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Maurice Fluxman recalls the Bnei Zion of days gone by...

Picture: Maurice together with his late wife (then girlfriend), Lydia, at the beach in Tel Aviv in the summer of 1950.  Her name then was Lydia Misheiker; she became Lydia Fluxman two years later and the couple were together for 60 years until her death in 2009.

Recounted by Maurice Fluxman

Bnei Zion was affiliated to the United Zionist Party Youth Movement of South Africa (the UZP), which in turn was affiliated to the SAZF.  I joined the UZP in 1946 at the age of 15 and two years later became a member of its elite Chalutz Group and a Bnei Zion Madrich alongside Mervyn Isaacson, Aubrey Hurwitz and others.  From September 1949 until November 1950 I lived and worked, first, on the Hachshara farm near Johannesburg and then on Timorim in the Emek Jezreel.

 

Bnei Zion and Hachshara were responsible for my meeting my first wife Lydia, to whom I was married for 57 years (from 1952 until her death in 2009).  In January 1950, when I was Sadran Avodah  on Hachshara, she visited the farm with Carl Silberman, one of the three iconic founders of Timorim who was then on shlichuth in South Africa (the other two I recall as having been Abe and Zaggie, though I don’t remember their full names). Lydia (then Misheiker) had just got back from the Bnei Zion camp at Lakeside, where she had met Carl.  She stayed on at the farm for a while, and also joined me for a few months on Timorim later that year.  Attached is a photo of Lydia and me at the seaside in Tel Aviv in 1950.  Here are some of my recollections from my sojourn at Timorim:

 

The Meshek was established in 1948 in its initial location for strategic reasons – on a hill (Tel Shimron, site of the ancient city of Shimron) bordering a thin strip of land that was excluded from the State of Israel as originally mapped out but fell to the IDF in the 1948 war and was part of Israel by the time I got there. Years later, Timorim moved to a location more suitable for its development as a Moshav Shetufi with its own land, whereas in the Emek its agricultural activities had been confined to the Tel and to bits of land in the valley below borrowed from Kibbutz Gvat and Moshav Nahalal.  It had kept dairy cows, milk sheep, and chickens, and most interestingly, a small metal-works making buckets and other similar items under the name Miromit (“Timorim” backwards”).  As is well known, Miromit subsequently outgrew these humble beginnings to become a mighty manufacturing organisation.  I seem to remember a sign (on the gate or fence behind which the embryonic bucket-making operation was carried on) saying “Miromit”, but I can’t recall whether this was in Hebrew or Latin lettering; however, I was told that the name “Miromit” was the result of a signwriter’s mistake in painting the letters the wrong way around.

 

On Hachshara I trained and worked as a raftan with a small herd of dairy cattle, a job I enjoyed.  Life on Hachshara was fun: we were a small group of youths and girls who lived the idealistically kibbutzic life, with lots of song and dance and laughter.  Things were very different on Timorim itself in 1950, one of the worst years of Tzena, and we had difficulty sustaining ourselves on our own food production.  Fortunately, our supplies were supplemented by the generosity of the constant stream of visitors to the Meshek from SA and elsewhere.  There were some sixty or seventy people on Timorim then, the majority young married couples, and everyone worked very hard; nobody had the time or energy to spend the evenings or weekends having singsongs or dancing the hora – myself included. 

 

I was disappointed to be allocated to the Dier (sheep) and not the Refet (dairy), but I accepted my posting in the kibbutzic spirit.  We had a flock of some 240 sheep, kept essentially for milking, and these had to be milked before sunrise, then grazed during the day, with a midday rest break.  There was no grazing on the Tel, so the flock had to be led down to the grasses and fields in the valley below.  If my memory serves me, Gene Schneider was in charge of the Dier; my duties were mainly milking and grazing.  The normal routine was that one of us would be woken up by the shomrim at 1.30 a.m. to do the milking shift and the morning grazing, and another would take over the grazing for the rest of the day and bring the flock home. This may sound relatively straightforward, but sometimes we were short-handed and one of us had to do the whole routine on his own, from 1.30 a.m. until after sunset.  Even when that did not happen, one had to be sure to take at least two or three casks of water strapped around one’s shoulders when going out with the flock because of the risk of dehydration in the heat of the day, especially when the temperatures soared in the summer months.  We had no sheep-dogs, so the shepherd (ro’eh) didn’t have the luxury of sitting on a rock or lying back against a tree while his sheep grazed; the ro'eh was his own sheepdog, needing to keep a constant eye on his flock and run around gathering in strays – a task not made easier when the sheep had to be kept off attractive, unfenced fields full of ripening crops belonging to Gvat, Nahalal and other settlements.

 

Then there was the sheep-calling.  You don’t drive a flock of sheep as you would a herd of cows: you walk ahead of them and call to them to follow.  But it’s a special sound that you have to make, this calling, with your tongue rolled up behind your upper mouth and your voice pushing through from the back – a skill that requires learning and practice: the better your calls the more responsive the sheep will be to them.  And unfortunately for some of us – particularly a novice like I was – the Arabs from the village at the foot of the Tel were far better sheep-callers than we were.  So, every now and then, when leading the flock to or from a grazing area, I would pass an Arab going the other way and leading a handful of goats and sheep and calling to them, and next thing, half our flock would have turned around and followed the Arab.  The ensuing mix-up would have to be sorted out, with the Arab pretending to be co-operative, but as it would be impossible to do a proper count in such circumstances, the inevitable outcome would be a shortage in our flock and the need for a group of us to visit the Arab village the next day to claim back our property – an exercise which was not always successful, because the villagers were not above making blatant protests of ownership of animals that were not theirs and we were under instructions to try and maintain a peaceful relationship with them.

 

One day, I had the awful experience of forgetting my water-casks.  I got thirstier and thirstier but could not leave my flock, so eventually I quenched my thirst on a few prickly-pears (Sabras).   By the time I got back to the Meshek, my mouth, tongue and face were swollen red and blue from prickles and very sore, and I had to be seen by a doctor from Nahalal, who took the prickles out one by one.

 

Since all this occurred some 65 years ago, I can’t remember the names of more than a few of the people who were with me in Bnei Zion and on Hachshara and Timorim, but here are some that I can recall: Aubrey Hurwitz, Raymond Wolpert, Joe Jarzin, Gene Schneider, Woolfie Krut, Louis and Jean Wachtel, Mervyn Isaacson, Denis Arden, Aubrey Chosack, Sally Jarzin (nee Kasmy), and a fellow by the name of Philip who was tragically killed when driving a vehicle belonging to Timorim.  The name Les Sheer is also familiar, as are the surnames Goldblatt and Chait.

 

I have read on the internet that the Tel has since been extensively excavated and much of the ruins of Shimron restored.

 


The Bnei Zion Anthem (words: Maurice Fluxman, tune:

"Hagana Anthem")

Bnei Zion, we hear you calling.
Your call is loud, your call is true.
You are the path towards our freedom.
You are the torch of each young Jew.
 
Bnei Zion, our people need us,
And you are here to show the way.
We look to you to guide and lead us
Until the day when we can say:
 
“Yis-ra-el, oh here we are!
We have all come home at last.
On our breast we wear the star
Of a proud and noble past.”
 

 


 

 

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