Furst Brothers BRATIA FÜRST
After the War
Shmuel always used to say that I was a better student then he, but I don’t think so. I graduated nine grades of high school with many difficulties. After having weighed ways for my further studies, my parents and I decided that learning a skill would be the most suitable channel for my future study. I enrolled in a school of artistic industry in Bratislava. For two years I studied photography, and graduated in 1949.
In February 1949, after my parents’ painful wavering, they agreed to let me immigrate to Israel, in the framework of “Youth Aliya”. Shmuel, who was at that time, together with his peers, in a “Hachshara” (the Hebrew word for training towards labor in Israel), worked as the personal aide to the first consul in the Israeli legation in Prague.
I was a member of the “El-Al” group in the Bratislava branch of Hashomer Hatzair. The central office of the movement decided that we should join one of the existing kibbutzim and become its members.
When I left Czechoslovakia, it was as clear as daylight that my parents and Shmuel would follow suit. I did not even think about the possibility of parting from them forever. The whole family came to the railway station to kiss me good-by. Shmuel boarded the train and accompanied me to the Austrian border. From there we traveled to the town of Bari in southern Italy. Three days later we embarked on the “Medex”, a small ship, which was to take us to the shores of Israel. Even I, who never before sailed on a ship, could see how small, rusty, and worn-out that boat was. And we were two hundred youth on its deck! Despite our apprehension, our boat made its way across the Mediterranean, and after a week managed to get into the port of Haifa. Upon our arrival in Israel, we were filled with joy and enthusiasm.
Right after we disembarked the ship, we went through the process of disinfection by the infamous DDT. Then we were transferred to a Haifa Center for Newcomers. There we were told that we might join Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk, which was the first kibbutz we ever visited. At last, the Kibbutz Artzi movement decided that we should join Kibbutz Maanit.
After a two-week stay in Haifa, we arrived in Maanit. The families of kibbutz-members have not yet returned from the place they were evacuated to during Israel’s war of Independence, because some shooting was still going on in the nearby area occupied by Jordan.
In Maanit we were members of a “Youth Group”. (That terminology applied to youth who joined kibbutzim for a period of work and studies, prior to their military service.)
In Maanit, a new phase in my life began.
We were about sixty young boys and girls, age sixteen to seventeen. We immediately engaged in work and school. I worked in the carpentry shop. I liked and enjoyed that skill, which I already practiced before.
Most of us engaged in sports, mainly volleyball. I was among the best players in that game.
We were puzzled by the fact that members of the kibbutz never raised the issue of the Holocaust. Moreover, they have not even perceived it. For example, after we complained that we did not get enough food, our counselor gave a long speech on the hard times in Eretz-Israel, and on meals that were composed of half an egg per person, and so on. She and her comrades never thought of the years of starving and suffering we went through. Who of us dreamed about half an egg in our menu?!
We lived and studied on the kibbutz until 1950. By that year we were drafted to the Nachal unit in the Israeli army.
I found absolutely no interest in the army. I did not like any militarism, the training, the orders and the general framework. Despite all that, I was found fit to be called upon to an officers’ course, but I declined the offer. On the other hand, within the army I actively engaged in volleyball, and became a player first in the Nachal team, and later in the first team of the Israeli Defense Forces.
Upon completing my service, I returned for a short period to Kibbutz Maanit.