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Purity of Arms

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Front-line Kibbutzim  E-mail

By Joe Woolf


Introduction
The revelations of the fate of the Jews in Europe which emerged at the end of World War II, combined with the violent conflict in Palestine, strengthened the self-evident fact that the Jews indeed needed a haven in Eretz Yisrael, and that they would have to fight to attain it..

The British Mandate's authority in Palestine progressively limited Jewish immigration and land purchase in order to appease the small but agitated Arab Palestinian population. With the knowledge that a war of survival was impending, pioneer settlers from Western countries who arrived with approved Immigration Certificates from the Mandate authorities after the end of World War II were considered in their own right to be volunteers from abroad, hence  Machal.

As the movement of chalutzim (pioneers) from South Africa to Israel is well-documented in the book, "South Africa's 800: The Story of South African Volunteers in Israel's War of Birth," by Henry Katzew.  This narrative will be mainly about South Africans. However, similar movements took place amongst members of Zionist youth organizations from other countries, mainly the United States, as they were also fired by Zionist ideals.  Nuclei of young Americans joined many of the kibbutzim mentioned in this story.

Leaving South Africa for Palestine
In August 1945, an organized group of some 40 young men and women made for Durban, where 29 of them boarded the British Malaysian Company's ship Hon Kheng, and sailed on September 9th.The Hon Kheng took a month to reach Egypt, its passage delayed for a week by a breakdown which necessitated repairs in Mombasa. Four of the group - Sonia Gamsu, Rona Moss-Morris, Ruth Rosenberg and Yehudith Werbranchik – sailed on the "Chopra" on August 26th; and three of them – Fanny Goldberg, Dot Ogin, and Rebecca Polon – sailed on the "Rio-Pacifico" on August 27th, all northward bound. It was a history-making group, although its members were not conscious of the fact at the time.  It was the second organized group of South African Zionist youth to settle in Palestine, the first having left a few years earlier. The first group left no significant traces on the life of the Yishuv: the majority of its members found the life incredibly tough and returned to South Africa.   Barney Joffe, today of Ashkelon, is one of the few who remained.

The second group, under the leadership of Karl Silberman of Johannesburg, was to write itself into the history of pioneer settlement from South Africa.  It was made up of members of all the Zionist Youth movements with the exception of Betar, the Zionist Revisionist party's youth movement whose political philosophy did not embrace land settlement.  The Zionist Socialists of the group later joined the founders of Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch in the Northern Galilee; the Hashomer Hatzair members were amongst the founders of Kibbutz Shoval in the Negev; the Mizrachi group was to go to the newly-founded Kibbutz Kfar Etzion between Jerusalem and Hebron, and then to a settlement in the Bet She'an Valley; and the General Zionists became the founders of Timorim. All these are flourishing settlements today.

Smaller groups and individuals were to settle on Hatzor, Kfar Blum, Beit Herut,  Massada and Messilot.  Not all of them remained:  a few returned to South Africa, others left the land for the cities and three were to die in the War of Independence three years later.  All have their place as pioneers who mapped out a path and made possible the absorption of later groups.  Their names unquestionably belong to this record.  In addition to the seven girls mentioned above, the group included Karl Silberman,  Abe Tooch,  Isaac Zagnoev,  Gideon Rosenberg,  Max Lifshitz,  Abe Beinart,  Leslie Shandel,  Hymie Stein,  Meyer Wachs,  Zvi Lipschitz,  Tefke Kolnick,  Max Berman,  Cyril Tiger,  Clara Alter,  Chana Eife,  Slavin Fanerov,  Jack Gross,  Maisie and Basil Lowenstein,  Neville Silbert,  Eliezer Joffe,  Haig Kaplan,  Issy  Lowenstein,  Hillel Fine,  Zvi Zipper,  Ursula Treuherz (Sachs),   Sarah Beinart,  Ben-Zion Judelman and Sybil Judelman. Yehezkiel Berelowitz (Chatzki), one of those to die in the battle for Kfar Etzion, had succeeded in arriving in 1944.

South African Jews declined to accept the British imposition of conditional right to enter their spiritual and national homeland, as did Jews from other parts of the world.  Accordingly, the Zionist Federation, challenging and defying the British limitations, initiated a pilot plan for "illegal" immigration.  The plan was for a path-finding group of eight, ostensibly on safari, to cross Africa by truck to Cairo, and there to make contact with the appropriate people who would see to the rest.

The eight young men, their ages ranging from 18 – 24, were Benny Miller of Oudtshoorn and the leader of the expedition, Philip Navon of Randfontein, Harry Bloch of Port Elizabeth, Henry Harris, Morris Galp, Issy Rieback, Hymie Zahavi (Goldblatt) and Eddy Magid, all of Johannesburg.  Five were chosen from the General Zionist hachsharah farm near Johannesburg, and three were Betarim. Eddy Magid was to become Mayor of Johannesburg in the 1980s.

The journey was quite an adventure, with stops and starts all the way.  Two hours after midnight on December 15th 1946, the 3-ton ex-army truck nosed its way out of Johannesburg.  The plan did not succeed mainly because of an accident that occurred on February 1st 1947 at Ed-Duem, Sudan.  A low, overhanging branch knocked down two of the group who were sitting on the roof of the truck.  Eddy Magid was not seriously injured, but Henry Harris, who took the brunt of the blow, suffered a cracked vertebra.  The truck had to be sold to pay the airfare to fly Henry back to Johannesburg.  Of the others, all except one eventually reached Israel in 1948 with the El Al flights from Johannesburg organized for Machal volunteers.
Twelve youngsters boarded the Winchester Castle in Durban in March 1947.  The ship had arrived from the Far East and Australia, returning soldiers after World War II to Britain and other countries.   The settler group, with different destinations and purposes in Palestine, included ex-SAAF air mechanic Abe Nurick, ex-SAAF pilot Hugo Alperstein (later Hebraised to Hagai Agmon) Shainie Nurock, Bob Damelin with his wife and two children, Mr. Rosenberg, father of Mordechai and Dr. David Kidron, both well-known Israelis today, Val Shaanan (then Levy), Mr.& Mrs. Judkowski of Cape Town, Isaac Fabian and Sara Babrow. The 12 South Africans disembarked from the Winchester Castle at Port Said and reached Lydda on a night train packed with Arab travelers on an April morning in 1947, a few days before the Passover festival.

The South African Presence in Israel Before 1948

The South African presence in Israel on the day the state was born comprised the two established kibbutzim of Ma'ayan Baruch and Shoval, and a core of urban residents in the three major cities, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.  There was also the non-ideological work platoon of General Zionists, or the ZUPs as they called themselves.  After three years of hachshara at the kibbutzim of Ramat Yochanan and Kfar Glickson, the ZUPs founded their own settlement of Timorim.  Meanwhile, they were operating as a workforce based on Ein Sara, a private farm near Nahariya in the Western Galilee.  However, some members of the group were earning money in building and harbor jobs in Haifa.  Among the latter was Karl Silberman, who had led the 1945 group.
The emphasis in South Africa on recruiting experienced World War II veterans in the early months caused a revolt of organized Zionist youth.  They felt this to be a slur on their honor, and demanded that some of their numbers be included.  They had been too young to serve in the war.  This, they said, should not be used against them.  It would be a blot on their records if they were not sent.  A compromise was reached.  A percentage of Zionist youth would be sent after some preliminary training.  Thus, a considerable number of those listed as kibbutz members in the "South Africa's 800" were Zionist youth channeled north with the Machal groups.

Jack Segal, a radar man in the air force, attended a concert of the Philharmonic Orchestra on the night of May 13th, the evening  before the state was  proclamed, and the day of the final destruction of the Etzion block of  kibbutzim near Hebron.  The "soul" poured by the orchestra into the national anthem, Hatikvah, can never again be repeated, he says.  Two South Africans, "Chatzi" Berelowitz and Zvi Lipshitz, fell at Kibbutz Etzion.


Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch
Three of the South Africans were bound for Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch: Abe Nurick with his wife Riva, and Hugo Alperstein.  Nurick's link with the Ma'ayan Baruch project began in 1946 in Cape Town. He had gone there on his first holiday after the war, and had heard about Harry Salber, Haig Kaplan and Issy Lowenstein and their ex-servicemen's group that was determined to found a kibbutz in Palestine.  At a meeting of the group he met Riva, whom he married a few months later, by which time the first group of pioneers had already founded the settlement.

Hugo Alperstein was a product of Dale College in Kingwilliamstown. He belonged to a family that had always been warmly Zionist.  As a youth he was a member of his town's Young Israel Society and later of Habonim.  He served during the war in Italy in 24 Squadron in the SAAF, and on his return to South Africa joined the Johannesburg group of young Zionist Socialists planning the Ma'ayan Baruch project.  To prepare himself for his new life, he took advantage of the Government's COTT scheme which trained demobilized soldiers for a trade.  Alperstein, living the dream of Jewish redemption by self-labor, joined a builders' course.

Abe and Riva Nurick left immediately for Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch on the Triumph motor-cycle which they'd brought with them and which later became the settlement's transport vehicle.  Hugo Alperstein first went to Jerusalem to find the girlfriend whom he had met in Egypt during the war.  Within a few weeks, he joined the kibbutz and some months later succeeded in bringing his girlfriend there.  The two were married at the kibbutz.

Abe Nurick was made for kibbutz life.  A son of the veld, a helper in his schoolboy days in his father's Upington butchery and farm, he had abandoned his university studies in 1937 to learn the building trade.  Now he became both the kibbutz builder and its expert on butchering meat.  His service in the SAAF, with its 5-year tent-and-workshop life in Kimberley, North Africa and Italy, also turned out to be excellent preparation for the raw life of pioneering.  He took Hugo Alperstein under his wing and they began to work together on the settlement's building projects.

Edward (Eddie) Cohen arrived at the kibbutz a few months later.  Before the war he had taken no interest in Jewish affairs, and was far removed from contemporary Zionist-minded youth.  It is possible that a visit to Palestine on one of his air force leaves transformed the young fighter-pilot into the obsessed 23-year-old, dreaming only of joining Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch. He abandoned his university studies and, like Hugo Alperstein before him, joined a builders'  course under the COTT scheme.  He was now afire with Zionism.  At lunch time he would walk over from the trade school to the nearby University of the Witwatersrand to attend meetings of the Students Zionist Association.  His friend, Shaul Bar Levav (Levinson), an early volunteer, described how intensely interested Eddie was in all he heard.

He arrived at Ma'ayan Baruch in October 1947, an urbanite with well-chosen suits and ties, books, a fine collection of classical records and a hungry idealism. Quiet and reserved, he had interior depths which his new life began to stir, but this new life was destined soon to end, for a country at war would need the expertise of war veterans.

On May 29th 1948, Eddie Cohen was the first fatal casualty of the newly-formed 101 Fighter Squadron. He was part of a flight of four Messershmitts which attacked an Egyptian column of 500 vehicles some 30 kilometers south of Tel Aviv.  He was flying wing to Ezer Weizman, who later became president of Israel.  The other two pilots were Modi Alon and American Lou Lenart.  This sortie surprised the Egyptian commanders, who believed that Israel was without air defenses.  The Egyptians would not be in Tel Aviv in forty-eight hours as their press had boasted, and Tel Aviv receded from their grasp.

For recent South African arrivals Lionel Hodes, Jack Fleisch and Horace Milunsky, May 14th was a day spent on the roads traveling in an armored bus heading to join Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch.  At Rosh Pina the bus joined a large convoy led by armored cars, and they moved steadily into the "finger" of the Upper Galilee.  The British had given the fortress-like police station of Nebi Yusha to Arabs who sniped at the convoy.  Doors slammed shut and shutters closed.  The pitter-patter of the bullets was their introduction to the war for the South African kibbutzniks

The bus stopped at a small outhouse, the driver opened the door facing away from Nebi Yusha and three men quickly clambered in.  They were members of Kibbutz Kfar Giladi, one of the oldest of the Northern Galilee settlements.  The men had been working at the kibbutz fish pond directly below the police station.  War or no war, work had to go on.

In the distance fires burned and the sounds of a small arms skirmish were clearly audible.  The news quickly spread:  the Haganah was attacking a hostile Arab village, and the bus moved on.

There was little ceremony to greet the three men at Ma'ayan Baruch, for they had arrived in the middle of an alarm exercise.  The situation was briefly explained to them: each settlement in the valley was expected to defend itself until the surrounding settlements could come to its aid.  Kfar Szold, Dan and other settlements near Ma'ayan Baruch had already beaten off attacks.  But now organized armies, not irregulars, would bear down on the settlements whose communication systems would be maintained by radio heliograph, lamps and flares.

The briefing showed the situation in all its harsh reality.  By accepted military calculations, the kibbutz could offer little resistance to a determined assault. Its arms consisted of about 25 weapons, including one old 2-inch mortar with a few shells, a Chateau light machine gun with several hundred rounds and 20 or so smaller arms of diverse makes and age.  The locally made Sten gun, with an effective range of not more than 50 yards, vied for pride of place with a tommy-gun, an old shotgun normally used for hunting buck, and assorted French, German, English and Czech rifles.  Each weapon had its idiosyncrasies.  An order had been issued by Josef, the military commander, that ammunition was to be used sparingly, for no one knew when replenishments would arrive.

The settlement had been well prepared against attack, both from the air and ground.  Bunkers and shelters enabled the whole community to go underground and a small sick bay had been prepared in a shelter.  The perimeter of the meshek was surrounded by several layers of barbed concertina wire and mines had been laid.  Shooting and observation posts ringed the camp and dugouts were linked to one another by wide communication trenches and telephone.

Arab superstition of nighttime had been taken into account.  1000 firecrackers, ready to go off when tramped upon, were strategically strewn around, and phosphorescent figures had been prepared to serve as apparitions.  The exercise over, the settlers gathered together for a party while sentries remained on duty.  Glasses clinked, the State of Israel had been proclaimed, and what would be, would be.

The metallic clang of the alarm sent everyone dashing to action stations.  What menaced in the darkness?  The word went around:  "Relax, false alarm."  The alarm had been struck accidentally.  The members of Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch slept peacefully on the night of May 14th 1948. The kibbutz had already given two of its members, pilots Eddie Cohen and Hugo Alperstein, to the Israel Air Service. Abe Nurick was soon to join them.
Ma'ayan Baruch was preoccupied with the war throughout the month of May, but was spared the ordeal of it. Its members were watchful, tense and alert. The Syrians, who had four options for penetrating the Galilee, made their thrust on the Jordan Valley, presumably arguing that once the settlements there were rolled up, those in the 'finger' of the Galilee would be cut off and fall anyway.  The Lebanese on the west were fighting at Nahariya, which changed hands and was to change hands again, and at Kadesh Naftali the possibility of a link-up of Syrian and Lebanese was thwarted on May 16th by the Palmach's capture of the police fortress of Nebi Yusha, with the loss of twenty men; this was the fortress which had fired on the bus that had brought Lionel Hodes and his friends to Northern Galilee.
The settlers of Ma'ayan Baruch carried on with their labors.  They had a vegetable garden, five cows and cereals growing in the fields.  It became clear that while working under skies that belonged to the Syrians, when danger threatened they should take cover in slit trenches.  Eventually they became indifferent to the planes.  The Syrians were not interested in them but in the roads, which they were dive-bombing.  The flashes of Syrian guns shelling the Jordan Valley settlements were visible and the South Africans and their American chaverim (members) felt the pain of a country which had no artillery with which to reply.
Nights at the kibbutz were eerie, both because of the howls of scores of jackals which sometimes became translated in tense minds to Arab war cries as well as by the bright lights of the tracers and flares somewhere further sosuth when an Israeli target was under fire.  All the kibbutz dug-outs were manned, two to a dug-out: one member on duty, the other resting.  The women, having been taught to shoot, shared in the vigil. When it seemed safe, some settlers would probe around in abandoned Arab villages in the neighborhood.  Articles stolen from the kibbutz were recovered.  Lionel Hodes noted in his diary, "Some of the friendly Arabs who had remained were armed by the Jews, despite their own meager armaments.  The Arabs sought to protect themselves from reprisals by their fellow Arabs.  Every night there was a movement back into Palestine by Arabs who regretted having fled.”
Hodes, Horace Milunsky and Jack Fleisch, concluding that Ma'ayan Bruch would be safe without them, sought permission to leave the kibbutz to join a regular army unit. The kibbutz committee demurred, but the issue was settled by a new turn of events.  The Syrians launched an attack on Kibbutz Mishmar Hayarden in the east, and from the west the Lebanese recaptured Malkiya. It was immediately surmised that  the Arab advance would be on the key settlement of Rosh Pina, gateway to the Northern Galilee.  Trained men were collected from every settlement in the region to meet the threat.  Ma'ayan Baruch contributed the Hodes trio, who found the Druse at Rosh Pina in their flowing robes and kaffiyas  most interesting; these Druse had thrown in their lot with the Israelis.

An American member of Ma'ayan Baruch, Israel Avraham Sevin, was to die driving a truck in a Haganah convoy on the road from Safed to the kibbutz. Jack Fleisch, a demolition expert, separated from his friends Hodes and Milunsky.  Captured a few months later in the Negev, he was taken to a POW camp in Egypt where he suffered grim days that were to shatter his life.  Hodes and Milunsky were sent to an artillery training camp at Pardess Katz.

Kibbutz Shoval
Kibbutz Shoval consisted then of three huts, one used as a dining room and kitchen, while the other two served as living quarters.  There was the customary kibbutz water tower and by May 14th, a barbed wire fence encircled the settlement and a two-storey security house with a parapet and emplacement had been prepared. From the heights of the tower, the kibbutzniks on guard duty could see the village of Hatzirim and a glimpse of the aluminum roofs of Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev.  The Iraq-el-Suweidan fortress was nearby, but not visible from Shoval.  In the whole large area between Gaza and Hebron there were not more than three or four trees, and the talk in the kibbutz dining room was not of war but of how their recently-purchased cows, then on a settlement near Nahariya, would fare when brought down to this arid region. (To jump a little in history, a few years later the kibbutz won the prize for the best herd in the country.)
The situation at Kibbutz Shoval, at the other end of the state and in what was then, though not today, the Negev, was interesting.  Across the road from the kibbutz was the encampment of a famous Bedouin sheik, Abu Sheik Suleiman Huzeil.  There had never been any tensions between the young kibbutz with its South African, Israeli and Buchenwald-survivors nuclei and the Arabs.  Indeed, the two peoples got on well together; the kibbutz tractor had often been placed at the disposal of the Arabs.  Flight did not enter the minds of these Arabs.  The area was one of several examples of good relationships, indicating that there need never have been an Arab refugee problem.  The relationship between the kibbutz members and their Arab neighbors was good:  a young kibbutznik of Czech origin from Shoval would go over nightly to the encampment to translate the Arab radio news service for the sheik into spoken Arabic, for although the sheik was a judge of the Bedouin High Court, he was not fluent in literary Arabic.

Not that the menace of war had not threatened the young kibbutz.  Up the road, a small fort manned by a detachment of the Transjordan Frontier Police had been established, but as sometimes happens in war, this force inexplicably disappeared shortly before May 14th, and the kibbutz members took over the fort.

Before May 14th, an order had been given that no one could leave the kibbutz compound without a guard, and that a sentry had to be on duty at the watchtower all the time.  "It was there," said Issy Greenberg, "that I had time to read most of my copy of a Greek tragedy."
The entire South African garin consisted of no more than 30 young people, the majority of whom were women, among them the Rosenberg sisters of Johannesburg and Nina Herbstein of Cape Town. Zvi Zipper of Rhodesia and Gideon Rosenberg were on service on other fronts in the country.  Other kibbutz men were earning money for the struggling settlement in various jobs near Netanya.  The kibbutz armory consisted of a few British rifles, three Stens, Molotov cocktails, a couple of hand grenades and 1,000 rounds of ammunition, the standard arsenal of the Negev kibbutzim.

On May 14th, the fierce encounters that were to take place in the region were not foreseen; notable amongst these encounters were the seven Israeli attempts to dislodge the invading Egyptians from the Iraq-el-Suweidan fortress, "the monster on the hill," before finally succeeding on the eighth attempt on November 9th  1948.

Kibbutz Shoval had several South African settlers in the army; amongst them were Issy Greenberg (Granoth) of the Drom Afrika 1 crew, Zvi Zipper of Rhodesia, and Gideon Rosenberg of Johannesburg.  Rosenberg fell two weeks before the state was declared in one of the many battles for the hills of Jerusalem.
Down in the south the friendly relations between the Bedouin encampment and the South Africans and their companions at Kibbutz Shoval were maintained.  Issy Greenberg joined a unit at Mishmar Hanegev.  From here, the unit made a nightly foot patrol to Hatzirim, a kibbutz near Beersheba, keeping a watchful eye on the Beersheba-Gaza road. Towards the end of May the patrol unit was taken out of the Negev and stationed at Be'er Tuvia, near Kastina, a former British army base and an airfield which was later called Hatzor. Many South Africans served there in the Israel Air Force.
The following night this unit took part in the Isdud battle that had been planned to stop the Egyptians on their advance on Tel Aviv.  The Israelis (say the historians) lost the battle, but won the war at Isdud.  Be that as it may, the Egyptians stopped at Isdud - the Ashdod of today - and were not able to advance any further.

Kibbutz Ein Sara
Of the three agriculture-based groups - Ma'ayan Baruch, Shoval and Ein Sara - it was perhaps the group at Ein Sara which experienced most vividly the prologue to the state's rebirth.  With the partition decision, the Western Galilee fell into the Arab area.  The army ordered the work platoon to stay put. Haifa, as a work centre, now became closed to the peripatetic workers when the Arab city of Acre was blocked.  Only irregular trips by sea were possible at first.
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Ein Sara's owner, an elderly German Jew, quit his farm when the partition decision was made, and gave over his handsome two-storey stone house to the group.  In the months before that, the Jewish Agency had built them three wooden pre-fabs, a dining room and a storeroom.

What had given the work party its keenest sense of drama was the beaching in the pre-partition period of two small immigrant ships.  The two beachings took place within a period of twenty-four hours.  The first ship came in at night and the South African settlers were among those assigned to help the immigrants - men women and children - off the ships.  The reception group was under orders to resist physically should the British get wind of the ship's arrival, and would then attempt to detain the immigrants and send them to Cyprus.  However, the British were caught by surprise.  The immigrants vanished into the population by a well-organized "melting" procedure.  A beached hulk was all the British found.

The second ship erred, and came in by day. The British commander immediately had the area cordoned off.  What followed was a comedy:  the Jewish leader in the area gathered together some girls, provided them with bottles of liquor, and sent them down to the beach to chat up the British soldiers, who were not averse to the girls' overtures.  They became preoccupied, enough to make it possible for the reception team to whisk the immigrants out of sight.

This was not the end of the comedy.  The British commander, on friendly terms with the Jews, sought from them "a handful of chaps" to show his superiors in Haifa that his men had rounded up at least some of the illegal immigrants.  The "chaps" the Jews gave him were men they wanted on Cyprus to instruct the DPs in Hebrew and physical training as well as psychological preparation for their new life in the new state.

The "Mary Line" to Haifa was also organized in the passage of time. Mary was friendly with an officer of British Transport Command in Nahariya.  She persuaded him to allow a daily truck to travel to Haifa to bring back supplies and mail for the settlers; wearing khaki and English-speaking, settlers passed as British soldiers when they had occasion to use the line. But this was a land of tragedy and death as well as of comedy and guile.  The South Africans felt the pain of Yechiam, a collective settlement occupying the site of a Crusader castle. It came to denote the ill-fated convoy from Haifa bringing supplies and reinforcements to the Western Galilee. The convoy succeeded in slipping past Acre undetected, safely reaching the South Africans at Ein Sara which had become the "clearing house" for the Western Galilee.  That night the South Africans celebrated the convoy's arrival with a party.

On its way inland to Yechiam, the convoy was ambushed near a bend in the road.  The first few cars managed to escape and reached besieged Yechiam, but most of the trucks, with their drivers and passengers, were mowed down. The tidings hit the people of Israel hard, but the most affected was the South African ZUP platoon which had entertained the ill-fated guests the night before.

History was now moving fast.  The exodus of 70,000 Arabs from Haifa in April, and the Jewish encirclement of Acre, foreshadowed Jewish victory in the north.  Seen 27 years later, the big event in the experience of the South African work platoon at Ein Sara was not Ben-Gurion's proclamation of the state ("We expected it") but the UN's decision on partition.  They listened, ears glued to the radio, in their primitive prefabs.  When the final count was given and, with it, the recognition of Jewish statehood by the international community, the settlers hugged one another and sang and danced.  "After that," said Karl Silberman, "no one ever doubted that the Jewish state would arise." They listened to Ben-Gurion's ringing Hebrew declaration on May 14th 1948 as young people confident of their future. The work platoon had no men serving in the army; their service in founding the border Kibbutz Timorim on the morrow was seen both by themselves and the army as equivalent to military service.

Kibbutz Timorim
Early in June the South African ZUP work platoon left their temporary farm at Ein Sara to establish Kibbutz Timorim on a gentle hill overlooking Moshav Nahalal; though not visible from Timorim, it was not more than ten kilometres away. Timorim became, in fact, a border settlement and looked immediately to its security and building defensive emplacements.
Timorim was the fruition of a way of thinking that had its origin in Johannesburg some years earlier. Seven men – three brothers, Israel, David and Zelig Dunsky of Germiston, Zundel Segal, Harold Stutzen, Philip Zuckerman and Karl Silberman (all of them in Israel today) launched the United Zionist Party.  They came together as an entity to give non-ideological Zionists a voice in the affairs of the Federation.  The United Zionists grew in strength.  The group that founded Timorim were its first pioneers.  Their reaction to the "Altalena" affair was characteristic.  "We discussed it," said Silberman, "without warmth, without heat.  The affair should not have happened.  In historical perspective it was an important event, but at the time it did not loom large for us.  We were people who could not get hot-headed about any ideology.  We could never split on political issues as, a few years later, the Mapai party's kibbutzim did."

In a few swift days the settlers, then numbering about forty, the majority South Africans, put up their pre-fabs and dining room and established a small sheet-metal factory.  The prime initiator was Pretoria's Hymie Chait of the Drom Afrika 1 crew.  He was soon joined  by his brother, Max.  The settlement followed the usual pattern of those days, planting vegetable fields and running a modest dairy.

The settlement had a three-fold significance:  first, it protected a part of the Migdal Ha'emek border; second, it opened the road to Ein Hachoresh; third, it was neighbor of the British-built Ramat David airfield which was then filling up with scores of South African air force personnel who, during the following months, would share in the kibbutz Sabbath-eve parties.

Nazareth fell to the Israelis on the evening of July 16th, with little blood-shed on either on side.  The Arabs did not run, but surrendered, and they and their children remain in Nazareth to this day.

None of the South Africans on nearby Kibbutz Timorim participated in the convergence on Nazareth; their task had been to pin down the Arab village of  Malun, and this they did.  The Arab surrender was meaningful to them because, in Karl Silberman's words, "We were now free to get organized."

Volunteers from Other Countries
Many Americans and Canadians were chaverim' of front line kibbutzim, and known to the World Machal Association.  The kibbutzim where they lived were Ma'ayan Baruch, Kfar Blum, Ein Dor, Ein Hanatziv, Schluchot, Ginegar, Gan Hadarom, Ein Hashofet, Kfar Menachem and Ramat Yochanan.

In addition to American Avraham Sevin of Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch, Dov Seligman of Kibbutz Ein Dor was ambushed and killed on January 19th 1948 while plowing the kibbutz fields.
Ari Lashner of  Kfar Blum was killed by a sniper on March 18th1948 while repairing an electrical fault on a lamp-post on the kibbutz security perimeter.

Though not a kibbutz member, David Guenther Livingston, a soldier of the Palmach Yiftach, fell on April 14th 1948 in the defense of Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'emek.  All three, Seligman, Lashner and Livingston had served with the crew on Aliyah Bet ships.

Latin America had a small group of members a Kibbutz Negba; a considerable number of Machal volunteers served in Givati units in the defense of Negba and Kibbutz Nitzanim.  Mordechai Wainerman of Argentina fell on July 12th 1948 at Negba, and Debora Epstein of Uruguay fell at Nitzanim on June 7th 1948.


Prepared by Joe Woolf

KIBBUTZIM REFERRED TO ABOVE, IN LIST FORM

Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch
Kibbutz Shoval
Kibbutz Kfar Etzion
Kibbutz Timorim
Kibbutz Ein Sara
Kibbutz Kfar Giladi
Kibbutz Ramat Yochanan
Kfar Glickson
Kibbutz Mishmar Hayarden
Kibbutz Kfar Blum
Kibbutz Ein Dor
Kibbutz Ein Hanatzvi
Kibbutz Schluchot
Kibbutz Gan Hadarom
Kibbutz Ein Hashofet
Kibbutz Kfar Menachem
Kibbutz Ginegar
Kibbutz Negba
Kibbutz Netzanim