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Joyful Mother Of Children: Part 6

Youth Aliyah Under Henrietta Szold
By Marian G. Greenberg

THE WAR YEARS (1939-45)


Miss Szold's absorption in the Youth Aliyah did not divert her attention from the needs of children born in Palestine or brought there by immigrant parents. She regarded the problem from the vantage point - disadvantage would be more accurate - of her social service directorship in the Va’ad Leumi and its meager resources. When the 1936 certificate schedule was held up, Miss Szold devised a plan:

To fill places falling vacant while in wait for the resumption of certificate grants with young people from the country - the Lord knows how badly they need it. I ask myself if we all think it most important to extend the blessing and privileges of Youth Aliyah to Poland and other countries, why not reckon Palestine among those "other" countries.

On April 3, 1941 she announced proudly:

Today we begin with the organization of three urban groups on the model of Youth Aliyah - a dream of mine fulfilled by means of a special allocation of $120,000 by Hadassah. We are going to choose 60 from among the Palestinian city children and give them two years in the mesha­kim. The difficulties are not small; but if we succeed, we shall have achieved a worthwhile enterprise.

Another class of "Palestinian" was taken from the barbed-wire slum of Athlit, the Detention Camp where they had been the involuntary guests of the Mandatory. Many were survivors of shipwreck and of intercepted night-landings. By June 1942 Youth Aliyah had accepted 750 youthful heroes of Aliyah Beth.
This program is no longer ancillary to Youth Aliyah's educational scheme. The current training of native and immigrant boys and girls in kibbutzim or in youth centers near their homes is an outgrowth of Miss Szold's deep concern for the plight of Palestinian youth - what­ever its origin or cultural background.


There was no dearth of applicants from countries of oppression. After the failure of Iraq's pro-Nazi coup, Youth Aliyah transferred 56 young people from Baghdad to Palestine. They were placed in the Children's Village of Meier Shfeyah (maintained by Junior Hadassah) which Miss Szold regarded as "the best place for a group requiring careful treatment from the viewpoint of co-education and traditional Jewish living." Meier Shfeyah also proved ideal for the persecuted exiles from other Oriental lands, such as Syria and Yemen.
Problems of a different order developed with regard to Turkish children and youth, 847 of whom were accepted between 1943 and 1944.

Descendants of Spanish Jews who had fled the depredations of the Inqui­sition, they spoke Spanish and Turkish in which the madrichim were not then conversant. With only a smattering of Hebrew, they knew little or nothing of Zionism or Palestine; and their attitude to work was wholly foreign to the Palestinian pioneering spirit. However, a few months in the kibbutzim produced a remarkable change. They are taking to the Hebrew language and to agricultural occupations.

Date: 4/28/2011 12:00:00 AM

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