The oldest Zionist youth movement was founded in 1913 in the Galicia area of Austria-Hungary, Its name was HaShomer HaTza-ir, the Young Guard, and its appeal to Jewish youth was overwhelming. Even today the movement operates in 21 different countries.
It was based upon Zionism and Socialism. The movement was one of the founders of pre-State Israel’s Palmach, the commando forces which operated during the period of the British Mandate in Palestine.
The motto of HaShomer HaTza-ir was “Tikkun Adam— Tikkun Olam”, meaning repairing one’s self and repairing the world.
HaShomer HaTza-ir established dozens of kibbutzim throughout the country promoting socialist ideals of communal living. Its strength was in labor, in tilling the parched soil, in planting and building, and in strong commitment to the dream of “Shtai gedot la-Yarden”… a nation on both banks of the Jordan river.
My first encounter with HaShomer HaTza-ir was in 1946 when I was thirteen years old.
One day two young people, a man and a woman, came to our school to invite us to a picnic under their auspices. Both were dressed in white shirts, khaki shorts and a blue kerchief around their necks. They talked about the history of their movement, their progress and their idealistic beliefs. They were very convincing.
They told us about a picnic they were having on the following Sunday and invited the pupils in the school to join them. We were to bring our own packed lunches.
My teacher, Aharon Rashish, brother of Pinchas Rashish, the mayor of the city of Petach-Tikva, noted my enthusiasm. At the end of the lesson he took me aside and told me “it’s not for you. They live like communists”.
It was the first time I ever heard that word and I did not know what communists were. My family belonged to the Tzionim HaKlalim, the General Zionist movement, quite far removed from socialism.
Nevertheless, when I learned that several of my classmates were going I decided to join them. My parents did not approve but they respected my wish to join in the picnic.
My mother packed a big lunch for me, a large sandwich of sliced cheese with olives, an orange, and four of her home-baked chocolate chip cookies.
My father took me to the meeting place where others were already assembled. A few buses were waiting and each group was assigned to a bus.
I cannot remember how long we rode nor how far we were going. But I do remember very well the long, long walk we had to hike before reaching the picnic site. The walk was approximately one kilometer but for most of us it was very tiring.
We sang Zionist songs as we walked along a paved road. Fields on the other side showed off their greenery and blossoming flowers on that June Sunday.
When we finally arrived at the chosen spot, we sat on the ground and listened to stories which the madrichim (leaders) were telling us. They taught us new songs and introduced us to military walking, arms swinging by our side.
When it came time to eat lunch we were instructed to put all our lunches in one large pile. After that, we were told to pick out a lunch-bag from the pile. It seems that none of us got the particular lunch that our mothers had prepared.
I don’t know who ate my lunch but the bag I picked had only a small sandwich of dry bread with a spread of peanut butter and a large red apple.
I was choking with tears that someone else had taken the lunch bag that my mother carefully prepared.
Following lunch we were asked to introduce ourselves and to tell what we hoped to be and to do in the future. The madrichim told us of the excitement of living in a kibbutz where the members were among the highly respected citizens of the Yishuv (the Jewish population in pre-State Palestine).
Hours passed. More songs. More stories. And time to leave. Just as we came, so did we return but the return walk somehow seemed longer.
The buses took us back to our central meeting spot and from there most of us walked to our homes.
The day’s experiences turned me far, far away from socialism. I hated the person who had taken my lunch.
And my future loyalty to capitalism was entirely due to the stolen cheese and olive sandwich, the juicy orange and the chocolate chip cookies which my mother had baked.
Tikkun Adam. I repaired myself. But Tikkun Olam, repair of the world, was and is only a dream.