As though a haze I see Hrubieszow, a town of some 15000 inhabitants, on the Poliah-Wolhynian border. Most of the inhabitants were Jews, subsisting on retail trade, in shops and in the weekly fairs. The older generation struck to their old traditions and customs; the younger generation, however, was fired by the ideals of the national movement; it devoted its energies to rising of money for the national funds, to a national awareness, to Hachshara and Aliya to Eretz Israel. The Tel Hai school, in which I taught for two years, was the core and center of these public activities. Well do I remember these years, the brightest in my public career.
The school was a "Tarbut" foundation of the General Zionists; most of its pupil were drawn from the poorest elements who could contribute but an insignificant part of its modest budget in tuition fees. For want of government's subsidy, working in competition to the government school where tuition was free, the school shrank until there seemed no way out except to close it down. It was then that the Poalei Zion Organization came forward with a proposal to take over its management, adapt its curriculum to the movement's policies and be responsible for its maintenance. Those in charge saw no other way to save the school; this opened a new era in its history.
A new panel of teachers was constituted; the administration was reorganized and new pupils admitted. The school expanded and its influence in the life of he community began to be felt. Especially gratifying was the close cooperation between teachers, parents and pupils - a potent contributory factor to its success.
The end of the first scholarship year under the new regime was celebrated by a festive evening. It was a rewarding sight to see the faces of the parents light up when their children performed, sang and declaimed on the stage. These end-of-year occasions became a tradition which, apart from its moral worth, contributed in no small measure to balancing the modest school budget.
At the end of the second year the pupils of the upper classes produced short drama based on the life of the prphet Amos. The clash of this prophet, the humble shepherd from Tekoa, with the rapacious rich, his prophecies saturated with cry for social justice, presented a vivid of an important period in Israel's ancient history, during which it fought a losing battle against the savage hordes which sought to annihilate it.
Both teachers and pupils who took part in the performance will no doubt remember the enthusiasm of the audience when they listened to the well-known biblical utterances, which, in the mouths of their children, assumed a realistic significance. Looking back, it seems o me that this performance was more realistic than we realized at the time. Due to the increasing influence of the Poalei-Zion Party in municipal affairs, it was at last possible to obtain a certain sum out of the municipal budget to cover the school budget.
The school came to serve as a refuge to pupils. Knowing that most of the homes lacked the most elementary facilities for home-work, we kept the school open after regular classes, and the teachers used to serve, in turn, as supervisors of the pupils who stayed on to do their home-work, occasionally helping them out. In time, the school became a sort og club, serving as reading-room, games-room or recreation hall. To acquire equipment for games, pupils contributed small sums, which the school matched, penny for penny. It was really touching to see with what enthusiasm the children made their modest contributions, often at the cost of their food allowance. The "gymnasium" consisted of the school courtyard in Summer and the slope of the hill in Winter, down which we skidded in primitive toboggans.
Whilst the relations between teachers and pupils were most cordial, the latter realized how hard the former had to work, so that they took good care to trespass on their hours of well-deserved rest. But to informal were our relations that the pupils considered us more as friends than maters. Well I remember one occasion when I was approached by one of my favorite pupils, Koppele of blesses memory, in one of my "off" afternoons, asking me to come and play cricket with him and his comrade. Of course I could not refuse.
Six years after leaving Hrubieszow for Palestine, I visited it anew and found some of my old pupils, now become adults. The atmosphere was tense; anti-Jewish feeling was on the increase. It was not long afterwards that the remnants of the community were led to the extermination camps.