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A Handful of Leaves In memory of Leah Stupniker For the first year anniversary of her death Produced by the School for Girls in Jaffa 1924 Translated by Rebecca J. W. Jefferson, 2011
Very soon this blue sea will cause a separation between me and the Land of Israel. L. S. Contents: *** Y. Ye hieli From her Journal From her Writings In Memory of our Friend Yochebed Ben Meir, Rachel Tsabari.
Preface This remarkable bookl et first c ame to my attention thanks to a serendipitous email sent to the Judaica Library fr Stephen Isard. Stephen had borrowed the book let through the inter library loan system and wanted to know if he could photocopy it. As its contents comprised in part a childhood journal w ritten by his aunt, Leah Stupniker, it was probable that his family owned the copyright anyway but Stephen was asking for permission as a courtesy. I was intrigued from the outset by this booklet which told the story of an immigrant child who had died on Ellis Island from tube rculosis at the tender age of 14. Some of my own relatives had not made it past that port of entry and so this story struck a chord. Furthermore, when I discovered that the booklet ailable in U.S. libraries ), I was rather concerned for its safe return! I realized, however, that not only did Stephen have a genuine need to keep a copy of its contents, it could have potential interest for a wider audience and so I deemed it a perfect candidate for digitization. Upon receiving the book let back, it became apparent that the Price Library copy was a preservation photocopy; the original having deteriorated beyond repair. Fortunately, the copy held at the Klau Library in the Hebrew Union Co l lege, Cincinnati was an original and, thanks to the generosity and foresight of its librarian, Laurel Wolfson, we were able to establish a collaborative partnership to digitize their copy of the book let at the University of Florida. The original can now be consulted on the internet through both the Klau Library and the UFDC website s. Exchanging emails with Stephen and Robert Isard ( the sons of Leah s twin sister Sonia ) and with George Gould ( the son of Leah s older sister Alia ) about the background to this story, I realized that it was even more fascinating and more heartrending than I had at first realized. Reading rece ntly moved to Palestine from Russia, could write Hebrew with such a high level of sophistication, and I was saddened by this child who was clearly suffering distress at the thought of being uprooted from her new life there. My deepening interest in story and a feeling of growing personal attachment to it, led me to undertake a translation of the book let. I hereby offer a tentative Handful of Leaves) with the sincere hope that it manages to provide a first outlet for L poignant and perceptive voice. I am confident, however, that the reader will be as impressed as I am by this talented young girl with the mature mind, and as moved as I was by her ups and downs, her hopes and longings, her self chastisement and attem pts at self improvement, her humor, her unique poetic expressiveness, and the awful sadness of a story that ends with her tragic death, not to mention the untold story of the family left to mourn her.
The book let should also prove to be of great interest t o historians and linguists and with this in mind I have appended footnotes to the text where possible There is much to be gleaned here for historians of the Zionist movement in Palestine particularly the way in which Zionist principles and ideas manifes ted themselves in th e early school system. The contents of the book let can show how the Hebrew language was taught in pre 1948 Israel, and how it was absorbed by the first waves of immigrant children in the early 20 th century. Kometz Alim is also an immigrant story, providing a glimpse into the trials of immigrant life in general and the ways migration affected children in particular. Moreover, this booklet serves as an important example of the many long, arduous and emotional journeys taken by thousands of Jewish immigrants as they crossed oceans to find a more secure life, and it is a stark reminder that there were many who did not make it. Rebecca J. W. Jefferson Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica
By producing this small booklet, the School for Girls in Jaffa 1 is fulfilling a sacred obligation to one of its dearest students, who within two and a half years permeated it with a spirit of refinement, loyalty, an d pure honesty. We offer here a few fragments of her imagination fragments of her childhood reflections dreams, awaken ings, longings and aspirations, and from the thoughts stirred by her encounters with nature, the force of life and its complex questions and hardship s A tender child still, almost a baby, yet perceptible from her writings and the manner in which she expressed them it was clear that a defined spirit and a firm literary talent had already materialized Unusually f or someone of her age did this young soul know how to feel, to criticize, an d to convey; unusually for one her age did she delve into the questions that one encounters in life and in books. Life and the role of man within it, moral courage for the purpose of life, dedication of people these were always first in her thoughts and in her dreams. And how much she loved the Land of Israel, this new homeland that she discovered so unexpectedly! As though she were parting from life, she part ed from this land and boarded the boat bound for America. As though the silence of death awaited her there outside the borders of her beloved country, as if her heart had prophesized that her life would be ended with the severing of the tie between her lif e and the life of her homeland. This soul, Leah Stupniker, of blessed memory, was born in Vol hin, in one of the Russian villages near to the city of Lyuba r, 2 at the start of the year 5670 (1910). From when she was very small, it was clear that she had a pr odigious talent, her questions and her way of speaking were astounding. With an intense thirst, she would listen to the Mother but more than this she loved to tell stories herself. She had almost completely taught herself to read in Russian and with great delight read Russian stories for children the mother writes 1 The School for Girls was first founded in the late 1890s by the Alliance Isralite Universalle in Paris and headed by Rosa Yaffe Gradually, Yaffe substituted French in favor of a Hebrew curriculum, which outraged the Alliance. In 1903, the Girls S chool was transferred to the authority of the Hovevei Zion movement in Odessa. A year later the Odessa committee sent Yehiel Yehieli with a reputation as an outstanding teacher name eventually became synonymous with the school which was often referred to as t A new building financed by a philanthropist in Siberia was located in Neve Zedek in Jaffa ; it was considered the pride of the community In 1989, the building was renamed the Suzanne Dellal Dance Center ( see: http://www.jewishv irtuallibrary.org/jsource/Education/early.html ). 2 Lyubar is a city in the Ukraine near to O stropol (Leah is buried in the Ostropoler s ection of the cemetery)
at the time when after the Russian revolution, the Ukrainian peasants began to behave in a rowdy manner and destroyed everything that came to thei r hands, Leah, who was always listening to the grown up conversations, once turned to me with a question: Mother, what do you think, what would Socrates say now, were he to rise from his grave? It is certain that he would be very sorry indeed to see what m In the wake of the uprisings in Russia, Leah and her family moved to the city of Ekat e rin oslav 3 There she studied in a Russian Gymnasium and became very connected to the institution, to her friends, and to her Russian surroundings. Even after they left Russia, her soul was filled with She came to Israel with her family in 5681 (1921). Leah together with her sister entered the School for Girls. Apart from mechanical reading, they did not know a word of Hebrew so the teachers tested them in Russian. In spite of this, they were accepted into the sixth grade. Just a few weeks passed, and the children already began to understand their lessons in Hebrew and to engage in them. In a short while, Leah was top of her cl ass, especially in the Humanities. Her compositions which were written in the first weeks in Russian soon became Hebrew compositions perfect in content and structure. Her large clear eyes which were always a window to her soul expressed great attention a nd thought Modest in all her ways, she was adored and cherished by all the girls in the class who loved her with a profound love. An incalculable process of development and understanding passed over her during that short period when she was in the Land of Israel. Strong creative powers were awakened within her, they progressed and grew and progressed along and gave everything to God. Because of the material hardship that prevailed in the Land of Israel in 1923 4 her family, who had come to the Land of Israel in order to settle there, was forced to be uprooted again and migrate to America. Leah did not want to leave the country under any circumstances and devised stratagems in order to stay here alone without the help of her parents. These were childish and desperate 3 Ekaterinoslav in the Ukraine was named for the Tsar Catherine. The Jews of Ekaterinoslav formed the third largest ethnic group by 1889. The Jewish population was involved in trade, industry, the free professions and services. By 1913, there were 90 Jewish schools there. The city became an important center of Jewish political activity, particu larly Bundism and Zionism (see: http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Dnipropetrovsk ) 4 Baruch Stupniker, father, also had a heart condition which was exacerbated by his physical work involving the transportation of building materials by cam el.
devices fused together in a place distant from reality. But in the end she agreed to bear the whole th Av depressed than any of us writes the Mother was, of course, Leah. Her huge eyes were full of such great sorrow She caught a cold on th e ship and developed a fatal di sease that put an end to her life and dreams. What appeared to be the start of a regular cold with passing fever was tuberculosis. In all the days of her illness she did not cease to meditate upon the books of the Bible, and in her final moments she recited passages from it. Sick, close to death, they took her to Island There she died after 24 days on the 7 th Heshvan, 1923 ; she was buried in Brooklyn. May her pure soul be blessed! Y. Ye h i eli 5 5 Yehiel Yehieli (1866 1952) taught at the Jaffa Girls School from 1904 and was its Director from 1918 to 1952. He came from Russia where he helped pioneer the method of teaching Hebrew in Hebrew. He published articles on language acquisition as well as one article that became the cornerstone of Jewish kindergarten education. In Palestine, he helped form a uniform curriculu m for all elementary schools. He served on committees for the Cities of Jaffa and Tel Aviv; a street is named after him in Neve Tzedek
[p. 9] From her Journal I love word s, word s that have in them at least something vital an d of the imagination; mathematics is so dry and simple. Bathsheva 6 takes great pleasure in solving puzzles but for me it is just a lesson Compared to this, how much I love essay writing --Tomorrow if it is a beautiful day, there will be a trip to the Garden C ity 7 But I have no desire to go. It is a shame to have to forgo composition class. If only it would rain tomorrow. --The situation has been very bad lately. There is no work and has proposed he 8 months. We will finish school during this time, and then we will come to him. Yet I do not want this. I think that I sho uld 8 it is certain that they will give me even 6 s twin sister, Sonia ( Hebrew name: Bathsheba ) Sonia went on to complete a medical degree in Philadelphia. She was primarily a family doctor who also specialized in allergies and published n umerous papers on this subject Upon her retirement she was honored by the College of Physicians in Philadelphia with the unveiling of her portrait and the presentation of a collection of her writings. The Sonia Stupniker Isard Lecture at the College of Ph ysicians was endowed by her husband 7 Tel Aviv Tel Aviv was originally founded in 1909 as a garden suburb of Jaffa. 8 There were two Teachers seminaries in Jaffa. The Ezra Hebrew Teachers Seminary founded in 1903 and the Levinsky Teachers Seminar founded in 1913.
Trans a place to sleep and three lira a month. If only I could get a position like this! --[p. 10 ] Again they are speaking about the journey, oh dear, oh dear, what will I do? I will not travel, but how sha ll I stay? Moth er will not let me stay, and even for me it would be difficult to do so I said to Mother that I could work and I suggested my idea to her, for which I have about three po unds. --Mother laughed at this. W d Esther my decision, she said that she was afraid that my morale would fail Well, there is nothing to fear about that! I feel myself to be strong enough in moral e, p erhaps even more than in the physical sense. I think I will slowly save money and in addi tion to this Moth er can leave me the cost of my ticket and the cost of the remainder of the journey. In this way I can finish the Seminar, and children. ----ll not travel. I do not --
Recent Tsheraskia. 9 How bea utifully this author writes! How natural are the descriptions of a poor girl who traveled from her home to study in the big city, and the re died from tuberculosis! How greatly she suffered the first time she stayed without her [p. 11 ] I know: I too will suffer and suffer greatly, but if that is all then it is not all bad. There are many who are suffering in the world; I will become one of them with my sufferings. I know that I will long for my home, for my family, for it is very have enough strength to suffer everything if only to stay in the Land of Israel. o h, how hard it is to have to [ At this moment I have arrived at a another way of thinking only who knows if it is good. I have devised a new solution Is it for the best ? 15 th Tammuz] --We a re going to Jerusalem, Jericho and Hebron f or a whole week. I am so happy that I can barely write. I will take my journal and note down everything. --9 Reference unknown
And so for the first time I will leave our home for a whole week. If I miss it and if I am very sad, it will be a sign that I will suffer greatly should I stay behind. --Rosh Hodesh [1st] Nissan (March April) 9pm Here we are already in Jerusalem --I cannot isolate my many impressions --The Mosque of Omar that stands i n place of the Holy Temple. How beautiful it is; how sacred We took off our shoes in order [p.12 ] the Jews could not recover its scattered p ieces and re build it; the Arabs wou ld need to help them. --But my heart is stirred with jealousy at the sight of such opulence that belongs to a stranger and is not ours Only one thing remains We went there too. Barren gloominess all around; sorrowful to the point of tears. Yet not everything about the Temple is d estroyed, for the wall remains. And this surely serves as a reminder of what comes of vanity --Not every holy thing needs to be on display for the curious. --for the Blind. --What if my eyes were suddenly shut forever and I could not see anything anymore, not the wide world over, not the shining sun, not my family nor my frie nds! How terrible that would be;
And it is not fair, for the blind suffer so much, t hey also have to tolerate visits from curious tourists too --Tuesday, 3 rd Nissan We traveled to Hebron --we saw the ghetto. Awful! How filthy and narrow! How can the people live? Rather, to be more correct: how do people live there ? --I am a little tired from the journey. And because of my sore spirits. Perhaps Jericho will dispel the bitterness and the gloom --[p. 13 ] The Sabba t h sundown 7 th Nissan I a m already writing at home. --O n the fourth day we visited the graves: the graves of the kings and the graves of the Sanhedrin. What majesty and awe is in these dark caves! To 10 we descended with candles. There I gave down upon t he dark grave. Tamar approached me and placed a candle near the remains of --I am not at all afraid of darkness or the dead. Death is not terrible like life. There 10 in law the wealthy Jerusalemite.
is mor e to fear from coercion than the quiet refuge of death. --a soft wind refreshed yet suddenly we developed home sickness. Shoshana was the first to get home sick --and soon after her me. I did not cry like she did, but I felt myself to be very sad indeed. The dark bitterness overcame any remaining vigor and any remaining strength. I ruminated all the way. --We came to the Dead Sea. I sat upon the stones facing the sun with my eyes closed and felt pur e pleasure The rays passed over my eyelids as though they were kissing my eyes. It was good for me. --Even after I got up and sat down in the motorcar it was as though my irrita tion had been removed by the sleight of a hand It was as though the bittern ess and dejection had sunk into the Dead Sea. --[p. 14 ] Even the Jordan River is not beautiful like they say. Narrow. We passed over the brid ge to Trans Jordan on the East: at the point where it spills forth into the Dead Sea. ----
9 th Iyar (April May) Wednesday And even now I am half sick. At least, M other will not let me go to school. How everything wearies me! Life already holds no worth for me. My hopes I already know will not be fulfil led, and after this is it worthwhile living? Things are --10 th Iyar, Thursday All day yesterday I lay down. I had a small fever during the night. Well it is nothing: it will pass. What vague feeling is pressing down on my heart? though desolate tears strangle my throat. Sometimes I have the desire to die, to go to sleep and the end Occasionally, I have a wish that a happy spirit will wake up within me, that I will want life, so that I may give something to every depressed and low spirited person. I have a desire to dry up all their tears. --But suddenly I remind myself that this thing is impossible, [p. 15 ] for I am 13 years of age right now. Ah! How long will pass before I can do what I want!
What is wrong with me all the time and the heart ache. ----Sabbath eve 3 rd Sivan (May June) Why d id I write previously with such despair? I read it and was shocked. Yes, occasionally it is difficult to suffer, yet right now I am trying to conquer my mood. Hope is the most important thing in life. --I t is good to go forth in the battle of life! Only the faint hearted run from the fight Brave is the one who stays living and endures who does not die be fore time. Do not despair! --P atience, patience! --I questioned myself not long ago: truthfully, do I love my country more than my parents? What co uld I answer? Even deep inside myself I do not kno w. The thing will become clear when the two magnets are pulled apart. If only they would not be separated ; i f only they would stay together! And if indeed they will be pull ed apart, I think, that my love for my country will become stronger. --I am bound to feel a connection to my homeland These longings were born with me, it appears. Perhaps pride is an element of this I cannot overcome this thought: that I am a stranger, that they ----
[p. 16 ] 23 rd Sivan, in the evening Oh, but this day I will remember forever! Today I received a first pound young girl for one month, a student from the 5 th grade It should fare me well: in Boston there is a Seminar for Hebrew teachers. back to Israel as a teacher of Hebrew. ----25 th Sivan Today Father and Rachel have gone. 11 In the morning the boat sailed off and that was that. What a strange feeling. A bitter juice stays in my heart and irritates me, irritation about everything. I am angry that things have played out this way, I am angry at myself, at the whole world Yesterday I was in a very bad mood, I cried in secret as well Such a moment of weakness was this ; no more not one tear will come out from my eyes. I wrote my last essay: The first and last day F or the path is fixed and unending before me: to be a help to my 11 Rachel was also known as Alia. Alia graduated from l Work. She eventually became the head of all child welfare in the City of Philadelphia.
people ; but even this I say is a narrow group A hel p to the world through my people : t his is the right way to say it. My people need to cause the noble aspiration of t housands of years to be realized. --[p. 17 ] what they are, let us shake our hands over them, to banish the evil near us! pamphl they are lost to us, dead and will not be resurrect Lies, lies! First, this person is not a traitor. No one wa nts to leave here willingly. Second ly the travelers are not lost They will come back and even a short time is not lost, for they can also work in exile But in spite of this my heart aches: to ascend to the land is a y penetrates the heart and who knows, what will be the end? A nd perhaps in truth I have already erred in my thoughts, for do I have --21 st Av (July August) Sabbath eve Today is the last day of my studies at school. How long have I anticipated this day, and now emptiness in my heart and
nothing more. There was a place in my heart that the school filled. Now it has been emptied out and nothing will fill it --It is not good to arrive at what one waits for i n life, not good! --underneath it (Shneur ). 12 I want to die before I sense t hat my work is at an end, before I feel that there is nothing more for me to do, or because I cannot do any more. But, I got sidetracked to what point have I arrived [p. 18 ] Tuesday deck I around us is just sky and sea, sky and s ea. The sea is beautiful, wild and free. In Israel I learned to love the sunshine and the sea It too absorbs the heat the cold; it is full of zest How beautiful it is now, for example: sparkling, shining from the rays of the sun, a sm all white wave revolves here and a small one there. It is as though a thousand wishes glimmer within it, and it is a live and roaring entity. Comp letely different is nighttime: b lack, deep black like the darkness itself; n oisy and grow ling with rage. The waves race, 12 Reference unknown; p erhaps a quote from Shneur Zalman of Lyady (1745 1813 ) the founder of Chabad Hasidism and the author of th e classic Chasidic text Tanya which deals with questions of happiness
chas e after the ship and in between the foam it seems the mermaids dance their wild dances. An d it seemed to me for I saw them that they were living in the foam. And it seemed to me, for I heard them between the soft sighs of the How long you have searched for peace. Jump to us and you too will be cold It is different for you. I do not long for peace. I have not yet labored and there is nothi ng from which to feel dejected. I will not consider being with you; And my heart felt so good a s though some sort of heavy burden had lifted from it. Wednesday, from below deck, 9 in the evening, from the electric light coming in through a crack from the corridor. Boredom. Life here is so monotonous. When will it be the end already! When will I know my future? From the conversation with the waves I understood everything: [p. 19 ] all about beautiful dreams, about difficult battles, about cr ises that have passed, about the wound that healed over. This is nothing. What will be ?
these cabins. A side from this the t let me rest. They whisper, rustle, bring my whole I cannot find any respite in them. Dreams a plenty. Oh, how much I dreamed until the coarse hand of life woke me, until I met with cold T here are those who love to dream, but they are few All in all I feel that my soul has strengthened, has fortif ied during this difficult time. I will lie down on my pillow, close my eyes, perhaps I will sleep. Thursday, 8 .30 pm in the cabin Today the constant monotony dissipated a little. In the morning we saw Italy, Sicily and Stromboli We came very close to the shore and the outlines were clear, particularly the beauty of Stromboli. An island entirely constructed from an extinguished volcano. Now in the valleys and in the furrows where lie the frozen lava, plants grow and people live. Life is built among the re mnants of death One small crater still emits smoke. Woe betide the people should this mountain ever do to them what the volcano did to Pompeii Well, in spite of all that, it is good to live there: far from the folly of life and its c orruption. [p. 20 ] At some other time, I would want to live there too but right now it is not the time to seek tranquility.
Tomorrow we will see Corsica and also maybe Sardinia. The day after tomorrow Marseille. --Sunday, Hotel Grossman, in Marseille. We saw Corsica fro m afar. A diversion from the planned route was arranged in order to get to Marseille in the morning and not to stand all night in the port. --Monday, 9 in the evening, in the hotel. You see we have not travelled for some time. We have stayed another mont h. They are not allowing travel to C herbo u rg. For the first time in my life I have felt the deceit and hypocrisy of the other trouble me anymore. I felt that sort of way before. But a month of days in the middle of the journe y! Far from that sometimes I cannot even write. Most importantly Mother is very angry and wea k; already this tragedy has taken it s toll on her. On the Sabbath and again today she was unwell Must look after her. --
[ p. 21 ] Tuesday, towards evening, in the hotel room fever, or something like it. Completely ridiculous Mother worries all the time. --Here we a re already at the start of the New Y ear. 13 What this new month will bring me much ahead that is work and struggle. It is difficult to leave the house and to set outside again, because everything is so gray and cold for me. For they will not see your f ace; not even the stones on the street and the sky over your head will become alien to you 14 It is so difficult to tolerate this after you have ceased to warm up fr om the heat of your homeland As I parted from Mr. T., he blessed me saying How very so Tena city is a necessity, and in even greater measure than I already possess ; apart from this strength is also necessary. Wit tena city. Strength still e ludes me. What shape will my new dreams about my life in A merica take ? Perhaps they will be shattered like my Israel dreams and only shards remain? And perhaps it will make me sigh to 13 Jewish New Year; 1923 14 A quote (recalled from her Mah Rav, Oy Mah Rav ha
r emember them and I will say as I often I say even now: how cruel and bad life is! With all th e preciousness, spirituality, beauty dreams they end in nothing hopeful, that it will not be so. [p. 22 ] The first dreams did not depend on me; the final dreams are just within my reach --In another three weeks with any luck we will be in America. In another three weeks my new life will begin for me in the new world. For the time being, I have lived a life passing between two worlds. Here it is autumnal and loathsome To re ad and be cre ative is impossible here. Also my fever bothers me. It weakens me greatly. All the time it is though everything is designe d to aggravate me. Firstly, Mother and Bathsheba will not go out of the house. Secondly, Mother has already spent 200 franc s on me. Th irdly, we could have journeyed to Paris, but because of me we stayed. How litt le do I tolerate this condition
[p. 23] From her writings The Tale of a Stream From the first rain, whose drops fell like silent tears, born between the soft earth: a hasty stream. It opened its eyes and looked around and here were blue skies, trees and flowers Very slowly, lovingly, with hi s gentle waves he caressed those flowers and they nodded to him with their small heads and told h im tales of the mischievous winds And how good it was and to run along ; one time with ease, another time with the tiny waterfalls At night, when all the world is tired and sleeping, our stream dozes too. Softly, softly whisper his lips as he sleeps. With compassion, as though in love, the m oon peers dow n on him from above, pouring out her soft radiance. The stars wink at their reflections in the stream. And the stream, after his day of games, will rest, sleeping without disturbing dreams in the bosom of his beloved mother. And it was day and the stream kiss ed his mother the green lowland, for the last time, and he ran on over the hills. For the firs t time, he look ed with amaze ment all around him ; for apparently the same blue skies and the same radiant sun [p. 24 ]
there, with his mother, are here too ; yet surely this wa s a new world before him: grey stones, burning hot, with little grass, without delicate flowers. And it seemed to him, that not before long he would b e suffocated within these dead walls. And so he begged to leave this prison ; his waves sighed, the foam rose but fell back without strength. And he determined to fight again and he made a strong effort, but it was in vain. And he turned over, to take withi n him without speaking everything that the mountain winds would sweep away: dust, stones, dirt, even precious stones came in to him, and occasionally, he wished to be filled with them and slowly, slowly submerge into a hole. ----Suddenly he woke up. Th e days had turned to Spring. From the snow capped mountain tops ran young brooks: impetuous and enthusiastic, with songs of freedom in their mouths. And they incited the stream to rebel: who crowned you by placing these stones upon you; who permitted them t o seal you up? Will you not grow with us ? Take courage, gather your strength, and rise up! The stream listened to their words from within his sl umber and whispered with a sort of inward stirring And his energy roused up inside him and he opened his eyes again to see and indeed there w ere rocks, rocks all around him; how I am sick of them, how I hate them, he thou ght in his heart. And the silent mountains had not sensed the agitation of the
many brooks : what is happening to us, we monarchs and to the sub ordinates bursting out before us ? [p. 25 ] And you add a rock to that stream Y listen to them! All the same the stream could not endure any more. He rallied his remaining strength and heaved out the mounds of dirt within him and ju mped yelling over the rocks you try to make a mockery of me?! Here, I will break down your walls, take heed you insolent ones! And he began to work in secret. He began to lick at the foot of mountain so as to undermine it and make it fall. Quietly he wo rked, but just occasionally a small wave would burst out and rush with a silence it immediately. Those giant lords were not aware of what was happening with in the souls of their servants. He i s excited, they thought when they listened boiling rage but we know how to subdue him With pity they watched the stream and scoffing meddle with us? We do not fall at the firs t contest And the stream strove hard. And the great day arrived when he broke through the barrier of his grey cage. The mountains were outraged, but it was already too late: the stream was gushing so far outside of them that even waves of fresh air appro ached him, absorbing the free light from the sun. The intoxication of happiness and the victory of deliverance molded dirt and gold together What did it matter to him and
what did it matter about old ideas Would not life begin again now! Many days passed The stream tired, exhausted, many of its waves lay broken with despair on the rocks. Many of his hopes had been dashed There was nothing more heard from the additional young waves Just one, who requested: rest. [p. 26 ] And he discovered her lying in a grave. Then o ne da y, at last, he joined the great river and together they fell into the sea. And in the midst of all that clamor and noise the sea did not know that it had received into it another living soul. On Life and Death N oon. And all were cast outside. As though the world had fainted from the heat. The intense hot air does not move. Not even a light breeze can mischievously tempt the soul to recover from its tiredness. Everything sleeps in a deep lethargy. But behold a small black dot appears on the horizon at the head of the rocky cliff It moves and grows; it moves and its outline becomes clear. It is an eagle, proudly spreading its wings soa ring with confidence and energy above everything. Its eyes are inclined upwards, towards the sun Cour ageous might shines within them. He flies onward, onward towards the light He arrives at his target. With glory he raises his head as though a golden crown were upon it
and everything bowed before him. he is king and life his kingdom. Happy is he who lives like this! Evening approaches. The cold air infuses a gentle longing for the dy ing sun. The west burns with fire as the sun leav es and hides. The lake too; slowly it moves its red waves. Suddenly foam appears on the water and a pure white swan comes into view. He stretches his neck out towards the dying sun and a song of death is heard coming from within his heart. [p. 27 ] It is full of longing and remorse for transient life But it is also strong: what has been determined shall be! Let us die now with honor and not with vain entreaties! And so it seems: the whole world beneath is listening to the song of the king of death. Happy is he who dies like this! 14 th Iyar, 1923
Extracts from her writing s in a book of friendship composed at the end of school, a s hort time before she left the Land of Israel To E R What shall I write to you E R? Shall I bless you with days of wealth and happiness, calm and rest? That you will fulfill all your wishes and live in peace? That you will never know to live and feel! For that is living to l ive and struggle in life, not to give up until the last drop of blood, to live life devoted to breath until the very last beat of the heart. --To R H my love and loyalty to you? If this is tr ue, does your heart not know then without words? Shall I ask you to remember me? Those who love in their hearts never forget Shall I write to you about waiting for you but you know that. --[p. 2 8 ] To S H I have written these l ines just for you Will you remember me? Will you remember those days in which we learned played and dreamed together? Of course you will remember.
You will remember me without having to leaf through your notebook. What the heart forgets, words will not b ring to mind. For Y D For the day will come, my sister, When you have grown tired, When you have wearied of the hard road, Scornfully disdaining life, When you s eek a path of truth but none shall you find Then come to me, my sister, come to me! We will dream together as we did in childhood. What will you need once we are as we were! Our childhood is a lovely light in our lives The memory of which shall please us in old age Gentle are the longings, if you teach your soul to yearn Come to me, my sister, come to Leah 5 th Sivan, 5683 [ 1923 ] [p. 29 ] To R L Were we friends? This I shall not know. I do know just this: that I always loved you. For me it was always lovely to look at your quiet face and your deep blue eyes. For me it was always nice to pour out my conversations to you, even if you --Behold, now we are separating Each one will go her own way. We will be dispersed along different paths, perhaps even opposed this one to that. Perhaps we will be divided by
a different purpose o f being and in spirit. But in spite of this --To M L M L! Will you not remember the final exam, the first test of your school Here you are, one bright morning, coming to school; suddenly in cl ass, a promise: a Bible exam! And you whistle at the news: upheaval: a long green table, cups for the teachers all set out for the exam. For a moment you sto od dumbfounded, And you attacked the poor table in a fury turned it over, hurled off the tablecloth and threw down the cups ; afterwards tir ed from your emotional exertion you fell on a complete; [p. 30 ] But here was the bell. The girls got into order and piled noisily into the clas sroom. After a moment silence. The teachers sat. With a shaking hand you held out your number Time moves on. Questions upon questions, it seems as You go up with a shaki ng, beating heart. In front of you the encouraging faces of the teachers and the whispers of the
This is so easy! ou can sit down decide the girls. The teachers smile. Your smile returns. Well, where did all that fear and anger go? A feeling of joy and gratitude floods your heart: you withstood the test! Soon, M L, you will be divided from all this, a nd you will take your pl tests and trials you. You will have to tolerate much in that you withstand all of these trials in the same way you stood up to the test of your childhood!
[p. 31] In Memory of our Friend 1 It is many days since departure and yet I remember the event as though it were today. I still remember her before me, Leah, so pale, giving me a last kiss a long kiss, nervous and mumbling on the sail boat I would not see her face again: she hid her face in her The days pass, and still the pain and sorrow do not lessen. The opposite: they increase I remember the day they came to our school. I entered and saw two new students, girls of about 11 or 12, wearing identical clothes blue coats and velvet hats. Immediately I recognized that they were Russian. I approached them and asked them for their names and where they lived. Immediately the little one hurriedly answered me as if she feare s Sonia, but in Hebrew they call me Bathsheva, and she is o need to speak Russian; for when we will learn to speak Hebrew we will explain Leah was self possessed [p. 32 ] And from then, until now until they left for America, we studied together, for nearly three years. We all admi red
Leah; we all felt that this child, with the doleful eyes, was from another world, a loftier and more exalted world. Once, and this was just two months after they came, the departme nt arranged a trip to the Judean moshavot 15 Leah was, in spite of her ti redness, happier and more cheerful than usual, and every fresh green hill and every blooming garden brought her close to excitement We stayed in Gedera overnight in one of the school rooms on beds made up for us by the members of the moshava 16 My sIeep was disturbed. It was the first time that I had seen a Hebrew farm and Jewish workers. In any case, I turned my head and there was Leah sitting on the bedding, her head propped up on her She li fted her head and when she saw me she came near me. I made a space for her next to me and we began to talk. And so she told me how she had passed her early childhood far she said an anomaly How hap We talked about m uch, much more that same night; i nto the early hours of dawn I told her what I knew about the sufferings. 17 15 Moshavot (s. moshav ): unlike the communal settlements of the kibbutz and moshav the moshavot were privately owned farms. 16 Gederah, a moshavah in the Coastal Plain of Israel was founded in 1884 by members of the Bilu movement from Russia. It was the only moshavah that did not depend on Rothschild (see: http://www.allgedera.co.il/). 17 The Bilu movement (the word is derived from the initials of the Hebrew verse in Isaiah 2:5: ) was a group of young Russian Jews who pioneered the id ea of the modern return to the Land of Israel. The movement grew out of a reaction to the 1881 pogroms in Southern Russia. They experienced a great deal of economic hardship through lack of support.
Yogli. 18 She did not know how to rei n in she called out deep in thought, silent. [p. 33 ] convinced that I was wrong. she replied that we have so many storytellers and poets that write Hebrew, and yet our young people do not know them at all. Even me, if I had not come here, I might ha ve only known the names of the writers. And even now, even with an enormous will to read all of the writings of every one of our writers, it is not within my grasp because I do not h ave a Nevertheless, a fter a few months had passed Leah could read freely the writings of Pere t z, 19 Sholem Aleichem and even Mendele Mo y kher Sforim. 20 She loved the folktales of Pere t I had never felt the full depths of this story until this time Leah stood up wi th blazing eyes and with colo rful description told the tale of the modest maiden who set forth then the last g subjugated Jew, with all his possessions stripped from hi m 18 The pseudonym of Judah Leib Katzenelson (1846 1917) story Adnei ha Sadeh is about a wanderer who comes upon a race of men tied to the soil by a living cord; the wanderer is envious and yearns to belong to them. 19 Isaac Leib Peretz (1852 1915): known as one of the three classic Yiddish authors and the founder of Yiddish modernism. He also wrote in Hebrew. 20 The triumvirate of Yiddish classic masters too; although Leah may have read their stories in Hebrew translation.
and just one small legacy remaining the hope of returning to Zion. For the sake of a small bag of ear th from the Land of Israel, the man was willing to sacrifice his life Pale and angry Leah finished her story. I thought that she would cry, but no her eyes were just defiant and resolute. This raised the question: fr om where did this child of the D iaspora get such a deep love of her land and her people! For this was the loftiest of ideal s to work for the good of the land and the people. [p. 34 ] But fate prevailed upon her to leave Israel ho did not see how much this child suffered in those last days before the journey has never seen suffering in his life. She distanced herself from all her friends. In th e breaks between lessons, she would stand by the corridor windows with a view of the Judean hills in the distance. Little by little her head would stoop and tear after tear would well up in those deep eyes. All our efforts to console her were as nothing. S he refused comfort. Whoever did not know Leah could not understand how much her heart ached, the heart of a 14 year old ch ild. She who had always hoped that her s mall hands c ould make her worthy of being a member of our established life h ere she would escape the arrangements being made for her At that time, when a secret longing awoke in her heart, she would find solace in reading the books of the Bible and in the poetry of H. N. Bialik. In his national folk songs she would find an echo for her despond ent voice. Oh, how much I would love to escape, she told me one time during those days, to one of the far off remote places in our
it would be a relief for me, and I my wor the country and to spend the days of my youth in exile! It was not enough the suffering that I had to endure in the horrible Ukraine ; now I must return to our state of emptiness and degradation My only remaining hope is that I can come back one day to the L and of Israel and that I will never leave her again for the world [p. 35 ] The tears choked I saw her cry a lot in those last days yet she would not cry like that again S he would fling herself at my neck and the two of us would cry together. Yochebed Ben Meir 2 An image of her floats before my eyes and my ears hear her quiet voice speaking: tell cannot look I am leaving our country and Tears filled her eyes and quietly she continued: And I was silent and I did not know what to say to her. What would help co mfort this deep sorrow? So I said nothing to
her. I did not speak even as tears poured down from her eyes. More I remember: the days were days of summer, the last days of school. The heat was stifling all around and an oppressive sadness spread over everyt hing. There was no desire to study; just a wish to sit and dream. And I remember holding her hand as we walked in the gard ens and quietly, quietly listening to the soft moans of her broken heart: ave me, and I will stay here. I will buy a tent and I will live here. I [p. 36 ] She left me; she walked away to the stairs crying. And after that, when she had calmed down, and her first agitation had passed and a sort of quiet after the storm settled upon her, I took her hand and in a beseeching voice she said: way, and in the e nd an idea has come into my mind: we will produce a newspaper between us. It will be issued one time in America and another time in the Land of Israel. The material will be shared, between here and between America: y ou as a member of the stalwart society here and me in the circle that I will acquire there. One time you will copy it and send it here to us, and another time, I will copy it and send it there to you
Pity then welled up in me. I wanted to gather her up, to hug her. She so badly wanted to keep a connection, so much so that any link even if it were a weak one would do ; so much so that it came to her mind to even try this idea. She had no doubt spent entire nights thinking about these ideas and entertaining them in the last days. --Oh, if only she had died here, at least, Rachel Tsabari 21 21 It is probable that this is MK Rachel Tsabari (1909 1995). Tsabari was born in Tel Aviv and studied at t he Girls School in Neve Zedek; s After school, Tsabari attended the Levinsky Teachers Seminary in Tel Aviv and then the Hebrew University in Jerusale m She was active in the Hagana h ( the Jewish Defense Forces) and later gained a seat in the Israeli Knesset as a member of the Mapai party.