Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Personal Price of the Mexican Drug War

Today I received terrible news from Cuernavaca, the city in Mexico where I lived with my family for thirteen years. A close friend and her daughter were robbed at gun point. This sadly has become a common occurrence in our once peaceful little town. What shook me the most was my friend reaction. After having a gun pointed at her head, she decided to speak out!  I am answering her call, and this time, I will not remain silent either! Most people are scared to speak out! I don't usually write about politics or current events in this blog, but my friend is correct, we all have a responsibility to stop this war and not remind silent on this issue. I titled my blog Past-Present-Future, precisely because our past is intricately linked with our present and future. We live only in the present moment. Instantaneously that moment becomes part of the past. The future is the place we can hope to improve our upcoming present. Cuernavaca needs a change! Change begins with awareness! At a risk of sounding a bit like our politicians, today I am dedicating my blog to building a better future for the City of the Eternal Spring, Cuernavaca, Mexico.

View of the City of Cuernavaca
(When I google Drug War and Cuernavaca,
I can't tell you the horrible images that came up.
Though they describes the horror of what the
citizens of Cuernavaca are living with every day,
I decided not to post them here, since they are
 easily accessible to those who want to see.
It's a beautiful city, and I hope one day,
it can return to the peace felt in this photo
 rather than the terror in those other ones). 
Many of you are already well aware that Mexico is in the midst of a fierce war against drugs. Currently, violent drug lords rule the streets of most cities in Mexico while the government seems to be paralyzed. There was a very good New York Times Article about How the world’s most powerful drug traffickers run their billion-dollar business, which explains the situation much better than I can. What never makes the headlines, is how this war is affecting the everyday lives of Mexican people. Wikipedia has an impressive amount of information about the Mexican Drug War and it's effects, but nothing about the everyday folks. As a genealogists, I study history from a personal perspective, and I think this present crisis merits the same careful look.

The Mexican people are paying a huge personal price for this war. Our city of Cuernavaca is at the heart of the conflict. Before December 2009, most of us co-existed in Cuernavaca with drug dealers. Much like in America, we knew there were drug dealers, but they didn't bother us and we didn't do much about it. There was a relative calm, we didn't live in fear, and normal life was peaceful. Sounds familiar? Anyone reading my blog in the US is living in a much similar way. Tell me there are no drugs being sold in your city or town? Someone must be distributing them? Maybe you don't know the dealers, but you certainly know people who consume, don't you? Yet overall, it doesn't affect your life, so you read the Times or the Globe, and you think, "How sad for Mexico" and you go on with your day. We used to do that in Cuernavaca until, overnight, everything changed.

In December 2009, the Mexican Army invaded our town in an undercover attempt to catch an important drug lord. I recall watching CNN when they asked an expert, how big of a fish was Beltran Leyva? "He is one of the 50 whales in the ocean!" replied the homeland security expert. Naively, we thought: "Great, they caught him. Now things will return to normal." They did not. Instead, all bets were off. The vacuum in power this powerful drug lord left, resulted in an all out war which erupted in our streets. The gangs were fighting each other and the army. Within, six months, my husband and I decided we could no longer live in a city filled with flying bullets.  We relocated to the States. We were one of the lucky ones—we had choices, visas and job opportunities. Ever since, we have been working hard to rebuild our lives, reintegrate and reinvent ourselves. We try to focus on the positives. Everyday, we feel blessed with the opportunities America has given us: great schools, a beautiful home a wonderful community. Most of all we appreciate being safe! We count as daily blessings things our neighbors take for granted such the fact that our eleven year old can walk to his friends house alone, or that our boys can ride their bikes to the library or take the subway to Fenway park.

Only yesterday, my son commented on the numbers of people outdoors exercising. On our short ride back from school, we counted scores of young women jogging alone. He pointed out, that in Boston, people walk out their door, put on their head phones  and without a second thought begin jogging. "They don't even appreciate how safe they are!" he claimed. On the other hand, yesterday, in Cuernavaca,  my son's eleven year old friend, watched her mother as a gun with a gun pointed to her temple. How do you get over that? How can this be happening with such high frequency? The drug lords are so powerful, and crime is so rampant, that anyone can get away with just about anything these days, in Cuernavaca. Armed robbery, is considered petty crime, a minor offense. At the police station, her case went to very bottom of a pile of thousands of similar cases. Cases with very low priority (no one was killed), which will never be investigated or solved.

Everyday, more and more people, like me, are leaving Cuernavaca and abandoning ship. No one blames us for that choice. It's a difficult choice. Walking away from a life you've built, at the age of forty, with three children, is not easy. Many of our friends have done the same. School admissions were down thirty percent that year, all across town. Who left? Professionals, business owners, people who employ others. The brain drain is enormous and the economic as well as cultural consequences are difficult to quantify. My husband and I calculated that between us, our businesses andhome, we directly employed twenty-one people. Many of our employees were single parents who supported not only their children but elderly parents as well. They depended on our success and worked hard with us on many fronts. My husband had a thriving pediatric practice. Scores of patients relied on him for their healthcare. To this day, he gets e-mails and calls from patients hoping he will return or asking for advice. We may be safe, but we live with the guilt of having left our home, our city and our friends behind. As successful as the past two years have been, a move is always difficult and every member of our family is continuing to cope with what it means to have left Mexico possibly for good.

It might be upsetting for American's to hear, but in Mexico people are paying for the US's drug war. I strongly believe that as long as the market for drugs in this country continues to boom, Mexico has no chance to recover. If American's will not change their habits, change the laws and consider legalizing marijuana and restrict automatic weapons sales, Mexico has little hope. Mexico, obviously has it's share of responsibility as well. There is enormous corruption to be cleaned up and plenty of people who need to stop using drugs there as well. But the enormity of the market in the US is what is driving the flow of drugs north and the flow of weapons south. Americans have to take responsibility for that. There is an attitude in this country that Marijuana is almost like alcohol. It's not. It's still illegal. Every time someone lights a joint in this country, another Mexican family is paying some kind of price. Those of us paying the price, have to start talking about that, and asking who will pay us back for the price we paid?

Feigue Gerson (Bulaevsky) and Abraham Gerson
My husband's great-grandparents who brought the family to Mexico.
In the summer of 2010, Yahoo reported about 500,000 Mexicans leaving the country as a direct result of the drug crisis. I can't find the article, but I remember reading it and thinking: "They had not counted our family in those numbers since we had not officially moved (sold our house or hired a moving company yet. We came with two suite cases each." As we sat at the airport, waiting for our plane to take us to our new life, we sipped a Starbuck coffee and thought about our ancestors, who also left their country of origin because of insecurity or instability. In particular we thought about my husband's great-grandparents who left Vinitza, Ukraine in 1927. During sweeping arrests by Stalin, Abraham Gerson spent three weeks in jail. He was extremely lucky to get out alive. This event, drove him to the decision to relocate his family to America. He took his five sons, wife and mother in-law to Mexico City and waited to gain entry to the United States. Like my husband and I, they were looking for a safe place to raise their family. Mexico turned out to be that place. Mexico City in those years was a beautiful and safe place to live, with many opportunities for hard working people. Work hard they did. He and his son's founded and built the Temple and became very active in the Jewish Community. As their business success grew, they employed more and more people. Through leadership in the community, they became civically active in many aspects of Mexican society. Sadly, after five generations of the family living and contributing to Mexico, many of their descendants have chosen to leave. The Gersons boarded the transatlantic boat from Marcay to Veracruz, to face an unknown future. They had no money, spoke no Spanish or English and carried all their belongings on their backs. We left Mexico with a bit more savings, excellent language skills and a much more secure future, yet we did feel deeply connected to them, at that moment. In a way, history was repeating and we were re-living the story. That fateful day in December, my husband and I were caught in the cross fire of the bullets which killed Beltran Leyva. Like Abraham Gerson, we were lucky to get out alive. It may sound dramatic, but it's true. I had never been that close to bullets and grandes, and I hope I never will be again. Abraham and Feige's success ninety years ago, strengthens our resolve as well as increases our awareness of the price they paid. I don't often think of myself as a refugee, but that Yahoo article, compared the Mexican exodus to fleeing refugees from Afghanistan. Proportionally, more people left Mexico that year, than those who fled Afganistan at the hight of the war. Since 2010, many more people have left Mexico. I know, because everyday I hear about another family leaving Cuernavaca. I don't know if they are being counted, but ask anyone in Houston or San Antonio and they will tell you: "This flux of Mexican immigrants (most of them legal), is what is maintaining the economies of these cities and others like them."

I hope you'll join me in supporting my friends in Cuernavaca who are bravely fighting this war, by taking a louder stand against drugs in this America. It's our obligation to change things on this side of the border, so Mexico and cities like Cuernavaca can go back to a normal and peaceful life. I hope Cuernavaca can once again become known as the City of the Eternal Spring and not the City of the Eternal Gang Wars.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Digging Into The Past Is Not Always Easy

On Sunday, I had arrived at my destination, parked my car, but remained glued to the seat. I was listening to NPR and did not want to miss the end of the report. Sounds familiar? Unfortunately, This American Life, is a one hours show. Twenty minutes into the tale of American's most famous kidnapping of 1912, I had to tear myself away and join the group of little league parents cheering their boys. The high scoring game, was great and thanks to the power of the internet, I was able to hear the rest of the show as well as share it with all of you. It's an the amazing story of Bobby Dunbar, told by his granddaughter, Margaret Dunbar Cutright. Like me, she embarked on a genealogical journey, which took her to places she never expected. In this radio clip, she describes how and what she learned, much better than I could do.    
I look forward to reading the book: A Case for Solomon:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hats Off To All Genealogy Volunteers!

Part VII: Roots Trip Series
Writing Friday's post, I realized that though I had found Max and Leah Blumenfeld's memorial on, there was no tombstone photo. I completed my post, and simultaneously submitted a request for a photo. I've done this before. It can take a few weeks, or a few months. Sometimes I never hear back. To my surprise, not even twenty-four hours had passed, my request had was fullfilled. Amazing!!!!

This made me reflect on the power of the internet, the greatness of Find-A-Grave, and our wonderful community of genealogists. I strongly believe that like many aspects of our lives, genealogy has grown in leaps and bounds in the internet age. I for-one, am grateful. Being a mother of three, it's difficult for me to get away on research trips, like the one I took to investigate my Bloomfield roots this summer. I do a lot of my research on-line. Yet today, I was reminded, that behind these amazing websites, there are thousands of volunteers making my work so much easier. There are people uploading data, scanning documents, catching transcription mistakes, translating documents and so much more. On Find-A-Grave, you can request a photo if you know where a grave is located. Your request goes out literally to hundreds of users who live near the cemetery and have volunteered to fill these requests. A perfect strangers, visited Mt. Hebron this Saturday and took a photo of my ancestors headstone! I salute you!
Photo submitted to Find-A-Grave by D.M.

I learned two remarkable things from this photo! First of all, it confirmed my educated theory, that Max and Leah Blumenfeld who are buried at Mt. Hebron Cemetery are indeed the great-great-aunt and uncle I was looking for (see yesterday's post: Which Ancestors to Research). How do I know this? I already knew from the plot numbers that they were next to each other, but seeing a shared headstone confirms they are married. Second, the Hebrew inscriptions says Max, son of Moshe (Hebrew for Moses), and Leah, daughter of Moshe. Our Max was the son of Moses Bloomfield and Leah, the daughter of a different Moses, Moshe Chaim Chinitz. In addition, the dates of birth, which were not on the Find-A-Grave memorial, do correspond to the dates I have on their respective death certificates. 

The other even more important lesson I learned from this photo is Max's Hebrew name. I did suspect that Max was most likely Mottel in Yiddish or Mordechai in Hebrew. But what I did not know, was that his name was actually Israel Mordechai. Why is this important you ask? Israel Mordechai Pomerantz is the forefather of the Bloomfields. He was Max's great-grandfather, my 4th-great-grandfather and the oldest known Pomerantz on our tree. Traditionally, Ashkenazi jews only named a child after an ancestor who had passed away. Therefore, I can now date Israel Mordechai Pomerantz's death to before 1882, which is the year Max was born.  This fact may help research Israel Mordechai Pomerantz. It's a clue to file away for future work.

I'm inspired by all the volunteers who help us piece our family histories together! Thank You!

More about the Bloomfields:
Roots Trips Series: Reports from a Vermont and New Hampshire road trip to research the Bloomfield family history:
Part I: Roots Trip Road-trip planning!
Part II: Three Tips for Genealogy Road Trips
Part III: Roots Trip Gem of the Day, Looking for Moses Bloomfield
Part IV: Why in the World New Hampshire
Part V: Springfield Vermont, Home of the Simpsons and the Bloomfields
Part VI: Which Ancestors to Research?

Guest blog on How I Met The Bloomfields

Friday, September 7, 2012

Part VI: Which Ancestors to Research?

Max Blumenfeld (bottom left) with my
great-grandfather William Bloomfield (bottom
right) and their cousin Morris Birenbaum (standing),
Claremont NH, 1905. (Note the nice shoes.
They were working at the shoe factory at the time).
My motto is Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time. And, I confess: Max Blumenfeld was never on the top of my Ancestor List! Yes, I admit to possessing such a list. It's my running list of predecessors whom I want to learn more about. When you are as addicted to family history as I am, and have as many ancestors as I do—forty nine direct ancestors—it's essential to prioritize. So how do you chose which ancestors to research? Max and Leah Blumenfeld, are not my direct ancestors. I never met them, they had no children and honestly, four years ago, I'd never even heard of them. The little I knew about Max and Leah, I've shared in earlier posts about the Bloomfield clan, but in the last few months, since the my New England roots trip, Max and Leah have taken center stage in my research. 

Springfield Vermont left me with some nagging questions about the Bloomfields. When I set out, I wanted to know, why the chose to settle rural New Hampshire and Vermont. The trip has helped get a better understanding, but left me with a series of new questions. More importantly, I still don't know where Moses Bloomfield, my second-great-grandfather, is buried, except that it's somewhere in New York (See Part III: Roots Trip Gem of the Day). Finding a grave in a Jewish Cemetery in New York from 1917 is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Let me already disclose that, no we haven't found Moses yet, though I have several ambitious young Bloomfield cousins on the trail. Jimmy, my cousin even tracked down the undertaker from the death-certificate, but his company is no longer in business and no one has the records.

Genealogy, requires a lot of detective work and therefore, I collect clues. I tend to go over the facts many times, and sometimes, I'm blessed with one of those ah-ha moments! Before we arrived in Springfield, my cousin Jimmy had a feeling we would not find Max and Leah buried there. He had found a Max and Leah Blumenfeld who died on the same years (1951 and 1961 respectively) who are buried in New York, through the amazing website Find-A-Grave. Morbid as this may sound to the non-genealogist amongst my readers, Find-A-Grave is place where volunteers post photos of tombstones, slowly bringing much needed data form cemeteries across the US to the public. I doubted these are the same Max and Leah, because I had no idea why Max and Leah who spent their whole lives in Vermont, would be buried in New York. Blumenfeld is not an uncommon name and there could easily have been many Max Blumenfelds in NY. But as I mentioned before, the visit to Springfield taught me, that if you wanted to be buried in a Jewish Cemetery, you had to go pretty far. Not only that, from Moses' Death Certificate, I learned that he was buried in New York and this made it much more likely that the Find-A-Grave memorials do belong to our very own Max and Leah. One more clue came from Leah's mother death Certificate. Bessie Kenet, lived with Max and Leah for many years (At least from 1930, as it appears on the 1930 US Census). The same death certificate, states that Bessie Kenet is buried at Mt Hebrew Cemetery in, Brooklyn, NY! 

I found this photo recently in my
great-grandmother's album.
It was labeled: Leah and Max Blumenfeld,
Pittsburg, PA. I believe it was taken
around 1908 for various reasons.
In the 1907 Claremont directory, Max and William
had moved to Pittsburg. They were both single.
Max returned married. In the 1910 census it states
 they were married for two years.
Finally, according to my cousin Jimmy, his mother
used to say that this is the typical honeymoon pose.
"He is too tired to stand up and she is too sore to sit."
Upon my return, I found Max Blumenfeld's information from Find-A-Grave, and low and behold, he is buried at Mount Hebron cemetery in Brooklyn, and so are Leah Blumenfeld and Bessie Kenet. Mt Hebrew was a typo on the death certificate, it was actually Mt. Hebron and once again, Jimmy was correct! We both had hope that Moses and Freida might be in the family plot. Yet the question remained: Why are Freida and Moses not on Find-A-Grave? I didn't want to lose hope, and convinced myself that because Moses died in 1917 and Freida in 1928, it's very possible that even though they are in the same cemetery, those tireless volunteers of Find-A-Grave haven't gotten to their section yet. But before I sent scouts to survey this huge Brooklyn cemetery, I decided to dig a bit further. I googled and easily found Mt. Hebron Cemetery online. I located their exact burial plots, and one small fact jumped out at me. All three of the Vermonters have a plot in the Starobiner Society. 

What is the Starobiner Society, you might ask? Well, I had no idea, but by now, you know, that I am always attuned to clues, and this seemed like a good one. According to Wikipedia: 
 "A friendly society (sometimes called a mutual society, benevolent society, fraternal organization or ROSCA) is a mutual association for the purposes of insurance, pensions, savings or cooperative banking. It is a mutual organization or benefit society composed of a body of people who join together for a common financial or social purpose. Before modern insurance, and the welfare state, friendly societies provided financial and social services to individuals, often according to their religious, political, or trade affiliations. "
Starobiner is a person from Starobin, a small shtetl in the in the region Slutsk, Minsk in what is now Belarus. This seemed to be an important discovery. Could the Bloomfields have been from Starobin or where the Kenets from there?  The closest we've gotten to pinpoint the town where the Bloomfields are from has been difficult. No one in the family seemed to know. From various family stories and records we knew they are from Grodno, but Grodno is a region and also a town. It's the Pale region of "White Russia" where all Jews were restricted to live in. It's like saying someone is from New York. But are they from New York State or New York City? Are they from Manhattan or the Bronx? Recently, Jimmy had a breakthrough and may have identified the actual town through Harry Bloomfield Birth Certificate. In this amazing document, we discovered that in 1892, an eight day old Gerszko Belous (Harry's Yiddish name) was brought into the Slawaticze temple, by his father Moses, a transient worker from Malech to be circumcised. This paper identifies Moses and his family as permanent residents of Malech, (a village in Pruzhany, Grodno, now in Belarus) in 1892. It remains to determine if they are from from Malech or just living there at the time? To decipher who was the Starobiner, Max or Leah, I needed do a little more research on Leah and back to the drawing board I went.

The 1910 Census was the earliest I found a mention of Leah Blumenfeld. There she is living with Max and has been married to him for two years. It states she had immigrated in 1906 from Russia. (Don't you wish the Census would ask people which town, not just which country they came from?). I also knew that Barney Kenet, Leah's brother was Max's lifelong business partner (See the Advertisement for their store I posted earlier). And then I found this amazing document:

Border Crossing US/Canada fro Leah Blumenfeld found on
Though the last known residence is illegible, I learned three important facts from this document. Leah's maiden name was Chinitz, not Kenet. She arrived at Ellis Island on 2/12/1906 and she was from Lenin, Minsk, Russia. The name Chinitz stood out to me, because it's fairly unusual, and I know a Chinitz family from Mexico. Kenet, was clearly the name her brother and mother took in America, Leah, may have never used Kenet. I have been unsuccessful to find her actual Ellis Island ship manifest, but I did look up Lenin, Starobin and Chinits.

What I learned was, the Chinitz family is quite a well known family from Starobin. They are descendants of the famous Rabbi, the Vilna Gaon. Being such a important Rabbi, his family history is quite well studied and there is a lot of information out there. This is a summary of what I found at the The Chinitz Family History : The story goes that the origin of the name Chinitz is Chana, known as Chine was the Gaon of Vilna's daughter who was born in 1746. Her sons were sent to establish residency in various towns, party to avoid the Tsar's decree that every Jewish man's son except for one, must register for the army. All the sons took the last name Chinitz to honor their mother renowned mother.  Moshe Chaim Chinitz went to Lenin, and Itzhak to Starobin. Many of the sons and grandsons of these families settled in Starobin, which would explain why Leah and Max were buried in the Starobiner Society section of the Mt. Hebron cemetery. This also, makes it very unlikely that Moses and Freida who died much earlier, would be buried near their son Max. Leah Blumenfeld (Chinitz), the 4th great-granddaughter of the Gaon of Vilna, is now the person on my tree whose family I can trace the furthest. Her family history dates back to the 1500s on one side and even further on other branches. 

To me, personal histories are fascinating, whether the person is a relative or not. This story in particular sheds light onto some of the many reasons why you should keep track and research in-laws and their families. Our family members spend time with the in-laws and friends, and so learning about those peoples lives, will shed lives into our own ancestors who are our main focus in the tree. In addition, I love paying tribute to family members by telling their untold stories, especially if they have no descendants of their own. Because this post has gone exceedingly long, I will continue with how I met one of Leah's nieces and what I learned from her, in my next post. 

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