A Kibbutz is Born in a Moshava of the Shomron
A New Beginning: Benyamina
We arrived at Givat HaPoel in Benyamina late one aftemoon. We were welcomed by the head of the local village council and by the occupants there. They helped us unload the trucks and move the tables and benches into the dining hall, arrange the boxes of food and unload the beds, etc. Since the dining hall was the only building then at our disposal, we all slept there the first night, together with some fellows from the kibbutz that had been there before us and hadn't yet gone. This temporary bedroom was very crowded the first night.
That first night we were told by the labor office of the village that we must report for work the following morning. Two men and four women stayed at the camp to straighten out the mess in the dining hall. All the others went to work in the citrus groves, the quarry or road repair. Beba and Bella who had come from Afikim, prepared hot drinks and food for those that had gone to work. The food for one whole day was some bread, margarine, half an egg and a piece of halva. I don't think we had herring for breakfast, but those that worked in the groves did have an addition of oranges. Later on, even those that worked elsewhere got oranges also.
I was among those that worked in the orange groves that first day. Picking oranges all day long was not an easy job, but it was easier than the job of moving the boxes of oranges, which became my lot. Two men would load two boxes full of oranges on a sort of stretcher and carry them to the packing house (that could sometimes be quite a long distance from the grove). That first day my partner and I ran into a bit of trouble because we were told to spill the oranges onto the pile we would find in the packing house. When someone saw how we dumped the oranges quickly, but not gently, he shouted, "Be careful, you have to spill the oranges carefully or you will ruin the fruit." We soon leamed how to do it quickly and gently.
Later, we did all kinds of work which was much harder than picking or carrying oranges. Actually, much more difficult than anything we had ever encountered anywhere. When we worked in the quarry as temporary laborers it was tough. I recall that once six of us worked at unloading sacks of chemical fertilizer; each sack weighed 120 kg. And we would carry them on our backs into the storehouse. Luckily that was a one day, one-time job.
Once the orange picking was over, there was more hard work awaiting us in the grove. The groves were irrigated by the open furrow system. The water was pumped from a well to the groves, each tree had a platter formed around it and the water would run along the furrow to the tree, fill the platter and then be diverted along to the next tree. Our job was to prepare these platters around each tree, and to do this we worked with a Turiya, a sort of wide, heavy hoe. Working with this implement under the trees was not easy, and we had to do a certain number each day, and stay ahead of those that were moving the water from platter to platter. What made life a bit easier was that we would switch jobs frequently and the variety helped. The most difficult work of all was the work in the salt flats near Athlit. Some of our men were sent to Athlit to work there. They would load the wet salt onto heavy wooden wheelbarrows and wheel them to piles of salt same distance from the water. I remember how we would sit round these he-men as they described how they worked and listen to their stories with awe and respect.
As I had mentioned previously, I had been chosen to represent the kibbutz in all its dealings with the settlement institutions. I continued in this role in Benyamina, and once a week I would go to Tel Aviv. The rest of the time I would work like everyone else.
A room in one of the buildings was converted to a clothing room. Some of the women worked at repairing torn or worn clothing, ironing, and dividing them out to the members. I don't know how they managed to dry the clothing. For the day that I had to go into the city I would be given the best clothes available.
In my dealings with these institutions in Tel Aviv I demanded that more rooms in the buildings be made available to us. We wanted to move some families to Benyamina that already had babies and were still in Afikim because we had no facilities for them. In general I tried to get them to improve our living conditions.
On the positive side, the feeling of euphoria still persisted, and our spirits were as high as on the first day. Each evening we would gather in the dining hall, we would just talk, sing and sometimes even have serious discussions. On Friday evenings other people living nearby would join us in the dining hall and participate in the singing or dancing or just enjoy being there with us and enjoying these crazy Anglo-Baltic kibbutzniks. A stranger passing by may well have wondered, "What are these homeless paupers so happy about? They work for a pittance, only have same dry bread to eat, sleep in tents and are as happy as larks."

Some members of the Anglo-Baltic Garin in Benyamina

Sooner than we thought, we were "settled in" in Benyamina. We found our niche in the community and became an integral factor in the life of the moshava. We knew best those families that were living on the hill near us; they were families of veteran workers, most were settled with stable jobs and comfortable homes with little gardens. We had good neighbors.
We got to know the farmers that we worked for also, but they preferred to keep at a certain distance, as becomes relations between employers and employed. There was less contact with the more distant sections of the village except for some of the younger ones who would also came to see what went on by us on Friday evenings. The German inhabitants of the village had been forced to make a drastic change in their lifestyle, from professionals and academicians to chicken farmers. I found it fascinating to meet the varied population of Benyamina and of Palestine.
Gersht, the director of the labor council in Benyamina regarded us as a very important addition to the village. He wanted one of our people to be the secretary of the labor council and do the actual day by day running of the council. We chose Natan Cohen and this turned out to be an excellent choice. He was soon running his department smoothly. Employers would turn to him when they needed extra hands, and he would decide who went where. At the height of the season there could be 300 employees looking for work.
Natan soon had the respect of the employers and the employees. He was meticulous in his accounts and fair in his division of labor. He gave attention to those who did not pound on the table and shout. In the spring, the job became more difficult.
When the orange-picking season was over, the irrigation work took fewer laborers. It was difficult to find jobs for everyone. There would be tension and shouting in his office. Natan would do his best to calm everyone's nerves and tried to find work for as many as possible.

First Steps In The Moshava
As soon as we arrived in Benyamina we had been warned by the director of the labor office that in the springtime things could be tough. Once the orange-picking season was over there was not very much work to be done in the moshava. In this off-season we tried to find work in other areas or to place our people in steady jobs with some of the farmers or in the quarry. Usually, besides the advantage of steady work, these jobs paid better than the temporary ones.
We worked so well at orange-picking and carrying that we earned a reputation as being good workers. The fact that a number of our people had worked at farming in Kinneret or other kibbutzim encouraged some of the more courageous furmers to use an Anglo-Baltic kibbutznik instead of an Arab worker, as he had done in the past. The first of our members to be so chosen did their work well and the farmers were pleased. Moshe Nir, who had worked at a training farm in Latvia, worked with one farmer's horses and did very well. His boss would boast to other farmers about Moshe's prowess with a team of horses known to all because of their unruliness. Eliezer Yisreali was also a success with one of the most progressive of the farmers who had a farm with many varied crops. This farmer also took Esther Peer to do the milking. Later on Bella Yisraeli took over from Esther at that job. Aharonson gave Eliezer and Bella a big donkey on which they could both ride to work and back. Six months later Eliezer and Bella married.
It was more difficult to get steady work at the quarry. Here also, thanks to our reputation, as soon as one steady worker left his job one of our boys replaced him. Some time later we were able to place a second worker in the quarry.
In February of 1939, three months after our arrival at Benyamina, we had 59 members of the kibbutz, 24 from Latvia, 16 from England, 10 from Lithuania, 3 from Estonia, 3 from Yugoslavia, 2 Americans and one "almost Sabra." More olim were supposed to be coming from Latvia, England, Lithuania and Estonia. Obviously, we would have a problem finding work for all of them. Other problems were housing and a house for the children and toilet facilities. In my visits to the various institutions I tried to get their assistance in getting some land of our own which would give us places to work and additional income. I looked for some plots of land in Benyamina which we might be able to lease.
I tried to procure loans from or through the supporting institutions so that we would be able to improve our living quarters and the shower facilities, and to try to get more rooms in the buildings for our use. We tried to convince the Jewish Agency to buy our camp and grounds so that it would also be directly responsible for the upkeep of all the facilities.

the tent camp in Benyamina

The moshava Benyamina was erected and supported by PICA, (Palestine Israel Colonization Association), a society for promoting colonization in Palestine. This society was formed by Baron Edmond de Rothchild and run by his son James. PICA had taken over the land on which Benyamina was built from a society that had owned it and passed it on to PICA. When we arrived in Benyamina there was some land still owned by PICA and not distributed to farmers; on some of that land, PICA had built Givat HaPoel. With the aid of the various organizations we mobilized to help us, Givat HaPoel finally was brought under the aegis of the Jewish Agency.
Even before the negotiations were concluded, we did receive some loans and started making improvements in the camp ourselves. Other improvements were made on the account of the Jewish Agency. Finally, one whole house of four rooms came into our possession. We built some wooden shacks, a bakery, and a workshop near the railway tracks. Much of this we were able to accomplish because of the "Litvak" Moshe Win (Niv), the man with the "golden hands" and the head of an engineer. Moshe was a watchmaker by trade, but he had the faculty of being able to build, make, or repair anything we needed, and that is no exaggeration. He put up the new wooden shacks, and he built the bakery also. He visited some places and saw how the ovens were built and how they withstood the heat by the use of special bricks and mortar. First, he built the oven and then built the building around it. All went quickly and smoothly and before long we were able to bake our own bread, which was cheaper and better than what we had bought. Moshe also put up the laundry building, which, although not a mechanized laundry, was good for its time. The camp area started to look decent, even nice, and our living conditions improved.
As I had mentioned, in addition to improving the physical appearance and conditions of our camp, we also started to build an auxiliary agricultural base. We needed land and we needed a loan in order to develop this, and I wandered around Benyamina to find the first item and around Tel Aviv to get the second item. I recall how I once returned from a trip to Tel Aviv with the phenomenal news, a loan of 80 Lira (Palestine) on easy terms! The whole kibbutz was involved in a heated discussion on how to spend the money. It was finally decided to buy a horse, a wagon, and some hand implements for farming, some irrigation equipment, and some seed and fertilizer. If I remember correctly, the horse cost about 25 Lira. We also decided not to be tight-fisted and to buy a wagon with rubber tires.
The task of buying the horse was assigned to Shaul Peer. True, Moshe Nir was the horse expert, but he was considered too new in the country to be a match in bargaining with the tough farmers of Benyamina. Shaul found out that a farmer in Zichron Yaakov was ready to sell a strong horse. He hurried to Zichron to have a look. The horse was big, white and looked strong. Shaul wanted to impress the farmer and others who stood around and took a look at the horse's teeth, as if he knew what he was doing. "This horse is no youngster," he said, and the farmer agreed to sell at the price Shaul offered. And so Shaul came back to Benyamina leading our horse, with the imposing name of "Jamil."
Jamil was quite strong, but would sometimes vent his dissatisfaction with life by kicking backwards with his rear feet. In Zichron, the farmers were laughing at the green kibbutzniks who bought a horse that kicks and would be difficult to sell. Jamil did kick sometimes, but I don't think he ever hurt anyone. We also bought a good wagon, as we had planned, and this became a part of the scenery of the moshava. You may wonder why I write to such an extent about the purchase of a horse, but in the life and times of the Anglo-Baltic Kibbutz, the purchase of this horse was an important, historic event, and for a long time the topic of Jamil was a popular one among us and the source of many a joke.
I should add that Jamil was not really our first purchase; that honor belongs to our donkey, "Chamberlain," who stood at the service of the one in charge of the kitchen, Beba, and they that came after her. The donkey owed its name to the "esteem" in which we held the statesman who desired to appease Hitler. Incidentally, donkeys were a vital means of transportation in the moshava. Important farmers had big donkeys; poorer ones had smaller donkeys.

Nechemia astride Chamberlain

Nor did I have too much trouble renting several plots of land on which to farm. We received four dunams from the labor council and on this plot we planted potatoes. We received another two dunams from neighbors and on these we cultivated vegetables. We received an additional seven dunams from PICA on which we also planted potatoes. However, the first really big project was the renting of one hundred dunams from PICA on which we grew watermelons.
We knew that growing watermelons with no irrigation in our area could be quite successful because there was a heavy fall of dew in the spring and early summer. Our "almost Sabra" was the key man in this operation. He spoke to an old Arab from Kfar Zarka several times and gathered all the tips he could from him. The Arab told him that it was not enough just to plow and plant; after germination, it is important to hoe round the plants and keep the ground well aired until the runners spread and cover the ground. Shaul did as instructed and a number of girls worked at the hoeing, which was not easy, for the whole season. Two of those whose names I recall were Sonia Vishkin (Feld) and Etiya Shatz (Lutzov).
Late that spring, the watermelons received important reinforcements. Avramico Razili arrived from Yugoslavia via Aliya Bet (illegal immigration). The immigrants landed at night without being discovered by the British and were divided among the villagers in the region until things blew over. Avramico came to our camp as soon as he could, and looked like he was a born and bred farmer. He was invaluable to Shaul in growing watermelons. This proved especially important when the time for gathering the ripe watermelons arrived. Watermelons do not ripen evenly or all at the same time, and an experienced farmer can tell the ripe melons from the unripe. Avramico would walk ahead of the others and pick out the ripe melons; the others behind him would load the ripe melons onto the wagon.
The yield was good, the watermelons looked good and tasted sweet. I found a truck driver in Benyamina who agreed to take the watermelons to the market in Haifa at Hadar HaCarmel. This truckdriver, Alexander, was not a young man, and the price he demanded seemed exorbitant to me, but he was experienced and good and was worth the sum. Before we entered the city, he suggested I get out of the truck and sit on top of the fruit. I did so, and no sooner did we get to the market when several young energetic guys climbed onto the truck and started "feeling" the melons, several of them "accidentally" falling and splitting open in the process. I yelled at them and shook them off, and as per Alex's advice, cut open several to show the merchandise. Several merchants bought the whole load without much hassling and I got the current price for the melons without trouble. On the way back home I told Alexander about myself and our Kibbutz, and he told me the story of his life, along with some hot rumors going about the moshava. To sum up, this plot of watermelon left us a nice profit that year, and I do not recall why we did not continue to grow them in later years.
Among those that had made Aliya and had been in agricultural training farms in the Diaspora, we absorbed several. Outstanding among them was one young woman, Yamima Ribak. She stood tall and straight with a long black braid. She had a lot of energy and was adamant about what she wanted. She grew potatoes on a plot of land at some distance from the moshava. At her insistence, we laid a pipeline to that field from a connection that some farmer allowed us to make. An unpleasant incident once occurred in that field, which we used to guard at night. The guard heard some noise, and cried out in Arabic for the trespasser to halt. The trespasser kept on going, so the guard shot and hit what he shot at. It turned out that he had, to his chagrin, shot a donkey. That morning a bunch of angry Arabs from the village of Zarka gathered about, and demanded retribution. The incident was closed when we paid them a sum with which they could buy another live donkey.

The Kibbutz Gets Organized
During the first period of our life in Benyamina the difficulty of making a living and the difficult living conditions were our greatest worry. We, however, took the first steps in organizing our kibbutz framework. Most of those that we had absorbed during this period were from the Baltic countries, England and Yugoslavia. They increased our numbers and added quality to our society. We had to organize our life a bit better and Borka, the secretary, encouraged the choosing of more committees, with the authority to act within their field. The general assembly (all the members of the kibbutz A. M.) continued to decide on all the important economic issues and most of the social ones (important and unimportant), but the role of the committees did become increasingly important. We did not choose a broad secretariat; the secretary would coordinate the work of the various committees and bring to the general assembly whatever matters needed a decision by all the members. All the committees did their work and had their meetings after the regular work hours (on their own time A.M.) and the secretary himself was only given a limited, but not regular amount of time for community affairs, and the rest of the time he also worked wherever he was assigned. That is the way I, and the manager of the work schedule, also did our jobs. Today, this seems an amateurish way to conduct the public business, but I think that it was suitable at that time. Everyone, from the latest newcomer to the seasoned veteran, took part in all important decisions and felt a part of all that was transpiring.
Our first objective was to achieve financial independence, without going into debt. It was soon evident that this was no easy matter. Most of the members worked at simple agricultural labor, or at temporary work at jobs that required no training. Wages were very low, an average of 15 grush (100 grush = I Lira) for a full day's work. We tried to work as many days as possible, but nevertheless, our income was quite small. We tried to limit our expenses to what, today, would seem ridiculous lengths. When we did receive our first loans, we were certain that we would be able to repay them. Kalman Ribak, our accountant, was a meticulous Litvak. When he prepared our first yearly balance sheet we were all proud of his "our" achievement. It showed we had a profit of 600 Lirot! In the weekly issue of the Afikim news sheet, they commented on the fmancial achievement of the new Anglo-Baltic Kibbutz.
As time went by, our social life became more varied. We still danced and sang on Friday nights, but not quite so much as previously. In our daily life and discusssions, the differences between members' attitudes towards problems were in some measure a function of what country they had come from. The Baltic members were stricter in interpreting "kibbutz principles." The Anglo-Saxons, on the other hand, were more tolerant and upheld the "rights of the individual." This had to do, I guess, with the confrontation between Western individualism and the ideological orthodoxy of the Eastern Europeans. The common struggle for survival and the youthful enthusiasm with which we were imbued, served to help us surmount the difficulties of cultural blending.
A big change took place in Benyamina in all that had to do with relations between the sexcs. While we were a Garin, there were a few steady couples, but most of us were celibate and did not hurry to complicate life with serious romance. In Benyamina that changed; there were many romantic episodes here. At first and most obviously, there were connections between couples of the same nationality, and a number of them ended in marriage. We would call it that when a couple "moved into the same tent," but not long afterwards there were marriages with the the rabbi of Benyamina officiating. When a couple moved into a tent there was also dancing, singing, some wine-drinking and good spirits. There were, of course, some affairs that did not culminate successfully. I mention this, but excuse me if I don't dwell on the details.
Our first two children, Moshe, the son of Yehudit and Hillel, and Edna, the daughter of Sara and Zevulun, we "inherited from the Garin." They arrived at Benyamina when we were able to give them a room. A short time later a number of women were seen to be in an advanced state of pregnancy. Most of the women gave birth in Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva, but in one case, that of Rachel Lavi, she was impatient and gave birth in a tent to her daughter, Rina. I recall that evening, a group of us were sitting around talking idly, when suddenly someone burst in upon us shouting, "Rachel gave birth in the tent." We were all very happy, and Moshe had another drink and then went back to take care of Rachel. From the distance of years gone by, I recall that even after many couples and many children, we would gather in the dining hall-cum-clubhouse in the evenings, and socialize. These first families and their children did not drift apart from the group, and did not change their lifestyle.
Only three months following our arrival at Givat Hapoel in Benyamina, the first issue of "Bekibbutzeinu" (In Our Kibbutz) appeared. This information brochure was to continue its appearance for more than fifty years, describing and documenting all that occurred in the kibbutz. It also served as a bond to our youth movements. Our youth movements saw our kibbutz as their creation also, and a good number of their youth intended to join us when they would arrive in Palestine. The development and the fate of the kibbutz interested these young people, who for various reasons could not yet make Aliya.
With the outbreak of WWII the contact with these movements was severed. Some of these youth died in the Holocaust and others scattered throughout the Soviet Union.
Contact with the movements in England, the USA, and South Africa continued and even intensified. A special office was established with the assistance of some people who were not affiliated with the Garin. One of these was Abe Herman, one of the first from the Habonim Movement in England. Abe was at that time in charge of the Youth Department of the Zionist Organization. He maintained close contact with us in Benyamina. This contact continued until we started our affair with Naame in the Huleh Valley. Later Abe was active in the Jewish Agency, in the foreign ministry, as Israel's Ambassador to Washington, and upon his return to Israel, as President of the Hebrew University. For many years he also served as the active President of the Committee for Soviet Jewry.
With Abe's initiative, our kibbutz was chosen to be the base for the activities of the Office, and at a general meeting of the kibbutz, three members were picked to be the active secretariat: Shoshana Cooper-Hameiri (England), Yitzchak "Aikie" Eisenberg (USA) and Aryeh Ziv (South Africa).
Aryeh Ziv offered to publish the periodical, "HaMekasher," which was distributed in England, the USA and S. Africa, and still later, in Australia. He continued to do this job well for very many years, and earned great respect from the Habonim movements in those countries. For our kibbutz, it was important to feel that we were not simply some temporary, adventurous event, but part of a whole movement's existence and development. Another challenge which we faced was to do our part in the building and defense of the country. I hesitate somewhat to write these lines as they may seem trite today, but what's to be done, that is how we felt and how we lived at the time.

Our Right to Work on Jewish Farms
Our kibbutz grew especially at a time when it was difficult to find work in the moshava. When we were picked to go to Benyamina, the riots of of 1938 were in full swing; the Arabs who had worked for the farmers in Benyamina had fled, and they had no one to do the chores or harvest for them, so we were welcomed, in order to save the situation, and it was stressed that we should arrive in time for the harvest.
In the middle of 1939, the riots had stopped and Arabs started reappearing in and around the moshava. The farmers of Zichron had already re-employed the Arabs of neighboring Faradis. The the farmers of Benyamina were not far behind and started to recall the Arabs of Zarka to do their work, and fired our people. The "ban" that these farmers placed upon us angered us, and we felt cheated. We were told, in action if not by word, "The nigger has done his job, the nigger can go."
We decided to fight for our right to work in the groves and vineyards of the Jewish farmers. We tried at first to reason with them, but their reaction was disdain and they were insulting in their behavior. We decided to act first against those farmers that refused to even talk to us. At first we made a peaceful picket line in front of the entrances to the groves, and some workers from Benyamina joined us, but were soon discouraged and we were left to solve the problem ourselves.
At first the fight was peaceful enough, but we got nowhere. Soon after, things became uglier. We stood a row of girls in front of the entrance to a big grove, and when the farmer came with his Arab workers, he called the police. The British police started to push and move the girls, but when one of them tried to move Ruth, a tall, strong girl from England, she gave him a resounding slap. However, the police were adamant and arrested several of the girls and us. Thereafter, whenever there was a fight, our people were the ones to be arrested, and a file was opened for them and they were put on trial.
I recall one incident in which I took part with many others We decided to hide behind some rocks not far from the path along which the wagons of farmers from Zichron would come on their way to the vineyards. When they had gone by we attacked from the rear and scared the Arabs away and started to fight with the farmers' sons. One of them galloped back to Zichron on his horse. We knew he had gone to notify the police, so we scattered and mixed with other workers in the quarry nearby. When the fellow returned with the police, he recognized me, and the police arrested me and another fellow with me. We were released only after we had been questioned and a file had been opened against us.
When we saw that we were not making headway and very many of us had been arrested, we decided to change and intensify our tactics. During the day, one large grove had been prepared for irrigation by the Arab workers, with furrows and platters around each tree. We came that night and made a mess of all their work, spoiling the platters and the furrows. If I am not mistaken, some fellows also broke some of the valves in the field, also. The farmers were surprised and shocked. They called the police but they could not find anyone to blame. The farmers called the governor of the region and he had Gersht and the head of the labor office arrested, but they were soon released. The struggle went on for several months, but in the end the farmers won out and refused to employ us, and continued to work with Arab labor.
There followed a long series of trials, in which many of our chaverim were accused of a misdemeanor and fined 10 pounds. Among those fined whose names I recall were: Michael Avin, Hillel Avni, Yerachmiel Sondak, Zalman Dolev, and of course "Fighting Ruth." We did not have the money to pay all the fines and I think that the Labor Organization had a fund through which they covered the lawyers' fees and the fines. In the trial in which I was also a defendant, 14 of us stood trial but only four were found guilty. The farmers of Zichron with whom we had fought, stood witness against us. We had a very good lawyer, Ankorion, who managed to confuse many of the witnesses. The judge was a Jew who had studied law in England, and I think he was actually quite fair and decent. The Zichroni with whom I fought took the stand and said I attacked him. The lawyer asked him how did he defend himself and he said he did so with an iron chain. When he asked me the same question I answered that I had a stick. Then the lawyer asked me where was I immediately before I came to the trial, and I said I had come from Afikim where I was taking part in a seminar preparatory to going on shlichut to the youth movement in English-speaking countries. The lawyer then told the judge, "You see what a vicious hooligan you have here" (me). The judge declared both sides guilty and fined four of us and four Zichronians equally.
Gcrsht and the head of the labor office, Natan Cohen, were given a comparatively heavy sentence, exile to Metula for three months. They were given no time to say goodbye and had to leave the moshava that day. The lieutenant-governor of the region was to have an influential role on the future of our kibbutz.
I doubt that we won the hearts of the farmers of Zichron and Benyamina, but in years to come we saw that our bravery and stubborness were admired by most other natives of the moshava. Five years or so later, Yigal Neiderman, who played soccer for Maccabi Zichron Yaakav (B League North) came to play against our team (he had been my opponent in the big fight). "Remember me?" he asked. "Of course I do, I am very glad we both came out of that fracas whole," I said. A few years later, during the War of Independence, the children and mothers of Kfar Blum were evacuated to Benyamina, where they were warmly received and cared for by the people of the moshava during their temporary stay at Benyamina.

Survival: Determination and Initiative
Even while contending with the farmers over our right to work for them, we did not cease to look for other and better places to work. We continued to develop our own small farm, and we did not shrink from various daring, and reckless projects, like building a rabbit hutch and raising ducks. We went even further, we bought a flock of sheep (after Yisrulik Vishkin finished a period of training at some other kibbutzim). Our experimentation in farming was limited because we had only small plots of land and no money to invest. Nor did we have many people trained in farming at that time. Members that we had sent to other kibbutzim for training and experience had not yet finished their terms of training. The kibbutz was growing quickly and we had to find work for the new members. We attacked every new venture with enthusiasm and energy.
Kibbutz Gan Shmuel rented a large tract of land in the Kabara (an area of land between the southern range of the Carmel and the dunes along the shore). I met the man in charge of their field crops and inquired about the possibility of working for them. That fellow, Niomka, said they would be needing many workhands to harvest the crop of corn (maize), and was ready to have us do it if we would not ask too high a price for the work. We reached a reasonable compromise and tens of chaverim went to harvest the corn. We found another and rather special place to work. Near Zichron, the British Army had built a large camp which was occupied by cavalry troops. Shalom Barzilai made a deal with them. We would clean out the manure for a decent salary, and we would keep the manure. I found a way to make money out of the manure. I turned to the farm manager of Gan Shmuel and he was interested in using the manure to fertilize a large field near Givat Ada. We sold him the manure "spread in the field" at a reasonable price. In those days all the work of loading and unloading and spreading manure was done by hand and kept a good number of our chaverim busy for some time.
When the cavalry moved out and the infantry moved in we did not hesitate to continue doing the job we had done before, but this time the product was that of human beings. We constructed a special wagon, with a big barrel on it to which a horse could be hitched, and a new immigrant from the States, Ezra, was given the job of emptying and moving the stinking waste. He did not particularly care for his job, nor for the English officers, so sometimes he would halt his horse in front of the officers' canteen, and dismount to "fix" a wheel or whatever. A few minutes later the officers would feel the penetrating effect of the load standing before the canteen and shut the windows and the door and plead for him to move on. In his slow, measured gait, Ezra would remount the wagon and continue on his way, leaving a trail of odor behind him. The English were nevertheless quite pleased with our work.
We were not afraid to go far afield in search of work. Avramico, for example, was a skilled roadbuilder. He went to work in Sarafand (Tzrifin today) and as a skilled worker earned a very good salary. Yisrulik Hameiri found work in digging drainage ditches. These jobs were a good addition to our income, but still did not solve our unemployment problems. We took a big step forward when we set up a tree-cutting operation. I don't recall how or where we got the idea from, but the situation, with the outbreak of the World War led to a lack of wood for charcoal or for burning in general, so the idea of tree-cutting was a good one. In neighboring Pardes Chana we were able to buy eucalyptus trees from the farmers. Each farmer had, in addition to the citrus groves, ten dunams of eucalyptus trees. After the trees are sawn, they have the ability to regrow at a rapid rate, and the farmers willingly sold us the trees. We chose the stand of trees that suited our purpose best; the straightest ones we would sell to the kibbutzim in the Jordan Valley. They used them for fence posts in their banana plantations. The rest we cut up for firewood or for making charcoal, and dried them in big piles until they were ready to bc sold. Natan Cohen was the business manager of this branch of work and would look for suitable stands of trees and handle the negotiations with the farmers. Moshe Lavi was the work manager of the group that cut and hauled the trees to our site in Benyamina. Shilim Ratz was in charge of cutting the wood into smaller pieces and of drying the wood.
Early every morning we would go out on two wagons to the eucalyptus groves, armed with large handsaws. We would saw in pairs. The sawyers would cut the tree in two; others would use hand axes to remove all the small branches. Towards the end of day we would load all the wood onto the wagons and bring it back to camp. We would wipe out a ten-dunam. stand in one day. On the wagon on the way home there would be talk on a wide range of topics, from "stam" jokes to serious discussion, peppered with rumor and humor.

Early every morning we would go out on two wagons

When we had finished up the stands of trees Pardes Chana we went further. For a time we worked near Athlit, and we also worked at Even Yehuda (near Natania). When we traveled longer distances from home, we went with a small truck, which hauled the wood back to Benyamina. The tree- cutting was almost an industry, and we even won a contract to supply wood for the British Army. We shipped wood by train from Benyamina to the South.
At some point, the trade in wood fell off sharply and we looked around for other types of work that would keep a number of us occupied. It was particularly important to us to find work for the women. I don't know how we came across the idea of making clothespins, maybe because it also had to do with wood. The "line" for manufacturing the clothespins was built, naturally, by Moshe Win, our expert at everything. Moshe figured out how to work with the wood and give it shape, and built a contraption to make the springs with which to connect the pieces of wood. Moshe Lavi was the salesman and went about Tel Aviv selling the clothespins to the merchants there. He worked very hard, and sometimes he succeeded in making an extra-good deal at their expense, and sometimes they succeeded at our expense. We did not become inordinately wealthy because of this little industry, but it gave the girls work and brought in a bit of an income. We finally gave up on this little project many years later when we were already at Kfar Blum, and we sold the whole business. All these great successes of ours still did not solve the problem of finding work. We sent a group of chaverim far to the south to work for the Jewish Agency, to help a new group that was settling there. Some of us worked for a period of time in Kibbutz Negba, and an even larger group went to work in Afikim. We also decided to send a group of chaverim to work in the Upper Galilee, in Metula. This latter had repercussions on our future, but I'll come to that later. I have written all that transpired during our years in Benyamina, and I wonder how did we dare do what we did. A bunch of green boys and girls, new to the country, most of us with no trade and not a penny in our pockets. The only thing that could have given us the push, the inspiration, must have been that vision we had received in the movement in which we grew. The atmosphere in the country during that period, with the World War in the background, helped also. All round us there was much activity, the immigration (illegal), the new settlements and the mobilization in the war against Hitler.

The Kibbutz Grows
Towards the end of 1939 and the first half of 1940 the kibbutz grew rapidly. The last of our chaverim who were able to leave before the war broke out and the gates closed, came from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Some had certifcates which the British doled out in very small quantities. These were very difficult days for the Jewish settlement in Palestine. The attitude of the British Government to the Jews changed for the worse. I described earlier how, at the time of the riots, the British helped the settlements in many ways. The days of Ord Wingate were over, once the riots had ended. The British decided to limit Jewish immigration to Palestine drastically. Shortly afterwards, the "White Paper" was published. The White Paper was in essence, an abrogation of British obligation to the Balfour Declaration, and of the role which the British had commited themselves to fulfill when they received the mandate for Palestine.
All this transpired when the clouds of war were hovering over Europe. The Yishuv (the Jewish settlement in Palestine) organized to fight against the edict of the White Paper. The Yishuv decided to organize the immigration to Palestine, despite the White Paper and the opposition of the British. The immigrants arrived in ships and small boats of all kinds and condition. Some of our chaverim also arrived in this manner. Avramico arrived on a small Greek ship that was ordinarily used to transport cattle. Yisrulik Hameiri came on the Tiger Hill which came aground near Tel Aviv. The maapilim (immigrants) swam or waded ashore and then went into the city and mingled with others there, so as not to be caught by the British. Yisrulik was one of these immigrants.
A larger number of our chaverim from Latvia and Estonia came on the Colorado. The British took this ship in custody and jailed all the immigrants in a camp at Bat Galim, on the southern outskirts of Haifa. I went there with Sara Paltiel to visit our chaverim but we were not allowed inside the camp. We met them at the barbed wire fence, they on one side and we on the other. They were hot and tired but very happy: Zelda Sondak, Bella Yisraeli, Eliezer Porat, Motke Bel, and some other girls. We exchanged greetings and told them we had heard in the camp office that they would soon be released. They asked us lots of questions about Benyamina.
An even larger group of chaverim reached Israel on a ship which ran aground near Herzlia. There also, the people of the town took them in, clothed them and hid them in their houses. Eliezer Bub, Kalman Ribak, Edit Razili, Yamima Blaushield and Michael Avin arrived at last in Benyamina. The story of their Aliya was exciting. They had left port in a small boat and transferred to a larger one when they were on the high seas.
We also received important reinforcements from the "Meshek Hapoalot" (training farms for women). The British Government gave a number of certificates to Jewish girls who were accepted for these special schools. In this way Dvora Dolev, Budiah Berman, Rivka Dukravitz, Chaya Stern and Liuba Harari all arrived in Eretz Yisrael. Single men and women also came to our kibbutz from other kibbutzim, each one had his own reason for so doing. Yerachmiel Sondak came from Geva, Rasia Cohen and Chaya Nir from Ein Gev, Bella Ratz from Mishmarot and several others.
A very special happening was our absorbing a large group of 18 peop1e from the movement in America. Most of them had been staying at Ramat David in the Jezreel Valley and others came from various places in the country. I recall the discussion we had about absorbing this group. Some people were against our taking them in, as they felt that it would interfere with the blending and strengthening of the Europeans into a unified social unit. I was of the opinion that true, it would slow down the process of integration in the short term, but in the long run it would strengthen us, and ensure continued Aliya from America after Europe had been cut off by the war. When it came to a vote, the majority was for accepting the Americans. Several days later the first of them arrived. When I wrote this part, I talked to Joe Kreyden. He came together with Angie Kolar and Slava Porat in the first group of Americans. Some of them left the kibbutz at some stage of its long journey, but many have passed away as members of Kfar Blum to their last day. Joe told me that there was also serious deliberation within the American group about whether or not to join the Anglo-Baltic kibbutz. Several of the older members of Ramat David suggested they remain there and join that kibbutz. They, the Americans, thought it would not be easy for them to get along with the rowdy bunch of young Baltics. One of the Americans wanted them to go to the Dead Sea, and when the others did not agree he left them. Another suggested they go to Kibbutz Sdot Yam which was just starting to settle in Caesarea. Angie Kolar, however, was firm in her conviction of joining the Anglo-Baltic group, and her determination and persuasion convinced the others and won the day. There were also several Canadians in the American group. One of them, Moshe Polson, volunteered when the British started mobilizing Jews in the fight against the Nazis. While serving with his unit in Syria he was killed in a severe accident.
In addition to those mentioned above, were Ikie, Yafa, Yosef and Kitrit Sadeh who were with us till the very end. Tuvia Cohen, Tmima, Aliza and Yehuda Strimling and Malka Sever were with us during Metula and Naame and left the kibbutz afterwards. There were some others but even Joe doesn't remember them all. Joe and Ruthie made aliya about one year before the Americans joined us. During that year they lived in Haifa and Joe worked for the Nachshon Company (one of the first in the field of shipping and fishing). He worked there in fixing and checking the motors of the fishing vessels. At the same time, they regarded themselves as an integral part of the American group, whose decision on its future would be their decision also. Those of us who feared what would happen after the integration of the Americans were proved wrong. No Anglo-American coalition emerged as opposed to the Baltic. The unification that had to develop with time was between a strong unified American group, the Baltic group, and the English, and an the individuals we absorbed from all over.

The Yishuv Volunteers, And So Do We
Step by step, the outbreak of the Great War approached. I doubt if anyone could have imagined how great this catastrophe would be. Bad as things looked, life continued. The leaders had their daily problems to deal with, and so did the common man, and all that was true for pastoral, peaceful Benyamina. Any change that would transpire seemed a long way off.
The British Colonial Administration must have been worried all the same, and a camp was set up between Zichron and Benyamina. The unit that took over the camp was the Cheshire Yeomen. Sending horse cavalry to our area at the outbreak of the war seems today to have been ridiculous. The British must have felt that way too, because very shortly the place of the horses was taken by Bren Carriers, and in place of cavalrymen there were young infantrymen. We would have some of them over sometimes on Friday nights.
One night, along with a few English soldiers came one who was Jewish. While we were singing, the soldiers mentioned that this Jewish boy was known to them as a good singer, and would we like to hear him. He taught us an American song of the 'twenties about a soldier who comes home from the war and is unemployed (Buddy Can You Spare A Dime). This soldier said that he was the son of the Cantor Sirota, one of the best Cantors of that time. Shalom Barzilai, who was in charge of our "business relations" with the camp, sometimes invited some of the officers over for a meal, and one day I saw an article in our newsheet "Bekibbutzeinu" vehemently objecting to our being hosts to English officers. The British later sent a unit of seasoned Indian troops to that same camp.
In the beginning of 1939 Hitler had some easy victories in Europe. WWII actually started in September, 1939, with the invasion of Poland. Britain and France finally declared war on Germany. Things moved very quickly after that. The Germans conquered most of Poland and the Soviets also took a share. The Soviet Union did not enter the Baltic countries but waged war against Finland.
The conquest of Poland shocked us. We felt that a serious threat hangs over the head of East European Jewry. We were worried about the uncertainty of the fate of the Baltic countries. We heard a little bit about this from some olim who managed to get to Israel via Odessa.
About a year after the start of the war England was attacked by German airplanes. The cities and the civilian population were bombed mercilessly, and there was a great deal of destruction. Suddenly the war was very close to all of us. One letter from England proclaimed: "The movement is in the front lines." Our English chaverim were very worried, and feared for their friends and relatives back home in the cruelly bombed cities. The Jewish Yishuv in Palestine faced a serious dilemma; on the one hand, we could not accept the restrictions of the White Paper, with its limitations on immigration, and on the other hand, every Jew was bound to help Britain in its fight against the Nazis. The Zionist leadership decided on this course of action as stated by Ben-Gurion: We shall fight in Eretz Yisrael against the White Paper as if there is no World War, and we shall fight Hitler as if there is no White Paper. Moshe Sharet, the foreign minister of the Zionist leadership, engaged in lengthy negotiations on how the Jews of Israel could be co-opted to the fight against Hitler. In the beginning the British were not at all interested in putting Jewish soldiers into their army and only took them into non-combat units or as truck drivers. Later, they did put them in combat units, and afterwards they formed the Jewish Brigade. Moshe Sharet also brought the British to include them in special combat forces. The Jews of the Yishuv already had experience in volunteering for special British security forces. Jews had volunteered to serve in the British police, and they also served in the ghaffir units previously mentioned. Once the World War was under way, the volume of volunteers increased greatly and many kibbutznikim were among them.
Our chaverim answered the call willingly, and we actually had to choose and to limit the number of chaverim that wanted to enlist. None of us remember exactly what were the criteria we used to decide who should go, and who not, but since almost all the volunteers were single, perhaps that was one of the criteria.
One of the first to enlist was Yeshayahu Birnbaum, an Englishman of German extraction, a friendly, intelligent person. He was not a strong athletic type, but rather small and frail-looking. He enlisted in a unit of sappers (laying or clearing of mines and booby traps) and had a very rough time while serving in Crete. Only by a lucky coincidence he did not fall a prisoner to the Germans, as happened to a number of other Israeli sappers. After transfer to another unit, he lasted out the whole war and returned to us safe and sound. When they started mobilizing drivers, Matke Bell and Dov Hameiri joined up. Joe Kreydon told me that Dov demanded to be mobilized. It was against his principles to carry arms but did not want to be thought a coward. A soldier-driver at the front was exactly the job for him. There was one woman amongst all the volunteers, Malka Savar from Canada.
Mobilization started at the end of 1940 and continued in 1941-1942. Altogether, 15-16 members of the Anglo-Baltic kibbutz joined the army. They were spread through all the units that accepted Jewish volunteers.
Each one had his experiences and each one had his own story. Only one of them served as an officer. He had intended to enlist in the infantry, but when he heard that the army was looking for engineers, he reported and was given an officer's rank. They made him an officer without even one day of training. He had to buy his own uniform, which did not please Rafke, the treasurer, very much. Joe served in Egypt but also went as far as Tobruk, the port city of Libya, which the British defended against Rommel.
There is one humorous incident involving Eliezer Bub. While he was at his base in Egypt he was told there was an army officer that wanted to see him. Eliezer was a bit surprised and worried what he might have done. He hurried along to the office and was pleasantly surprised to see that the officer was none other than Joe. Joe Kreydon had heard that Eliezer was in that camp and decided to pay him a visit.
I'll finish up this passage about our boys in the army with a word about two of our chaverim, Borke Yakobson and Moshe Polson who fell in the line of duty. They did not return from the war and did not have the good fortune to continue building our-their home in the Upper Gallilee.
Moshe Polson was born in Scotland, the son of a Hebrew teacher. He was 15-years-old when his family moved to Montreal, Canada. As befit a boy with a Jewish-Zionist background, he joined the youth movement and when aged 17, went to an agricultural training farm. When he came to Israel he joined a group of Americans that had gathered at Kvutzat Hasharon and he came with them to the Anglo-Baltic kibbutz at the beginning of 1940. When we sent a group of us to Metula, Moshe was among them. Even before most of the others, Moshe felt he had to take part in the war against Hitler. While at Metula he was the first to enlist in the army. When he did get some days' leave, he would visit us at Naame, that hill in the Huleh Valley where our chaverim from Metula were staying. He served in the army for two and a half years before he died in a terrible accident. A truck loaded with soldiers, including Moshe, overturned on the road from Sidon to Beirut.
In a brochure to his memory which we published when we heard of his death, I wrote, "in the style of that period": "I did not know Moshe more than any other of us, but he was loved by all of us despite our not knowing him well. He was with us for such a short time, but he was a simple straightforward person, an excellent worker, and a lover of nature. He was devoted to our community and was an integral part of it."
I remember his few visits in Naame. It was our first harvest and Moshe appeared between the stacks of hay. He hugged the stacks and then picked up a pitchfork and started working. He would arrive in the kibbutz, drop his pack and remove his jacket and head straight for the refet (dairy barn). He was not born for war, but we knew that if that was what he was called upon to do, he did it with all his heart and energy.
Borka (Baruch) Yakobson was born in 1916 in Russia. During the First World War his family wandered about the wide expanse of Russia, as did many families of Jews of Latvia. Borka grew up in Riga, the youngest of three big, husky brothers, and he was the biggest of them all. As a young boy he joined the Netzach movement and in time was one of its well-known personalities. He was good-looking, with a wild crop of hair, full of life and good-hearted. He had a tremendous voice, which would stand out above the others when we were singing as a group. He was a successful and popular leader and was on the secretariat of the movement. He was the picture of self-confidence, optimism and love of his fellow men. I got to know him well when we both were in the group that went to the world convention in Czechoslovakia. Borka made aliya before me, as one of the first four members of our Garin which concentrated in Afikim. While I was on my way to Palestine, I received a letter from him in Vienna, saying he was expecting me to come to Afikim, and not to any other kibbutz that was taking olim from the Baltic countries. He was well-liked not only by the members of the Garin, but also by the chaverim of Afikim.
When it was decided to leave Afikim and set up a new kibbutz, Borka was chosen to be secretary. He was also the first secretary in Benyamina. In any group that would form, he was the natural leader. When Natan Cohen was exiled to Metula, Borka was the one who took his place as the secretary of the Benyamina Workers Council and of the labor office.
In 1940 the Hagana (the Underground) mobilized men for a special seamen's course. As it turned out, this was a training course organized by the British and the Hagana. Borka was one of the participants. When the course was completed, Borka came back to the kibbutz and worked wherever he was assigned until he was called back to his commando unit, which was to go into action. Only volunteers were accepted for this task, and it was obvious that it entailed a lot of risk. Borka volunteered. Others tried to convince him that he was needed at home, but he would not be swayed. When his little son was only 8 months old, Borka took off on a mission in which a group of Palmach sailers, together with a British officer, left for a mission in Syria ever since known as "the 23 who disappeared at sea." Many years later it was learned that their goal was to blow up the refineries at Tripoli, Syria. The refineries were defended by Senegalese-French troops that were loyal to Vichy, allies of Germany. Moshe Sharet wrote to the kibbutz expressing his deep appreciation of the 23 boys, and his participation in our sorrow at the loss, and promised to do all he could to find out exactly what happened. A memorial to the 23 was erected at Mt. Herzl in the form of a boat and the names of all the boys who went down are inscribed on it. Two large blocks of Galilee stone in the center of the kibbutz remind us of our comrades who could not be buried here.
Even before we mobilized for the British army, we started our Hagana training in Benyamina. Our first teacher, Chaim Beitan, was a member of Afikim who joined the Anglo-Baltic group. He trained all of us, girls and boys, who were still amateurs in military arts. Chaim himself had learned the "trade" as a policeman (he was one of two people that Afikim appointed to join the police force). Afterwards we took part in training together with the young men of Benyamina. The word "training" sounds to me now to be a bit exaggerated. We learned how to handle and clean guns and we did some field training by day and by night.
Efraim Livne was thc first to be drafted by the Hagana for work away from home. He took part in Plugot Sade (Wingate's outfit) and later served as a ghaffir (policeman). Since then, and for very many years, Efraim was our "security man." At the time of the War of Independence he served as a battalion commander.
In 1940, when the war front approached the boundaries of Israel, the Hagana mobilized units of volunteers which it was preparing for special purposes. Yisrulik Hameiri told us that "The Old Man" (Yitzchak Sadeh, the founder and famous commander of the Palmach) himself came to Benyamina and and asked for two volunteers. Yisrulik and Borka were the two volunteers, but they parted ways. Yisrulik was sent to a course in the Beit-Shan Valley. The graduates of this course were among the first commanders of the Palmach, which was established in 1941. Borka, as I reported above, was one of the 23 that went down at sea.
In 1941, Yisrulik Hameiri, Yosef Sadeh and Avraham (Shorty) Cohen enlisted in the Palmach. During the years 1943-1946, Angie Kolar, Aharon Chidekel, Zeev Shatz, Yehudit Brenkel and Yochanan Yukel all served in the Palmach.
Tuvia Shalev was one of the first who were mobilized in Benyamina as a policeman. He served in the Coast Guard and was stationed at Haifa. I thought I would mention all our members who served in the police force, but the list is too long, so I'll give up. I can say with certainty that several tens of chaverim served in the police force during the years 1941-1946.

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