - Barzovitz and Yehoshua Lapidoth

                                    When I go back to the aliya made by Esther and Yehoshua I recall, inadvertently, the creation of the aliya fund. It was not acceptable in these days to have a fund-raiser or a raffle and to dedicate the income to an intended purpose, but this time we diverted from the town's customs.  We transferred our action to the surrounding towns, although each of them had their own numerous problems.  The mere novelty of our approach guaranteed its success, and indeed we achieved good results.  If you were to ask my fried Yonah Riar, he could tell you about our "trip" for days, about the experiences and adventures that he and the writer of these lines went through.  It was a courageous and unforgettable project.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                *     *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       *

 

                                    Esther and Yehoshua are cousins, friends, and members of my generations.  They joined BEITAR[xxvii] when it was established in our town in 1929.  From there they went on to training, in order to be among the lucky who get to make aliya to Eretz Yisrael.  Although each got his or her training in a different time and place, they were both among the first; she as a woman and he as a man.  Thus they got to go to Eretz Yisrael under the first aliya permit that was given to BEITAR in Ilya.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                *     *

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       *

 

                                    The bloody events of 1929  against the small Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael, shocked the Jewish diaspora and especially the Eastern European Jewry.  The effect of the riots was the opposite of what the murderers had hoped for.  The life danger did not deter anyone from coming to Eretz Yisrael;  on the contrary:  it strengthened and reenforced the Zionist movement - and pushed it a step forward, but the

[172]                desire of the masses to aid the assaulted little settlement, was met with closed gates.

                                    At that period, the "Covenant of Trumpeldor," or BEITAR, appeared in the Jewish street, aiming to turn the five fingers of the weary hand into an iron fist that would protect life and property and will make way for a life of independence and honor.

                                    Among those that answered that call were Esther and Yehoshua, both on the brink of adulthood.  Esther:  a jolly, blonde, tall and pretty girl, that attracted everybody's eyes.  She was smart, social, and had a sense of humor.  She was blessed with a rare ability to find her way on the roads of life.  Yehoshua's image was completely different:  short, slim, but muscular and strong.  He was quiet, and a son to an obstinate race that gave birth to fanatics and warriors, who treat everything seriously, do their work whole-heartedly, advance with persistence and courage, and whose belief never flinches.

                                    A man's character is his fate.  Both found their way in Israel according to their character.  Esther was married, whereas Yehoshua joined the BEITAR recruit and was his character was forged.  During World War II he joined the British Transit unit, and then fought with the commando troops of the British army throughout Africa while, at the same time, being active in the Jewish underground resistance.  He participated in the storm of revival of the War of Independence.

                                    Even today, when he hears the trumpet summon - he is prepared.

 

                                                                                                                                                               Ahuvah Solominski - Teitelbaum

                                    Ahuvah deserves that we tell of her harsh, fierce battle over her rights to participate in the "Chalutz," to go to training and to make aliya.  Encouraged by the conquests of the Zionist movement and its permeation into all circles and classes of town, Ahuvah began a struggle with her parents over her right to go to training.  Even earlier she was forced to fight for her right to join the "Chalutz," but the latter confrontation was nothing compared to this one.

                                    Daughter to wealthy parents, among the proprietors of the mechanized flour mill of the town, who tragically lost their older daughter Roshka as she was giving birth to her firstborn, they could not imagine, even in their nightmares, that they would have to part with the younger daughter, Ahuvah.  The strong and bitter struggle continued and exacerbated every day, but the sides would not concede in the slightest.  At the decisive moment, Ahuvah was revealed in all her astonishing perseverance and strong character.  Rather than stay at home, she chose to sever all ties, albeit not without scruples.

                                    She went to training and made aliya, and at the very last moment the two parties reconciled.

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                      -  P  H  O  T  O  G  R  A  P  H  -

 

 

 

                                                                                                                          The late Rabbi Eliyahu Solominski - her father                        

 

                                    As the parents of Ahuvah stood in front of their open graves and the machine gun was activated to take its death toll, they probably thought of Ahuvah and felt blessed by her strong character and her wise perseverance.

 

                                                                                                                                                                               Tziporah Riar - Korveinik

                                    Rabbi Noah Riar's household was joyful and lacking in worries.  The general atmosphere decreed that happiness was of primary importance.  Five out of the six children knew how to sing well, and did so willingly and enthusiastically.  On wonderful summer evenings, as the sun set, their romantic voices, accompanied by the guitar and the mandolin, were carried as far as the meadows and the river.  The mandolin was the national instrument in this home, and all the children, excepting one, played it and accompanied their hearty singing by it.  Although none of them could read music, they used the number

[174]                method and got hold of every new song after only a single hearing.  These shared inherited talents:  cheerfulness, absentmindedness and humor, were not part of our Tziporah's character.  She was different and separated, a kind of a dissonance in the loud orchestra of the house.  Unlike her brothers and sisters she was quite, serious and focused, and when she opened her mouth her speech was weighty and wise, the result of much deep and practical thought.  The character differences were so marked, that one felt them immediately.  Undoubtedly, this was partially the result of her passing her early years outside her parent's home.  This injected much seriousness and independence into her blood.

                                    She joined the Zionist movement and the "Chalutz" on the brink of adulthood.  She took the path of visionary fulfillment when she stayed in the town Vishniva outside her parent's home, and went first to training and then to Eretz Yisrael.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                           THE MA'APILIM[xxviii]

                                                                                                                                                       Aryeh Koplovitz - The First Ma'apil

                                    The sun had already set, the evening's darkness was spreading from horizon to horizon, and I, descending from the bus, dragged my weary feet, but my heart was filled with joy.  I had just arrived from the regional town Vileika, and a day filled with strenuous activity and endeavors was behind me.  Only my Chutzpa helped me in my difficult situation.  It seems that sometimes presumption is worth it...  Only this morning I was oscillating between hope and despair and crying like a little boy, when the clerk that handled my affairs postponed my departure for another week, while my ship was setting sail in three days.  I begged and explained that I had already completed my military service, but received no response.  I felt my anger rising in me, and that in another minute I was going to explode.  I got up and left, and went towards the office of the regional supervisor to complain.  But imagine my surprise when on the two sides of his door stood bully-looking guards, that detained me politely.  I repeated the tale of my woe, but they only nodded their heads in sympathy, and could not help me beyond that.  I decided to take a courageous step and force my way in, and I succeeded.  The guards still shocked, I slipped into the supervisor's room running, and, my breath quickening, stood in front of him and said:  "Sir! I behaved

[175]                inappropriately when I barged in here, and for that I am sorry, but I met with much hostility and did not have, technically, the time to reach you through the proper channels.  Please forgive me."  I told him my story, and added:  "Men in Poland nowadays call for 'Jews to leave for Palestine,' but he who attempts to do so is detained, what could that mean?  The day after tomorrow my ship sets sail, but the clerk who handles my departure permit rejects me repeatedly."

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                      -  P  H  O  T  O  G  R  A  P  H  -

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                             Aryeh Koplovitz

 

                                    Tension rose between us... I gazed at him and saw that his face sobered... "I failed," I thought.  But I was wrong....the tension was eased.  His face slowly relaxed and a fatherly smile appeared instead.  He came over and took my hand in his, and walked with me across a long hallway, to the right and left of which were offices, until we entered the room of the clerk in charge:  "grant him the permit immediately!" the supervisor muttered, and turned to leave the room.  I hurried after him to thank him for his humane consideration, and shook his hand with warmth and gratitude. 

                                    The way back home went by quickly.  I was engulfed deeply within myself and hadn't noticed at all when I reached town.  I exited the bus and approached home quickly.  I reflected on my parents who had stood in my way and tried to dissuade me from my determined decision in various ways:  gifts, prayer and warfare.  First they tried to convince me by proposing only a temporary delay, until the situation clears up, until the wrath subsides.  Then they were not reluctant to use the persuasion methods

[176]                of a youth group.  They used friends and relatives to try and soften me up.  But I knew that their fate was in my hands, and deliberated on how to deliver to them this bitter pill with tact and discretion.  But despite that, I could not control my excited spirit.  When I got home and found my parents, sister, and cousin Shlomo Koifman, seated around the table, my first utterance was: "I succeeded."

                                    A deep silence spread in the room.  The last shreds of hope to detain my aliya were gone.  My mother gazed at me with tearful eyes and my father's gaze was paralyzed.  My sister, who encouraged me all this time, lowered her gaze and cousin Shlomo began:  "so you succeeded, huh?  can you be held accountable for your own step?  How can you, an only son to your parents, abandon them and get entangled in the web of illegal immigration?  Haven't you been reading in the newspapers about ships stranded in the middle of the sea and in them the hopeless youth of Israel?  Abandoned, with no food or water, and all near-by ports shut.  Do you not know about lost and wandering ships that led the youth of Israel and eventually sank?  Are you ignorant of the fact that the tremendous British fleet guards the coasts of the country vigilantly, that the Royal Air Force scans the mediterranean sea, that the British Intelligence operates in every departure port?  Under these conditions, is there the slightest hope of reaching Eretz Yisrael, is there even one chance out of a hundred?"

                                    "That is true," I answered. "Indeed, the present conditions are tough, but despite them one must

[177]                try.  Perhaps we would be able after all to break through siege.  This is my life's dream we are talking

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                      -  P  H  O  T  O  G  R  A  P  H  -

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                            My sister Malkah, bless her soul

 

about.  For this opportunity for aliya I've been waiting for years.  In my opinion, this is the last hour to leave; it is five minutes to midnight.  If not now, who knows if there will be another opportunity.  And I have another important reason, that partially cannot be explained and surely will not be convincing, since it has to do with emotions and my inner- feeling:  the war is coming.  Who knows better than you do that I willingly enlisted in the Polish army and fulfilled my duty as a citizen of this country, loyally and with devotion.   And, of course, I would not be willing to fight and die for Poland," I concluded excitedly.

                                    The initiative was again at the hands of our cousin, Shlomo Koifman, known for his wisdom and sobriety, who added:  "you claim that the skies are gradually darkening and the tumult of war is at the horizon; first, I must correct you - this is completely false.  There will be no world war whatsoever.  On the contrary -read closely the article written by your spiritual guide, Ze'ev Zabotinsky, whose every word is law to you, and then you would be convinced that your assumption is wrong.  There will be no war.  But even if there is a glimpse of truth in what your claim, that the skies are darkening, you need not panic.  You know the saying:  the dog bark and does not bite.  As for your claim that this concerns your feelings and intuition - well, that is a different matter.  Although one cannot argue with emotions, I will nonetheless try.  Let us suppose that what your heart predicts is solid and true and war will break out, do you really think that in our region, near the border, a mere 10 kilometers away from the Soviet Union, battles will be fought?  You see, in ten minutes the Soviets would take over the border regions.  Not only will the Polish not have time to muster their forces, but they would not even have time to say a final prayer.  Have I convinced you?  It doesn't seem like it.  Let us, then, continue along with your line of reasoning; let us assume that war does break out, do you think that the great battles will take place on anciently defined, settled and used lands in Europe, whereas the Eretz Yisrael region, where you hope to seek asylum, the Middle East, rich with oil fields and the site where the real interests of the powers of the world intersect, will be a paradise on earth?  Is that not naivete?"

                                    I was convinced by the strength of his reasoning and his healthy logic, but did not capitulate.  I responded:  "Clearly logic is on your side, and maybe even truth, but in matters of intuition one cannot be convinced.  But not only that:  I do not know where or how the war will break out.  Maybe it is closer

[178]                than we imagine and maybe I am wrong.  But if it does erupt, it will burn in different parts of the universe, and maybe the Middle East as well.  I have decided one thing, though.  If it is decreed that I should fight or die - I pray that this would happen in Eretz Yisrael, my ancient homeland that is being rebuilt and resurrected."

                                    "The day after tomorrow I leave town.  On this opportunity accept my gratitude and recognition of your effort to dissuade me.  I part from you peacefully.  May God preserve us all."

 

*     *

*

 

                                    For weeks now over 800 youths, men and women, from Poland, Romania, Belgium, France and the independent Danzig, have been rocking about on the small ship "Prita" on the mediterranean, beyond the territorial waters of Eretz Yisrael.  The ship is unbearably crowded.  In the vault, where the suffocation is severe, triple-decked temporary beds were set up in an awfully crowded manner.  It is thus natural that from dawn till late at night everyone is on the upper deck of the small ship, to breathe fresh air into their lungs.

                                    In the Middle East the summer is now in its midst.  From day to day the heat rises and increases and cruelly burns the olim.  The sea's surface is smooth and quiet as a mirror.  A few youths are lying on deck, sun-tanning in the scorching sun, as if they were in the Riviera, but their hearts are secretly worried.  The journey that was planned to last 10 days has so far lasted about seven weeks.  The light ships that were supposed to appear and liberate our ship for other journeys, and bring us to the shores of the homeland, have been indefinitely detained.  For a while now we've been on the threshold of the promised land, but cannot reach it.  In the mean time, supplies have run out, and the water is rationed, for drinking purposes only.  The crackers, our daily portions, have been invaded by worms.  Someone uttered a typical saying:  "it is better for us to eat the worms than to be eaten by them."

                                    The situation worsens every day and every hour.  The communications with Eretz Yisrael and with abroad completely deteriorated.  The faith and enthusiasm that characterized us a week ago now evaporated.  The percentage of skeptics and plain pessimists, has increased.  Attempts at incitement and mutiny against the ship's leadership became common.  Although these were crushed with an iron fist, we faced anarchy; the food was gone, the water ran out, and the mediterranean ports were shut with a lock and key.  Attempts to enter the Turkish port, Izmir,

[179]                to be equipped with food and water and reestablish communication with the emigration organization, met severe warnings of use of force, of opening fire and drowning the ship.  We walked around gloomily, mournfully, our heads bowed down, without a shadow of hope and no purpose other than slow death.  In this mood a crucial decision was made, intended to test the seriousness of the Turkish warnings to fire and kill those who approach the port.  For that purpose 50 swimmers were chosen, who volunteered to swim ashore in order to gain the sympathy of public opinion and reestablish communication.  Fate so desired that the writer of these lines was among the 50 swimmers - these bold youths, who were about to test with their bodies the severity of the situation and use their lives to salvage 800 lost ma'apilim.  The time for the plunge was set for noon, and in the meantime banners and signs were hung on the masts of the ships, on which the Turkish words "Bread, water and coal" were inscribed.

                                    At 11:15 in the afternoon the deck of the ship was cleared, and only the 50 volunteer swimmers that remained on board watched the yearned-for shore, with hope for salvation.  Each sank in his own thoughts and prepared to make his final accounts.

                                    As in a movie, there passed before my eyes childhood, youth, adolescence and adulthood.  Childhood filled with learning and love of nature, in the forest and in the river.  Early youth, accompanied by a budding yearning for Zion and membership in the "Gordonia."[xxix]  In the days of happy splendor of my adolescence I was a student in a yeshiva, accompanied by my grandfather's blessing and his saying:  there is no ignorance in our family.  In the midst of my adolescence, on the threshold of the teaching seminary, I caught the romantic germs of the Zionist Movement and became drunk with its strong, addicting perfume.  In the midst of tensions, events and developments in the Zionist movement, I was captivated by BEITAR.  On the brink of adulthood I found myself leading a BEITAR training troop, in Oren near the Lithuanian border, from which I returned to years of activity in the branch headquarters.  A tumultuous and unrequited love affair caused much suffering.  Then, service in the Polish cavaliers,  hoping to use the acquired knowledge for the benefit of my own people.  All, everything and everybody, pass in front of my eyes:  the town of my birth, my parents, teachers, my only sister, the large extended family, including uncles, aunts and cousins, friends far and close, and my comrades in the movement whose call I answered and that due to which education I am now here.  Here...undergoing moments of nerve-shattering despair, on the brink of possible oblivion, or the longed-for realization...

                                    A deafening noise disturbed my thoughts.  A plane passed low in front of us.  The longed for

[180]                assistance has arrived -- my heart predicted, and the lips whispered:  "if only a miracle were to happen."  The clock moved forward.  Ten more minutes to action.  Boldly we will plunge into the sea, to live or to die.  7 more minutes are left before the beginning of the crucial operation.  Five more.  Tension rose to new, never experienced, levels.  "Get ready" - I heard the command.

                                    And in the horizon a steam boat rushes towards us with all its might.  Soon it will arrive, soon, and through the speaker we hear uttered in clear Hebrew:  "Stop! Stop! Stop!" - help is on its way.

                                    And indeed, help has arrived.  Mr. Ben-Chorin from the immigration center in Eretz Yisrael, presented himself to the government bureau as soon as he got off the plane and informed them as to the purpose of his visit, to help out ma'apilim who are stranded near the Izmir port.  The administration, fearful of a world scandal that would occur if the ma'apilim jumped overboard and were shot and killed, told Mr. Ben-Chorin of the developments of this critical situation and asked him to urgently come to the ship, supplying him with a car and a motorboat.  Thus Mr. Ben-Chorin was able to prevent the sad outcome.

                                    Relieved from the enormous tension that we have experienced, there we stood, the potential heroes, with the rest of the ma'apilim on deck, and watched him as he stood on the bridge with the commander of the ship, who informed us: 

                                    The small boats that were supposed to replace our big ship and free it for other similar voyages while bringing us ashore, have not arrived thus far and probably never will.  We will therefore not wait any longer.  As soon as today we will be equipped with food and water and row this ship ashore.  In three days we will set anchor, in the middle of the night, near the Tel Aviv coast.

 

*     *

*

 

                                    The night of August the 22nd, 1939, its lights turned out, our ship rapidly approached the shores of Tel Aviv.  Two lights in both ends of the city pointed our way.  With cautious silence, the deck empty in case of any surprise, we stood ready, holding our breath, and waited for the moment that the ship hits a sandbank or penetrates the shore's sand, a sign that we have arrived.  The Israelites that accompanied us parted about two kilometers away from shore and rowed a boat in another direction, whereas we found ourselves stuck in the sand on the shore opposite hotel "Kate Dan."

[181]                At dawn set anchor opposite the sleepy metropolitan, the waves rocking our ship incessantly.  Those who had relatives, or any known address to turn to, slipped away quietly and swam to the safe shore.  But the majority stayed, turned the sirens on, and signalled S.O.S. to hasten the approach of the police in order to finally get some rest from the weary wandering in prison.

                                    In the morning we were surrounded by the police and the descent from ship began.  For the time being we were concentrated in the garden of the cafe and were served some drinks, food and cigarettes.  The WIZO[xxx] women took care of us with exceptional warmth and devotion, by which we were very touched.  But the excitement reached its peak when from the buses in which we were taken to the Tzrifin prisoner's camp we saw the entire population of Tel Aviv standing by the road and cheering us.  Tens of thousands of voices were carried through the air:  "Do not be afraid.  We are with you."

                                    Our arrest lasted only seven days.  On September 1, 1939, at around noon, we were released, and when we got to Tel Aviv, a huge newspaper headline was there to welcome us:  " War has broke out between Poland and Germany."

                                   

                                    Today, after 21 years in Israel, as I am writing these lines in commemoration of my hometown and its Jews, the activities I was involved with since I arrived here come to the surface of my memory:  enlistment in BEITAR, for agricultural labor, immediately upon my arrival; public service as the secretary of an organization in Netanya;  contacting and becoming involved with the underground resistance movement; imprisonment in a British camp; participation in the War of Independence.  And until this very day, helping the absorption of immigration and its settlement.  Link after link in one chain of ideals that crystallized in my youth, somewhere in a home that was but is no more.  I now recall that sharp, hurtful, tragic debate we had.  A debate of this sort took place in thousands of Jewish homes in the diaspora, and thanks to those who did not recoil from the hardship, the pain and the disintegration of the family, the vision of two thousands years has materialized.

 

                                    How I wish you, my beloved parents, my only sister, and my dear cousin, could see our country and the state of Israel being built, developed, reenforced, as the survivors of the Holocaust stream in to build here their new home, a safe and eternal haven.  Will the people in the diaspora learn the bitter and rash lesson?  I pray they would!

 

[182]

                                                                                                                                                                                                 Devorah Sherman

                                    Devorah was a member of the "Chalutz," devoted and active, whereas her two younger brothers were in BEITAR.  That is the way it was in many of households in town, although I could not tell you why.  Her brother, Shlomo Zalman, was my friend, and moreover my commander in BEITAR.  Although there was only a slight difference in age, he was an adult and I was but a youth, and that was the determining factor.  Later, when I, too, became an adult, we became close friends and there were no secrets between us.  Devorah's other brother was Yechiel, a cadet of mine.  He was a wonderful boy.  We loved him very much, and never mentioned in front him how he spoke in his childhood, with broken words.  As I was told, they both tragically perished in the horrid Holocaust.

                                    About two months before Devorah's aliya, I ran into her in my parents store, as she was entering to do some shopping.  When she finished her business and was departing, she revealed that she received an aliya permit and that she was leaving in a few days.  We wished her luck, and I personally added:  I hope that you come to one of the ports to welcome me in a few months, but she never came.

                                    Now we know that Devorah did not use the aliya permit, but stayed in Poland another three months and only then, virtually on the eve of the war, she left as a ma'apilah to Eretz Yisrael.  Although her trip did not last long, only around 17 days, it was very dangerous.  The war has began and submarines were active where her deteriorating ship was rocking on the mediterranean.  Upon her arrival she went to Tel Yossef kibbutz where she has been for the last twenty years.  Devorah - the only one from our town who found her home in a kibbutz.

 

                                                                                                                                                        FROM RUSSIA TO ERETZ YISRAEL

                                                                                                                                                                             The Balaks - Remez family

                                    The aliya of the Balaks family in 1941 marks deep changes and great events that have occurred in the life that previously went on for generations "over there;"  it emphasizes the sharp turn.  We clearly felt that the familiar, regular way of life, within which we dreamt our best dreams, was sinking and disappearing in the horizon.  Instead there now arose a new order, one that we did not know in yester-days, an order that uprooted the firm foundations of previous generations, and caused

[183]               great suffering.  With the arrival of the Balaks family I received greetings from home - a living but sad message.  The Balaks family stayed at my parents' house for a while before coming to the country, and the message was direct and unmediated.  It contained a gloomy and complete description of present life in town and the fundamental changes that occurred in a short period of time.

 

*     *

*

 

                                    I was still a youngster when Soniah Remez married Leon Balaks, an artisan in factories in Simitits and Warsaw.  He was a son to a family deeply rooted in Judaism, in Torah, in family tradition and in good deeds, and was a personality on his own accord.  She left our town and followed the husband of her youth, and she left an empty space behind.  She acquired a special position in town, not only because she was the daughter of Rabbi Damta, a great scholar of Torah, educated, noble and of a beautiful soul (and we will return to him in a separate discussion), but due to her own personality:  fresh, cheerful and mainly beautiful, a rare and noble beauty that one does not come across often, not even one in ten thousand.  All that saw her stood in their place to feed their eyes on her beauty, to enjoy the radiance of her complexion and to wonder over the fact that nature gathered the most beautiful colors, features and grace in one body.  I will add no more - to add too much would be to subtract.  Thus she remains in our eyes - the unforgettable.

                                    We befriended Leon in Eretz Yisrael when he made his first steps here and had to start from nothing, having lost his property and undergone a rapid decline.  He was approaching 40:  an educated, gentle, God-fearing man, and a pleasant conversation companion, although he was modest, humble and shy.  Even though he was sickly, this did not reflect in his calm visage and was not made apparent at home either.  Conversations with him flowed; he kept track of his wife's town's people and their deeds and gave them advice from his ample experience.  We loved and respected him.

                                    Suddenly, his failing heart stopped beating.  We all accompanied him to on his way to eternal rest and his memory remains engraved in our hearts.  We mourn the loss and will not forget.

 

                                                                                                                                                                       Ya'akov Sinder - Ben Eliyahu

                                    On a spring evening in 1942, as a group of us Eretz-Yisraeli friends were sitting in my apartment in Netanya and discussing different issues, a knock on the door was heard.  To my invitation to come in responded Yenkel:  tall, strong, and wearing glasses.  His face reddish, long, embellished by a small

[184]                moustache.  He was wearing the uniform of a Polish soldier, those he wore leaving Russia and on his arrival here.  I was very excited.  We hugged and kissed.  For three years I was completely detached from home.  In my naivete I though that Yenkel will bring me living and palpitating greetings from home.  When I asked him how he found me, he quoted jokingly a famous Russian saying:  "the tongue will bring you to Kiev."

                                    For a few more days he walked around in his uniform and proudly represented the army of refugees, until we found him a place of employment.  Then we held a small ceremony and lowered the honored uniform to its grave.  Instead, there now appeared a new Yenkel, as if he was born in Eretz Yisrael.

                                    Yenkel, that is how we all call him, even today.  Although in the last few years he does not see us, his town members, often, for reasons that we, at least, do not understand.  He was my friend for years and together we studied and progressed in life.  We separated for a short period of time, but fate let us meet again, this time in BEITAR.

                                    In his youth he was multi-talented, full to the brim with knowledge.  He was not attracted to having fun and to girls.  He was always reading and memorizing.  We called him a walking encyclopedia.  He singled himself out as a talented writer and a pretty good public speaker, albeit a bit lengthy.  He was familiar and comfortable with three types of speeches:  Zionism, Judaism, and international politics.  He knew that the comrades were impatient, but he continued to speak until he exhausted the topic.  His Zionist speeches began with Genesis, and his international ones after the deluge, of course, with Noah's three sons.  His patience knew no limits and neither did his speeches.                             

                                    He was considered to be a fanatic in the movement and in the local Ilya branch.  We called him "Achimeir."[xxxi]  He considered almost everybody to be too compromising, too lenient and pliable.  He burned with the fire of Zionist faith, in his own way.  He debated, proved, and called for a change of policy.  He burned in the fire... until he was burnt.  He became "different" when he returned from Russia.

                                    Yenkel loved with all his heart and soul the freedom of expression and of speech, and that is also why he made lengthy speeches.  Meanwhile, the times have changed and a new regime came to power, a regime in which freedom of expression is not highly valued.  It seems like he had not felt the change and could not keep quite.  Interestingly, that is how he was sentenced to live.  He was summoned, convicted as a Zionist, and sentenced to 15 years of "stay" in a "national pension house."  He was taken - far, far away to the east.  That is how he survived the Holocaust.

 

[185]

                                                       THE ALIYA OF THE GHETTO SURVIVORS AND THE PARTISAN FIGHTERS

                                                                                                                                                                                               Shraga Solominski

                                    I only got to know Shraga closely 4 years before I emigrated.  Our personal meeting is tied to a special event during which a group of friends went to Vilna to hear a speech by Ze'ev Zabotinsky, who created a storm in the Jewish public in Poland in the summer of 1935.  Those were the days of tumult, tension, and great conflicts in the Zionist movement, especially in the main center of Judaism -- in Poland.  In his feisty speeches Zabotinsky captured tens of thousands of the young and the old.

                                    Shraga was of the generation of the organizers of the "Chalutz" in our town, who were 5-8 years older than us.  Since he was older, he broke the age barrier in our movement and opened the door for the enlistment of more older members.  At one period we met in the local leadership and formed a strong bond.  I respected, liked and cherished him.  With my enlistment in the Polish army our relationship was severed, and renewed only with his aliya.

                                    In the first German "actzia", that is known in the language of our town's survivors as the "first slaughter," Shraga was dramatically saved by hiding under snow for 24 hours, as the German guards were scanning and searching the area, stepping on his body.  The ghetto was created only later, and in it were gathered the few Jews that survived, using a thousand tricks.  Since he was supervising a mechanic flour mill that was necessary for the war effort, he received a permit to go to work and return.  Thus he was able to smuggle food into the suffering, starving, under-siege ghetto.

                                    He sensed the approach of the second "actzia" and the complete destruction of the ghetto by the increasing number of guards on his way back from work one day.  He thus immediately strained his brain to find a safe shelter.  With a small group he managed to survive, and from his hideout he saw the march of death.  At midnight, when it seemed that all was quite again, he exited the shelter with others.  They crawled to the fence, broke it and ran towards the forest, as German guards were pursuing them and shooting.  Under the shelter of the night, and hopping between houses, they approached the river and crossed it to the forest, a temporary safe haven.  Only fortune and blind coincidence led him to the partisan fighters, after a prolonged suffering in the woods, starving, pursued and tortured.  For years the bitter yet redeeming struggle continued, until one day the greatest enemy was annihilated, the war ended, and light dawned.

                                    Now he knew the road that he should take.  The dream he carried in his heart in the dark days of blood and violence was about to come true.  His main wish was to leave this huge European graveyard and to come to Eretz Yisrael.  While still in France with a group of our town's survivors, he found his way to the ETZEL[xxxii] underground resistance, and in his heart was the firm decision to make it to Israel and fight its battles.  But fate decreed otherwise.  Instead of arriving to the country he was caught and imprisoned with his friends in the prison camps of Cyprus, where he was held for about a year.  Only a short period before the Declaration of Independence did he arrive in Israel.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                         Shalom Sinder

                                    I have known Sioma since childhood; he was always chubby, tall, and broad-shouldered, in his childhood as well as in his youth.  He was affable, and good-natured.  Sioma was one of my cadets, and I used to affectionately pinch his cheeks.  When I taught him Hebrew I noticed that he was a very talented writer, but Sioma preferred commerce to writing.  I suspect that he sometimes secretly writes, or at least is attracted to it and will one day do so.  When we parted before my aliya he said:  if you succeed, I will follow you.  And indeed he fulfilled his promise, although belatedly, but not due to him.  In the period between the making of the promise and its fulfillment our town and its Jews were destroyed, the Jewry of Poland and a third of our people were annihilated.

                                    With the change of regime Sioma made his way eastward, dedicated himself to work, and was considered one of the "heros of labor."   He was thus spared the suffering, terror and destruction that his friends underwent.  The war passed Sioma by; he was far away from the town of his birth, from his parents, sister, and brother and their bitter fate.  At the end of the war he returned to town and found it destroyed and empty of Jews.  Only a large community grave testified to what has occurred here.  A few wandering and lost survivors who did not believe the tales of horror came back to witness the degenerate cruelty of the beast in man.  Here they gathered and began their journey west, across Europe, on their way to Eretz Yisrael.

                                    As a BEITAR man he knew what he was supposed to do, and tried to get to the country in the shortest way possible.  On Austrian lands he was surprised by a meeting with his cousin Ze'ev Rodnitski, who was considered lost, and took him along westward.  In France he enlisted in the ETZEL and endeavored to quicken his aliya in order to join the fighters.  He spurred his friends on and harassed them every day until he found himself on the ship "La'negev," sailing on the mediterranean on the way here.  The ship was stopped by the British navy and was forced to turn to Cyprus, to a British prison camp.  He ground his teeth, but was forced to be content with directing his gaze eastward, towards Eretz Yisrael, and be cheered by the heroic acts -- the wonderful, bold and unforgettable heroic acts -- of the Hebrew underground resistance in Eretz Yisrael.  In his letters, saturated with yearnings and anger, that I received from his prison, he lamented his misfortune that brought him to a place where he is forced to stand idly by while his friends are fighting heroically and spilling their blood on the alter of the ideals in which he believed from early youth.

                                    Only in the beginning of 1947 did he get here.  Immediately he enlisted in the forming Air Force, but as an excellent professional he was assigned to ground service, despite his will.  His base and mine were close to each other, and our strong bond continued into the tumult of the War of Independence.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                              David Rubin

                                    David was a young child when his parents moved to our town.  When he grew up he found his place in the BEITAR movement.  Unlike others who joined, whose reasons were mainly emotional, David came because of logical reasons:  he was cool-tempered, logical, moderate, and unexcitable.  When he was surrounded by emotions he knew how to control and terminate them, how to dissects things with his healthy brain as if with a sharp knife, and how to draw relevant conclusions.  He was well-known as such.  Only in moments of elevation he too was affected by sentiment and carried away by the stream of emotions, but these were rare moments.

                                     When he grew up he was incorporated into his father's expansive business and left town.  Only at the beginning of World War II did he return.  At that time I was already in Eretz Yisrael, but as I was told, David underwent a revolutionary change and became a different person.

                                    Now came the decisive and difficult days of emergency.  David felt the changing tide, and was especially fortunate.  His entire family remained intact in the first German "actzia," and even afterwards they were not imprisoned in the ghetto.  They were free to move about, him, his parents, his sister and his brothers.  His father's "tar plant" was, as it seems, necessary for the German war effort and they let his family run it as if nothing was happening.  Thus he stayed clear of the ghetto, but this impunity did not last.  When the bitter news of the second "actzia" and of the complete annihilation of the ghetto reached their house, whilst the German guards were approaching their home to destroy them, David got

[188]                up and left through the back door.  He passed a short distance of a few dozen meters and was already  under the cover of the saving forest.

                                    Unimaginable suffering was the lot of the few Jews that wandered in the forests and were pursued for their lives.  Even when partisan troops accepted one single Jew or another, because of ties from the past, they exploited him shamefully.  He was assigned the most difficult and dangerous battle missions.  Even if he succeeded he was envied and despised.  Normally the hatred for Jews drove the partisans mad, not any less than the Nazi murderers, and they too wished them dead.  Our David, too, had to pass this trail of suffering, as one of the first Jews that succeeded in being integrated among the partisans.  Thanks to his courage and boldness, the ground was prepared for the acceptance of other Jews.

                                    David undertook very dangerous missions and completed them coolly and courageously.  He went through the seven circles of hell during the assaults and withdrawals in the Byelorussian forest, with complete success.  By mere chance he remained alive after a farmer woman found him dying in the forest and mumbling: "mother," "mother" in Russian.  She though that he was "one of us" and called for help.  Thus David was flown to a hospital in Moscow, where his struggled with death and triumphed.  In the mean time, dawn arose, the Nazis surrendered, and the war was over.

                                    Like other survivors of the Holocaust and the fighting, he too was drawn to Ilya, the town were he grew up and where he was educated.  Although he knew what the situation was, his heart refused to believe, and only the facts of the terrible reality convinced him that what passed is past and will never return.  Thus the survivors grouped and planned their way westward, to freedom and light and to the reunion with the rest of the survivors and the abandonment of the piles of ruins and the town of slaughter forever.

                                    From hence on the goal was clear.  Although it was a long and difficult way ahead, he and his friends marched on with determination and perseverance.  In France he was integrated into ETZEL and joined the band of warriors actively.  He tried to rush the aliya, but his ship "La'negev" fell right into the hands of the British fleet instead of arriving in the shores of Israel.  He suddenly found himself under arrest in Cyprus, only to continue the suffering for another year.  Only after the outbreak of the War of Independence did he arrive.  This was our first meeting after years of severance.  Our second meeting took place in the fifty-seventh battalion of the "Giv'ati" Brigade, both of us wearing I.D.F. uniforms, during the storm of the War of Independence.

[189] 

                                                                                                                                                                             Bat Sheva and Yonah Riar

                                    I first met Bat Sheva during my childhood days in the "Gordonia," when I was about 11.  Bat Sheva was then elected to leadership, and I was a common member.  I came to their house almost every day, and was treated like a part the family.  Her brother Ya'akov Bronstein was one of my best friends (the talented and gifted Ya'akov was cruelly murdered in the Holocaust).  Our ways then parted.  Bat Sheva remained in the "Gordonia" leadership whereas the writer of these lines, along with other friends, organized the "Hertzelia."  These two Zionist youth movements shared a common fate, however.  Neither one lasted and both marked a passing episode in the crystallization of youth movements in our town.  We later met again, this time in BEITAR:  more mature, developed and better integrated,  we now were no longer content with carrying the Zionist vision in our hearts, but made an effort to actualize it.

                                    I met Yonah later, perhaps at age 16 - in BEITAR, but our acquaintance deepened and bloomed into a strong and true friendship, that lasts to this day.  We were very different from each other, and perhaps that is the secret of this friendship that withstood so many tests.  Yonah is romantic, cheerful, good natured and affable.  Even today, after a day of strenuous labor and hard work, Yonah picks up the mandolin and "tells" the memories of his youth through it.  He overflows, and drags us all back to our young days, to romantic moods, that withered in the face of reality and are forever gone.  Yonah became one of the pioneers of professional physical labor in our town, when he started to work as an apprentice for the goy blacksmith Viramei, while the richer boys wandered around idly.  His main qualities are candor, honesty and simplicity, without any complications or presumptions.  He does have one weakness, however.  He is in love with public work of any shape and form.  For this he would do anything, a quality he inherited, as it seems, from his grandfather the late Rabbi Eli Zondel, who loved to perform the public rituals in synagogue.  If I were to tell you about Yonah in detail I would have to write a biography, or at least to tell a large part of the history of the BEITAR branch in Ilya, Yonah being one of its commanders, but that is not my task.

                                    Yonah, who last worked in Warsaw, returned home with the outbreak of the war on foot and waited for further developments; what eventually developed astonished the world in its cruelty and dealt a blow to the Jewish people the like of which has never been known before, not even in the course of our

[190]                blood and tear saturated history.  In the selection before the first "actzia" the various artisans and their families were picked out, and among them Yonah, his wife and his child.  That meant they were destined to live.  Whereas the others, 99% of the Jewish population, were led like sheep to the slaughter house, to their death and destruction and were even forced to dig their own graves.  Again, luck played its game.  A day before the final destruction of the ghetto the few families of artisans were taken our and transferred to the Vileika ghetto, and Yonah and his family among them.  Although death took its toll, the survivors continued to live and to hope for the moment when dawn will rise and with it the opportunity for revenge over the spilled blood.  This moment was detained almost to no end, but finally arrived.

                                    I will not detail the trail of suffering of Bat Sheva and Yonah:  in the ghetto, in the forest, among the partisans, and so forth.  They tell their story better, in the chapter that concerns the Holocaust.  I would only like to mention in passing a few details:

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                      -  P  H  O  T  O  G  R  A  P  H  -

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                          Yonah Riar, his wife Bat Sheva,

                                                                                                                 and their son Yehuda, at the end of the World War,

                                                                                                                                                                                 as they left the forests

 

                                    The war was over, and Yonah and Bat Sheva returned to the burnt, robbed and completely destroyed town of their birth.  They discover that everything was gone:  property was robbed, the inhabitants murders, and a history of hundreds of years of life, hopes, pain and creation, erased.  Only common graves, appearing in the valley of death, testified to the heinous deeds of the murderers.  Out of anger and desperation, Yonah and his friends took the path of revenge.  Whoever was known to have been a murderer, or cooperator, was surrendered to the government, or gotten rid of by their own hands.  But these are so many, who could overcome them?  Yonah avenges the blood of his late father, who was cruelly murdered in cold blood by a Christian childhood friend.  But revenge cannot be continued, for

[191]                now the government has stabilized.  Yonah and his friends, Zosman, Gitlitz, Shraga Solominski, David Rubin, Sioma Sinder, Isaac Chadash, and others who lived together, are forced to build a fence around the valley of death, to depart from the graves of their fathers, and to head westward.

                                    Now Yonah and his family are in Italy.  He is alert, active, and heading a BEITAR group who is training to start a kibbutz and waiting for aliya.  Yonah is married and has two small children, therefore his aliya is postponed again and again.  In the meantime he appears in front of committees and sounds his opinions.  His eternal war cry is:  "Never forget to erase the name of the enemy from under the heavens." 

                                    He sends cousin Isaac Chadash here, his adopted son that survived after the loss of his parents and his entire family, and awaits the next opportunity for aliya.  And, at last, this opportunity arrives.  Yonah, his wife and his family make aliya to Eretz Yisrael.

 

                                                                                                                                            HONOR BE TO THE BRAVE WHO FELL

                                                                                                                                 Isaac son of Shneor Chadash - bless his memory

                                    A few days after my release from the British prison camp in Latrun, as I was playing with my three year old daughter, Aviva, in our house's yard in Netanya, I suddenly saw two men approach the house.  One of them was a youth of about 18 whereas the other was in his mid-thirties.  They knocked on the door and entered.  In a few minutes I heard my wife call:  "Aryeh, we have guests!"  I entered the house and there they were, sitting in anticipation.  To my inquiry, the youth turned to me and asked, excitedly - "don't you recognize me?"  I felt uncomfortable, but did not know with whom I had the honor.  I turned to look at him and strained my memory.  He is a bit familiar, I thought, but where from?  Perhaps from the town of my birth, I thought, one of those that lived in a side alley and I hadn't run into on a daily basis.  A child that grew up in suffering and trouble during the horrible Holocaust - but who is he?  I returned to town in my imagination, and scanned the faces of the children of every house.  Now my gaze passed Tetraska Street, and I noticed a child calmly playing near his house, and I remembered...  I smiled and said:  "you are the son of Shneor Chadash, aren't you?" - " You guessed correctly," answered the guest.  "That is absolutely right.  My name is Isaac Chadash."  It was now time to introduce the man who accompanied him.  "Please meet my cousin," he said, "who lives in Even Yehuda."  We shook hands and exchanged a few sentences.  I now turned to Isaac and showered him with innumerable questions.  

[192]                Where was he during the war?  The holocaust?  How did he come to Israel?  when, from whence, etc.?  Slowly but surely Isaac unfolded a long tale of suffering, fear and danger, that were his lot in those dark and terrible days.

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                       -  P  H  O  T  O  G  R  A  P  H  -

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                Isaac Chadash, bless his soul, 

                                                                                                                                                              fell in the War of Independence

 

 

 

                                    "My father and I," he began, managed to survive through the first "actzia" by hiding in a hideout in our back yard, but at nightfall we crept away like shadows and escaped the town in the direction of my father's home town, since he assumed that there he would be able to hide better and for a longer period of time.  We advanced at night and hid during the day, until we reached the place, but neither over there was our peace long-lasting.  After a few weeks, when the Jews gathered to pray in public, and my father and I among them, we were surrounded by the German S.S. forces who shot everyone present.  I was the only one who crawled under a closet and miraculously survived." 

                                    "A new chapter in my life began then:  the forest.  Hunger, suffering and despair were my lot, but I shall not dwell on these because all those who survived had to go through this trail of suffering.  They all oscillated between despair and hope.  Hunger, disease, and fear from every passing shadow was their daily bread.  Lost, stranded and hungry, I wandered in the forest, ragged, dishevelled, and feeding on forest plants.  Gradually, more Jewish youths joined me, as stricken as I was....and so we reached the partisans.  I will not fatigue you with stories of our suffering.  We all had one option only, and that was to fight for our lives, to avenge and destroy the enemy.  This lasted for 4 years, and those who made it to the day of liberation saw the end of the raging beast."

[193]                "The purpose of my visit," continued Isaac, "is of course to see you, but I also brought a letter and greetings from my father, your friend Yonah Riar, who is in Italy now" - and he handed me a brown envelope.  I was astonished and excited.  I did not know that Yonah was still alive.  I assumed that he, too, like so many others, was swept by the sea of death, and there he was, alive and well.  Tears off joy filled my eyes.  I stopped him from talking. "Could you clarify?" I mumbled, "at first you said that your father has died, and now you deliver greetings from your father, Yonah.  Yonah is not your father, but your cousin.  How do you explain that?" -  "You are correct," said Isaac.  "My father indeed perished, but your friend Yonah is nonetheless my father.  To clarify that, allow me to go back a little bit."

                                    "With the surrender of Germany and the end of the Second World War, I decided to go back to my birth town, Ilya, to see whether someone from the family had survived.  When I finally got there, I met Yonah and Bat Sheva.  Depressed, mourning, orphaned, lonesome, I wandered by the graves of the Holocaust casualties, and asked Yonah and Bat Sheva to adopt me as their son, and they agreed wholeheartedly.  Do you understand now?" - "I understand," I muttered, and a deep sigh escaped my throat.  To my question:  do you need any help?  He pointed toward his cousin and said:  "in his house I found shelter, warmth, and employment, and there is nothing more I need."  We parted, and good-bye was the last sentence I heard him utter.

                                    And indeed Isaac needed nothing more.  When he came here from Ilya, he was already a member of the ETZEL, and his arrival had definite goals:  to fight for the liberation of the homeland and to triumph.  There was no lack of opportunity for that.  Isaac left everything behind him:  a warm house, work and family, and threw himself into battle.  The days were those of the beginning of the open fighting against the Arabs and the ETZEL troops fought in Jaffa, Yehudia, rosh-Ha'ayin, Ramle, and other places.  The enthusiastic Isaac wanted to be on all fronts.  A certain inquietude incited him to throw his body opposite the murderer's bullets, and during one assault he was left behind and was registered as missing in action, and probably was buried in an anonymous grave.  Isaac did not have the privilege to hear the declaration of independence of the state of Israel, for which redemption he fought and gave his gentle and pure soul.

                                    Rest, heroic brother, in your nameless grave, and we will tell your bold deeds to the next generations. Thanks to you, and others like you, our national independence was renewed.

                                                                        Your memory will always be kept in our hearts.

[194] 

                                                                                                                           Ze'ev son of Baruch Rodnitzki - blessed be his soul

                                    At the end of 1947 I was suddenly called to the office of the factory where I worked.  When I came in there stood Zevik Rodnitzki.  When I left my hometown, he was still a boy, and now a young man of 18 stood before me.  To my inquiry of how he got there, he began his story:

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                      -  P  H  O  T  O  G  R  A  P  H  -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                           Lieutenant Ze'ev Rodnitzki - blessed be his soul

                                                                                                                                                                                                         Fell on duty

 

                                    At the time of the regime change he was about 13 and entered the comsomol;  when the war between Germany and Russia broke out he was taken east;  In the meantime, he grew up and was drafted in the Red Army, where he was promoted to officer; with the advance of the Russian army westward he reached Germany; there he first heard the news about the destruction and ruin, about the lost survivors who are seeking their tomorrow, about the gathering of the survivors and their advance westward, about the goal and the faith in the vision of Israeli independence.

                                    At a moment of excitement and elation, he stripped off his uniform; bed goodbye to the hammer, winked towards the pentagonal star, and took off. 

                                    We meet him again as an enlisted soldier, this time in an escape organization, where he specialized in transferring the survivors through the mountains on the Austria-Italy border, in the middle of the night, on their way to Israel.  He devoted all his time and energy to this task, and performed it with love, dedication - untiringly and incessantly.  This became his vision:  to direct the survivors toward a safe

[195]                haven.  Although he was always in the center of action, surrounded by many people and keeping busy, he seemed shut from the world and sad.  The sudden appearance of our cousin Sioma, as if he was resurrected from the dead, awakened strong familial emotions in him, and he joined him on his way to the west.

                                    Like other town members, he too joined the ETZEL and sailed in the ship "La'negev" to Eretz Yisrael.  Like his shipmates, he too was arrested by the British and imprisoned in the camps in Cyprus, though his imprisonment was shorter.  Still a youngster, he escaped from Cyprus and appeared here at the end of summer 1947, while his friends and town people, with whom he came a long way, were still locked up behind the sharp barbed-wire fences of Cyprus.

                                    We now went to my house where he found temporary shelter.  But Zevik shunned off peace and quite.  It was as if danger fascinated him.  I do not know where or how, but I suddenly felt that he has managed already to renew his ties with the underground organization, and to be swept by the whirlpool of tension, blood and tears.  When I commented to him that this may be too early, that he hasn't rested yet.  He smiled and winked: "this is what I came here for!"

                                    These were the days of the beginning of the open struggle for the rule of the land between the Arabs and the Jews, while the "neutral British" stood in the middle.  The blood of the young Israelites was spilt in the battlefields as they defended national honor and the right to be and to live.  Ze'ev left work and gave his all to this lofty purpose, his body and gentle soul.  Now there were no more cheerful conversations between us, but mute tension.  He stopped coming home at night regularly, and only rarely, in the middle of the night, he came back weary and tired, and only the sound of the water in the shower indicated his return.

                                    The Hebrew Yeshuv[xxxiii] was getting ready for the decisive battle and organized troops began to appear in the horizon.  The ETZEL was annexed to the Israeli army and was sent to the front, and Ze'ev, now a platoon commander, fought bravely.  We hardly saw each other now, each one of us, like other young Israelites, performed his duty somewhere in the land.  Only rarely did he come home to show that he was alive, with a joke and a smile on his face.

                                    The war was over, the older soldiers were released and returned to their private lives, but the young Ze'ev believed that the nation needs to reenforce its victories and that it still requires his military services.   He thus enlisted in the regular army.  And this is how things stood.  The enemy that was defeated on the battlefield was licking his still fresh wounds and already planning his revenge.  And if he cannot do it in the light of day, for fear that he would once again be defeated, he conspires in secrecy.  The enemy's messengers are cowardly planting mines in the border regions and needlessly killing peaceful and laboring civilians, who, with their own sweat irrigate the soil of the resurrected homeland.  The I.D.F., meant to protect civilians, is forced to send its best officers and soldiered to scan the borders and guard against terrorists.  In spring 1950, on the eve of passover, Zevik headed a mission to protect the homeland.  His car ran over a mine that was planted by the enemy and crashed.  Ze'ev returned his soul to his creator.

                                    As we erect a memorial for our hometown, let us raise the memory of a cadet, a warrior and a friend, who sacrificed everything for the independence of Israel, and let us tell the next generations about him.  His memory will be forever engraved in our hearts.

 

                                                                                                                           The Aliya of Devorah Rubinchik and Her Family

                                    For a number of days I have been holding on to a message that tells of the aliya of Devorah Rubinchik, the cousin of my late mother, and her daughters, and I am somewhere in the south, with the Giv'ati Brigade, in the midst of the War of Independence.  I therefore turned to my commander and asked for a leave of absence in order to visit the Pardes-Chana olim camp, and received a leave for Rosh Ha'shanah 1948.  When I got the leave-pass the commander was handed a telegraph from the brigade headquarters and in it was an urgent message that announced that from 10:00 the brigade will start moving.  In fifteen minutes begins "Operation Ten Blows."  But the commander did not detain me and said:  you're lucky.  If the telegraph would have been delivered before, who knows how things would have developed.

                                    In Rosh Ha'shanah 1948 I was perhaps the only soldier on leave, and definitely the only soldier from the Giv'ati Brigade on leave.  I somehow found a means of transportation, and with my four-year-old daughter Aviva, headed to the Pardes-Chana camp.  The message that I received stated an address, but God knows how much effort is needed to locate it.  Try to find an edifice in the jungle of 30 thousand olim and in a space of a few hundred acres.  No one I turned to could give me directions.  The numbers indicated that I was getting close to my target, but it seemed as if the edifice was swallowed by the earth.  I tried to ask by family name, but out of the hundreds of people that I met no one knew of her existence,

[197]                or, at least, that's what they told me.  The clerk in the office where I turned for help located the

family name, Rubinchik, but could not tell me where she lived.  I detained people right and left, and asked for assistance, but to no avail.  I felt helpless, because my little daughter was tired and cried.  I tried to appease her and quiet her down by telling her we would soon find the aunt from abroad.  We rested for a little while and embarked on our energetic search once again.

                                    Suddenly I met a woman that with considerable patience listened to what I said, but instead of responding, started to inquire:  why am I looking for this family?  "because they are my relatives," I answered.  "What kind of relatives?" she asked again.  I explained that this is my late mother's cousin.  "How many people are they?"  she continued her investigations with other direct and indirect questions.  I assumed that the moment of salvation was nearing, that as soon as the "investigation" was over she would point to the edifice or lead me to it, but the end was much more surprising...  "I don't know them," she muttered, and moved on.  I was boiling on the inside.  Is my uniform to blame?  I asked myself, do I seem so unreliable?  But I could not change the situation.  I patiently continued my search until I found what I was looking for.

                                    We hugged and kissed.  After exchanging the first bits of information I could hold myself back no longer and told her of the behavior of the people and the search that took two hours, and mentioned the incident with the "investigating" woman.  I barely finished when the door was opened and a woman entered.  Believe it or not, but I think you've already guessed...  it was the woman who crossed-examined me.  I couldn't contain myself and asked her to explain her behavior.  She seemed unabashed and said, with determination: "what you don't know can't hurt you."  I understood....  This was the theory that developed in the reality of the Nazi death camps, and the woman before me still lived in the dark and terrible past.

                                    Devorah Rubinchik need not be introduced; her personality does it for her:  wise, sharp, smooth-tongued, she comes from a very lofty background.  If there's such a thing as a Jewish aristocracy, then her father, Rabbi Efraim, was its main representative.  His face was handsome and noble.  His white beard, large and well-tended, added splendor and honor to his appearance.  He spoke quietly, pleasantly, and his speech was smooth and sweet.  Rabbi Efraim was the permanent honorary officer of the synagogue, and one of the most respected heads of household in town.  He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Micha Ratner, may his memory be blessed, and that's why they called him Rabbi Efraim Michas.  But the younger or newer town members called him (with Ashkenazi intonation) Rabbi Efraim Yechus[xxxiv].  He was

[198]                identified with the concept to that extent.  When Devorah was a young woman I was not yet born, but on her actions in the October revolution legends were told; how she incited the masses of farmers with her speeches; how this thin and petite woman led the goyim by their nose, and they worshipped her.  When she married the man of her choice, Eliezer Rubinchik, she gave up her revolutionary theories and stabilized her life according to tradition.  Their economical situation improved gradually and they reached a stable financial well being.  Devorah is a born public worker, and she thus found her place in the Zionist movement and especially in WIZO, to which she devoted most of her free time.  Her life, although intensive in the public and economic realm, were calm in private.  She reared two daughters and provided them with the best education. But the outbreak of the war put an end to her way of life.

                                    The outbreak of the war and the subsequent change in regimes "liberated" the Rubenchik family from its property.  She lost her husband Eliezer, his memory be blessed, in the horrible Holocaust when he was imprisoned in the Nazi death camps.  She and her two daughters went through the trail of suffering and she miraculously managed to save her daughters from certain death.  She now lives in Kiryat Motzkin and has settled down.

 

                                                                                                                                                                          Pninah Zebudnik - Gutenberg

                                    Their family consisted of three sisters and two brothers, who were deprived at a very young age of both their mother and father.  The elder sister, Leah, emigrated to the U.S. when I was still a small boy, and my memory holds only a glimpse of her image.  Next was the brother Eliezer, who emigrated to Argentina when I was on the verge of adulthood - his image still stands before me, almost clearly.  In Ilya remained the younger children:  Pninah, Moshe and Sarah.

                                    Ever since I can remember they were raised by their old grandfather and grandmother, Meitah and Nehemiah.  When they died, Pninah, Moshe and Sarah were left on their own, and they were still children.  No wonder that under these difficult and cruel conditions Pninah, who was older than Moshe and Sarah, was forced to bear the heavy responsibility of raising and educating them.  This had no little influence on the shaping of her character and personality.

                                    Moshe and Sarah were my friends in the movement.  They were born unlucky:  born in grief, raised in suffering and orphanhood, and snatched by the Nazi devil while they were still young.

[199]                May these lines serve as an eternal light in their honor and as a bouquet of flowers on their unknown grave.

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                      -  P  H  O  T  O  G  R  A  P  H  -

 

 

 

 

                                                                                  Moshe and Sarah Zebudnik (Kompinski), blessed be their memory

 

                                    Pninah, too, belonged to the same organization and later transferred to the "Chalutz" - probably out of faith and the desire to hasten her aliya to Eretz Yisrael.  But fate is fickle; it laughs at us and ruins our plans:  Pninah indeed completed her training and was looking forward to immediate aliya, but for some reason was detained.

                                    Pninah is clever, profound and traditional.  Each one of her sentences is carefully weighed, thought out and measured.  Her speech is quiet and unexcited, but always right on target.  When she returned from training with her future husband, Chaim, she already saw herself as a potential citizen of Eretz Yisrael, although the conditions of aliya at that time were extremely difficult.  Shortly after her marriage the war broke out, but she still did not give up her dream of aliya.  The war was indeed an obstacle, but she did not pluck the dream from her heart.  When new opportunities arose and some cracks were detected in the isolation wall, she did not hesitate and used them to get through to Eretz Yisrael.

                                    Upon the change of regimes she moved east and fate, that separated her and her husband, allowed them to meet again soon.  Here they underwent days of hardship and suffering, as all war refugees did.

[200]                As soon as the war was over they moved west on their way to Eretz Yisrael.  She met her future husband, Chaim, in training, where he was, like her, due to the desire to make aliya.  But his situation was singular:  his whole family had been in Israel for a long time, and only he was detained in Poland.  When Pninah returned home from training, he accompanied her.

                                    My first meeting with Chaim took place in her home.  Although 25 years have passed, my first impression hasn't evaporated:  Chaim had loads and loads of humor.  One needs to know him well to detect when he is being serious and when he is joking.  That is the way he was, and hasn't changed to this day.

                                    It has been twelve years since fate summoned us together to work for a common and lofty cause.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                               Yossef Yeruchevski

                                    One day in 1950 I was told that Yossef, the son of Yechiel Yeruchevski, from our town was in Israel.  When I met him he told me the story of his life:  when the Russians came to town he was just a boy and entered the comsomol; During the evacuations he was transferred to Russia and tumbled from one work camp to the next; he suffered much during these cruel war days; in the camps he met a few of his friends from town and together they bore their suffering quietly; he was then drafted in the army and advanced with the Russian army to the west; when he heard of the survivors' going to Israel he stripped off his uniform - under his friends' influence - and deserted.

                                    The escape organization to which he now turned helped him, and as a bachelor he was high on the priority list for aliya.  In the beginning of the fighting that erupted immediately upon the establishment of the state he came to Israel.  The situation in the front was difficult, and so he was immediately drafted and sent straight from the ship to the bloody Latrun front.  After a short vacation he was sent along with reenforcement to Gush Etzion, where he fought for his life.  Despite heroism and desperate sacrifices, the few were forced to yield to the many, and with the other warriors Yossef was taken prisoner of war.  His suffering in captivity is unimaginable, and only after a year and half in prison was he released and returned to Israel.

                                    After a few years it became clear that his father too had survived, and he too drifted along with

[201]                the stream of survivors that came to Israel.  This is one of the rare instances in which someone from our town has had the privilege of meeting his living parent in the land of Israel.  Yossef's father is old by now, and found peace in the MALBAN institution for the elderly.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Dan Mendelssohn

                                    Danchik, that is how we called him in town, because he was so small and thin for his age.  He was dark, and had burning eyes.  Although he was born in Warsaw he spent most of his summers at his grandmother Fridka's house in our town.  So it was every year, until disaster struck and his father died.  Since then he became a citizen of our town and moved in with his grandmother.  One image of his orphanhood is especially engraved in my memory and is there to this day: Danchik saying his Kaddish prayer for the soul of his father.  Since he was so small he was put on a bench, so that the Kaddish will be heard in public, and his voice echoed in the space of the synagogue.

                                    Every once in a while his widowed mother would travel to Warsaw, but when the war erupted they returned to town.  Not before long the new regime drafted the young for labor camp and like others of his age he too was taken to the camps beyond the Ural mountains.  There he suffered unimaginably from hunger and lack.  Eventually he escaped from camp and using sophisticated means managed to be drafted in the Polish army where he spent the duration of the war.  When he was stationed in eastern Prussia, holding a good, non-combat position, he found out the facts about the survivors and their reorganization toward aliya.  By coincidence he ran into "Ha'shomer Ha'tzair"[xxxv] people in Warsaw, and they convinced him to desert and to join them for aliya.  To this day Danchik gets excited when he talks about that incident.

                                    With all his youthful fervor Dan devoted himself to the task of organizing and concentrating the survivors.  The fire of love to Eretz Yisrael, now burning in his heart, made him restless, and he fought with the leadership to hasten his aliya.  The struggle was persistent, because the leadership did not want to forgo the active, enthusiastic and persistent youth, but they were eventually forced to give him up and allow for his aliya.  In the midst of the operation he met his future wife and mother of his children, and both crossed the border in the middle of the night on their way to Austria.  There, a great wonderful surprise awaited his future  wife - she found a large part of her family alive.

                                    His Zionist action continued in Italy too, but on a different plane.  Over there his elderly daughter

[202]                was born, and thus his aliya was detained for a while, and he only came to Israel after the second cease-fire.

                                    As a new comer still living in an olim camp he was temporarily released from army service to allow his family to settle down.  But immediately after being absorbed in Ramle he was drafted in the I.D.F. for two years.  During his army service the army held retaliation operations against the enemy at the borders and Dan participated in those.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                         The Cheikin Brothers

                                    Yechezkel and Mendel are brothers, but each has his own fate.  They both arrived in the country after the establishment of the state, Yechezkel from the east, whereas Mendel came from the west.  Yechezkel is among the Holocaust survivors who struggled for their existence and miraculously survived.  Mendel, on the other hand, came from peaceful Uruguay, from a stable and fixed way of life, and from expansive public work.

                                    They are very different from each other:  in their character, personality and talents.  Only brothers to the same parents can be that different and contrasting.  They have no common feature, no inner or outer similarity.

                                    In my mind's eye I see the house of Rabbi David Cheikin, his wife and his offsprings.  The mother was born in Libau, in a wealth and progressive household, and had a German education in the positive sense of the term.  She was captivated by the father, who in his younger days was apparently a handsome man.  For his sake she abandoned a stable and rooted household and followed her heart's choice far away.  Her education manifested itself in the house, the children, and their names.  In our town everyone was named by complete Hebrew names, with no short cuts or nicknames - whereas in the Cheikin house Nehemiah was called "Chamke," Zalman was called "Zamke," Yechezkel - "Chatske," Mendel - "Mande," Leib - "Libke," and Getale.  We called our mothers Mame, and they called theirs Mama.

                                    The family consisted of six children, five sons and a daughter.  Most of them were talented:  writers, speakers, organizers, they were persuasive and handsome.  Wherever they went they attracted attention.  Three of them were "Chalutz" members and three were in BEITAR, why I can't tell you, it's a mystery, but nonetheless a fact.

                                    The parents, too, were split in their opinions.  The father supported the "Chalutz" and the mother liked BEITAR.

                                    Nehemiah, the elder son, combined the mother's and the father's characteristics:  traditional and

[203]                restrained, pleasant and handsome.  Well-educated and cultured - he was one of the first Chalutz members and among the founders.  He was a "bookworm" and devoted most of his time to books.  Zalman had the same qualities, but he was more alert, more dynamic, a sharp and aggressive polemic, but short in stature.  Zalman - "Zamke" - was one of the first victims to have been executed by the Nazis immediately upon their invasion, as if to punish him for his communist activities.  Yechezkel was different.  He didn't aspire to public appearances or to be a leading speaker.  Whatever was assigned to him he performed faithfully and completely.  Mendel was the spitting image of his brother Zalman in his talents, but is more tumultuous (a descendent of the Cohenim), more presumptuous and taller.  He was fortunate to acquire much experience in public work and human relations.  Libke was a disciplined soldier - out of persuasion.  He honestly believed in the road that he took and was willing to defend it with his heart and soul.  Getale, still young, was already felt to be more talented than all her brothers; her eyes burned with fire, her cheeks inflamed, her heart full of enthusiasm, her mouth emanates witticisms, - and her brain remains cold and analytical. 

                                    Mendel was a childhood friend of mine and with him I came a long way.  In childhood we were both members of the "Gordonia," where Mendel was a chief speaker.  We then met again in Vilna - in "Tomchei Tmimim" Yeshiva.  We then parted, and each followed his God.

                                    When Mendel matured, he entered the "Chalutz" and became one of their active speakers.  He went to training as a step towards making aliya.  Since the gates of the country were locked, he went to Uruguay temporarily, and there began a broad public service.  He stayed there for 20 years and eventually came to Israel.

                                    Yechezkel and Mendel are the remainders of a widely branched Zionist family who drowned in the ocean of blood and tears.

 

                                                                                                                                                          Risia Sinder - Epstein - Toviashvitz

                                    If we were to call her Risia, as her name appears on her papers, the majority of people would not know whom we refer to, and that is why we should call her by her known name - "Rishka Yenkel Sheines," and all would immediately recall her special appearance:  the red hair, both the Ilyites here and those abroad.

                                    Rabbi Ya'akov Sinder, or, as he was better known, "Yaniel Sheines" was her grandfather, and the most famous butcher in town.  He was an affable and pleasant man, organized and focused, and especially hospitable.  He literally sought his guests out, and without them he was miserable.  But let us

[204]                not dwell on that, as our late friend Tuvia Chefetz will tell all this in his story.  Before my aliya I thought he was in the prime of his life, but those who know better told me that he has passed that age 15 years previously.  Despite that fact he was health and strong, and liked to joke around with members of the weaker sex, and the younger the better... One bright day he got married to a woman 50-55 years of age.

                                    Later it was rumored... that he was complaining... that she is too old for him...

                                    Naturally, Rabbi Ya'akov left the mark of his personality on the house:  a cheerful house, known for its hospitality, frivolity and amusements.  And no wonder.  There were four children of the social age, two daughters and two sons, and each had his or her own friends.  Thus the house was always full of guests and merry company.  The mother Chava, although she was widowed at a young age, adjusted to the house and did not burden the children with her mood.  The Sinder household was thus free, cheerful and hospitable, in short: the center of the town's social life.

 

Every age and its ways of having fun:

                                    I was still a young boy when the Sinder family opened a bar in town, where one could get a variety of delicacies:  beer, chocolate, sweets, ice-cream, and so forth.  Everybody came to this house, to be impressed by it and, by the way, to taste the goods.  The house become the social center of town and was full every evening.

                                    Every once in a while new technologies and games were added to the bar, and among them - a radio.  As far as I can remember, this was the first radio in town, a radio with earphones.  Young and old, everybody came to see this seventh wonder and to wonder over the miracle, and by the way, taste the goods.  My sister and myself, still young children, also were excited over this great miracle, called the radio.  Later they installed a pool table as well.  I was too young to participate in the game, but followed it with great concentration and suspense.

                                    Every period and its ways of having fun.  Later the bar declined from its position and a card club was formed instead;  unofficial, but with all the rules and regulations.  The writer of these lines too paid for his "experience" there dearly.  It was an important social center of town at one time, but declined in the last years.

[205]

                                    The young members of the household gradually got married, and as they left, the social center became empty.

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                      -  P  H  O  T  O  G  R  A  P  H  -

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                  Shlomo Rafson, bless his soul.

                                                                                                                                                 Killed in Europe after the liberation.

 

Risia's husband and the father of her children,  Eliyahu-Yossef and Moshe, was Shefsal Epstein, an excellent soccer player in his youth.  Then came the political change:  the Russians came and left, the German-Russian war erupted, and the Holocaust began.  Shefsal, who was a shoe cobbler by trade and necessary for the invading army and was allowed to live, along with his entire family, through the first

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                      -  P  H  O  T  O  G  R  A  P  H  -

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                               Shefsal Epstein- bless his soul,

                                                                                                                                                                                      Risia's first husband

 

ghetto "actzia."   The artisans and their families were then concentrated in Vileika Ghetto and Shefsal and his family among them.

                                    When rumors spread that this ghetto too would be destroyed, Risia spurred her husband to escape to the forest and join the partisans.  But Shefsal, who saved his mother so far, refused to separate from her and leave her behind, and stayed with her to the bitter end.  Risia, on the other hand, took her two small sons with her, and hid for years under the cover of the forest and the partisans.

                                     The war ended, Risia and her children survived and searched for their father to no avail.  When it became clear that he died, she decided that they needed a father and married Mr. Toviashvitz, who raised and educated them and taught them a trade.  The family tried to settle in Russia, but the awful loneliness oppressed them and led them to make aliya.

                                    Risia and her husband are happy and live in B'nai-Brak along with a young daughter that was born to them.  The young son lives near Petach-Tikvah and supports himself honorably, whereas the elder son settled in Kiryat Gath and is very content.  In short, they are glad that they made aliya.

 

                                                                                                                                                         Rosa (Bronstein) and Shraga Reznik

                                    When I found out that Rosa and Shraga have arrived in the country I expected to find a young man and a maiden, but to my surprised I found a married couple with a child.  It seems like time flies.  Only yesterday...  I remembered them as kids, and here they were, mature and with their own family.

                                    I've known Rosa, I believe, since her birth.  We were neighbors, and our parents' walls touched each others.  A single fence separated the lots, a source of many disputes.

                                    Rosa was still a baby when her step brother David, the first leader of the BEITAR branch in Ilya - became my friend.  We were loyal friends, and called each other by historical and literary names.  I called David - "David of the Reuven tribe" and he called me "Leibush Libushizki," after a young historian.

                                    The financial situation in his parents' house was grim.  David, the oldest son, who dreamed of making aliya, made desperate attempts to attain this goal to no avail.  He was thus forced to immigrate to Argentina with the hope that it will only be a temporary arrangement, and that from there he will head towards Israel.  Some say that a temporary arrangement is the most permanent one, and it seems like this

[207]                is true.  More than 30 years have passed and David is still there.  To this day I haven't heard whether he intends to make aliya or not.  It seems that he has forgotten our last conversation, on the way to the train station.

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                      -  P  H  O  T  O  G  R  A  P  H  -

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                       David Bronstein, Argentine

 

                                    If these lines ever reach David, his memory will most certainly be refreshed, and he will remember that conversation with longing.

                                    Shraga, too, still stands before my eyes, neither a boy nor precisely a young man, sweet and clever.  He wasn't born in our town but came to Ilya shortly before I met him.  His father, who was widowed as a young man, married an elderly single woman from our town, and he brought Shraga along as his "dowry."  Shraga lived in the same house - the house of Chaim Avraham the "hastrosta" - where the BEITAR branch was located;  and I, who spend many ours in the branch during daytime too, met the little urchin and exchanged a few words with him.  When I returned from my service in the Polish army Shraga was already older and a BEITAR member; pleasant, serious, loyal and cultured.

                                    When the extant Polish regime fell and the Russians arrived, all existing orders changed.  Shraga, like others of his age, tried to be integrated into the new society.  While they were still in the midst of the absorption process, the German-Russian war began, and changed the situation fundamentally.  The approaching Germans spread fear, blood and fire.

[208]

                                    Shraga, along with a few friends, decided to leave town for a few days, until the wrath subsided.  But these few days lasted many years.  Although he suffered from hunger in the Russian camps, he was saved from certain death in the Holocaust.

                                    In 1942, while still in Russia, he was drafted in the army and served for 5 straight years - until his release.  He married a girl form his town, Rosa, and started a family.  With his discharge from the army he settled in Vilna and stayed there until the possibility of aliya arrived.

                                    Shraga and Rosa now live in Chadera.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                         Hirshl (Tzvi) Berman

                                    Hirshl was one of the last olim to come from "over there" - he only came recently.  Although he was born in Ilya and lived there many years, a few years before the war he moved to the neighboring Horodok, due to his marriage.

                                    During the war and the Holocaust he experienced much suffering, terror and wandering, but he was lucky.  He was privileged to stay alive and make aliya.

                                    Along with Hirshl, his brother was saved as well, Isaac Berman, who also left Ilya to get married and lived in Horodok.   But he emigrated to Argentina, to join his brother, Tuvia, who has lived there for many years.

                                    Hirshl now lives in Migdal Ashkelon, and is productive and content.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                             Leah Zeltzer

                                    Leah, or Leachka as we called her, is the oldest daughter of Chaika Sosnoski, from Batorina, whose family settled in Ilya in the last years before the Second World War.  Since I remembered her as a cute baby, whose cheeks I sometimes pinched, I was surprised to see that she was married, to Monik Meltzer.  She was fortunate to escape the Nazi hell and to make aliya to Israel upon independence.

                                    Monik, her husband, is a talented and social man, and progressed in life with much success.  He was a faithful employee at the Histadrut institution.  Later he was put in charge of managing the union of the tires factory "Alliance" in Chadera, a complex job full of responsibility.  Suddenly we found out that Monik had a serious illness.  We refused to believe that the 36-year

[209]               old man was going to leave us.  He fought the disease with all his might, but it triumphed over him.  Dear Monik returned his gentle and pure soul to his creator.

                                    The young and cheerful Leah was widowed, her children orphaned, and her expression saddened.  Although it has been a year since the disaster, she still has not recovered from fate's cruel blow.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Isaac Dokshitzki

                                    Among the survivors who made aliya came also Isaac Dokshitzki.  With the Soviet invasion of the Polish borders, Isaac grew wings.  He believed in the ideal of "equality and fraternity" that was the law in the country on the eastern side of Poland, until he finally saw it in person, as it operates in daily reality.  When he sobered up from his dream and was disappointed with the way it was realized - he came to Israel.

                                    In Israel he built his home in a kibbutz in the Efraim mountains.

 

                                                                                                                                                            Chaya Tzimerman - Ladiselbovski

                                    Chaya, the daughter of Shmuel and Altka Tzimerman, of the Kagan family, was still a baby when her parents left Ilya and moved to Smorgon.  She was fortunate, and is the only one from her family who managed to escape the murderers and come to Israel.  She married and raised a family.  Chaya is the only remainder of a once widely branched family.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                          The Lavkov Brothers

                                    The Lavkov family was blessed with many children, and lived in our town for many years until it finally moved to Smogon.  During the Holocaust the parents, the younger brother and the older sister, Lobah, were killed.  4 brothers:  Yisrael, Isaac, Avraham and Mordechai escaped to Russia, where they wandered until the end of the war and gradually all made aliya.

                                    Nechama, their sister, was caught by the Germans and put in a concentration camp.  But despite the suffering, she survived, and at the end of the war emigrated to the U.S.

[210]

                                    Even though the Lavkov brothers left our town Ilya 10 years before the outbreak of World War II, their bonds with the Ilya residents remained tight.

 

 

Chaim Levin

                                    Mr. Chaim Levin, who was born in our town and lived there in his youth, managed to evade, in his own gentle way, the telling of his story, arguing that it is of no importance.

                                    All we can say, therefore, is that we are proud of him.  He is now an old man and still retains his strength.  He gave us a helping hand in collecting the material for Ilya's story.

                                    Mr. Levin has been in Israel for 25 years and made Kibbutz Ramat Hakovesh his home.  He is still alert and active.

                                    Along with all the sons of Ilya in Israel and abroad we bless him and hope that he will stay with us until he is a hundred and twenty.   All the best.


[267]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Aryeh - Miriam's Husband

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My Ilya[1]

 


Ilya, my tiny birth town,

You were like a crown to me then.

In my childhood I imagined you a metropolis,

Grand, and of perfect splendor.

 

Your little houses seemed as castles,

And your small population - a mass.

Your narrow alleys - splendid avenues,

And the Market place - a wonder.

 

The synagogue lofty and exalted,

Erect, and of wide dimensions.

It served the public for prayer,

Especially the "opposers".

 

The simple folk had a separate synagogue,

In order to feel comfortable.

Anyone could lead the prayers,

Provided he finished up quickly.

 

ChABAD too had their own place,

And their version was to make things pleasant.

To study a little "Tnaya"

And then raise a glass of wine in cheer.

 

                                                                                    *          *

                                                                                                *

 

My river Ilya, how dear you were to me,

My childhood and adolescence flow in you,

You give me intoxicating memories,

Of happiness and the joys of youth.

 

Your clear waters are cold and bubbling,

Meandering in your pure bed.

On your banks thick bushes grow,

That serve you for adornment and as a border.

 

Your were a shelter for bodies from the scorching sun,

Your refreshed the tired and the weary.

At evening time boats sailed in your streams,

Youth groups, that sang songs in merriment.

 

You were a shelter to doting couples,

And spread your wings over them.

You brought young, enthralled hearts together,

And hid them from the public eye.

 

In the summer you quenched the thirst of the residents,

At winter you were a trail for sleds.

Generously you gave of your fish,

To all the Jewish residents.

 

                                                                                    *          *

                                                                                                *

 

Your ancient forest is a gift of God,

Intended for strolling, for health and for leisure.

It served as a hideout for lovers,

And allowed for some release and freedom.

 

In the shade of your trees you made life pleasant,

And served your guests with berries.

Your wonderful scenery charmed all,

And you revived your visitors' spirit.

 

[268]

 

MY TOWN,

You saw your Jews being led to slaughter,

Digging their own graves in the ground.

You saw with your own eyes the massacre committed,

By the conspiring murderers.

 

MY FOREST!

You were witness to horrendous scenes,

When the man-beast raged on,

You spread your wings on the survivors,

And allowed them to be saved.

 

MY RIVER!

Now the curtain has gone down,

We were brutally cut off from your banks.

Our descendants have left you forever,

But will remember your kindness with warmth.


[269]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Eliezer Dinerstein/U.S.A.

 

                                                                                                                                                From the Remembrance Notebook

 

                                    Even though my father told me that I was born in Vizin and reached Ilya only after the fire, when I was a year old, I still think of myself as an Ilyite born and bred. There I was brought up, educated, and made friends and companions.

                                    That Ilya, the Jewish one, that is engraved in my memory, no longer exists.  Its Jewish inhabitants were eradicated, their houses burnt, their property robbed, and no trace is left of the ancient community and its rich history.

                                    Many years have gone by since I left it, but still it stands clearly before my eyes; its streets, alleys, and the market - in the center of which stood the houses of "Yankel Rashas," "Yochanan Shimon Hotnares" and others, looking as if they were an island in the midst of the ocean.

                                    In our youth, Sabbaths were devoted to wars against the street gangs, that always took place in the market place.  When we felt that they were stronger, we would retreat to the

 

- P H O T O G R A P H -

 

 

Eliezer Dinerstein

 

entrance of the synagogue and reorganized for a planned and calculated attack.  We now began our major onslaught.  With reenforcement we advanced as far as the school.  We ambushed them in the secret passage between the house of Tzemach Shapira and the house of Rabbi Bare Levin and began to retreat.  When the gang saw that we were retreating, they began an assault [270] on us and we retreated as if under their pressure and incredible force.  But when the attackers passed by the ambush, the sign was given and we stopped as our ambush attacked them from behind.  They finally found themselves at war from front and back and were badly defeated.

                                    As most of Lithuania's towns, Ilya too was mainly an oppositional town, and had three synagogues; in two the opposers prayed and in the third the people of ChABAD.  A deep hatred ruled the "shtibel" between many families, but no one knew why.

                                    David Zalmanovski, the son of the animal slaughterer was my friend.  I stayed at his house, had fun and studied, even in the slaughtering lessons he got at the slaughterhouse I participated.  Despite that, we clashed a lot, mainly over the right to escort the old rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Shlomo, to his house.  David claimed this privilege based on usucaption.[xxxvii]

                                    Dear David, where are you now?  Who are the bloody murderers who executed such a congenial and pleasant man.

                                    The controversy over the new Rabbi that split the town into two sides is engraved deep in my memory.  The fight accrued huge dimensions and spread over all areas of life; in the synagogue, in the streets and at home.   On sabbath morning I would pass from one synagogue to the next to see where was there more "action."

                                    During the first year of the World War we did not especially suffer.  Only later, when the front advanced towards us - because of the Germans' constant advances and the burning of the town by the Cossacks, we moved to Minsk.  There we met the Germans for the first time, and compared to the Russians they treated us with cordiality and fairness.  Who could imagine that the sons of those Germans would become cruel murderers, thirsty for Jewish blood.

                                    Ilya, and everything it represented, is no longer there.


[271]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Aryeh - The brother of Malka K.

                                                                                  With the Hebrew Brigades

                                                                                                                                                                           During the First World War

 

                                    Today, as we immortalize the town of our birth, we are proud to mark the historical fact, that three of its sons served in the Hebrew Brigade during the First World War - and took part in the liberation of the country from the Turks.  For fairness' sake we must emphasize, that the three volunteers did not arrive at the brigade straight from Ilya, but along with other volunteers from the United States, but this is of no principal importance.  The patriotic sentiment that beat in their hearts and moved them to volunteer to the brigade did not enter their bloodstream in the United States, where they were relatively new immigrants, but was brought from father's home.

                                    The writer of these lines has not yet had the privilege of meeting them personally and does not know the details of their biographies, but from the little he has heard it is possible to paint, albeit sketchedly, a portrait of their positive character:  a Zionist character, that of public servants and Hebrew educators.  It seems that, like many others, they migrated from the town to America about fifty years ago, aiming to improve their economic situation, like all immigrants to the New World, but they did not succeed.  Their education and character prevented them from becoming one of the "allrightniks" and fate had a different mission in store for them, one that they respectfully carry on to this day:  as Zionists, volunteers to the brigade, public servants and Hebrew educators, who transferred to the youth of Israel traditional values, love of the land and the Hebrew language.

                                    For truth's sake we should mention that we knew nothing of their actions, thanks to which our tiny town was represented in the Hebrew brigade, a fact that fills our hearts with pride and raises our respect for them.  Only accidently we found out about it, when we discovered among the material passed on to us by our friend Mr. Eliezer Shapira from Mexico, a poem, from which we gathered that its writer belonged to the volunteers of the First Hebrew Brigade.

                                    We turned, therefore, to Mr. Yehuda Lichterman - the writer of the poem - and asked him to put on paper some of his impressions of the brigade, to include it in the book.  But he responded humbly and modestly.  "Maybe my brother should do that...."  he too was among the volunteers to the Hebrew Brigade.  For lack of alternative we turned to his brother, Mr. Shimon Lichterman.  But he, too, wasn't too excited...

                                    [272]  All we can therefore do is immortalize their names in the Book of Ilya for eternal remembrance and mark down the names of the volunteers to the First Hebrew Brigade from our town.

                                    1.  Lichterman Yehuda  2. Lichterman Shimon  3. Cohen Leibel.

                                    On this opportunity we will also publish some of the poems of the educator Yehuda Lichterman, written somewhere in the Middle East during his service in the first Hebrew Brigade.

- P H O T O G R A P H -

 

 

Yehuda Lichterman, U.S.A., during his service in the First Hebrew Brigade

 

A Ring[1]

 

A tear drop fell in the ocean

And around it - formed a ring.

The hand cannot touch it

                                    Until such time, as to the bride -

                                    The groom will come and save her.

 

Oil floats above the abyss

And around it - a ring.

It is hidden from every eye

                                    Until such time, as to the bride -

                                    The groom will come and save her.

 

A speck of light in the heavens - -

Surrounded by a ring-like circle.

And it amazes all

                                    Until such time, as to the bride -

                                    The groom will come and save her.

 

                                                                                                                                 New York 1920.

 

[273]

 

The Graves Open...

 

"behold I will open your graves...and I will bring you home into the land of Israel."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ezekiel 37, 12.

 

The graves open... The dead awake

From their heavy sleep, the slumber of generations;

The wrath of the squires kindles a flame...

The convoys stretch indefinitely... innumerable...

 

The cables disjoin...the locks are broken...

The walls of slavery are shattered down....

Hearts come together, hands interlock -

In a straight line they march with swords and spears.

 

New skies and new land

The eastern horizon reveals -

With beating hearts and enthralled souls

They swarm the road and emerge like waves...

 

In their eyes - the holy spark, in their right hand - the spear

 

With joy they hurry to Zion, the treasured-

To the ancient land, youthful and obsolescent,

Where salvation is granted, and they will find theirs.

 

                                                                                                      The Hebrew Brigade,

                                                                               The Mediterranean (1917).

 

 

"O Lord, from men whose portion in life is of the world may their belly be filled with what thou hast stored up for them, may their children have more than enough, may they leave something over to their babes."

 

                                                                                                                                         Psalms 17, 14.

 

 

Anticipation

 

In the depth of an oasis dune

A well hidden, dear treasure lies:

 

A pearl-treasure is safe-kept

Never to be robbed by evil hands.

 

And near it - as a garrison

A mute juniper tree stands.

 

The desert, used to silence, hushes--

Quavering, it smiles for the birth of law...

 

The desert is flooded by the moonlight!--

Come and solve the secret mystery!--

 

                                                                                                                                New York, 1920

 

[274]

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The Sea-Desert Voyage

 

"Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorn - whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away."

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Psalms 58, 9.

 

On the silent, desolate desert-coast

A wrathful, conspiring ocean lies.

 

On its waves sail herds

of fishermen in boats.

 

Flocks and flocks, in the beginning of the night,

They came to spread their fishing nets.

 

They are all joyful and merry--

And around them circle plenty of fish.

 

Their hearts are merry and content--

And suddenly, oh, cursed fiends!

 

On the face of the desert stands alone

Naked, base and dejected-- a thorn!

 

By its flaming light

The dessert skies are lit, the shadow of death.

 

They saw but did not understand--

They approached and did not dare...

 

The sea roared, the waves ebbed--

The boats were carried ahead...

 

The faces of the net-bearers turned white--

Every eye was emboldened by the sight.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          New York, 1920


 

 

                                    Since for reasons that are not under our control we cannot describe these Ilyites during their service, we will at least quote a few sentences from the "Scroll of the Brigade" by Ze'ev Zabotinski, that describe the singularity of the Americans in the Brigade.

                                    "By numbers, they constitute the largest group in the brigade (34%).  In terms of intelligence, education, and personal courage, exhibited during the Jordan Valley battles, they also excelled.  Physically and in terms of health they were among the first.

                                    Although most of them were still new to America, they already had time to absorb the local tempo.  The American thinks quickly and clearly and makes a decision without hesitation:  yea or nay.  And be it yea, he acts so that it will indeed be achieved.  If he begins a certain action he knows what is required, and every step he makes is directed towards that final aim...

                                    [275]

                                    Having descended on the coast of Alexandria, they immediately asked:  where is the front?  Even though they did not participate in the struggle much, due to the English temper...   Then a "new goal"  was set:  peace.  They understood its meaning to be that "the land of Israel must be built."  Most of the Americans were good Zionists, and therefore demanded: "give us a hoe," but this wasn't given to them either.... Since the gunshots stopped and the hoe not yet provided, and to clean guns... that are useless anyway, they did not feel enthusiastic about, they began to demand, loudly, their release.[xxxix]

                                    But upon their return to the United States, they enthusiastically geared themselves towards performing the Zionist task, and formed the foundation of a strong Zionist organization in the United States; one that earned much privilege in developing the land and building it, in financial aid, in exerting a strong political pressure on famous American leaders, in encouraging -- and participating in -- the building of an independent state of Israel."

 

[303-304 in Yiddish]


 

[305]

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yizkor


[307]

 

                                                                                         May God Remember!

 

The souls of the holy and pure victims, who gave their lives for the sake of God and the honor of the Jewish people:

 

Our parents, wives, children, sisters and brothers, and all the rest of our relatives.  Our friends, neighbors, acquaintances and all the Jews of our town:  who were murdered, tortured, destroyed, cut down, massacred, torn to pieces, burnt, hewn and uprooted from the tree of life, while still in their prime, by all sorts of strange deaths invented by the Nazi Satan and his cruel assistants -- in the days of the largest Holocaust in the history of our people.

 

We their descendants:  their sons and daughters, their brothers and sisters, their friends and acquaintances - the survivors from the enemy's sword in each place, now immortalize their courage for eternity.  Their lives and cruel and tragic death will forever remain engraved in our hearts.  They will rest in heaven, and their souls will come together with the soul of all the nation's great and its heros.  They will rest in peace until the end of time and will pray with us for the establishment and aggrandizing of the state of Israel, forever.

 

We will engrave in our hearts the crimes of the vandals, thirsty for the pure clean blood that spilled like water.  Our wrath and will for revenge that beat in our hearts we will bestow on our sons and the sons of our sons after them, until the end of time.

 


[308]

                                                                                                                                                                                  The Holocaust's Martyrs*

 


Avril Gedalia

  "   Debusha

  "   Chaim

Avril Eliyahu

  "   Chaya

  "   Nachum

Eidelman Ze'ev Wolf

  "   Sarah

Alfrovitz Yossef

  "   Batia

  "   Esther

  "   Leah

Alfrovitz Wolf

  "   Itka

  "   Mishka

  "   Yitzchak

Altuch Mendel

  "   Sarah Leah

  "   Yehuda

  "   Michael

  "   Hodah

  "   Rivkah

  "   Leiba

Altman Rishka

  "   Rachel

  "   Shifrah

  "   Yishayahu

  "   Eli Moshe

Epstein Rucha Leah

  "   Chana

[2nd column]

Epstein Esther

Epstein Shabtai

Akman Chaim Shimon

  "   Rachel

  "   Taibel

Akman Reuven

  "   Shimke

Akman Chaya

Axelrod Asnah

  "   Betzalel

  "   Chaya

  "   Yafah

  "   Dinah

Broide Ya'akov

  "   Marah Feige

  "   Chayka

  "   Benyamin

  "   Shefatel

Broide Ben Zion

  "   Sarah

  "   Noah

  "   Eliezer

Broide Chava

  "   Chayka

  "   Altka

  "   Dvorah

  "   Altar

  "   Chaim

Broide Sarah Rasha

  "   Feigel

[309]

Bronstein Yente

  "   Ya'akov

  "   Elimelech

Brochin Ze'ev Wolf

  "   Rachel and 3 children

Bronstein Benyamin

  "   Sarah

  "   Eliyahu

  "   Mandel

  "   Nachum

  "   Leah

  "   Ben Zion

Bronstein Ya'akov Moshe

Brodno Freidka

Bokser Zisel

  "   Chana Reizel

  "   Baruch

  "   Yochevet

  "   Avraham

Berman Yishayahu

  "   Sarah

  "   Aharon

Berman Shimon

  "   Perlah

Berman Benyamin

  "   Lubah

  "   the daughter

Gordon Ya'akov

  "   Shifrah

  "   Hinda

  "   Sheindel

  "   Sarah

[2nd column]

Gordon a son

Greenblat Kelman

  "   Rachel

  "   Geitel

  "   Yitzchak

  "   Eliezer

  "   Efraim

Greenblat Simcha

  "   Pesia

  "   Miriam

  "   Yitzchak

Gupin Nachman

  "   Elka

  "   Motale

  "   Avraham

Gilman Yerachmiel

Gilman Yisrael

  "   Feigel

  "   Efraim

  "   Mirel

  "   Chayke

 Gilman Pesach

  "   Malka

  "   David

  "   Sarale

Geitlitz Dina Leah

  "   Leiba-Pasha

  "   Sarah

  "   Bashka

Greenhoiz Beila

  "   Chava

  "   Ruchama

[310]

Greenhoiz Lipshe

Gruzbein Shosha Chaya

  "   Rishka

  "   Feigel

  "   Chayne

Gutman Moshe

  "   Rasha

  "   Ezer Bar

  "   Leika

  "   Elka

  "   Breina

Dokshitzki Ya'akov Leib

  "   Yochevet

  "   Chaim Zelda

Danischewska Alta

  "   Rachel?

Dobrovski Chaya Dabusha

Darutz Leib

  "   Faya

Dinerstein Esther Malka

Vines Moshe David

  "   Perla

  "   Batia

  "   Esther

Vines Avraham

  "   Esther

Vunsvar Eliezer

Vizenfeld Yisrael

  "   Nechama

  "   Chaya

  "   Rivka

  "   Chaim

[2nd column]

Zabodnik Beila

  "   Hinda

  "   Mola

  "   Leizer

Zabodnik Moshe

  "   (Kompinski) Sarah

Zut Moshe

  "   Feigel

  "   Rachel

Zertzer Hirshel

  "   Chaya Libe

Zalmanovski Avraham

  "   Dvorah

Zalman Sarah

  "   Ze'ev

  "   Moshe

  "   Avraham

  "   Ya'akov

  "   Malka

Zisman Yochevet

Zisman Baruch

  "   Leah

  "   Chaya

Chadash Shneor

  "   Sarah Rachel

  "   Chaya Tzipa

Cheikin David

  "   Rivka

  "   Geital

  "   Leibka

Cheikin Zalman

  "   Fania

[311]

Cheikin Shulamit

  "   Abba

Cheikin Chaim David

  "   Alta

  "   Tzvia

  "   Esther

  "   Leah

Cheikin Dishka

  "   Chaya Mina

  "   Mordechai

  "   Rivka

Yerushevski Avraham Itsa

  "   Roda

  "   Geitel

  "   Chana

  "   Avraham

Yerushivski Eliyahu

  "   Moshe

Yerushivski Chaya Asna

Yasel Eliyahu

  "   Chaya Golda

Yasel Chayne

  "   Yitzchak

Levin Baruch

  "   Breina

  "   Leishka