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Letters to family members.
My Stubbled Fields Are Silent

My stubbled fields are silent -- sea gull, why do
you cry in pain?
Yea, I've sung a song of threshing time and the
golden swell,
Of the thresher who shall come,
Of the tiller-man gone out to plough,
Of the sun that strikes him, a bright crown of light.

Yea, I've begun a song of calm -- whose shadow
has darkness cast,
Fly sea gull, white of wing -- would you see my
brother at sea,
Descend to the mast and say: Harvest-time is
nearly done.

In my fields the dirt-clods cry,
And I shall sow in them once more --
This time, too, this time again, sad will be this
song of mine.

(Author - unknown)

 

February 5, 1983

To Our Dear Naomi,

...Two nights ago, I dreamt I was in Jerusalem, looking for your apartment on Ben-Maimon Street. I have a hard time finding my way. I know that you don't live there anymore. The message is crystal clear. I want to include you in everything that's going on with us, especially in things relating to Yaron.

  

February 10, 1983 

Hi Naomi.

...I got back from Jerusalem tonight. I didn't stay for the most tragic demonstration in the history of the Peace Now movement [in which Peace Now activist, Emil Grunzweig, was killed when a hand grenade was tossed into the crowd]. I hold Begin, Sharon, [Interior Minister, Yosef] Burg, and [then-Foreign Minister Yitzhak] Shamir responsible for the blood spilt this evening! And we still don't know the name of the person who was killed, nor that of the one who was wounded. Naomi, this is our country and we will not let it lose its humane character. Despite all our pain. I'll write soon.

 

 

March 16 , 1983

To Our Dear Gilad,

...This birthday is different. True, there have already been some family birthdays since Yaron's passing. But it seems that only now have we begun to comprehend it's really over: Yaron won't be with us at birthdays anymore. It doesn't help a bit knowing that he will forever remain 21 years and eight months old.

 

 

April 13, 1983

To Our Beloved Tamar, David, and Maude.

...We really miss you. Spring is in full bloom. In the garden, both around the house and in the cemetery, the irises and other flowers are in full bloom, and show a blaze of color. It's just so hard to believe that in a world where life bursts forth so abundantly and sends forth buds of renewal, Yaron's life has been "reaped", and he won't be with us.

Lovingly Yours, Mom and Dad

 

 

March 1, 1985

To All Our Children.

How shall I begin this time? Everything flows towards me all at once: The desire to envelope you all, to include you in what we've been going through, to stay in touch with what's going on with you, to love and cry for Yaron who cannot receive our embrace.

We visited the cemetery a few hours ago, the sky blue, the fields turning green, the almond trees in the valley flowering radiantly in white, and around the graves of Yaron, Yaniv, and the other young men, the garden abloom. The lupins full of splendor, the anemones, cyclamens, and geraniums in full bloom in their planters. Why is it and how is it that Yaron is gone? It's incomprehensible.

It's already been 1,000 days since Yaron died and the Lebanon War began. The killing and suffering still go on. Now that Egypt is once more sending us a signal of peace, there are so few here willing to do what needs to be done. Spring will soon burst through the cold days of winter, and I'll be taking part in a protest rally of "Parents Against Silence". It will be held at Kibbutz Ga'ash, on the main coastal road [from Tel Aviv to Haifa]. Here, for 1,000 days, using numbers clearly visible from the main road, the kibbutz's members have painstakingly displayed how many days the Israeli Army has spent in Lebanon. I'll be there for I feel that this has also been the way that members of the peace movement have expressed their sense of identification with us, the families bereaved.

It's Purim [A Jewish holiday marked by parties and great festivity] this week, and the sounds of preparations in progress are echoing in my ears; [even] from our house, you can hear the rock and roll music emanating from the kibbutz high school. You know how much Yaron loved Purim; how he'd complain when he couldn't make it home from the army for the holiday; and later on, how the holiday lost its charm for him, after his best friend, Yaniv, died.

Everything flows towards me all at once: The joy and the sadness, the grief and the rage, the bells of spring and the clouds of darkness. After all the many days that have gone by, I'm still unable to pass by one of the young men or women from Yaron's peer group without thinking how unfair it all is...nevertheless, I wish them only the best in life.

 

May 11, 1985

To My Dear Family Members,

Naomi and Shaul, Tzipi and Gilad, Tamar and David.

...and now for this letter's central theme, and that is to try and better understand the ties that Ramah and I maintain, both separately and together, with you, our family.

After nearly 40 years here, and another 10 years in the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement before that, Ramah and I still see Ein-Dor as our home. We have no other home, and we have no other country besides Israel. As of now, you, the closest and dearest members of our family, are not living here on Ein-Dor.

...You, our children, grew up here without grandparents. It's now become clear to me what a pity that was, because it's another enriching dimension that adds a sense of continuity to life. Generation upon generation, as the saying goes. Children who see their parents and grandparents here everyday grow up with a sense of home and security that will accompany them throughout their lives, wherever they may be.

But this is one of the paradoxes that have gone along with the choices we have made in our lives. We dreamt of and built a society nearly unparalleled in the world today, where four different generations really do manage to live collectively and in close proximity in a single community. But we weren't able to bring our parents here, for the ideas, concepts, and reality of the world they lived in were so very different...

Could it be that part of the reason that you continue to roam stems from the fact that you grew up with no grandparents around? Even if that were true, could we have done things differently? The fact remains that you're not here, and, for the foreseeable future, none of our grandchildren will have his/her grandparents living nearby.

...It's clear to me that, for the most part, in another few years, maybe more, we'll be pretty far from one another geographically, and we'll visit each other from time to time. We can and should live our own lives. For the time being, we manage to derive interest and find challenge in our work and through the friends we share on the kibbutz and in Israel. Have I exhausted the issue? Have I better clarified how we relate to it? Perhaps. I hope you know how important it is for us to keep up the connection, the bridge between us, the warmth, through the spoken and written word and, whenever possible, by actually seeing and touching one another. Pick up the ball and carry on with the game of life, of family. It is a family that is united while dispersed, loving and hurting inside, and moving forward, each one progressing at his own pace and according to his individual capacity.

 

Here's a story I put together for the grandchildren. It's called "My Home That Faces Mt. Tabor" and it's from the Tu B'Shvat [the Jewish New Year for Trees that falls in late winter and is a harbinger of spring] holiday story and picture album.

 The almond trees are flowering at this time of year and all around us is like a blooming garden. If you look hard at the picture, you'll see our whole kibbutz, with the water tower right in the middle. It's easy to see the chicken coops and the cow-sheds, but it's much harder to see the houses of the members and the children, and even the water tower is starting to disappear -- because the trees we planted "feel" so good on Ein-Dor, they're becoming taller and wider every year, and in another few years, tourists will come and they'll say: "What a lovely little wood you found in which to build your kibbutz"...but the birds, the blackbirds, the honey-suckles, the song-thrushes, the jays, and the others, they'll know quite well that 38 years ago not a tree was here except for the solitary jujube tree, standing at the center of our hilltop.

 

To All My Grandchildren,

Last year on Tu B'Shvat, I sent you a story and picture album about our kibbutz. This year I'd like to also tell you a little bit about the story of our family. Many times I've told you the story about the man from Persia who had the most wonderful cake in the world and had it ruined by a rhinoceros. I've told you about Peter and the Wolf, and other stories and tales. How many times have your parents told you the story of our family? What your mom and dad were like when they were young? And about what all the members of your family are doing now? There's a story to tell about each one of them. I'll start off here, and hopefully your parents will continue.

"I made Aliya [immigration to Israel or to pre-state Palestine] many years ago, and 40 years ago made Aliya for the third time. In those days, England ruled our country, which was then called Palestine. They didn't want to let the Jews make Aliya. But all the people in the world have a country they can call their own, and we deserve one, too. We wanted a state of our own, where we could speak Hebrew, and work the land; we wanted all the Jews in the world to be able to live in a state of their own, if they wanted to, or have somewhere to go if, God forbid, they should be expelled from the country they were living, like what happened to the Jews of Germany and Poland and many other countries not long ago. We wanted a country where we could live dignified and happy lives. But England didn't agree to let the Jews enter the country, despite everything we went through during World War II and the dreadful Holocaust.

Ramah was one of the 10 lucky young Americans who received an actual permit to make Aliya, a certificate; but me, I didn't have a chance, so I found a job as an ordinary sailor, supposedly on my way to India, via the Suez Canal, on board a ship carrying 10,000 tons of wheat as cargo. I said good-bye to Ramah because I knew she'd be coming later with her special permit. My plan was that when the ship reached Alexandria, Egypt, I'd go ashore, as if I were going to tour the city; then I'd contact the Jewish soldiers who were serving as British army soldiers in the Jewish Brigade. I'd get a soldier's uniform and take the train from Cairo to Jaffa with them -- at that time, that's how soldiers travelled when they came on their "homeland vacation" [the phrase now used to describe the visits made to Israel by Israelis residing abroad].

But a miracle happened. A day before the ship reached Alexandria, on the Egyptian coast, the captain announced that we had to change our course, "to Jerusalem". Another Israeli was on board with me, but we didn't let anyone know that you can't sail to Jerusalem [the city is located inland]...We figured out that amongst `non-Jews', Jerusalem and Palestine are basically one and the same. And so, the next evening, we received shore-leave and went ashore, so that we could have some fun after the long voyage from Baltimore, USA.

Of course, it was Haifa that we had reached, and not Jerusalem. The first thing I did was go up to Herzl Street, to the offices of the `Al HaMishmar' newspaper [the newspaper belonging to the left-wing Mapam party, one of whose primary components is the kibbutz federation known as the Kibbutz Artzi]; I called my brother, Tzvika, who was living on the third kibbutz of North American Hashomer Hatzair. He told me to get away from the ship right away, because at that time, a cargo of wheat was packed in sacks and it took a whole week to unload ten thousand tons. He was afraid that the English and Americans would be looking for me and would catch me, and it would be a shame to get into trouble so early on. So now I have reached the part about how my mother's four sons came to have different last names. Why is my name Zamir while my brother Tzvika's is Bar-Amotz? Tzvi [short for Tzvika] made sure to arrange a fake identification card for me, just as if I had been living permanently in Palestine. He had to decide what my name would be. He thought that if they put down our original last name, Braverman, and this name was listed with the clerks of the ship on which I'd worked and from which I'd fled, then I'd be in danger of being discovered. He suggested, therefore, that I take our mother's maiden name. My mother's parents' name was Solovay, in English, and it came from the Russian name, Soloveichik, which means "nightingale" ["zamir", in Hebrew].

I couldn't wait a whole week on board the ship, because the British at that time were taking strong action against the Jews in Palestine. There was a danger that on the very last day they would put the port under curfew and not let anyone out. So, after four days, I got away from the port and headed for Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'Emek where I had some friends. These were friends of mine from when I'd lived in Palestine as a boy; even then I was in Hashomer Hatzair, in the Mishmar Ha'emek battalion [the organizational subdivisions of the early Zionist youth movements bore military-style names: Battalion, brigade, etc.]. Not too long after that, the rest of the members of our "Garin" [literally, "seed" or "nucleus", it refers also to a group of youth movement graduates who come together to settle on the same kibbutz] began to arrive from the United States, and we were accepted as a Garin on Mishmar Ha'Emek. Ramah arrived, too, of course. Not long after that, we decided to unite with the sixth kibbutz of Hashomer Hatzair-Palestine and we moved to Nachlat-Yehudah [south of Tel-Aviv]. Our eldest daughter, Naomi, was born there...Of course, from there we went to settle at Tira, and after that at Ein-Dor. The rest of the story will be told in installments..

How did the name Bar-Amotz come into being? Quite simply, Bar-Amotz ["one who has courage", in Hebrew] is the Hebrew translation of the English "Braverman", which means "a brave man". I'll tell you some other time why my brother Aharon's last name is Braverman, and my youngest brother Danny's is Gur-Aryeh.

 

December 23, 1986

To Naomi, Gilad, and Tamar, in the Diaspora so far away,

The days have begun to grow longer. Every day there's a little more daylight. Indeed the holiday of Hanukkah is upon us [the holiday falls in mid- to late-December], the "Festival of Lights". It was rainy this week; this year, we've been blessed with rainfall that has come at the proper intervals. The sun is shining this morning and, far away, Mt. Hermon is white with now. Outside, the oranges are ripe, their orange color providing decoration for our garden, and the red-breasted robin has finally appeared on the walnut tree behind the house. There's so much light and bloom, the promise of spring to come. It's very hard for me, for Ramah and me, to write you now, not having you and the grandchildren near... I suppose we can't ignore the fact that it will be a long time until we can truly be grandparents and have direct contact and a warm touch.

I recall what Gilad would write in letters from Quito, Ecuador: "When I get back, we'll all sit on the lawn and we'll talk...and talk..." What I'm trying to get across to you is that not only Ramah has been hit my sadness; I've been hit, too. You're so good, so wonderful, and each of the grandchildren has such a marvelous personality. And this is precisely what makes us even sadder, having nearly no part in it all. I've wondered why I stopped writing you the past several months. I'm now starting to comprehend. I was unable to grasp the fact that even the Zamirs of Kibbutz Eilon, Gilad, Tzipi, and their children, were no longer here. And when it did enter my consciousness, I didn't know what to write, because I was unable to say what I feel the most: That being without you is like being without the air we breathe; and that is not going to change, certainly not today or tomorrow, maybe never.

 

February 28, 1987

Dear Gilad

It's a Saturday afternoon, and I recall a poem by Bialik:

"The whole world sleeps in silence
The apple slumbers and the pear
My father slumbers and my mother
The only ones awake are my heart and myself".

I am engulfed by a sea memories -- of my childhood, Saturdays in Old Tel Aviv -- and a kind of longing to reach you before it's too late; and I know that it's practically impossible, because all our lives we've basically been moving parallel to one another, grazing but barely touching at all, neither of us "guilty". Yehoshua Kenaz quotes Conrad and he explains it so lucidly: "We live just as we dream -- alone, in solitude..."

You must certainly understand that I felt a certain degree of reticence about reading the book, "Heart's Murmur". I knew that it concerned the army experience and that this would remind me of Yaron's last years. But I believe that you, too, will be caught up in the book's story and in its wider and more profound levels. It is certainly a work that accurately reflects our lives here, providing a view of the anxiety we feel over the very existence of our society. But, as you'll discover, nearly all the main characters have some sort of connection to music. But, by its very nature, music closes a person off; and in the book, they all abandon music because they want to be connected to other people, even if that means being tainted, but still connected..."Heart's Murmur", a book in which each one is different, and where I make some young acquaintances!

 

 

January 8, 1988

 

To Vered Osman on Kibbutz Eilon.

Don't be too surprised by this letter, for as we have said, nothing seems to be random...Just yesterday I acquired one of Milan Kundera's books, "The Book of Laughter and Forgetfulness", and what did I find on the first page?

"The year is 1971 and Mirek said: The struggle of humanity versus authority is the struggle of memory versus forgetfulness. In such a manner, he tries to justify what his friends call uncautiousness. He studiously makes entries in his diary, keeps letters, takes notes at all the meetings where they talk about the situation and consider future action".

And Erich Fromm writes:

"All the major changes in society have come about as a result of the written word".

Dan Bar-On of the University of Beersheba wrote me:

"In the daily struggle of life versus death, nothing helps more than writing".

By the way, have you read his book, "The Pantomime's Stick"?

During the sadness of the Lebanon War, Uri Pinkerfeld of Kibbutz Revadim wrote me what an Arab friend of his had said:

"In a dark tunnel, even a single match provides light".

 

 

September 20, 1989

Dear Tamar,

I started this letter at 3:30 AM, and in a little while it'll be sunrise. Today's Saturday, and many "chores" are still before me. First, I have to resume my fight against the prosopis weeds in the grove of pines across the road from our house. My private name for it is "Yaron's Grove". That's how I feel. I look after 25 pine trees, so that they may send their roots ever deeper into the soil of the land, for no other land is mine.

It's not easy to keep the prosopis in check because its roots extend down deep into the ground.

[Back to "Diary: Part Two"]             [Forward to "Beaufort Family Letters"]



Please send comments or questions to Yehoshua Zamir

 

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