The son of Lilian and Chaim Leib (Hyman), Dov Seligman was born in the Bronx, New York, on 30th June 1922. His parents had immigrated to the U.S. from Eastern Europe, and he grew up in the Bronx in a home imbued with Jewish atmosphere. He studied at the Shalom Aleichem Jewish School, where he improved his knowledge of Yiddish, the main language spoken at home.
Although his parents were followers of the “Bund,” an anti-Zionist group, they supported his decision at the age of 17 to join the “Hashomer Hatzair” Zionist movement in his city, and he immediately became part of the group.
His desire was to eventually emigrate to “Eretz Yisrael” (Palestine), with the intention of becoming a member of a kibbutz, and on completing high school he enrolled at the
Delaware Valley College, faculty of agriculture, located in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
The U.S.A. was involved at that time in World War II, and Dov was forced to interrupt his studies when he was mobilized into the U.S. Army Air Corps, spending almost two years on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific. There he also kept a poultry pen in his spare time.
On his discharge from the U.S. Forces, he and some friends volunteered to help bring illegal Jewish refugee immigrants into Palestine on ships that the Haganah had acquired in the U.S.A. In complete secrecy, Dov and his comrades repaired and refitted these ships for use in the important mission of bringing Holocaust survivors from Europe to their homeland.
In a moving ceremony on the first night of Passover in 1946, with many friends present at the ceremony, Dov and other volunteers were sworn in to carry out their duties as crew members of the “Josiah Wedgwood.”
The “Josiah Wedgwood” was a former Canadian World War II corvette. Upon its arrival at Genoa in Italy, 1,257 refugees came aboard. The ship was intercepted by the British Royal Navy on 27th June 1946 and all the passengers, including the crew, were interned at a camp at Atlit. The Haganah escorts mixed with the illegal immigrants and Dov was given the name “Smilansky” which he kept, even when he married.
After his release from Atlit, he joined his group at Kibbutz Mishmar Ha’Emek and from there he left to establish a new kibbutz, Kibbutz Ein Dor in the Lower Galilee. His friends said of him that “there were none amongst them who could speak on the topic of the need to pioneer as he did,” and that is exactly what he undertook to do.
All his many friends respected him for his excellent ideas and plans for the kibbutz, and his optimistic nature. Dov, who had studied agriculture, was the first tractor driver at Kibbutz Ein Dor, and one of the first pioneers to establish the kibbutz.
On the afternoon of 18th January 1948 he and another kibbutz member set out to cultivate a field, each one driving a tractor. American Machalnik Arye Malkin and another kibbutz member trailed behind them. Dov made good speed on the sturdy Caterpillar tractor. By the time he got close to the far end of the field, the guards were a few hundred meters behind him. Suddenly, two shots rang out. Dov got up from his seat, threw his hand grenade at his attackers and then fell to the ground. Two Arabs rose from the furrow where they had been lying in ambush. The guards fired at them and came running to the scene. The Arabs fled through the wadi. Dov was seriously wounded in the stomach and was taken to Kfar Tabor. The shots were heard by the kibbutz members and a squad of men rushed to the field with more weapons, tracked down the ambushers and killed them.
All the kibbutz members stayed awake all night waiting for news. At about
1 a.m. on 19th January, Kfar Tabor signaled them that Dov had died. Just one year had passed since he had started his new life, and only a few months had passed since his marriage to Chana Meron of Kibbutz Mishmar Ha’Emek.
He was interred at Kibbutz Mishmar Ha’Emek, and later laid to rest in the Ein Dor cemetery, where later his parents were also buried. His younger brother Martin still lives on Kibbutz Ein Dor.
Translated from the Yizkor website, with additions from personal interviews by Joe Woolf with members of Kibbutz Ein Dor in 2009.