David Cnaani: Siedlce- my childhood township


I was born in Siedlce – a town of 40 thousand inhabitants in central Poland, between Warsaw and Brisk, at a distance of about 100 km from Warsaw. Most of the residents of my town were Jews living in the city center, and a Polish minority, whose homes were in the periphery – in the suburbs. The Jews have left their mark on the streets and Siedlce was a Jewish city. Walking the city streets one immediately recognized the Jewish dress, with a black cap, with the beard and sidelocks. The Poles arrived in the city center on market days – twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The Jews lived in dilapidated houses in long narrow alleys. Poverty was great, though there were also rich Jews. They lived in orderly streets, immersed in the greenery of gardens, trees and avenues. In one of the wealthier streets lived twenty families in one building. Our house was surrounded by a large courtyard and a Polish doorman would close the gate every night.

We were not among the rich, but not among the poor, as well.

The Jews of Siedlce were mostly religious people, and only a few were secular. On every corner was a synagogue, and in particular Stiblac (synagogues of “Hasidim”, whose practice of prayer was different from those of “Mitnagdim”).

Polish Jewry was roundly divided into Hasidim “and “Mitnagdim”. The “Mitnagdim” prayed in the large and magnificent synagogue that hosted the city’s rabbi and cantor. It was a magnificent building, with ornate walls, all glory and splendor. In contrast the “Stiblac” were relatively small houses, containing only the disciples who worshiped their Rebbe. There were dozens of kinds of Hasidim in our town and each had its own shtibel. The Rabbis never lived in our city, and the shtibl was named after the city of origin of the Rebbe. This were “The Rabbi from Gur’s court” and the followers of “The Rabbi from Bialah” and so on. They all waited anxiously for the happy day, once a year, when the Rebbe came to the city and honored his followers in his presence. These visits were usually associated with important dates, like a birthday or recovery of the rabbi or the delight of his wedding or marriage of children. On this day, a large “Tish” (gathering and meal) was held, and the joy of this day was like introducing a new Torah scroll to the synagogue.

The celebration of the introduction of the Torah to the synagogue was a great and joyous event. In the late evening, the whole town would meets, and by torchlight under a canopy carried the Torah, they finished writing. Around the canopy the people danced and sang until they brought the Torah scroll to the synagogue. But the real joy was the synagogue itself, there was held a big celebration that lasted almost until dawn.

Writing a Torah scroll always involves great expense, because not everyone was able to write a Torah scroll. This right only befell on the scribe (Sofer Stam) who wrote the Torah with a pointed feather, as a replacement for a pen, parchment paper, writing as is conventional in writing Torah scrolls. Many Jews contributed money for one of the verses of the Torah to be written on their name. in a respected place in the shtibl was a log book, listing names of those who contributed a chapter or a verse, or even one letter to write a Torah scroll

The peak of every Jew’s dreams was that a verse from the Torah would be written in his name.

Completion of writing the Torah was a good reason for a great celebration, and because there were a lot of synagogues in the town and each had several Torah scrolls, the town had many celebrations.

With all the fighting and tensions between the Hasidim and “Mitnagdim”, often reminiscent of the tensions between the rival parties in this country, there were also human phenomena, I was thrilled to witness. It often happened that at prayer “Shmona Esre”, when worshipers immersed in reciting the prayers, suddenly a woman’s scream was heard protesting before the Creator about her fate, because a sick child is dying or because of other personal trouble that befell her. When the cry of such a shriek was heard, all moved aside and opened the way to the Holy Ark. The women would go to the ark and open it and declare their troubles to the Holy One, blessed be He. At such a moment, the whole crowd would unite with the person crying out for help, without checking his fringes. Here was the full unity and exceptional regard for a human calling on the Almighty to help him. When I saw for the first time how women were allowed to pour their hearts before the creator of the world, by the open ark, I was very excited and elated.

From our Jewish town, with its winding streets, I still remember the picture of the great fire of the shabby huts. The reaction of most of the Jews was a mad rush to the synagogue to save the Torah scrolls. There was a sense of shared destiny here, when the synagogue is at the center of being of the town and all eyes are on it.

The 20 thousand Jewish elders of my town Siedlce were split between the “Bund” and the religious-Zionist parties – “HeHalutz” and “HaShomer HaTzair”. The “Bund” was an anti – religious party stating: “Your homeland is the place where you live.”

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, most Jews had wigs and beards and were craftsmen – Shoemakers and tailors. Transport was conducted by horses and the harnesses’ manufacturers were simple people with beards, who went to the synagogue and belonged to the Bund.

All the stories of writers Shalom Aleichem and Y.L. Peretz focused on those simple craftsmen, including the water bearers. While our city was quite large, the water was brought from a distance. Every Second Street had a well with a pump, through which water was pumped from underground and Jews brought home buckets of water, and poured the water into barrels and the buckets bearers would return to the well to refill the buckets. This wasn’t an easy way to make a living (“Vasser Treigar”), and I still remember the story of the bearer, a bearded Jew, who one winter, when the temperature drops to 20 degrees below zero, poured the water into the barrel containing about 20 buckets and rushing back to the well to bring more and more water. And when asked: “What would you like to have, Rabbi Jew?”, he replied: ” I would like only one thing – to have a white bread roll and a steaming cup of milk every morning.”

The Jewish shtetl writers expressed the aspirations of ordinary citizens, who mostly belonged to the party of the “Bund”.

The song that expressed the wishes of the Jews of the town said: ” Let your people live off all others, you are the people, laughing at everyone, you have no money, no cash, do not ask questions and rule the world.”

The simplefolks longed for the workers’ rule – the rule of the craftsmen.

There were were also educated people in town. All the “Who’s and Who’s” attended a Yeshiva, and many scholars earned their living off public institutions. The central institution was ‘the community’ (HaKehila) and the operative team were the “city fathers” (Parnasei HaIr). There were almost no illiterates. Even women were praying and reading the book “Tsena U’Rena” and say psalms when necessary.

In addition to yeshivas and synagogues, there were also non-Jewish public schools where Gentiles sent their sons to study in the city, and there was also a Jewish school of the “Tarbut” network.

Study and expansion were values ​​that parents imparted to their children. Many Jews were unfamiliar with secular studies, did not know Polish, nor chemistry or physics and invested the best of their power and their time in the Torah, Talmud and Tosafot, and learnt day and night. The “simplefolks” recited psalms in their spare time.

The clothing of most of the religious Jews was Capote (a long robe) and a Jewish hat with a small visor. The educated, who had the higher status, either carefully shaped their beard or were shaven and wore a suit and a hat.

My parents’ home

I was born on Shavuot in 1922. I was named David after King David, who was born and died on Shavuot. For some reason, in my birth certificate, I was born on 24.9. this was done in order to postpone my enlistment to the Polish army.

my childhood memories take me back to the age of 3. This was the first day I started to go to the “Cheider”. I still remember how I was led led into a room with 20 children sitting on a mat spread on the floor, and the rabbi walking in the middle of the room. Everybody welcomed me with the blessing of “Welcome” and father said goodbye and went away, and immediately the Rebbe turns to me and says: “Lubcha, an angel from heaven just came and threw a coin for you to buy yourself something good later.” All the children raise their eyes to the ceiling and look for the source of the miracle and the Rebbe hands me a coin.

We were all sure that indeed an angel from heaven had given me a gift, and after the lesson the children bought sweets with my coin. It was common practice in the “Cheider” that left me a pleasant and sweet memory from the first day of school.

A small room, narrow and warm      

And on the stove a fire.

The Rebbe to his students      

Teaches Aleph Bet

Hear my Tora, beloved child

Listen and remember

Say again and repeat

Kamatz, Alepf, AH!

That is how we memorized all the letters of the alphabet and the punctuation marks.

I also remember how I started studying Homesh, at the age of five, and Father threw a special party for this important event. I knew how to read the weekly Torah portion and the Chassidim came from the synagogue, and my father honored them with fish, cakes and schnapps, and I read from this week’s parsha and everyone congratulated me with “Mazal Tov”, and this ceremony was called “Kidush”.

The studies in the cheder did not always flow smoothly. The Rebbe instituted a regime of absolute silence and perseverance in school, and when necessary also knew to pull an ear and his hand was hard on us, with a slap or a pinch, but he never lashed with a whip. Despite the Rebbe’s firmness, I usually went to the cheder willingly.

From the age of 6 my parents moved me to the “advanced room” where they taught Torah according to the weekly Torah portion, with the addition of Rashi and other commentaries, and I knew the Torah stories by heart.

One of the teachers I remember especially for the better. He was a redhead and around his table were 30-40 students, and every Sunday he told the story of “Parashat HaShavua”. He started with the stories of “Genesis”, continued with Noah and the flood, “Lech Lecha” and so on. He fascinated us with his stories and we eagerly waited for his lessons. His story began at 8:00 am and lasted until 2:00 pm and we sat hypnotized and listened to his wonderful stories. Indeed, he had an extraordinary talent to tell stories and to revive the characters of the Bible. I still remember how he described Abraham and Lot, and the argument of Abraham with God, and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot’s wife. During the week, we spoke about the beautiful story the teacher told us on Sunday and went back and studied and read again and again, until we knew the story of the week almost by heart. These studies were wonderful – “version of childhood” the teacher bequeathed to his students.

At that time, my mother fell ill with intestinal inflammation and had to undergo surgery, and for that she had to travel to Warsaw. To all my family, Mother’s life hung by a thread. At home, we all walked in mourning, bowed and worried. When the teacher heard this, he immediately said: “Today, instead of learning, we are all going to read Psalms.” To this day I think it was a humane and moving act, and when I told it at home to Dad, he too was moved, went to the Rebbe, shook his hand and told him “yishar koakh!” (well done! Congratulations!).

After mother came back home healthy I was sure that her recovery was due to the recitation of the Rebbe and classmates.

Decades later, during the War of Independence, when the Palmach fighters conquered the city of Safed and the police station on Mount Canaan, they were greeted by Rabbi Levin, the rabbi of Safed, who said: “The city of Safed was conquered by virtue of the deed and thanks to the miracle. The act is that the Jews of Safed did not cease to recite Psalms and the miracle that the Palmach arrived. “

Hearing this, we laughed at the Palmach division, but I knew what it meant and what was the attitude of a Jew to reciting Tehilim (later I met with Rabbi Levin from Safed, when he was the rabbi of the Hagana prisoners in Safed).

In our family, we were three sons and one daughter, and I was the youngest. 

My older brother Simcha-Binam was 10 years older than me and as far as I remember – was already independent. He was a merchant and traveled with his goods from town to town and sold his wares.

My sister Mina, whom we called Mindel, was 6 years older than me.

My second brother – Yaakov was three years older than me.

We also had another sister who died when she was young and I do not remember her.

Our house, which stood on quite a central street, had 4 floors, with wooden steps, without running water and without sewers. The bathroom was at the end of the yard. We had a 3 rooms apartment and a kitchen where all the food was cooked on charcoal. In the large living room stood a huge stove, which warmed the house during the long winter and was the gathering place for the whole family every night.

Climatic conditions in Poland consists of a long cold and freezing winter, where the temperature drops to 20 degrees below zero, and in extreme cases even have reached 30 degrees below, a short Spring, with a lot of blooming, mild summers (during which most fruits ripen) and Autumn, which is cold, the water freezes, and it foreshadows what awaits us in the winter. On winter’s freezing days when the temperature was lower in particular, we all looked whether the city flag is raised on the tower, telling all of us that the children are free to stay home rather than attend school.

In the autumn days, when the fall began, the winds blew hard and the frost made its mark, we began to prepare home for the winter. We used to store coal in the basement for the whole winter, and we would start to seal the double windows with cotton wool so that the heat of the room would not leak out.

All domestic activity in winter was concentrated around the stove’s prominent presence thanks to the white tile. The oven had a large opening and stoking it was father’s work. On Friday afternoon, Father filled the stove with coal, sealed it tightly, and the fire was enough until Saturday night. The oven had an opening for warming food, including soup and tea for Shabat.

The most prominent sign of spring was the thawing of the snow and the currents of water in the streets. This was in “Parashat Sabbath Shira”, when we opened the windows and fed the birds, which began to sing the songs of courtship, and the tree branches revealed fresh buds. Until now the sights of the Polish spring accompany me as beautiful childhood memories from my hometown and its landscapes. I particularly liked to travel in May, an outstanding abundance of flowering and weather where rain and sun combine and nature exhibits the richness of its diversity, its noises and aromas.

After completing my studies in the “cheder” I moved to “Talmud Torah” – a school for children aged 8-12 who study there from early morning until evening. In the Talmud Torah, I studied for three years, although there are 12 classes in it. Since I’ve learned Torah before, in the “cheder” I studied primarily the Talmud in “Talmud Torah”, from morning to 13:00. After a break for lunch we went back for two more hours of secular studies – Polish and Arithmetics, and from16:00 we continued to study the Talmud. Late in the evening we returned home, candle lamps illuminating our way in the dark, so you could see hundreds of students returning from Torah study, each child holding a lantern with a candle surrounded by glass.

“Talmud Torah” is not well remembered, since it was “blessed” by teachers who were stern and used a whip and belt for the weak students.

Toward the end of the school year there were tests, and the superintendent came to examine the students. We all prepared and memorized the chapters of the Talmud, to the point of learning by heart. The supervisor – a tall young man, with a black beard, told us: “I know you’ve prepared yourselves for a Talmud test, which is why I’ll not examine you in Talmud. But there is a prayer that you say three times a day or more, (he was referring to a long blessing one says when washing hands after exiting the toilette, and it includes complicated words without end). None of the students, of course, knew the blessing by heart. The examiner said that none of the children pass the exam, and in three months he will repeat the test. On the retest all knew the blessing by heart of course.

“Talmud Torah” did not impress me particularly, but I began to understand the Aramaic of the Talmud. Then there was a problem where I would continue my studies. The possibilities were going to “Tarbut” – a Hebrew school, where all classes were held in Hebrew but included courses in Polish, chemistry, physics and mathematics, but the emphasis is on Hebrew and Zionism, or go to a Gentile school, which the city had dozens of, and many Jewish children learned there. Every morning a Christian prayer was held, the Jews did not pray but attended. I really wanted to go to “Tarbut” school. My sister was in “HaShomer HaDati” and was for going to “Tarbut”, but Dad said: “In “Tarbut” school you will become a non-Jew and in the Gentile school you would remain a Jew”, and father had been right in spite of the absurdity in his words. In fact, those who studied in “Tarbut” went to “Hashomer Hatza’ir”, and those who attended a Polish school went to “Poalei Agudat Israel” or to “Hashomer Hadati”.

I attended two years of elementary school. I was not a brilliant student, but I was good at math. In contrast, in painting, singing and gymnastics I met the minimum requirements, but I was not considered an outstanding student. My homeroom teacher was a Goya, with anti-Semitic views, and once we have learned about the Karaites, I wrote an essay about the context of the laws of the Torah for Karaites. I wrote more deeply and the teacher gave me an excellent grade. It seems that in writing one essay I bought her heart despite her anti-Semitic views, since then she began to supply me with books for reading.

I finished school with a diploma that was a ticket to the high school. I started to go to a youth movement of “Hashomer Hadati”. This movement opened up new horizons. We dealt with Zionist activities and ahead of Lag B’Omer, it was customary to set up camp in the woods that included training in close order drill and military style marching in the streets. I remember the day when we marched in the city, in neat rows, armed with sticks, and a bearded Jew marched in front of us saying Psalm. He rationalize it by saying: “I know that you are certain that no harm will come to you, but to be on the safe side I go before you and say Tehilim to ensure that HaShem will indeed protect you.”

Lag BaOmer was a good day. We dug field tables and made bonfires, and in the evening, we marched back to town.

Our family had a glass and enamel store. Mother would stand in the shop from the morning until 8:00 in the evening, and on cold winter days would put on a pot of coals under her skirt to warm up.

Father would get up every morning at 4 AM and go to teach Mishnah. His students were elderly people who had chosen him. I remember my father as a bearded Jew, full of faith and strict religious observance.

When he decided that he had to fulfill many mitzvot, he spent his day learning Torah, and at midnight he ate another slice of bread to fulfill two additional commandments – to recite the blessing before eating the slice and recite the blessing after eating the bread.

After teaching the lesson early in the morning until, he was quick to return home to open the shop door, and stand there until 8:00 so Mom gets around to prepare breakfast for the children. With the arrival of mother to the store he would return to the synagogue, pray the morning prayers in “Minian” and return to help mom at the store.

As mentioned, we were three sons, and we all envied the single daughter – sister Mindel. She had been spoiled by mother and ate buttered buns every day, while we had to settle for regular rolls dipped in one liter of boiling milk and sweetened with sugar. It was our usual breakfast menu for most of my childhood. And to this day, if I’m hungry in the evening at home, I enjoy bits of Chala in a deep bowl with warm milk sweetened with sugar. It seems that “childhood’s version” applies to food too. 

My brother Jacob began working at an early age as an electrician in a large store for electric lamps.

My contribution to the family income was by attending to the store after school. Sometimes I accompanied my mother when she went to “arrange matters”, and being “a mama’s boy”. As far I remember Mom was more of a shrewd merchant than father. First of all – she spoke good Polish (father’s Polish was more garbled, and we only spoke Yiddish at home), secondly – she could negotiate with the customers and was thus able to sell merchandise that remained untouched if it were up to dad. Mother got better prices, and even dared to give merchandise on credit. On Saturdays she would take her purse under her arm and invite me to accompany her on a trip to collect debts from the Gentiles. I once asked her: “does Dad know that you are collecting money on Shabbat? It’s forbidden.”

“I only open my wallet and the goy puts the money inside, so I do not touch the money.”

Of course he would not agree to this Saturday’s activity, if he knew, but as far as Commerce was the matter – mother was the decider.

At home, too, Mom ran the financial issues and decided on the house expenses. When Father needed money he had to ask mother.

While mother was the primary breadwinner and the dominant figure at home, I saw father as a role models, because Dad did a good job, both in his devotion to the store and his acts of charity and helping the poor. Although our financial situation was not brilliant, Father always considered himself wealthier than many other Jews and could not give up secret charity, and he gave his share to the town’s poor generously every week. Mother allowed this at a measured rate.

I think she was concerned about the unknown of the future which caused her sparing behavior, especially dealing with Dad.

Mom was a tall and beautiful woman. Father, on the other hand, was a short man. All his time and attention was devoted to Torah study.

I met many religious Jews, including rabbis whose job came first. The opposite is true of Father. According to his education, scholarship, and skills, he could have been appointed rabbi, but he was modest and humble and did not boast of his scholarship. His father (my grandfather, Rabbi Tovia Karmarz) was a scholar and was accepted by Hasidism and erudition, and gained great respect from the people, but he did not contact the official Rabbinate, and rabbinical activities was not a source of income. Yet, the most honorable seat in synagogue was reserved for my grandfather.

My mother managed the house with dedication and concern. Every day at noon she left father in the store, by himself, and prepared food for the children and took care of all the needs of the house. Unlike Dad, for whom studies and the synagogue were his whole world, Mother was able to go along with friend to watch a film at the cinema, already popular in town, or enjoy a Yiddish theater performance.

When the books of I.L. Peretz and Sholem Aleichem were published, father said that reading books is a waste of time and it is best to read the holy books.

Dad would “sin” reading popular newspaper in town – “Moment”. The newspaper was passed from hand to hand, and Dad spent his time mostly when he was in the store and waiting for buyers. In the evenings, he kept writing “Mishniyot shortcuts”. His dream was to publish a book in print, but he did not achieve it.

We, the children, were more open to the modern world and the gap between us and our parents widened. When we started to ride a bike Dad turned to my brother said: “I want to learn to ride a bike, so I could get to class as fast as possible”, but he never fulfilled this plan.

In 1935, the family began to talk about Aliya to Eretz-Israel.

My older brother was in training of “Poalei Agudat Israel”, received a certificate and was able to emigrate to Eretz-Israel. he married after a matchmaker found him his “Ezer KeNegdo”, We had a respectable wedding and after a short period in which we gave the young couple the last room in our small flat, and we cut back and huddled in the two remaining rooms, he and his young wife immigrated to Eretz-Israel. There, he began working as a construction worker.

It was customary in the Polish railways that children traveling with their parents are exempt from paying the fare. Dad was going to buy goods Warsaw occasionally, and at the age of 13 he took me with him for the first time on the train. I was so thrilled. Throughout the trip I stood transfixed at the window and saw the quickly passing views. I came to Warsaw, the great city, and I saw all the houses and trams (Tramooi) and at noon we arrived at a restaurant and due to the traffic and the excitement I lost my balance. Before we got on the train at 11 pm I was so excited I got diarrhea.

On the train were soldiers, new recruits going to the military camps. They harassed us, caught father and pulled his beard, and I started to be pushed from side to side. We walked away from them, and stood in the corridor between the cars, but the soldiers made fun of us and when we arrived at the penultimate station they pushed us off the train about 18 km before our town. We decided to wait for the next train and at 4 in the morning we got home and we found that family members were waiting for us with great concern.

I remembered this humiliating experience for many years. It was one of the cases reinforcing my realization that I had to insist that I want to immigrate to Eretz-Israel.

Even today I remember that event when my son and my grandson talk about the attitude toward Arabs.

I learned two lessons from this episode:

One – I immediately organized an underground group of Jewish boys whose function was to hit the Gentiles. When we were able to catch some “Sheigetz” in a dark corner of a narrow alleys we would give him a good beating, but when we felt that the police was on our backs – we scattered.

The second lesson – to myself, I decided that here in Israel, I will never treat Arabs as the Gentiles did with father and me. I’ll always try to control myself and to act as an equal.

Preparing to immigrate to Eretz-Israel

When I graduated from elementary school, “HaShomer HaDati” published a booklet from central leadership in Warsaw informing “HaShomer HaDati” in Poland was allotred seven certificates for children that could go to Israel and attend a religious-agricultural school with youths from Germany. The announcement also stated preparatory camp is scheduled for a month, and at the end the seven to immigrate to Eretz-Israel will be selected.

When I read it, there was no power on earth that would stop me from joining the preparation camp. I turned every stone and I signed up for camp. Hearing this, my parents initially laughed at my request, then adamantly refused (this was in 1937 and the bloody events in Eretz-Israel were at their peak), finally they agreed that I go to the preparatory camp assuming that I will not be among the seven elected out 90 children, and if I’m chosen …. we’ll see. Do not forget the Aliya to Israel, among other troubles, involved very great expense too.

Together with six other children in our town, I drove a wagon to the encampment in the woods, for a six week stay and my heart was gleeful. Gathered in the woods were about 90 children and we all knew that only 7 will be elected and approved to immigrate to Israel and become the envy of all others.

On my way to the camp I had an accident when I fell off the wagon, I was injured and dragged on the ground and I was wounded and bruised all over. When we arrived at our destination, I got to a first aid station that was in one of the barns in the camp, where they bandaged me and wantwed to inform my parents to come and take me home – a distance of about 12 km . I was very eager to participate and informed the management of the camp I refused to be sent home, even if they notify my parents – I will not go home. I lay in the hayloft on a pile of hay where I was treated. every day they changed the bandages, I could not participate in any activities with my friends. at one point I got fever and they thought I was in danger, but I refused to be sent home and insisted on staying. towards the end of the camp my sister came to visit. she was divided on what to do with me, but agreed that I stay until the end of the camp.

When they announced, at the end of the camp, who was elected to go to Israel, I was surprised to hear my name among the winners, because of my obstinacy of purpose. It was a very exciting moment. At first my parents did not agree, but in the meantime I recovered and health grounds were taken off the agenda.

immigration to Israel cost 3,000 Zlotys, about 100 pounds, which was then an enormous sum. On top of that my parents were interested in what was happening in the country, and heard that bloody riots and opposition intensified. My spirits rose and fell according to the information that my parents gathered. My brother wrote that the situation in the country is not good, and the events have not improved livelihood. But I insisted to the point of revolt. The parents were forced to sell the family’s property to achieve the required money paid to the central leadership in Warsaw, and I was on the list of seven elected from Poland who joined 70 children from Germany. Intended to open the religious youth village between Kfar Hasidim and Shaar HaAmakim – near Kibbutz Yagur.

At the age of 15 I joined a bunch of teenagers my age, all from “HaShomer HaTzair” and all from the synagogue of the “Skarnebitz” hassidim. Together we debated all those doubts and together we had struggles against the parents. In 1938, we conducted a commercial strike in our city for two hours and all the shopkeepers closed their shops in solidarity with the German Jews who suffered from the boycott declared by the German authorities. We, the youth, felt solidarity with the Jews of Germany and made sure that all Jews in the town closed their shops. Foe a whole day we sat in the police station because of “disturbing the peace”, loaded with intense national feelings and our parents worrying about us.

When I got to be among the seven approved to go to Israel I wa seen by my compatriots as a kind of pioneer leading the crowd. My friends also longed to immigrate to Eretz-Israel and go to an agricultural school, and since I was selected – they were jealous. Preparing to immigrate to Israel we took pictures and they gave me a farewell party.

I received a list specifying what gear I should bring with me. Among other things, the list included 12 pajamas – 6 for summer and 6 for Winter. We did not know at all what is a pajama, at home.

After everything was prepared, the hoped-for day came and I went on my way to Israel. When I said goodbye to my parents before boarding the train, mother hugged me crying and dad told me: “Dubcek , I want you to be a person of God, but I am a man with my feet on the ground. You will not be a Rabbim nor a scholar. I want you to be a M-A-N, be an honest man.” These were the last words I heard from my father. I boarded the train and went. The route started in Warsaw and from there I went to Lvov. On the way, one of the cars derailed and we had to switch to another train. Lvov arose in my heart pity the parents who gave their money for me to immigrate to Israel and I went to the local post office and sent back the little money my parents gave me.

At that time my sister went for training at “HaShomer HaDati”, and wanted to get a certificate for immigration to Israel.

On May 1938, I took the train from Lvov to the port of Constanta, which is on the Black Sea, in my pocket were a few small coins and as I waited at the port fruit and vegetable vendors were selling grapes for peanuts. I bought a few grapes, and one of the passengers muttered: “With this money you paid for the grapes you can have the Queen for the whole night.” Hereby hinting at the corrupt country and everything that money could buy.

We got on a ship – “Polonia”, a large Polish passenger ship riding the route of Constanta – Haifa. The trip took about 8 days. We suffered from sea sickness. In every meal they served olives which were considered a delicacy, but because of seasickness we could not enjoy them. The sea raged the whole trip until we reached Haifa.

Written by Daviv Cnaani in his memories book: “From Siedlce to Maagan Michael“.
Translated from Hebrew by Yuval Romano.