Israel Record Contents

Seal of State of Israel

In her memoirs, immigrant Deborah Dayan wrote on Aliyah from Russia in the early 1900's

I was the only Jewish girl in the entire Russian village nor did I forget that fact for a single moment of my life. This world to which I had given myself, and which wrapped me around so closely, was not my own. And yet that doubt haunted me. It pursued me from the village into the city, followed me down the corridors of the University, faced me in the bright-lit theatre and sat opposite me at the writing desk in my beloved study. Was I choosing the right path?

And on an unforgettable night I made my decision. . . One by one threads within me were tearing. I could not hear what my comrades were saying. I heard instead the desolate howling of the wolves in the nearby zoo and something in my heart responded. My life, my whole life has been a mistake till now! The people to whom I have dedicated myself till now is not my own: I am a stranger in its midst. And that other people, my own people, is a stranger to me. I know nothing of its life and language. Yes, I know the little tailor, the little shopkeeper but they are not the people. . . where are the masses of my own people? I must begin again, from the very beginning. . . I packed my things, and in the morning left by the first boat for my parents' home in the village. . .

I sit fingering my father's letters. I know that most of them are from Palestine or about Palestine, but I cannot read a single word. . . Then suddenly I come across a letter in Russian, from Vladimir Tiomkin, the Zionist leader. I remember now that my father had told me about this letter long ago but in those days it had all been alien to me. But now every word of that letter is like a seed in ploughed soil. A stronger passion wakes in me with every line and then suddenly, like a thunderbolt, comes the unalterable resolution: there, in Palestine, are the workers of my people! I will go to them, and become one of them. Other thoughts rise, attempt to disturb me, but they are carried away as by a strong wind. . . I am alone in the white wilderness, and unashamed I shout at the top of my voice: "I am going to Palestine!"

The ship drives through the storm, and a cold, wet mist clings to the waters and to the ship. My fellow passengers cower together for warmth, but in me there is only a fierce jubilation. I stand alone on the deck, untouched by the cold and darkness. I know nothing of the land I am going to, and there is not a single person there I have met. I only know that there are men and women working for their people, and I belong to them. . .

It seems to me that only yesterday I was a thing torn by doubts and hesitations. In the noisy city, in the great library, in the museum, in the classes, the question would suddenly confront me: Why are you doing these things? Who needs you? Can't they do without you and people like you? And in such moments a paralysing apathy would creep over me; I wanted to see no one, speak with no one. But now? My comrades are out in the field, mowing the harvest which we have sown. Close by I hear the mill grinding out grain. And the flour from the mill comes straight to me, and I bake the bread for all of us. Bread is surely needed.

Back to Article

(Reprinted with permission from The Plough Woman: Memoirs of the Pioneer Women of Palestine, 1975, Herzl Press - World Zionist Organization)

Israel Record Front Page | Israel Front Page

ADL On-line Home | Search | About ADL | Contact ADL

© 1999 Anti-Defamation League