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October 16, 1970 - Image 48

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1970-10-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

They Came in Droves to Escape Terror—Sixty Families From Iraq • • •
Now, in Yardena, They Are 20 Steps From Safety . . . but No One Leaves

"If you were here snaking a trip
in the Belt She'an Valley, seeing
the spirit of these people, believe
int, no words would be necessary.
It is difficult to be among them
without feeling ashamed that one
does not remain among them and

live with them." — Golda Meir,
Prime Minister of Israel.
• • •

not have to pay for their home—
as a local boy, David got the
house, which was vacant, as a
wedding gift from the local coun-
cil.
The Jews of Yardena are moun-
tain people. They came to Israel
in 1950 from Kurdistan, north-
ern Iraq, part of an exodus of
some 5,000 destitute Kurdish Jews
from the tribal areas of north-
western Iraq. They fled when Nazi-
inspired anti-Semitism surfaced in
Iraq and other Arab countries
when the state of Israel was de-
clared in 1948. Subjected to
searches, arrest, denunciation,
torture, mass imprisonment, izn-
poverishment and the slow de-
struction of all civil rights, Iraqi
Jews were forbidden to emigrate
to Israel or declare themselves
Zionists.
Then, suddenly, in March of
1950, the Iraqi government

citizenship . . . and all their
belongings
They came to Israel in droves,
airlifted out in "Operation Ezra"

and "Operation Nehemiah," and
settled, with the help of the Jew-
ish Agency, with funds supplied
by the United Jewish Appeal (in
Detroit, the Allied Jewish Cam-
paign-Israel Emergency Fund), in
new homes.
For 60 families, Yardena be-
came home.
Yardena is a moshav—one of
344 cooperative farms in Israel.
Based on the principles of mutual
aid and equality of opportunity,
they have populations ranging from
100 to 1,000. Each member has
a farm worked by himself and his
family, but produce is sold, and
supplies are bought, jointly.
Adjusting to modem rural life
in Israel was not easy for the
Kurdish Jews of Iraq. Tractors,
irrigation techniques, were un-
heard of in the mountains of Iraq.

In Yardena, on the Jordan, 20
steps may mean the difference be-
tween life and death for the 60
families living there. The 20 steps
lead down into the underground
shelters which dot the village
along with simple one-story houses
which are the homes of farmers
who have been living in Yardena
since the early '50s. Yardena
lies close to the Jordan River, an
easy target for the Arab terrorists
on the other side. Several times
a week for the past two years
Yardena has made news. Rifle fire,
the stutter of machine guns, the
heavier boom of mortars, the versed its stand. It was an-
deadly swish of bazookas and nounced that Jews could leave
Katyusha shells—the men, women Iraq if they gave up their
and children on the border know
these noises and their meaning
well. Every time the alarm is
sounded, they rush as fast as their
legs can carry them, for the near-
est shelters.
It happens sometimes once, often
twice, at night, sometimes during
daytime. The shelters, which look
one has to run far to reach them.
like low-vaulted igloos from out-
side, are scattered between the
houses throughout the village, so
that no one has to run far to reach
them. Everybody in Yardena
knows: Down those 20 steps as fast
as you can make it. To stay above
ground means courting death or
injury.
..11hdtars bobs Min at Iranians hi the Bolt
"Until September 1967, things
Became of the itemise heat. air conditiong Is a mast.
were not so bad here," explained
Yehiel Haramati, headmaster of
Yardena's school, who came to
the village in 1962.
"We hardly realized that we
were living on the border. Three
months after the Six-Day War, the
first major attack on a Jordan
Valley settlement took place. It
started at Ma'oz Chaim, a nearby
kibutz, in the night of Yom ICip-
pur. From then on things got
steadily worse. Sometimes we had
to go down into the shelters three
times a night. And, mind you,
those were not the' shelters of to-
day. They were terribly small, and
congestion was a problem. The
small children were in the rear,
the larger ones nearer to the en-
A typical house in Yardena. Small and in need of rehabilitation,
trance, the adults sat on the steps
or even outside. Sometimes there the housing must now be fitted with reinforced concrete roofs before
was only standing room, and often it can be modernized to the point of acceptability.
the shelling lasted for hours. I
remember, once we remained in
the shelters from five o'clock in
the morning until night. People
often slept sitting on chairs. When
the attacks came during the school
hours, the children were taken
into trenches. At first they were
frightened and they cried. It was
hot, they were'sweaty, thirsty and
tired, and we could not move."
As the attacks became more
frequent and intense, the defense
ministry, the government and

L

the public were stirred Into ad-
miration for the border settlers
and into action. Security meas-
ures were taken, building work-
ers streamed to the borders, and
a program of shelter construc-
tion began that is continuing
today.
The country regards the border
settlers and their courage with

Many had never seen a toilet be-
fore, and women had to be taught
to use even the simplest house-
hold equipment like refrigerators.
Programs under Jewish
Agency sponsorship, again
funded in large part by the
United Jewish Appeal, helped
to ease the absorption of the
newcomers from Iraq into the
pattern of daily life in a new
country.
Methods of production, current
agricultural methods and manage-
ment of the settlement's affairs
were taught by experienced JA
personnel. Funds for new roads,
vital to this farming community,
were also supplied by the Jewish
Agency.
Underlying social patterns of
Kurdish life were more difficult
to bring into the 20th Century. The
men of Yardena had difficulty
adjusting to the new role their
wives and daughters played in the
daily life of the community . . .
women were given new responsibil-

ities and a degree of equality that
Kurdish men found difficult to
swallow. Slow but steady progress
is being made in this area.
Today, the people of Yardena,
60 families, 165 children, harvest
crops of tomatoes, peppers and
eggplants, and fruit. But the adults
are proud, work hard and raise
large families, and are anxious
that their children receive the ed-
ucation they never had. Even dur-
ing the time when Yardena is
under fire, the children attend
classes in a spacious shelter in
the courtyard where they watch
instructional TV lessons from the
education ministry on two tele-
vision sets donated to them by
concerned Israelis. The shelter
also serves as a library. The stock
of books, too, are mainly gifts,
some from publishers and others
from individuals. On the shelf
the collected dramas of Moliere
in Hebrew translation stand next
to the poetry of the Hebrew poet,
Nathan Alterman.

Typical transportation'for Yardena residents, who cannot afford

automobiles or eve, motorbikes.

One of the shelters at Yardena turned into a lthraryetudy.
In the late evening and early morning hours, it is overcrowded with
children doing their homework.

Wee Ifosim, farmer and veturoad,Yariesa, umiak hard and

profound respect."

A

"It is a fact," says Haramatl,
"nobody is leaving the village."
Ziona is a young woman who
moved to Yardena from Jerusalem
two months ago. She is married to
David Dotan, a native of the vil-
lage, and proudly shows visitors
the neatly surfaced, freshly painted
home, still =finished. "I work in
the dining room," she tells us . . .
"I started this mooring."
feels happy
Mona, a eft/
in Yardena despite the hardships.
"I have been married only a short
time, you know." The couple did

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