Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Part V: Kibbutz Tel Yitzchak

Part V: Kibbutz Tel Yitzchak
Continued from Part IPart IIPart III and Part IV

Last week, my son departed for a term in Israel with his high-school class. In honor of his trip I decided to complete the series about his great-grandfather,  my grandfather, Baruch Lavi, who started his journey to Israel in Magdiel, the same place where my son is now living and studying. In the last post in this series, I left my grandfather at Usha, a Tower and Stockade settlement in the northern Galilee. Because of ideological differences Usha began as two independent Kibbutzim, but  the conditions made it apparent, that there was not enough land or resources for two settlements. Luckily, the Jewish Fund, wanted more settlements, and my grandfather’s group, was to be relocated to a deserted hilltop near Natanya for their independent and permanent home for the Tel-Yitzchak group. Three and a half years after arriving in Palestine, my grandfather was finally about to fulfill his dream of building his own Kibbutz. This was a much smaller operation than Hanita (see Part IV)

David Manela (a founding kibbutz member)
 building the tower on ground breaking day
at Kibbutz Tel- Yitzchak
(Photo from Kibbut Tel Yitzchak Website)
At the break of dawn, July 25, 1938, three lonely tucks, overloaded with equipment, approached the abandoned hilltop. The long neglected, arid wasteland, surrounded by the Poleg River marshes, awaited them. In anticipation, the kibbutz members, spent the night next door at Even Yehuda. There they found shelter and collected the building supplies, tents, food, portable barricades and parts of the tower. Among the young men and women pioneers who piled onto these trucks, were my grandparents. They were twenty-five years old. That night, they embarked on what turned out to be, the rest of their lives. This smal group of Hanoar Hatzioni members from Galicia, won a moral victory for their political ideology and the Zionist youth movements in the diaspora. The hot summer sun beat down as they worked furiously to complete their task before nightfall, when the surrounding Arabs villagers were sure to attack. Together they unloaded supplies and erected the tower. They created a chain, passing buckets of gravel to line and fortify the large wooden wall, the main defense surrounding the fledgling settlement. They did this, without British approval and rendered the Kibbutz an existing settlement, overnight, safe from demolition. Rome was not built in a day, but to the Arabs dismay, another Kibbutz was. 

Hadasah Rosevald
The early days at Tel Yitzchak were extremely difficult. The hill was bare, and the sun brutal. The members lived in tents or makeshift boxes, turned homes. The first cement building on the Kibbutz was the cow shed. The mud was deep and vehicles struggled to make their way without sinking in it. They lived in constant danger of attack. As a young girl, I wondered how dangerous it really was on the Kibbutz in those early days. Attacks on the Kibbutz I knew, in the heartland of Israel, seemed unreal, but they did happen. In one such attack, on November 5, 1938, only four month after braking ground, two shots were aimed at the guards, from about eight meters away. The guards returned fire. After they heard the Arab attackers retreat they discovered one of their own, Hadasah Rosevald, had been shot. Hadasa, also from Lvov, joined the Kibbutz in September of 1938. During the day, she worked both as the head of communal projects, and as the nurse since she completed a first aid course. At night, she was in-charge of communications. She operated the spotlight at the top of the watchtower which signaled messages to nearby Jewish settlements. She loved sitting by the campfire with the guards and participating in political discussions. As a important leader in the  Hanoar Hatzioni movement, she was returning from a meeting at the Tel-Aviv central office that night. The movement needed her at the central office and wanted her to move to the city. She refused! She believed in doing the hands on work and was proud to hold such important positions, as a woman, on the Kibbutz. That fateful Shabbat, Hadasa headed towards the post, bringing with her food for the watchmen on call. Only nineteen, she was found dressed in her city clothes, bleeding to death from a bullet-wound to the head. The following morning, grieving kibbutz members buried her, very close to the site where she was found. 
My grandparents in their back yard
under one of the trees the proudly planted

How and when my grandparents met, I am not sure. I know my grandmother Rose Celnik (known as Ruja to all, and Shoshana in Hebrew), was among the founding members. She made Aliya from Tarnov, Poland with Hanoar Hatzioni around 1934, but when exactly she joined my grandfather’s group I am not sure. One of the things that impacted my grandmother the most, and that she loved to tell me about, were the malaria infected mosquitos which where endemic to the swamps in the area. As we walked through the green lawns of the kibbutz, she loved to point out, how when they first arrived, there was absolutely nothing there. On our monthly visit to the Kibbutz my grandparents would greet us as we parked under the tall eucalyptus trees. We could rely on them walking arm in arm receive us. The aged Eucalypti welcomed us with their unique aroma and my grandmother would recall nostalgically: “We planted these tree and many others to dry up the swamps. Back then there was mud, swamps and lots mosquitos” she would say, “and not much food.”

Basic food such as bread was in short supply on the Kibbutz early on. The orange grove was one of the first things they planted. Those oranges quenched their thirst and their satisfied their hunger when there was no bread to be found. At some point the Kibbutz built a bakery. They made enough bread to sell to neighboring villages. Benek (Baruch Sharoni), another founding member, rode the Kibbutz’s horse drawn wagon, on the dirt roads, selling fresh loaves of bread to near-by settlements. As he delivered the bread, he began exchanging books with the neighbors, and that is how the kibbutz's library was born. 

While war was raging in Europe and Israel was fighting for independence, all the kibbutz members were doing their part. My grandfather served as Muchtar, the contact person with the British. I find it funny to think of him communicating with the British, considering his English was very limited. Because of his official responsibilities with the British as a Muchtar, my grandfather was not among the Hagana members who worked in the underground munitions factory on the Kibbutz. Moshe Viser, now the Kibbutz's secretary still recalls Ben Gurion's visit to Tel Yitzchak pre-1948. Ben Gurion, Israel's first prime minister came to inspect the secret weapons factory. This clandestine factory eventually became part of the Israeli Army's Munitions Industry.

My father (bottom right) with his brother and parents
Around 1950
They lived every aspect of their lives according to their ideology. While they grieved the loss of their families in Europe they absorbed holocaust survivors who were arriving in Israel in droves, and they began having family of their own. My grandfather focus was the Hebrew language. He became a Hebrew expert, and an excellent Hebrew teacher. He taught Hebrew as well as geography at the local elementary school, where he eventually became the principal, educating children from various Kibbutzim and settlements in the area. His proficiency in the Hebrew tongue amazed me. He spoke better than most natives, without any detectable accent. He patiently corrected my Hebrew, constantly pointing out subtleties in the proper use of the language. There are many more stories I can share about my amazing grandfather, but this concludes the series of his early years in Israel, a part of his life which I've had to mostly gather on my own, since he was humble about sharing the details with us

My grandfather (Center) with a group of his students in 1977


  1. What an encouraging history, Smadar! Your family and others paid such a price to follow their beliefs. Inspiring!

    1. Thanks Jaqui. It's amazing how as an adult I learn to appreciate more and more what they did!

  2. as always,job well done Smad. You might check with Irit more info about grandma She arrived to Israel, as you wrote in 1934, with Irit's mother and Sara shadmi. The three women never were separated again till they past away.

  3. I would be interested to know more of your grandmother, too. It's fascinating. I have some pictures, but unfortunately, nothing is labeled.

    1. Hi Melissa,
      I've started following up on my father's idea and hopefully will be able to fill out the blanks about my grandmother. I'd love to see the photos you have, even if they are not labeled. Can you scan them and send them to me? Maybe I can help identify some!


Thanks for sharing your comments!