Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Part IV: One Ancestor and Israel's Independence

Breaking Ground: Tower and Stockade Period
Continued from Part I, Part II and Part III

The previous posts about my grandfather's life brought us to the period in Israel's independence called the Arab Revult. My grandfather was living in Magdiel at the time awaiting land from the Jewish agency for their new settlement. But, at the beginning of the Arab Revolt, Jewish settlements came to a halt. One group, similar to the Magdiel group was scheduled to settle Tel Amal in Beit Shan Valley. Insecurity and lack of protection from Arab attacks postponed their ground breaking date. Unwilling to give up their dream, the pioneers of this group, came up with a creative solution circumventing settlement quotas imposed by Mandate law. They found a loophole: existing settlements could not be destroyed. They proposed to the Haganah (the Jewish underground) to build a guard tower and defense wall within one day. This would allow the young settlement to defend itself immediately. Though imposed quotas did not allow for new settlement, there was also an existing law which did not allow for disassembling of existing settlements. The challenge was to build a settlement overnight so it would be able to protect itself from unfriendly neighbors. Their success, on December 10, 1936, was the birth of the tower and stockade campaign. Fifty-two fortified agricultural settlements were established during this campaign which lasted until the end of the Arab Revolt in 1939. The establishment of a continuous territory populated by Jews, was to become the basis of the Jewish State, as it was declared by the United Nations partition plan.

From the Spielberg Collection, a rare silent film 
of the construction of a tower and stockade settlement 
(Kibbutz Ein Gev). 

To Arab dismay, and without British support, Jewish settlement continued. To build a settlements so quickly, the Haganah recruited reinforcements. For this reason, among others, Magdiel membersin a secret, undisclosed locationwere sworn into the Haganah. In a candlelit ceremony, headed by the officer Eliezer Ziv-Av, my grandfather, took the following oath: 
“I hereby declare that based on personal voluntarism and my own free recognizance I am entering the Hebrew defense organization [Irgun Hahagannah Ha'ivri] in the land of Israel. [Eretz Yisrael]. I swear to be faithful all the days of my life to the Hagannah organization, to its constitution and to its duties as defined in its foundation doctrine by the high command.I swear to stand ready to serve the Hagannah organization, to take upon myself its discipline unconditionally and unreservedly, and, upon its call, to enter into active service at any time and in any place, to obey all its commands and to fulfill all its instructions. I swear to dedicate all my powers and even to sacrifice my life to defense and to the war for my people and my homeland, for the freedom of Israel and for the redemption of Zion.”

Note the typical uniform and the hunting gun of the Notrim. 
Why he never told me about partaking in this ceremony and enlisting I'll never know. Maybe he assumed I knew? I've concluded that he was among those who enlisted that night, thanks to the research I've done on the period and two photos of him guarding the kibbutz.

During this period of unrest, the Palestinian Police, composed of British, Arabs and Jews, was proved inadequate in the face of the surmounting violence. In response, the British authorities recruited two auxiliary forces. The Supernumerary Police which worked for the British, and the Ghaffirs. Ghaffir, an Arabic term left over from the Ottomans, means watchman. These armed guards were furnish with uniforms almost identical to the police and wore the typical Kolpak hat with a metal emblem (very much like the one my grandfather is wearing in these photos). These guards were paid for by the Jewish settlements and Jewish institutions directly. In general, they were subject to less supervision by the British, as they were employed by Jewish agencies. Equipped with hunting guns, they were permitted to enter territories between the Jewish and Arab settlements. The Haganahstill an underground illegal self defense forcesaw the new Supernumerary Police as an opportunity to legally arm and train a Jewish defense force. The Jewish Agency, supported the enlistment of Haganah members, into this force, thereby creating the first ever legal armed force of Jews for Jews. By June 1936, the various armed auxiliary forces were uniformly called Notrim, and were paid for by the British as well as the settlements. Each settlement could hire extra security, on a case to case basis. The commanding officers were British and the privates were Jewish.  

My grandfather, guarding the Kibbutz dining hall
 at Tel-Yitzchak's first location in Usha.
By 1937, there were some major ideological differences among the intellectual leadership of Magdiel Beit and little support from the main settlement of Magdiel. The original Hanora Hatzioni group split. A core group of die hards, joined by two others, from Petach Tikvah and Cfar Saba, formed the first Hanoar Hatzioni Kibbutz, Kibbutz Usha in the western Galilee. The ideological split which continued lead to an eventual compromise. The larger group, with a practical agricultural outlook, formed Cfar Usha. Simultaneously, only a few hundred meters away, a second settlement was formed by a smaller group of settlers. This group with a reputation for their high ideological standards, continued to refuse to join the Histadrut, the General Federation of Laborers in the land of Israel. They remained affiliated to the centrist Zionist political party which united the Zionist movements, called Brit Hatzioniyim Haclaliyim (The General Zionist) and formed Tel-Yitzchak. On November 9th, 1937, each group broke ground. They were allotted 900 donam (about 220 acres) of land each for fifty families. The built two independent camps, and the rest of the development was completed within a few months. Usha, located in the northern Galilee, was not strictly built in the tower and stockade fashion, yet it is considered part of this group of settlements. My grandfather held the responsibility of Gaffir at Usha, and manned the security post outside the dining hall. There was not enough work at Usha. Usha Members had to search for jobs outside the Kibbutz to help support the new development. My grandfather worked at several odd jobs such as a porter job at the newly completed Haifa port.
Loading Crates at the Haifa Port
(Baruch Lavi, bottom left corner)

Haifa Port Workers
(Baruch Lavi, top row, second from the left)

Hanita Breaking Ground 1938.
On March 21, 1938, my grandfather, was among five hundred young men and women, drafted to help raise the wall and tower of another Kibbutz, Kibbutz Hanita, also in the western Galilee. Fifty trucks carried volunteers and supplies. There was no road leading up to Kibbutz lands. They had to break a trail just to bring the trucks as closer. Finally, they walked the last strip, carrying the supplies on their backs the rest of the way. The one hundred men who remained on post that first night, were attacked by Arabs and two were killed.

To be continued in Part V: Kibbutz Tel Yitzchak

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