Furst Brothers    BRATIA FÜRST


After the War

Shmuel’s Story

I wouldn’t know which of the two – school of the youth movement – attracted my interest more strongly, but for me studying was very difficult. I hardly graduated the two classes I had to finish. I was unable to concentrate on the subjects, and follow the lessons. The framework of school has not suited me any more. All that existed in my earlier childhood vanished in the air, and I was unable to reintroduce it. Then came the movement, which reinforced my conviction that we no longer belonged to that place.

Upon completing a year and a half of studies, I quit school and joined a “Hachshara” in the town of Košice. Later on, I spent another year in an agricultural training program in Bohemia.

According to the movement’s ideology, there were three most important principles: settling Eretz-Israel, working its land, and being a pioneer. For me, it was obvious that there was no reason for me to stay in Slovakia. As time went by, that conviction became even stronger.

It took about two and a half years until the post-war regime in Czechoslovakia fell to pieces, to be replaced by the communist rule. Its agents began harassing our family, because dad was considered as a well-to-do man – and they did not like it. Moreover, he was a Jew, and as anti-Semitic elements became part and parcel of the new administration, that fact was not in his favor. One day, a delegation came over to our house and wished to get us out of it. The agents claimed that the apartment was too big for three people. That was exactly on the day of my return from a voluntary labor camp organized by the socialist movement, at the end of which I received a medal of distinction and a certificate of gratitude for my contribution to the country. With that certificate in my hands, I turned to the agents and said: “How come, on the one hand I receive a such a certificate, and on the other you come to drive me out of my home?!” I think that my firm stand prevented them from carrying out their scheme.

Despite such unfavorable circumstances, our parents wished to stay in Bratislava. I tried to persuade them to immigrate to Israel, and even said to them that I would go to Israel anyway.

The last training program took place in the village of Unhošt, fifty kilometers from Prague. That was a genuine agricultural training. However, one serious problem arose: there were not enough jobs for all of us at the “Hachshara”, and some were sent to work in Prague, mainly within the Zionist movement and the Jewish Agency. A position in the Israeli legation fell to my lot, and I became the secretary of Rafi Benshalom, the legation’s first secretary and consul general. Rafi, a member of Kibbutz Haogen, passed away a few months ago. Within my assignment, I mainly dealt with passports, transit papers and consular affairs.

At the same time, I also dealt with the transfer of machines for the carpentry and locksmith shops as well as trucks, to our future kibbutz in Israel. We financed the purchase of that equipment by funds we raised at the time we were still in the movement, and later at the “Hachshara”, and by inheritances obtained by our members. The idea was to arrive in Israel with that equipment, and begin straight away producing goods for the kibbutz. However, we were allowed to export from Czechoslovakia only part of the machinery. The balance of finances was transferred via Austria to Germany, where we bought the necessary equipment, which we later shipped to Israel.

Our training at the “Hachshara” took place at the time the communists were already ruling Czechoslovakia. All Jewish communities were well aware that the opportunity to immigrate from that country to Israel was limited in time. All Jewish institutions, and particularly the youth movements among which Hashomer Hatzair played a leading role, urged the Jews to leave the country as soon as possible, because the borders would soon be closed. Every day brought new measures and restrictions. At first, they seemed to be directed to the wealthy burgoise, but very soon they took the shape of anti-Semitism. An atmosphere of liquidation became prevalent among those who foresaw what was going to happen.

According to the original plan, I was supposed to leave for Israel together with my parents, even prior to Naftali’s leave. However, as it became clear that the days of the Zionist Organization in Czechoslovakia were numbered, an emergency plan was drafted. Because of the key position I held at the time, it was decided that I should remain on my post as long as necessary. Most of my “Hachshara” peers left in 1948, and I was ready to go by 1949.

Naftali immigrated on February 1949. Uncle Andor and aunt Berta left for Israel in April 1949, at the time our parents packed our belongings in a container to be shipped to Israel.

We left Bratislava on April 20, 1949 by train to Bari, in southern Italy. We stayed at a camp, which was set up for immigrants.

That was our first encounter with the Western World, as well as with a sea. We were very impressed by both.

After several days in Bari, we boarded the “Galila”. The ship was overcrowded, and general conditions were very poor. In addition, the sea was turbulent; most people were seasick.

We arrived at the shores of Haifa on May 5. Naftali waited for us at the prot, wearing a blue shirt and khaki shorts with a wide belt. He later told us that in order for him to look like and Israeli, he ran around the whole kibbutz to get that wear.

After the process of disinfection by DDT, I said good-by to our parents and left on a truck to Kibbutz Merchavia.

I feel that the process of absorption in Merchavia was good. The attitude shown to us was very fair. It was not easy to adjust to the hot climate in Israel, but soon enough came the winter of 1950, famous for its heavy snow. During that winter, we moved from our tents to the “Mossad Chinuchi” (High-school educational institute) dormitories, which were vacated in order to accommodate us.

In the course of the year we spent in Merchavia, which at that time was in terms of the Hashomer Hatzair movement the “center of the world”, we learned many things, together with getting to know the country.

While still in Merchavia, I was intensively engaged in the founding of our own new kibbutz, Lehavot Chaviva. As a skilled carpenter, I worked, together with others, in the construction of wooden houses and their inside layer, the dining hall and its landscaping, and more.

In October 1949 we celebrated the founding of the kibbutz at its temporary location, later to become the site of Moshav Sde Yitzhak. In the summer of 1950 we moved to Kibbutz Lehavot Chaviva’s permanent site, where its stands today. That relocation required additional work of construction of our dwellings. In every room of 3 by 3 meters, four people were accommodated.

Naomi and I decided to establish our family room. Since that concept was not yet known in our kibbutz, we emptied my parents’ container, and moved into it, Although it lacked running water and electricity, we were very happy. After a short while we got married and began our family life.

We have two sons and a daughter: Eitan, our firstborn, was 26 years of age when he married Hela Har’el. They live in Ramat Hasharon, and have three children: Ofer, age eight and a half, Yael, age fourteen, and Maya, age seven.

Nira, our second child, married Shuli Gal of Kibbutz Baram. They too have three children: the nine-year old Livnat, and Adar and Maayan, seven and five years old respectively.

Our youngest son, Iri, married Eti Oved. They live with us on the kibbutz. They have two daughters – Gal and Chen, five and three years old, and a son, Segev, born in 1999.