Monday, August 30, 2010

The army ( ZAHAL)-1953-55

Perhaps the worst period of my life were those 24 months spent in the Israeli army. After I had been in Israel about a year and a half, we were conscripted as all young Israeli citizens were and inducted into NAHAL, an acronym for noar halutzei lochem, “ fighting pioneer youth”. These units were set up in 1948 in response to a request to Ben Gurion, the then prime minister not to break up garinim, or groups of “volunteer” youth. We were inducted as a group into one unit, men and unmarried girls. Our average age was about 24. Men were in one part of the camp and women in another. We were all given our uniforms, and berets with the Nahal insignia (the sword and ploughshare). For the fist six weeks we were “ tironim”, that is we were uninitiated soldiers subject to basic training. Our camp, (Machaneh David) Camp David, was at Tira in the Carmel mountain range. We slept 10 to a large tent, close to each other. A major part of the day was spent preparing the tent for inspection, beds had to be made and look neat, our guns cleaned, our gear and kit bags set out, and we had to appear neat and tidy. The officer (hamifaked) was God. We were constantly packing and unpacking our gear. I suppose to some extent this is similar to “ square bashing” without all the saluting of officers.
We had short haircuts, however one could sport a beard unlike in other armies and after our period of basic training, no one really cared how we dressed.
Food was served either outside or in a mess hall. I should not say served but rather that food was slopped into metal canteens. This was a period of little to eat in Israel, and we seemed to live on eggplants, tomatoes, olives (5 equal one egg) and bread. Occasionally there was a better meal with an egg instead of the olives. What struck me most was the senselessness of a large part of the training. There was an obvious purpose, in some of it, which was to get us into physical shape (after all we were for the most part a bunch of intellectuals), and to get us to respond to any command without question. The slogan was ‘ only asses think “(rak hamorim chosveem) or something to that effect. We were constantly running up and down the Carmel ridges with our beds, first thing in the morning as well as in the middle of the night. This did not make much sense other than making us exhausted all the time. Our gear was heavy, and we were often wakened up in the middle of the night for long hikes. Here we stumbled over rocks and stones. I do not think there are anywhere else in the world as many stones and rocks as in Israel. Thus the effective use of these by the Palestinians during the Intifada. Rocks are everywhere. The night training was in response to the idea that the Arabs do not fight at night. This may have been true of the 1950’s not today.
It was drummed into us, never to leave our rifle anywhere. We had to sleep with our rifle. This was our girlfriend. We were constantly cleaning and oiling it. These were old Czech single barrel rifles, which is initially all the Israeli army had. Later on we graduated to Sten guns (an automatic machine gun prone to accidentally going off), and then to the Israeli made Uzi, much later.
I recently watched a movie about Wingate, the British officer who helped train the Hagana against the wishes of the British. He introduced the code of behavior in the Israeli army, no saluting officers, informality of calling officers by first name and eating together in the mess hall. This indeed compared to most armies was a “ democratic” army although I think the officers had better food and more money than we had. We got paid very little, and what we did have we spent on chocolate wafers in the shekem (a sort of army canteen, it actually is an abbreviation of sherut Kanteenot umisadot, which for the those interested in language translates to canteen and restaurant service). Most of us could afford very little. Every time I see chocolate wafers in the supermarket I think of these days, and how luxurious they seemed. I still have a taste for them; somehow they are not as good as I remember them.
It was in the Nahal that I learned my Hebrew. Part of the training and idea was to use the army as means of integration into society. This was after all an immigrant country with immigrants from many different cultures. Thus a part of the day was spent learning Hebrew conversation and reading from an easy immigrant newspaper, called Omer. Other lessons were based on the tanach (bible). We also learned to curse in Arabic and Russian. We were cursed at by our sergeant Aaron Ashkenazi, (originally from Turkey), and we learned to curse other soldiers in the unit, who were mostly from Morocco or Kurdistan. We really were a motley crew. The Kurdim (as they were called) were considered the most stupid and backwards of the immigrant population. For some reason only known to the army, we, “ Anglo Saxim” were put together with a group of 18-20 year olds from Kurdistan and Morocco. We were the “ worst” if that is the right word unit in the camp, known as “Machlaka 4”. The rest of the battalion looked us down on, and I think they thought of us as crazies. The army might have been a better experience if we had been with an “ Israeli “ group, even though we were older and from a different culture, it would have been closer than that of Kurdistan.
Of those who shared a tent with me some have remained friends others unfortunately have died. We all hated the sergeants and officers. They seemed exceptionally cruel. Two of our group could not take it, and found means of escape, by prematurely burying their parents, getting leave, returning to the U.K. and only much later (many years later) returning to Israel. Others deserted and spent time in jail. The army almost destroyed the cohesiveness of the group. Stealing from each other became common, during muster, metal hats, camouflage covers often went missing and had to appear at parade. We soon recognized who could be trusted and who could not. At one point either my metal hat or camouflage net had been stolen, I think by someone in our own group, but my experienced friend Phil stole one from someone else and thus I avoided problems. This was the way the army worked, and I assume still works to this day. The story from Tommy Berman is that his bed went missing. How that happened I do not know. Phil got up, sauntered around and returned with a bed. I don’t know if the army is still like this, but I saw a recent Israeli movie called Yossi and Jaeger about two friends stationed in Lebanon, and by the goings on, not much has changed. It was what was called in Hebrew a balagan, which I believe is Polish/Yiddish word for chaos. (There is a whole site in part devoted to a discussion of this word see http://
In my tent were Gerry Pitch, who later became a lorry driver and is one of the few who has remained on a kibbutz (not Amiad), Dr. Harold Flowers, a biochemist later in life at the Weizmann Institute, Tommy Berman, who later became a limnologist, and was partly responsible for my decision to study in the States, Les Collins who moved to Haifa around the same time that we left Amiad and found a job in Shemen as a metal worker, Piers Coleman, who now owns an antique store outside of Netanya, and Bernard Clements who later became an artist .  Finally there was Phil Shearskey, who kept our moral up. He had gone through the British Army and knew how to manage.
We waited for leave so that we could get out, buy some decent food (if we had the money) and relax a little away from the constant harassment and shouting. I had an aunt living in Ramat Gan, not far from Tel Aviv. She was my father’s sister, Kitty, she and her husband Louis and three children lived in a tiny apartment in one of the newer shikunim (apartment complexes, bare minimum, that were put up in a rush to house the immigrant population) in Ramat Gan. I would turn up unannounced with one of my “ mates” usually Gerry for the weekend. I did not realize how financially hard up the family was, and how difficult it was for them to adjust to Israel. Louis was a cabinetmaker and was involved in construction. I think he made window frames and doors for the new apartments that were going up at a fantastic rate. I think he wanted to branch out on his own, but was tied down by the Israeli trade union, the Histradut. At one point Kitty asked me to come by myself. Only recently (2008) in conversation with her did I learn what a burden my visits caused. They basically had neither room nor money, and my visits were an extra expense. She had three children (my cousins) and Louis was often without a job. Because of the harsh conditions of Israel at that time they eventually immigrated to Canada.
We spent three months in Machaneh David. I supposed towards the end we got used to it. Our sergeant, from Turkey ended up joining our group, and some of our group was sent to specialized courses. I did learn to shoot a rifle and Sten gun, throw a hand grenade (not that well, I have never been a great pitcher), and got to know the Carmel range, and every nook and cranny of Israel very well. To this day I can find my way around even without a map, as long as I know on what side of me is the Mediterranean.

We were supposed to spend two years in the Nachal, the fist part as described above in basic training, the second part as agricultural workers on a kibbutz, and after about a year or so, to advanced training. This idea of advanced training was a novel one, and we were the first group of Nachal to do this. Later groups had to go through parachute training, something I am glad I did not have to do. I had enough trouble jumping off a 6 foot wall Thus after three months of basic training, some time in 1955 we returned to Kibbutz Amiad, not as members of the kibbutz, but as a Nachal Garin. We were quartered in wooden “shacks” arranged around a central flagpole where parades and orders were given. Our sergeant was much more humane, Zvi Fingerman (later Goffer) himself an immigrant from Argentina, who later became a good friend. Our commander, Yossi ? was an ass-hole. I cannot remember his last name but he was a young punk who thought highly of himself and could not adapt to the fact that the soldiers under him were much older and much more intelligent. In fact a few years ago I met one of our group who had been with me in the army, and was now a bank manager in Ramot Hasharon (I think ) and this Yossi came in for loan. Goff recognized him, and thought now was his opportunity to get his own back, and I believe he refused him the loan or at least gave him a hard time.
The Nachal camp, for such it really was, was on a bleak hillside behind the kibbutz, and quite a walk from the dining room and other buildings of the kibbutz. Behind this was a large hill (or mountain) with a peak that looked like an extinct volcano. We slept four to a hut. I shared a hut with Les Collins, Piers Coleman and I think Bernard Clemens, or was it Gerry Pitch? All of us were ravakim that is single guys. Those who were married I think slept in the kibbutz proper or had a hut to themselves. Single girls, and there were a few slept up the hill, also in the huts.
Before going into the army I was a shepherd at Gal Ed and I continued this job as part of Nachal. We continued our Hebrew lessons, folk dancing etc. all material to integrate us into Israeli society. In fact I was send to a folk-dancing course organized by nachal. My folk dancing was very good, I held myself erect, and I had a great sense of rhythm. I also was sent on a course for shepherds at the Wingate Institute outside Netanya. I think it was a week- long course on sheep rearing, breeding and how it was done in other countries. Apart from the fact that we continued to speak English among ourselves we acculturated quite well. We often went out of the kibbutz on army exercises. One of these I remember distinctly was at Tabha on Lake Kinneret. I do not remember the purpose, but our officer, decided to occupy an area frequented by picnickers. Our 2nd lieutenant, Yossi, ordered us to clear the area of civilians. One of our group Les Katz, refused to do so. He was in fact correct, we did not have the authority to chase off civilians. This was not a military zone. Les refused, and as a result was arrested for subordination. He spent a few weeks in military jail for not obeying an order, even though all of us thought that the order itself was illegal. He and his wife eventually left Israel. A few years ago I met Jackie his wife in Covent Garden manning an “ antique “ stall. Les died rather young. He was a fellow Glaswegian.
Meanwhile I worked as a shepherd, with Yossilke, who ran the sheep branch of the kibbutz and occasionally in the banana plantations with Avidov. The kibbutz owned extensive areas of bananas on Lake Kinnereth, near Tabha. This was hard work, either harvesting bunches (which weighed 100’s pounds) or wrapping the bananas with plastic material to protect them. Another job, which was more enjoyable was driving the tractor, and having others load on the fruit.
Apart from army discipline, and occasionally having to dress for misdar (parade), this was a satisfying time in that I enjoyed my work and my working companions. Conditions were primitive, the showers were make shift huts over run by rats, they would run along the edge and appear to stare down at one having a shower, the toilets were primitive, however time passed pleasantly enough. I really did not have any regrets, nor did I think much of why was I doing what I was doing. Social life was reasonable. We bachelors, often felt out of things, we talked about sex, ran after the young women who came to visit, but nothing serious happened.
We lived like members of the kibbutz. Food was bad and rather boring, but then there still was a general shortage of food in these early years. We subsisted on egg plants cooked in a dozen different ways, and lot of tomatoes and cucumbers. It is amazing what can be done with eggplants. They can be made to taste like “ schmaltz” herring or stewed apples. However being a shepherd meant getting up at ungodly hours like 4-5 a.m. to milk the sheep before taking them out in the morning. This had to be done before it became to hot. Thus we had breakfast ourselves in the kitchen and for getting up so early we got extra rations, a real omelet or halva, considered a delicacy. If one were sick, these extras were provided, as was chicken soup a cure all.
After a hiatus of about a year we were sent on imun mitkadem (advanced training) to the Negev, to Camp Nathan, just outside Beersheba. It is hard to believe that this is the same Beersheba that is a thriving metropolis today. Beersheba was a sleepy little town, part in ruin, since it had been predominantly an Arab town, an oasis in the middle of the desert before the War of Independence. There were a few Arab style buildings and a Jewish entrepreneur had open an ice cream parlor, Moshe’s “glidah”, to which we went at every opportunity. The ice cream was good, and we could sit around and enjoy a beer. I can still picture the small building which became the shop, the few palm trees, and the surrounding desert.
In Machaneh Nathan we ate sand, slept in sand, and had sand all around us. This was the heart of the Negev desert. Advanced training did not seem all that different from basic training, the same discipline, and the same exercises. There was talk of making us “ jump” and train us as parachutists, but luckily this did not happen. I had great difficulty jumping off the roof of a low level building, never mind from an airplane.
One of the “adventures” of this period was to test our ability to do without water. I don’t know whose great idea it was. I think it may have been that of Aryeh (Arik) Sharon our mad general. (If I am correct this is the same Sharon who later became prime minister, and is still lying in a comma in Hospital after a stroke). The great idea was to march from Beersheba to Masada under strict water rationing or no water at all. This was a march through the desert of about 50 miles. I think Tommy and I acted as scouts going ahead to map the way, and I suppose to ascertain there was no “ enemy” in the region. We did meet the occasional Bedouin. The route was tough, the sun strong and it was very hot. We were strictly rationed as to the amount of water we could drink, very little. The long line of soldiers was followed by ambulances and tankers containing water just in case anyone fainted. When we got to Masada all we wanted to do was lie down and rest. Instead the army decided that we should have a series of lectures on the history of the place. Instead of giving us water, they gave us either soft drinks or chocolate milk. We began to puke; exhausted solders fainted from either dehydration or the excess of sweet liquid. No one gave a damn about the lectures. Every time I think of Masada I think of this grueling hike. I assume we had “ misdar” (a parade) on the top of Masada, but no one felt very patriotic at that moment. I have avoided going to Masada as a result of this experience. I don’t mind other parts of the Negev. I enjoy the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi, but Masada always reminds me of the stupidity of the army. I think the army has given up on the theory that one can be trained to survive on little water. Sounds a lot like Lysenko’s genetics.
We did see some action while in the Negev. We were sent out to ambush Fedayeen who were routinely crossing from Gaza strip and launching terrorist attacks. In one case we were sent to the Kurdish village of Patish to raise the moral of the immigrants sent to this god –forsaken place, after someone had thrown hand grenades into a wedding party. One person was killed and 23 injured. This was in March 1955. The village itself was founded in 1950. Attempts were made to settle Jews from Egypt but they refused to stay, so the Jewish Agency sent Kurdim!
It is in the middle of nowhere and reminds me of the location for the Israeli movie, “the band”, about an Egyptian band lost in the Negev. This was followed by routine night ambushes near Nachal Oz and Zeikim, just north of the Gaza strip. We would lie just off the beach behind some scrub bushes and wait for hours for someone to pass. Once we shot up a poor donkey, which wandered off his regular track, and once a lone individual was shot. He had crossed the border in the water. He had no identification on him, and was unarmed. We had quite some discussion as to whether we had caught a terrorist or some poor soul who wanted to join his family or visit a relative. Who knows? After a few months of this we were released from the army and made our way back to Amiad.
When we discuss our time in the army none of us feel any nostalgia. Perhaps we were too old, or just not ready for this experience. Obviously it was necessary if we were going to continue to live in Israel, and we continued to do “ milluim” (reserve duty) once or twice a year. Since I left Israel a few years later, I cannot judge how others felt about this disruption in their lives.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

ISRAEL-1952. Kibbutz Gal-Ed

As stated previously, Dov Kapitanchik, Phil Shearskey and myself left England on route to Israel in the fall of 1952. We went by boat across the channel, and the next day arrived in Paris. This was the first time any of us had been in France (or really anywhere outside of the United Kingdom). I do remember having a feeling of total freedom, we could do as we pleased until we got down to Marseilles and boarded ship for Israel. We saw some of the sights of Paris, and indulged in French food, including for me the first time ham or was it bacon and eggs. Obviously all the time we were on Hachshara we had a kosher kitchen and I kept a sort of kosher diet in Glasgow. The Zionist organization would not have it any other way. I really have no recollections of the time we spent in France, other than that we went to the Follies Berger, the famous nightclub, known for the can-can. All I remember of the performance were the fantastic costumes. I do not think there was any nudity. Somehow we got to Marseilles, by train, and then boarded the ship the Artza. I remember the ship as being very crowded with immigrants making there way to Israel mostly from North Africa. In particular I hung out with a group of Tunisians on their way to a kibbutz in Israel. We spent the evenings together singing Hebrew songs, and dancing the Hora. As far as I remember I did not become seasick, or if so only occasionally. We all were very excited at seeing the coastline and the city of Haifa from a far. Reality hit on arrival. We were taken aside, and each one of us covered with DDT. I assume this was to get rid of any lice or other bugs, but still it was insulting. Following the signing of some papers we were loaded onto a truck with our worldly possessions and headed for Gal Ed. Either I brought with me, or had shipped items like an short wave radio, turn-table and some records and books. I did not have very many private possessions.

The trip to Gal Ed from Haifa was through the winding hills of Ephraim, as they were then called. I think they are now called the hills of Menashe We passed quite a number of kibbutzim on the way, including Dalia, famous for its dance festival and Ein ha-Shofet at that time a well-known and established kibbutz. Gal Ed was originally known as Even Yitzhak, after Yitzhak Hochberg a South African Philanthropist. Gal Ed means memorial, and was called thus in memory of those Habonim members who fell in WWII. The kibbutz was founded in 1945. The drive was very beautiful, past large vineyards. Just outside the kibbutz there was a large field of grapes, among the best I ever have tasted. Today this area is parkland and known as the hill of the cyclamens. On arrival we were shown to our houses for the next year or so. These were single bedroom attached dwellings, made from wood with a small bathroom attached. To shower one had to go to the communal shower. I was to share a room with Jerry Pitch and Piers Coleman.
Jerry was a typical Londoner, with a very strong cockney accent. He knew all the dirtiest ditties, and could curse like a trooper. Piers was from Dublin, and I suppose like most of us considered himself an intellectual. He had a fantastic collection of books. All of us single men lived adjoining to one another in the same style room, usually four being in the same building. Some of us also lived in tents opposite the row of houses. The married couples had slightly better accommodation and the older members of the kibbutz, even fancier.
I immediately sensed a sense of disappointment and lack of enthusiasm among my group on my arrival. Somehow kibbutz life had not turned out as expected. In particular I think for the girls of the group, it was a life of drudgery, since instead of equality, they found themselves in the laundry, or cooking in the kitchen, or looking after the children. Very few of the girls worked outside in the fields, partly because the work was too hard, and partly because of the heat. Also the atmosphere in Gal Ed was not as expected. We were newcomers (the original founders had come from Germany or Holland), they spoke German among themselves (or Dutch) and we were not easily accepted. We were known as the “ Anglim” Also life in Israel was harder than expected. There was food shortage, we ate tomatoes and eggplants as our sole diet, the work was very menial, particularly removing boulders from the fields to allow for cultivation, and there was very little to do in the evenings. There was the sense that this was a temporary stopping place until we formed our own kibbutz. Although the original plan from the movement was that after one year we would officially decide to stay in Gal Ed, there was quite some opposition to this. The main members who were against the idea of staying in Galed were Moshe Gilbert and Shimon Levi the ideologues of the group. Shimon died very young in his late 30’s and Moshe eventually left Israel for political reasons and returned to London.

Somehow or other I found myself working in the Tson (sheep branch). I do not remember whether I volunteered for this or was assigned to this work. This was not really a shepherd in the romantic sense.. The reason for keeping sheep was for their milk, and cheese production. These sheep belonged to a breed known as “ fat tails” or locally as Awassi . In Israel they are bred for their milk production. Their wool is very coarse and can be used for carpets. Working in the sheep pens was work that very few people wanted to do. It was dirty and smelly and ones clothes stank from milk and lanolin from being close to the animals. There must have been a few hundred sheep; one would line them up by putting food in troughs that had iron bars, which the sheep would stick their heads through. We would pull a lever and the sheep would be trapped by the bars.. We then took a wide bucket and sat behind the sheep, and milked them by hand, as one would do with a cow, except this was from behind rather than from the side. Everything went into the milk, both pellets of sheep droppings, and occasional urine. It was very difficult to withdraw the bucket in time. Perhaps this gave the Feta its pungent taste! The milk was passed through a filter before being shipped off to Tnuva for processing. I must admit that for years I could not bring myself to eat Feta cheese. After the milking, the sheep would be taken out to pasture in the nearby hills.
I enjoyed the freedom that came with wandering over the hills, among fields filled with cyclamens or wild irises. It also was a lonely job, since after the first few times I would take the sheep out by myself. This had its advantage as I could take a book or just sunbathe. I did not play the ‘haleel” ( flute) so that I had no musical accompaniment. A short distance from the kibbutz, passed the cultivated fields, one came upon an abandoned Arab village. It was in ruins, and the sheep would graze among the Bustanim (orchards). This was my first contact with the reality of Israel. The village looked as if it had been abandoned in a hurry. Many of the buildings, made out of stone were destroyed, others were intact. I delighted in the smell and taste of the figs and other fruit. Cactus (Sabras) were growing everywhere. I obviously was surprised to find this place, and felt a little sorry for the previous inhabitants. I do not know whether a battle was fought here, or whether the inhabitants were chased out or left of their own volition. I do know that the kibbutz benefited from the nearby lands, which were now worked by them. No one was really ready to talk about the fate of the village or its inhabitants. This probably was the village of Khubbaiza. destroyed by the Irgun according to Palestinians sources. None of us gave much thought to the fact that the Arabs had fled. We were too engrossed in our own future and ourselves. Somehow all our education in the movement had ignored the reality of an Arab population. There was no feeling of hatred towards them; it was as if they just did not exist. We always went out armed with a Sten gun, in case of Arab marauders, but I did not connect that to the destroyed village. I suppose I was young and naïve and did not realize that this was home to someone else.
I worked with two of the “ veterans” of the kibbutz, one was Shlomo, whom I think was from Holland and the other was Dan, whom I believe was Indonesian or half Indonesian. Dan taught me a side of kibbutz life that I did not expect. Dan also worked in the sheep pens and we became quite close. One day he asked if I would like to join him for tea in the house of Margalit, who was also from Holland. I had heard talk of this mysterious Margalit. She lived by herself in what must have been the tower of the original tower and stockade settlement. In the early days when a kibbutz was established, a stockade of wood filled with stone or stone stockade was built with a tower in the center for a guard to sit in, as a watchman. Initially the settlers would live in tents inside the stockade and the first building to go up would be the communal dining room, laundry, showers etc. Gal Ed had passed these initial stages, and the tower was now occupied by Margalit She had it furnished in “ Dutch” style with table, sideboard and the typical small oriental rug on the table, similar to what one would find in a middle class Dutch household. I did go with Dan for tea. Margalit was a large blousy woman, rather course and loud in the Dutch style. I was so naïve that I did not realize that Margalit offered more than tea! I became aware of this when Dan said he spent the night there, or when there were jokes about Shlomo, who was married, and must have been in his 30’s 40’ also spending the night with Margalit. She provided favors to the bachelors of the kibbutz, and even to married men. I unfortunately do not know her history. In a recent visit to Gal Ed (2010) I could not find the tower, and no one remembered Margalit. She may have been a passing phenomenon, or perhaps I imagined it. (I doubt that ). Gal Ed today is a very prosperous kibbutz, mostly based on a plastic factory and the production of parts for John Deere tractors. No sheep in sight.
The early 1950’s was a time of mass immigration into Israel, not only from Europe but also Jews from Arab countries. The kibbutz received children through an organization called Youth Aliya, which was an offspring of the Jewish Agency. These were kids of about 10 and up, who went to the kibbutz school, or to a special school established for them, to teach them Hebrew and other skills. Many of these kids worked in the tson ( sheep pens) , and I became familiar with children from Kurdistan, Iraq and Turkey. I enjoyed working with these children and helping to educate them. Many were orphans and members of the kibbutz would adopt them inviting them home, or going with them to the dinning room for dinner. Somewhere I have a photograph of one of these kids holding a new born lamb.
On my days off I would explore the neighboring kibbutzim. One usually could hitch a ride on the many trucks carrying produce from the kibbutzim to Haifa, which was about 25 miles away. These kibbutzim along this road belonged to the left wing movement Hashomer Ha’zair as opposed to Habonim. I can not forget my first impression of the kibbutzim, red flags and pictures of Stalin and other Russian leaders everywhere. It is true the Soviet Union to everyone’s surprise had voted in the UN for the establishment of the State of Israel, and the war of Independence had been won because of help from Czechoslovakia in the way of arms. However by this time most of us knew of the excesses of the Stalinist regime. The Prague trials of communist leaders had taken place, and most of the Jewish leaders were hanged. The Doctors plot, wherein Stalin accused Russian Jewish Doctors of plotting to kill the leadership was ongoing, and yet despite this these kibbutzim still believed in Soviet propaganda, and that Russia was the new Gan Eden (paradise). This actually continued for many years, and many kibbutzim broke up because of an ideological split between those who believed in Communism Soviet style, and those who were “ less socialistic “. In 1952 the kibbutz movement was split over the Soviet Union. Hashomer and Ahdut Avoda (United Labor) saw Joseph Stalin as "the sun of the nations," while Mapai viewed him as a mass murderer. The whole kibbutz movement was split. It was to split again over other matters such as “ hired laborers” a few years later.
I did leave the kibbutz a few times, either in organized tours to other parts of the country, to Jerusalem, or to the Negev. However it was difficult to go out on my own, for the simple reason that I did not have any money. To get about I was dependent on hitch-hiking, and even if I did go into Haifa or Tel Aviv I had no place to stay. My father had a sister and family living in Ramat Gan a suburb of Tel Aviv, and I did visit a few times, if I could get there by “ tramp” an appropriate Hebrew word for hitch hiking. The problem of money and private property did bother me quite a bit. There was obviously no equality on the kibbutz. It did provide us with what we needed, in terms of clothing, toothpaste, etc but some people did have money from family, later reparations, and even items like radios and records became bones of contention since some had and others did not. One of my mother’s cousins visited during this first year in Israel and gave me the equivalent of 50 pounds, indicating that he would get it back from my parents. I know it caused a row, and I do not know whether he did get it back, but it gave me some freedom to move around the country. I do not think I bought anything with it, just used it for spending money. I hoarded this money for my occasional visits to Ramat Gan.
One has to understand that life was very difficult in Israel. The was the time of mass immigration, tent cities had been set up all over the country to handle the thousands of immigrants. Bus service was poor, crowded with people, chickens goats etc; it was in reality a third world country. The war of Independence was only a few years ago, and there was constant harassment from fedayeen. It was also a time of idealism. There was hope to build a better society in the world, and that eventually there would be peace with the Arabs. The country was also very socialistic. Religion did not play a part in my life. Nor of anyone else in the kibbutz or in our group. I am always being asked about this subject, and in general there was no religion in our lives. There was no synagogue or even prayer room in the kibbutz, and our ideals were on restoring the Jewish nation not the religion. At that time we thought it was possible to do the one without the other. Unfortunately it looks as if things have turned out differently.
After a few months our group started looking at possible places to settle permanently. No one really wanted to stay in Gal Ed. I think the only one who wanted to stay was Trudi who had a boy friend from the kibbutz. The kibbutz movement decided that we should join an existing Kibbutz, and came up with a few suggestions. These included Gonen, a new “ sabra” (native Israelis) kibbutz right on the Syrian border and Hachoshlim (later called Amiad). Gonen to me was attractive because of the age of the group, and it had a true Israeli (sabra) atmosphere. Hachoshlim had been settled by Sabra’s and Dutch Habonim with a few Romanians. Hachoshlim was a well-established kibbutz, and quite a wealthy one. It appeared to be wealthier than Gal Ed. I do not remember the discussion but after a vote it was decided that we would join Hachoshlim. This would also be our base for army duty (Nachal) later on. It turns out that Gonen would have been very tough. Later on it was under constant attack from the Syrians and was on the front line of the Yom-Kippur war. Today it is a very small kibbutz with less than a 100 people , with a “country inn”, as have many kibbutzim in the area.
We were a large number of bachelors at Gal Ed. Slowly our group was getting married, and there was a shortage of available women. We were quite dependent on visitors for sexual experience. Most of us in our early twenties were still “ virgins”. I remember one incident in which there was visit of a group of Jewish-Indian girls. We as usual flirted with them in a fun sort of way. However in the middle of the night, Z.F. who was rather a portly individual woke us all up with cries “ I did it, I did it”. He had successfully lost his virginity. I do not remember going with anyone in particular from these Gal-Ed days. I must have been too tired getting used to the land, the climate and the hard work.

Next chapter.. the army !

Friday, August 13, 2010

Last days on Hachshara -David Eder Farm

David Eder Farm.
The David Eder Farm was the show place of the movement. It was run by its “ inmates”, a group of kids from all over Britain. There was a farm manager, “ Jock” Rogers, who told us what to do, when to plant, what cows to buy etc. He was the boss. I was supposed eventually to take over from him. It was a very foolish idea and probably was never meant to happen, but this was the logic behind my taking this course in farm management.
The Eder farm was call after David Montagu Eder, a Zionist leader of the 1930’s. It was a nice large farm house, with a cottage which is where I slept down the road and a separate buildings for housing the milk cows, the tractors etc., and had one or two silos.
After the course I arrived at the David Eder Farm expecting to take over the running of the farm (after all I had just studied that !). However it was not to happen. Mr Rogers (Jock) was still in charge, and the group at the Eder Farm ran the place quite efficiently. For me life at the Eder Farm was full, there were many cultural events, performances for outsiders , visitors from London and the provinces( I have a photograph of performing an Israeli dance with Esther Davidson for an audience from London.). I worked in the refet (cow shed), which by this time had been modernized with milking machines (known as a milking parlor), drove a tractor, made silage etc. did all the chores of a regular farmer. Sundays (or Saturdays) we would take a small amount of money from the kuppah (a vase containing money sitting on a sideboard for common use ) and go out to Horsham for tea, very rarely to a pub. I was going steady at this time with Esther Davidson, from Liverpool. This was really my first serious relationship. I thought that I was in love and that we would eventually marry. Esther eventually left hachasharat noar and our relationship did not develop since her parents did not consider me “ good enough“ . After all what were my plans for the future ? To be a member of a kibbutz? I did visit her parents with her one time, a middle class Liverpool family. I think her father had a toy business (wearhouse). Esther’s older sister Irene was also on Hachshara, and it may have been too much for them to lose two daughters to the same “ cause”. Esther did marry, there were problems and she remarried and ironically ended up in Glasgow. Thus the way of the world !
All our money was pooled (whatever we made), and there was a small sum set aside for general use. We lived a very pure egalitarian life style (at least I thought so). We took turns at running the kitchen, and I remember that in turn, the economit (person in charge of food and running the kitchen) was Irene, and Thilda, (not necessarily in that order). Food was reasonable, and the girls ( or boys) did very well on a limited budget. Again some time in 1952 it was decided that this group would go on Aliya, and that I should stay behind as a “ madrich” ( instructor) to help run the farm and I suppose educate the youngsters. I was very disappointed since I had become very close to this group. Many of them have remained my best friends although we now live continents apart. Thus I stayed behind and another group joined the David Eder Farm, mostly younger than I !. However a few months later I received my calling up papers from the army, and Hechalutz decided that I and two others should now go on Aliya rather than serve in the RAF to which I was assigned. Thus Dov Kapetanchick (who had been on noar, and who now (2005) has just retired from Aberdeen University), Phil Shearsky, who was to play a large part in my life later on in the sheep pens of Amiad and in the army, and is unfortunately no more and I very quickly were on the road to Paris, Marseilles and Gal Ed, Israel. I should mention that the group had gone to Gal Ed ( or more correctly were sent to Gal Ed) as a first assignment with the idea that they might remain there.
Thus my road to Israel was a long one. Looking back these were among the best days of my life. They did not quite prepare me for the shock of Gal- Ed or real Kibbutz life. I enjoyed these years, particularly at the David Eder farm. I remember the long intellectual discussions with various people, and the strong friendships that developed with many members of the group. Many of these friendships were cemented in the army and our common experiences in Israel. Despite all this, the group disintegrated as a group quite quickly once we faced the realities of Israel, many returning to England to resume a “ middle class” life. Others have remained are now three generations in Israel, while others like myself made it to the USA, not with the idea of staying, but ended up remaining in the States.
Thus what I learned from Hachshara was a work ethic (I am still accused of being a workaholic at the age of 78), a respect for other people and their opinion, and how to interact with others of different background. This was a major plus in dealing with undergraduates and graduate students from different backgrounds and cultures and also realizing that everyone should be given the opportunity to develop.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hachshara continued 1948-49

To understand better read previous sections

1948 Hurst Grange continued.
I settled into the routine of work and serious life at “Reading”. After I had been there a few weeks my mother came down to try and persuade me to come home. However I think the reverse happened and that she was persuaded that this was a good life, and that I was quite safe in the hands of this group. At Hurst grange there was an interesting group of people. Most were older than I. Many of the members at this time were refugees from Europe many from the kinder-transport the organization that rescued 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia just before the war. Many of these children had been “ farmed” out to non-Jewish homes and on reaching an age of 17 or 18 decided that they wanted to immigrate to Israel and had thus joined the Hachshara. Many of these children have become important members of society, scientists, economists etc. Although various Jewish organizations were involved in the kinder –transport, many of the children were saved by individuals, such stockbroker Nicholas Winston who happened to visit Prague in 1938 and decided to help in rescuing Jewish children. I am always surprised by the number of “ kinder-transport” kids I meet as an adult. In retrospect I must have been the youngest kid to ever go on Hachshara up till then. Most of the others at the farm were in there 20’s, a few were married, and many had escaped from Europe, or had served in the forces during the war. I can imagine that I must have appeared like a little kid, or an unruly teenager. From photographs of that time I looked like a “ wild” unruly teenager, sporting masses of curly hair. In fact when I went to a reunion some fifty years later, not only did people not recognize me, they could not believe it was I, without all those curls.
Obviously being 17 years old, sex was important to me. Although I had been to Habonim summer camps, notorious for their sexual freedom, I was quite innocent and naïve. Standard of behavior were quite different in the 1940s and 50’s from that of today. One did not go to bed the very first time (at least I did not) you went out with a girl. Very shortly after arriving, I found a “Chavera” (girl friend) in Ruth F. The laundry, which was an annex to the main building, was a suitable place to “ schmooze”. It was isolated and very warm since the clothes were dried there. This was not a serious affair, since Ruth’s parents were immigrating to Australia and she was going with them, but it fulfilled a need for quite some time. Ruth was a small, not unattractive young girl (17-18 years old). However when I saw her mother, a small wrinkled old lady, I realized this is what Ruth would look like in a few years, thus she was not for me. In fact one can judge a lot by meeting the parents of a prospective bride. I have to remember to tell that to my grandchildren. Many years later I met my future wife’s mother, and I thought her a very beautiful woman. That must have played a role in my decision to ask Mimi to marry me. (That she accepted was quite a surprise!) Of course there were always visitors who came down for the weekend or a few weeks, and I think I must have been constantly in love (or thus it appeared to a 17 year old) with at least one of them.
Louis Williams had joined the group a little later. I always considered him a good friend, although we lost contact afterwards in Israel, since he did not go with the group to Gal –Ed. Mrs. Williams, his mother would always come down to the Hachshara with clean sheets, blankets or something else. She did not approve of our level of sanitation and insisted on making us more comfortable. Louis was very embarrassed by this, and he led the revolt against accepting anything from his mother (other than cigarettes). At that time he was a bit of a slob, as was I. Mrs. Williams was a kind-hearted woman, typical of the WIZO type. Mr. Williams was high up in the management of Marks and Spencer and was thus able to get us supplies quite cheaply. Louis ended up writing a history of the Israeli Army, and a translator of books from the Hebrew to the English. Somehow we have never met since the days on Hachshara. However I do remember the bitter fights over accepting gifts from WIZO or any other organization. We truly believed in being self-sufficient.
It was during this period that I must have come out of my “ shy” shell. I was quite outgoing, made friends with both sexes quite easily, although I was still put off by rough behavior or too much cursing. The language of the group was very crude. I think many of the group tried to out do the local “ peasants” and were constantly swearing. There were others who would talk of nothing else but sex and make sexual innuendos or risqué conversations. I really was an innocent kid. I had a reputation among the local farm workers for being very polite and was called “ parson Taylor” at work, because I did not drink, nor curse. I did occasionally go to the local pub, but at that time I did not feel at home in this atmosphere. This has most certainly changed, and today I do not mind having a beer with friends and students and when I visit England I enjoy going to a pub and having a “shepherds lunch”
Apart from work, I served on the Vaa’d Tarbut (cultural committee), which dealt with programs for holidays and our general Zionist-Socialist education. Our general meetings once a week, dealt with what we considered important issues such as how to fit into the “ general proletariat”, i.e. should we steal booze from a liquor factory where Frank worked like all the other workers, in order to conform to the proletariat or be “ Honest”. Our identification with the working classes was more important. We even decided whether a certain couple were suitable for each other and should get married. Can you imagine the fate of those couples that did get married despite our adverse advice? (This actually happened followed by divorce a few years later) The Vaad Tarbut (cultural committee) was also responsible for organizing the Friday night Oneg Shabbat, and the holidays, particularly Passover and Shavuot. We did not use the traditional Haggadah (Passover service book) but developed our own, focusing on spring, and agriculture, and bits of Solomon’s Song of Songs appropriate for spring. Shavuot was the harvest festival and here we performed dances and skits depicting agricultural life. I wonder whether any of the Haggadot and books has survived. I found this emphasis on spring and nature more appropriate that the Hagaddah we traditionally used. Friday night was a special night, a special meal, followed by zig’s a unique type of entertainment part slapstick and part comedy with comic innuendos. Apparently this type of entertainment had a profound influence on many actors who went through the movement such as Sasha Cohen (Borat).
I never doubted that I was doing the right thing, and was quite sure of my Zionist and to a less extent my socialist convictions. Some doubts did creep in as I got to know the English countryside, and saw a different aspect of people. Looking back I realize that I certainly had a “ chip” on my shoulder and was very suspicious of non-Jews. Although I did not have very much in common with the local farmers or farm workers, I found them decent and pleasant, and most certainly not Anti-Semitic, just curious. I also grew to love the English countryside. I would get on my bike, and ride off to Sonning and Henley on Thames at the weekend. I do not remember who my companions were, but we loved the small towns, the beauty of the summer, the river Thames and in general developed a romantic attitude to Southern England. The Henley regatta was a high point. This was a rowing race held every July. However there were often members of rowing teams practicing on the river. Of course I read a lot, (New Statesman, Tribune etc.) We had non-stop political and ideological discussions, and we had lots of lectures from Shlichim (emissaries from Israel), and from personalities like Shimon Appelbaum, a well know archeologist. He published books on archaeology in Judea during the Roman and Hellenistic period. We also studied Hebrew quite intensively, and many a weekend was spent at other Hachsharot, getting to know chaverim, forming bonds, and in general being educated (or was it brain washed?). Music was also an important part of life. We listened non-stop to Beethoven symphonies from our limited record collection, and we had an old piano that I used to practice on. This was still the days before television and stereo.
Many of the chaverim formed couples, and it was quite a job if one was on shmira (guard duty) waking people up at 5 or 6 a.m. for work, since very often they were not in their own rooms but somewhere else. After I time one got used to finding various people in each other’s rooms. However most of these couples later got married, and there was no ‘ switching”. Others kept on joining the group, different in some respects from the “ old timers”, a different generation, who grew up during the war, but had not fought in the war. I think a schism developed between those who would go to Kibbutz Beth Haemek, and on Aliya in 1950 and those who stayed behind and in actual fact formed a new garin (group). I was caught in between, having joined the “ older” group as a youngster, and was now the same age as those now joining the Hachshara and forming a new group. Thus I threw in my lot with the younger group joining in the 1950s.
One has to ask the question was the movement correct in recruiting some one as young as I was, and later when Hachsharat Noar (Noar means youth in Hebrew--a younger group) was established of recruiting a large number of 15-17 year olds. Would it not have been better to encourage us to go to university, or technical schools and to have other careers that could contribute to the building of the State, rather than only agriculture? With hindsight of course higher education and non-agricultural work (high tech) were to be the mainstay of the economy of Israel in the future but we could not predict this in the 1950s. The philosophy of the Zionist-socialist movement was to create an “ educated” peasantry, and to invert the typical Jewish demographic pyramid, with more workers and less businessmen, small shopkeepers and doctors at the base.
After about a year and a half, at Hurst grange, it was decided that I should not go on Aliya with the garin of the time (the group that went to Beth Haemek), but rather take a course in farm management at the West of Scotland College of Agriculture. Looking back it is difficult to know the motivation of the movement, certainly the idea was not mine, and I was disappointed that I would not be going on Aliya with my chevrah (this would have been to Beth Ha-emek). Perhaps it was decided that I was too young to go with the group, or I was not ready yet for Aliya. This “ not ready for Aliya” was a vague concept that was quite often discussed. I do not quite know what it meant, not ideologically ready? Although Hachshara was supposed to prepare us for kibbutz life in Israel, in fact, it really did not. It taught us the value of hard work, and how to work, and a person was valued by his work ethic, but it did not really prepare for the reality of life in the Middle East. Rather I think we all (or most of us) fell in love with rural England. We enjoyed our interactions with the local farmers who were pretty decent, the occasional visit to the pub, or tearoom, if we could afford it, and the bike rides at the weekends. Anyhow the movement decided that I should take this course, they chose Glasgow since I could live at home, and return to hachshara (not Reading but the David Eder Farm, nr Horsham) and eventually help run the farm, with whatever skills I picked up from the course. I spent about 5 months at college, studied everything from cattle breeding to farm economics, and in general had a good time. However I never changed my opinion about going to Israel and living on a kibbutz.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

First Days on Hachshara . 1948-49

Hurst Grange. (1948-49).
The idea of going on Hachshara (the communal farm, or commune) was finalized at a concert of Beethoven’s 9th symphony performed by the Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Whether it was the words of Schiller (Ode to Joy, all men are brothers) or the stirring music that sealed my decision to go on Hachshara, I do not know. I turned to my Madrich (Group leader), Zvi Frisch, who was at the concert and said something like “ I am ready”. I was fed up with high school, with studying piano, and, what I then considered the decadent life of Glasgow Jewry (Jewish social clubs, Ballroom dancing, etc). I had had all these years of Zionism and socialist indoctrination, having joined the movement at around 10 years old, graduated to the Daily Worker, and was imbued with the idea of creating a ‘utopian” society. This could only be done through going on Aliya to Israel and living in a Kibbutz. I must have been quite a romantic, and decided that this was a superior way of life than going to university and following my contemporaries in study or business. Of course I had come under the influence of the movement and its leadership, which frowned on the idea of a university education. In fact if you read the minutes of the discussion in the movement at that time, you will find that this was a deliberate policy, to persuade young people not to go on for higher education even if it was possible. Thus at the age of 16.5, some time in 1948 I arrived at Hurst Grange, near Reading (at that time Twyford was the nearest train station and was just a village). I had come from a very middle class home, and had never done a days hard work in my life except for pulling out a few weeds around the rhubarb patch in the back garden. By this time the family had moved up to Holeburn Rd, in Newlands, one of the newer suburbs on the South side of Glasgow.
That I ended up in Hurst Grange was just chance, since the movement had three training farms, “ “Reading” as the one at Hurst Grange was called, David Eder Farm, near Horsham, and a third at Bosham, in Sussex. The idea was that this would be training for kibbutz life in Israel. Hachsharot (commune) as these were called were actually set up in Europe before the war, and continued in the UK after the war as a means of organizing the immigration into Palestine, which was under a quota by the British authorities. This of course was relaxed with the creation of Israel, but the concept of using these as a training farm, and possibly the future leadership of the movement was maintained. In fact it turned out to be a very idealistic kibbutz life compared to the real thing, and even idyllic. The premise was that we would work as farm laborers if such jobs were available, and pool our earnings. I don’t remember how much I earned but it all went into a common kitty. I am sure it was not very much, as farm laborers, particularly unskilled did not earn very much. In fact we often worked piecework, being paid by the row we hoed, or number of boxes of sprouts or lettuce or carrots we harvested. Although we believed in the equality of the sexes, for the most part it was the chaverot (girls) who did most of the cooking and the housework although occasionally one of the guys would be in charge of the kitchen. We lived on a very limited budget, and tried to be very self sufficient, i.e. not taking help from outside, although I am not sure how much Hechalutz (the parent organization. meaning the Pioneer) and the Zionist organization subsidized the training farms. In most cases we were about 20 young people of both sexes, mostly single with a few married couples, either both from the movement and in some cases one was there because the other belonged to the movement. Occasionally non-movement people did join for ideological reasons, mostly socialist ideas. I must emphasize that this was not like the communes of the 60’s, no drugs, hot tubs etc. It was a working commune and very self disciplined.
We ran the place very democratically, the instrument of decision being the asepha (meeting) where all of us would participate in discussion on what we considered “ important “ matters. These important matters revolved around social items: internal about personal relationship or about our relationship to the outside world. We were most definitely not religious, completely secular, and although we did celebrate some Jewish holidays (selectively) they were related to the season (agricultural) or given a nationalistic flavor.
We also elected a secretary (Mazkir), treasurer (Gizbar), and various committees particularly to attend to our cultural (tarbut) needs. Culture was very important, particularly music (classical) and intellectual discussions on philosophy, Zionist and socialist writers etc. I do not remember there being any interest in “ pop music” or pop culture, which might have been natural for a group of youngsters. I was on the Vaad ha Tarbut ( the cultural committee) However we did relax at times and sing old pub songs, and dirty ditties, this was the “ British” coming out in us. This was a specialty of certain chaverim ((comrades), mostly those from a Cockney background. We really were an odd mix of British and Jewish culture, and I suppose in retrospect we were an odd group of kids. We definitely were not the run of the mill teens or young people. We also very much believed in the idea of an educated peasantry, doing a lot of self study , reading on our own, learning Hebrew etc.
Hurst Grange was an old rambling run-down mansion that had seen better days. I think the house probably still exists, or it did a few years ago. I shared a room with another newcomer, Nat Ritsky from London. The chevrah (group) was made up of a few of us newcomers, mostly younger members of the movement, and older members in the early 20’s many of whom were born in Europe and had come to Britain as refugees. Although I knew how to cycle, I had never cycled long distances. This was essential if I wanted to get to work in one of the nearby (or not so nearby) farms. We had a collection of bikes left over from other members. I quickly learned the ropes and the next day (my first) was sent out to work with Nat and Leon, other new arrivals. I do not think any of us had ever been close to a cow before and here we were in front of a pile of cow dung, shoveling the stuff into a cart. It must have looked like a scene from a comic movie or Monty Python show. We all struggled getting the fork into the pile, and equally struggled lifting it up and moving it into the cart. It probably looked like an exercise in slow motion. Nat was a well-built, dark boy, about my own age, with dark curly hair. He came for the East End of London. Leon was a gangly, pimpled skinny young man, I think from NW London. Nat had been a tailor’s apprentice and Leon a hairdresser’s assistant. I do not think either had been very involved in the Habonim, certainly not as much as I had been. It was tough work. None of us had handled pitchforks and shovels before, and with great difficulty we extracted the material, which was all compressed together. Although we thought we were working hard, when it came time to go home, the farmer in no uncertain terms told us to go home and never come back. Although we were cheap labor, our productivity was such that he preferred local labor.
Thus my introduction to Hachshara, and farming, fired after one day on the job (This was not to be the last time it happened, but that belongs to another era. When I arrived in New York, I was penniless and had no profession other than what I had learned from working in the Kibbutz. There were no sheep in New York. I got a job in the fruit market as a book keeper through the Hebrew Immigrant Society, but was fired after one day because of illegible handwriting and not knowing how to keep books.). I do not know what happened to Nat or Leon, but both returned to London after a short time. During a visit to Kfar Hanassi in Israel in 2007 I met a distant relative, (Irene, wife of Nocky Shine (deceased)), and it turns out that she was instrumental in convincing her nephew many years ago to go on Hachshara. This was the same Nat Ritsky. Apparently he left the Hachshara after a few months and became a London taxi driver.
The next day after this incident I was sent to work in a local market garden. The owner of the farm was a Mr. Lobjoit, a nice gentleman farmer. He employed quite a number of the crazy “Jewish kids”. I must have worked quite well since I did not lose this job but did all sorts of jobs around the farm, including harvesting various kinds of greens, feeding the pigs (who always wanted to take a bite out of me), and milking the cows. This was before milking machines were common, and I also learned to drive a tractor, a Ferguson and Ford, which placed me in a good position later on in life. I actually used my tractor driving skills to help put me through college 15 years later! These were the type of tractors where you had to use all your strength to turn the starting handle which had a terrible kick back, not like today with automatic ignition.
I have pleasant memories of this time, and although the work was hard it did not bother me. I learned a lot about agriculture, and the exposure to different tasks came in handy later on. The worst job, as I remember, was picking Brussel sprouts covered with ice in a cold frosty morning. I remember one freezing morning picking these ice-cold sprouts with one of the girls Aliza, I think from London. She cursed like a trooper, and amazed all the local yokels with her vocabulary. I remember Mr. Lobjoit taking me aside and asking whether all our girls behaved like this! What could I say. Swearing like the yoklels had become a way of speaking for some people, or perhaps is was a rebellion against a NW London upbringing. I loved working in the cowshed, it was warm and cozy, even if it smelt a bit, and sitting next to the cow and milking by hand was quite a calming experience. I became a good cowman, and grew fond of the cows ,knew them by name, the usual, Daisy, Heather etc. and it helped that I had a love of animals (previously cats and dogs). As far as I can recall I worked at Lobjoit’s all through my period at Hurst Grange. Certainly my Hachshara was a success in learning how to work, and to some extent enjoying it. I also may have been one of the few to have a stable job. Apparently Lobjoit’s was a famous market gardener, there being a type of Cos lettuce called after the farm.
Next Chapter: Love on Hachshara