The thrilling saga of the Jewish women pioneers in Palestine and of the accomplishments of the Jewish women in that country is related in plain matter of fact fashion by Elisheva Kaplan, secretary of the Women’s Council of the Histadruth, the Central Labor Federation of Palestine.
In an interview with the Jewish Daily Bulletin, Miss Kaplan, who came here to address the national conference of the Pioneer Women’s organization in Chicago, described the phenomenal growth of the women’s labor group in the Holy Land.
Miss Kaplan, tall, athletic and bronzed through years of work in the fields, told how she and her comrades came to Palestine from war-torn Russia.
SUMMONED BY TRUMPELDOR
“I was in Minsk, Russia, in 1918, when the call came from Joseph Trumpeldor, ‘come to work in Palestine,’” Miss Kaplan related. “Eight hundred of us, travelling in small groups, sneaked across the Russo-Polish border, in spite of the frontier guards. We had no passports, no documents of any kind. There were no trains. So we had to walk. We walked to Warsaw on foot. It took weeks to reach the city and it was months before we reached Palestine.
In Warsaw we were provided with documents and travelled to Czechoslovakia. More delays, more halts. Then we reached Vienna and finally Trieste, where we embarked for Palestine.
“Since that memorable trip through a continent in the grip of war, I have been in Palestine,” Miss Kaplan said. “I have worked in the fields at Rehoboth, Dgania, Mishmar Hayarden and other co-operative groups.
“Our organization is the women’s division of the Histadruth. We were of the opinion that the woman worker has distinct and separate problems from that of the men. We also believed that the Jewish women of Palestine have a definite contribution and a distinct message for Palestine, so the Women’s Council was organized.
“We began with seventeen members. Today we have a membership of approximately 25,000 members, with 10,000 single women workers and some 15,000 married women.
TRAIN YOUNG GIRLS
“There is not a single village or town in Palestine where we do not have our representatives and an organization. We have organized ten schools where girls are trained for work of all kinds in Palestine.
“Our organization is an integral part of the Histadruth and adheres closely to the ideals of the general organization, but our special problems cannot be solved by the general organization. We must solve them ourselves.
“For example the problems of the men and women workers are entirely different, A man is paid a minimum wage of $2.50 a day, even for unskilled labor. But when a woman comes into a factory she is paid a fourth of what a man is paid. We therefore found it necessary to train girls, so that when they did work in factories they could do skilled work and command a living wage.
“In certain types of work, which are easier for women to do, we demand preference. For instance, in packing and grading oranges. We also found that it is hard for a woman to compete with men in agriculture. So we set out to train women in specialized types of work, such as poultry raising. But we also trained women to do heavy work on the fields and they work side by side with the men.”
Miss Kaplan expressed her sympathy with the Arab women, condemned to work for very low wages and restricted in many ways. She expressed the hope that some day the organized Jewish women workers could work with the organized Arab women workers for a common good.
The Palestine Jewish women’s leader will remain in the United States for one year. After her participation in the Chicago conference, she will tour the United States in the interest of the Pioneer Women’s organization, with which her group is closely bound.