As a result of negotiations being carried on between the Aguda Isroel and the Zionist Organization, it is hoped that a certain number of immigration certificates for Palestine will in future be reserved for the Aguda. Until recently the Aguda was definitely opposed to the Zionist Organization and even to Zionism itself, and in Palestine its members stand outside the official Jewish Community. But recently a distinct change has become evident. To a large extent this is due to the economic crisis in Poland. The growing dissatisfaction with the official anti-Zionist policy of the Aguda, which prevented its followers from obtaining immigration certificates for Palestine, ultimately forced the leaders of the movement to seek a rapprochement with the Zionist authorities.
The result of this change of attitude can be seen in the establishment of Chalutz training centres by the Aguda. These are run on strictly orthodox lines. Young bearded Chassidim, in workmen’s clothes and heavy high boots, are being trained in all the various occupations necessary in an agricultural colony in Palestine. They plough the fields, milk the cows; they learn to handle horses, plant vegetables, reap harvests; they gain experience in the carpenter’s workshop and in the smithy. They even learn to lay bricks.
WORK TWELVE HOURS
Their life is no easy one. They get up at five o’clock in the morning, and work a twelve-hour day. But they work with enthusiasm, for they are working for an ideal. They realize that it is becoming increasingly difficult for a young orthodox Jew to live in accordance with the Jewish spirit and Jewish traditions in Poland, and they wish to combine this spirit and these traditions with constructive work in Palestine.
On these training farms, every Jewish law is strictly observed. Morning and evening prayers are said, the food (which is all home-produced) is strictly kosher, and no work of any sort is done on Friday nights and Saturdays. Each-colony has its own Rabbi, and on Sabbath working clothes are laid aside, silk gowns and velvet hats put on, and the day is devoted to prayer and learning. For many of these young Chalutzim have much Jewish learning, many are Yeshiva students and have passed through a complete rabbinical training. And they mean to assert the religious side of Judaism when they get to Palestine.
240 STUDENT PIONEERS
Altogether, 16 such colonies have been started all over Poland, with a total of some 240 students. The general medium of conversation is Hebrew â€” modern Hebrew, with the Sephardic pronunciation. It is confidently hoped that the negotiations with the Zionist authorities will soon result in a number of certificates being granted to these orthodox Chalutzim.
At the same time, there is considerable dissatisfaction in the Aguda ranks with the slow progress of these negotiations, more especially among the members of the Labor Federation of the Aguda in Eastern Galicia. Here there is a pronounced tendency to break away from the Aguda and come closer to the Zionists, and independent Chalutz training centres have even been started which are attached to the Zionist movement, though keeping their own independence as an autonomous group inside that movement, for here too the orthodox element is stressed.