Naomi Kubitsky and her late husband, Shmuel, started their 56 years here living in a falling-down factory in an industrial zone near Hadera. But even though their makeshift abode had no electricity, no water, no kitchen or bathroom and very little food, they had the adventure of a lifetime.
"It was wonderful," Kubitsky recalls, smiling. "We loved it - it meant we were real halutzim, pioneers. We were so Zionistic that everything we saw was wonderful."
For the Washington, DC-born Kubitsky, moving here was always the goal. "I was 10 years old when I decided on aliya," she says, sitting in the plant-filled garden of her retirement home in Ganei Omer. "My parents were great Zionists - my mother was president of a Brooklyn Hadassah group, and my father, a physicist with the US Bureau of Standards, was affiliated with Friends of the Technion. I was in second grade when we moved to Brooklyn, where I joined both Ha'ohel, a student Zionist organization, and Hashomer Hatza'ir. We were three sisters, and we all wanted to come."
"I graduated from Brooklyn College, where I started studying physics, then switched to art. Then I went straight to hachshara, a year of aliya training, where I met my husband. Shmuel was from Boston, but our parents were just alike. To us, they'd say, 'No, no, you can't go to Palestine. There's no houses, there's no food! Let the Europeans go!' But then in shul, they'd be telling everyone, 'My son is going to Palestine!'
"We were in hachshara in 1949, and married that same year. We left for Israel in 1950, and arrived on January 23, 1951. We didn't come with any official group - we just bought our own tickets and came. But Shmuel was an engineer from Georgia Tech and, while there, had been part of a Zionistic fraternity, so we came with a group of his friends."
"We took two boats to get here, one to France, and another, the Artza, to Israel. The Artza was horrible. We were all married, but they had two separate rooms - four men in one, four women in the other. The first thing I noticed was that the portholes were below the water line. My husband put his hand on the bed and water squished up. It was a terrible boat, but it got us here."
"When we came into Haifa, I thought the port looked just like all the other Mediterranean ports we'd stopped in, in Italy and Greece. My parents were half-cousins, and both had a lot of family here. Many of them came to meet us. They were happy because I wasn't painted up. In America, I wore lipstick, but not here.
"The boys had made arrangements about this factory in Hadera. One of the guys was married to a sabra, and she'd talked the city into renting us this factory, where we were going to rebuild machinery. First they said they'd give it to us. Then they said they'd rent it to us. Then they said they'd sell it for 11,000 lira, which would have been okay. But every time we said okay, they'd raise the price, again and again."
"We didn't have any place else to live, so we moved into the factory. We were four couples and two bachelors. There was nothing else in the area at all, nothing in the building, just empty fields all around. The other girls were pregnant, so I hauled water from a faucet I'd found, out in the fields. I carried an awful lot of buckets of water. That winter it rained a lot, too, and the building leaked like crazy, so we'd catch the leaking water in the bucket. That helped some.
"Sometimes we went to the Hadera bus station to use the toilet, but for baths, we'd just take a bucket outside to sponge off. For cooking, Zippora, our sabra, brought us a little cooker - like a primus, but this was way before primus. But we were able to boil a little water, and then put other pots on top of that - assuming we had any food to cook."
Food was scarce. "We had ration books, but it really wasn't enough. Mostly we ate bread. We ate sandwiches, toast and bread pudding. With our cooker, we'd make bread soup, and then each of us got two eggs a week, so sometimes we'd add those. One day we were in Hadera, and there was a grocer who'd spilled some sugar on the street. There were horses going by, but I saw the grocer sweeping it up, taking it back in the store. I went right in and bought that sugar. Sure, I knew about the horses, but that was sugar!
"On Pessah, using our ration tickets, we got one chicken for 14 people. What we did was to chop up lots and lots of bread, then mixed in just a tiny bit of minced chicken, then we fried little patties in oil. We had to be pretty creative. Our parents mailed us food packages - canned foods - and that really helped, except that I was ashamed of the cans. Others didn't get them, so I was embarrassed.
"We really didn't have anything. With my first pregnancy, I spent eight months in bed. Shmuel cooked, and made some tasty things, even though we didn't have much to work with. One night I was eating, and he wasn't, so I asked, 'Where's yours?' He said, 'I'm waiting for the fork!' It was a very different life."
"I had two years of Hebrew in college. I couldn't speak a word, but I knew the root of everything. Shmuel's father was an intellectual who loved Hebrew, so he understood more Hebrew than I did. Later, we moved into a Yemenite neighborhood, and I had to speak Hebrew with them. That was interesting, because most of them had about as much Hebrew as I did. But I wanted to be with all kinds of people, not just English speakers."
"The hardest part of my aliya? Right now. I can't stand the news; I can't stand the government. Always before, we were happy - we were building a country. We felt so good about what we were doing. Now? Well, it's not that way anymore."
"I had five children, and adopted three foster children. They're all educated; many have degrees from the US, and several of them even lived there for years at a time, getting their education. But now, they're here, living in Israel. My sister made aliya, had four children, and she and my parents are all buried here. That's the reward for all of us: Israel is our home."
THE REST OF THE STORY
The factory faded into history. "We finally gave up - what worked in the US didn't work in Israel. In the very beginning, we made money - in fact, we did so well, we actually hired a worker. We were so excited - we had a worker! So for six months, he came every day and worked, and then one day he came, but he sat and drank coffee. 'You have to work', we told him, but he said no. Then we told him he'd have to leave - but the Histadrut, the labor union, wouldn't permit that. 'If he worked six months, you must keep him and pay him,' they told us. That was the first nail in the factory's coffin.
"We moved, and finally ended up in a beautiful moshav, Beit Yanai, not far from the sea. My husband became a farmer - producing chickens and oranges, mostly. I raised kids. We stayed there until about a dozen years ago, when my husband retired. Without the chickens, it was too expensive to live there, so we came to Ganei Omer, in the Negev, to retire. Two cousins live in Beersheba, and told us about this place, and coming to the Negev was just fine. I love it here. My husband passed away two years ago, so now I have my good friends and neighbors, and our art and crafts.
"The hardships at the beginning were nothing, really. We were kids. We were having a wonderful time. I have no regrets, not even one."
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