I Could Open the Great Pain

06/11/2012 Merav Yaron Bar-Niv
My name is Merav Yaron Bar-Niv. I was born on Kibbutz Ein Hashofet, in 1956, the youngest child of Sima and Yizhar Yaron, a sister to my two brothers, Nahum and Yaal, and granddaughter to my grandmother Fanya Paper. In 1967, when I was 11, my brother Yaal fell in the Six Day War.

I am married to Shuki Bar Niv, and we have two children, a 17 year old son, Elad and a 15 year old daughter, Doron. In our family, there were very few stories told about the families' origins. I am not sure why this was so, since in my family there are no Holocaust survivors. However, I always knew that there were many family stories that reflected the stormy era of the beginning of a way, a city and a country. As I learn about the past, I feel more connected and my hunger for knowledge grows and grows. Before my parents passed away, I was too young to take advantage of the moments that I had with them to hear the stories directly from them.

When Elad, my son, reached the age of 13, I was very surprised when he chose to get called up to read from the Torah. My first reaction was that grandfather and grandmother would turn over in their graves, because on the kibbutzim of the Young Israel Movement, an alternative to the religious tradition developed which emphasized Israeli values of love of humanity, country and the place where we were born and raised, love of the language, of nature, and an emphasis on maturity and responsibility. We supported Elad's desire and respected his request. Today, looking back on things, I suppose that I was more open to an alternative, secular, Jewish ceremony.

I felt a desire to connect the event to our family roots, since Elad and Doron had never known their grandparents on both sides. As I have already said, I too had a need to complete the mosaic of the family story. On our journey to discover our family's roots, we visited places in Israel that were important in the lives of the grandparents. We dedicated a weekend to each side of our family and we were joined by other family members, who expressed interest and expanded our knowledge through stories that they brought from the landscape of their own childhoods. The stories came together to form the tapestry of my family story.

On a hot August day, four years ago, we gathered in a big vehicle and drove off, following the footprints of the former generations. I will start with the family of my father Yizhar Yaron, who was born in France in 1910, where his parents Nahum and Fanya Paper were studying at the time (they came back to Israel when he was several weeks old). My father was considered a locally born Sabre, and was one of the first children of Tel Aviv. My father was a man of music and sounds.

I remember that I used to walk the paths of Ein Hashofet with him, and suddenly he would burst out singing all kinds of musical pieces like a singer at the opera. I was embarrassed, not knowing where to bury myself and fearing someone would pass by and hear him. I felt that if it were one of the children, I would simply want to die of shame. My father had a study in what used to be a guard's post. There, he had a piano and many booklets with musical notes. He was very absent-minded and his study was loaded with piles of booklets and pages. I remember the smell that spread from those pages and the sun print materials that he used to make copies of the notes.

Sometimes, he tried to make wine in huge bottles that stood in his study, and the entire room emitted a kind of a sourish smell. My father had short, chubby fingers and he would play his piano, write music, sing and play, stop to note things down and again sing and play and erase and so on....I liked coming to his study to play his piano, listening to him play and smelling that sourish smell. Father was an opinionated man with a soft, pleasant voice, and when my brothers, Nahum and Yaal, were in the army he made them cakes and sent them, packaged, to their military units. After that he carried on baking, to the delight of everyone in the family. I remember what happened when he forgot a tablespoon in a cake that was baked for the introductory meeting with the parents of my sister in law Rina who arrived from France. They had no common language, and the tablespoon that was pulled out of the cake broke the ice and warmed the hearts.

We started the journey in little Tel Aviv, which was founded by my father's grandparents, amongst others. Our first stop was Rothschild Street, where the monument to the city founders, stands.

Aharon and Rivka Eeiteen, my father's grandfather and grandmother and the parents of Grandma Fanya, were among the 66 families that founded the new neighborhood of Ahuzat Bayit. They participated in the well known shell lottery on the beach of Tel Aviv (during the days of Chol Hamoed Passover, 5,669) where they drew lots for the plot on 19 Yehuda Halevi Street. From there, we continued our journey to the home of Aharon and Rivka Eiteen; we entered the backyard of the house and saw the terrace where they used to pickle cucumbers. As a child, my father always told us that he was born amidst grandma's pickle jars...there we heard that Aharon and Rivka immigrated to Israel in 1906. Father's grandfather, Aharon Eiteen, founded the first printing press in Jaffa. Due to a denouncement by a Christian competitor, the printing press was shut down by the Turkish government. Later, grandfather Aharon established the first Tel Aviv stationary store. Aharon participated in the establishment of a wood crafting factory called Beit Omanut north of Jaffa, and was also among the founders of the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv. Aharon supported children in need who had difficulties paying their tuition. When the war broke out, Aharon's paper goods warehouse served as the only paper stock in the country and helped support the family.

Aharon passed away in 1930, and was buried at the cemetery on Trumpeldor Street. Recently, a street was named after him in the area of Zahala.

We continued to Neve Tzedek, to the Suzan Dalal Center, where the girls' school stands. Eliezer Paper, father's grandfather (the father of Grandfather Nahum), taught at the Neve Tzedek Girls School. There we heard about Eliezer and Sara Paper, my father's grandparents who had immigrated to Israel from the city of Kherson in Russia in 1904, after being invited by Hovevey Zion, who were searching for teachers who could teach in Hebrew.

Eliezer participated in the preparation of the first text book, he was active in the teacher's union, liked the theater and translated several plays into Hebrew, at the request of the organization of the dramatic arts fans, and also participated in several plays. All of this is mentioned in Nahum Gutman's book, A Small City with Few People. When the Jews were expelled from Tel Aviv, the family moved to Segera, in the Galilee and then to Safed. After their return, they encountered financial difficulties. At the same time, Eliezer was put in charge of public matters and funds designated for the support of the needy. He mismanaged the funds, which led him to take his own life in 1926. He was buried in the old cemetery on Trumpeldor Street. Grandma Sara lived a long life and passed away in the year 1958, at the age of 98.

To honor their memory, we arrived at the cemetery on Trumpeldor Street. We found that Eliezer was buried near the fence, and that Aharon and Rivka are buried among the city founders.

Nahum and Fanya Paper, father's parents, moved to Jerusalem due to Grandfather Nahum's work, and we too set out to Jerusalem in their footsteps. On the way, we heard stories about Nahum and Fanya. I had the privilege of meeting Grandma Fanya, and I remember a beautiful woman with white hair with a light-blue tint. She had a heavy body and moved slowly, since her knee problems affected her mobility. I loved hugging her, feeling her softness and smelling her special scent. I loved our visits to her in Ein Hashofet, I miss and can still taste the special flavor of her burnt eggplant salad.

Grandfather Nahum was born in the city of Kherson in Russia. Due to his affiliation with the Socialist Party, he was persecuted and even incarcerated by the Russian government. He immigrated to Israel two years after the rest of his family. When his father, Eliezer, went to meet him at the Jaffa Port, he saw Nahum come off of the ship barefoot, with long hair, dirty and wearing torn clothes. Eliezer did not dare bring him home looking like that. He forced him to wash up and to get a haircut, and he purchased new clothes for him. That same night, Nahum already went out to the Bostros Café, where young people used to gather. A beautiful, 18 year old girl caught his attention, and since he had no money or any excuse to start a conversation with her, he approached her and snatched her ice-cream (needless to say, the young woman was Fanya Eieteen, my grandmother). And that is how, according to the story told by my aunts, my father' sisters, the romance started.

They married in 1908 and traveled to France to study, since there was not yet a university in Israel. Nahum studied engineering in Nancy and in Toulouse, and Fanya studied language and French Language instruction. Father was born in 1910, several weeks before they returned to Israel. Grandfather Nahum worked as a surveying engineer and a property appraiser. When the First World War broke out, Nahum joined the Ottomans and enlisted in the Turkish army, as an engineer. At the end of the war, he was released from the army and started working at Hachsharat Hayishuv together with Dr. Thon, Dr. Ruppin and Yehoshua Henkin. He surveyed the lands of the Golan Heights, Herzliya, Emek Hefer, Ra'anana, Gush Etzion, Um Rashrash (which is Eilat) Emek Yizrael, Nahalal and Ein Harod.

Due to his work, Nahum moved to Jerusalem with his family. At first, the family lived in the Bukharian Neighborhood, which is in a religious area near Mea Shearim, and we too arrived there on our journey following the footsteps of the family. In this area, father met with the Old Settlement, Hayishuv Hayashan, that was essentially different from what he knew in Tel Aviv; he studied at a boys' school, but couldn't accept the changes that had occurred in his life; therefore he got up and escaped to Tel Aviv, to the home of Grandfather Aharon and Rivka Eiteen and continued his studies at Gimnasia Herzliya. We continued our journey to the Lemel School in the Bukharian Neighborhood, where Ruth, my father's sister, studied. We walked the neighborhood streets and I tried to imagine my father there as a boy, in such a strange and different environment.

In that same period, during the early twenties of the previous century, the new neighborhood of Beit Hakerem was founded in Jerusalem. My grandfather and grandmother built their house in that neighborhood and were among its founders. Only then did father return to Jerusalem to continue his studies at Gimnasia Rehavia. He is a graduate of the school's seventh class.

And, of course, we too traveled after the family to the neighborhood of Beit Hakerem, to see the family home on 28 Hechalutz Street, at the corner of Maalot Kabak. We walked the streets of the neighborhood, and were excited to find the house and to realize that the neighboring family of painter Zeev Raban still lives in the same house. We felt exalted to know that something remains of that period, and that we are part of it!

After the Gimnasia, father went on to study mathematics at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus. When Hachsharat Hayishuv exhausted its funds and it was no longer possible to redeem any more land, Grandfather Nahum remained unemployed. He moved to Haifa with his family, to work for the English Iraqi Oil Company, IPC. As he did not know English, he started his way there as a simple draftsman. Luckily for him, he was blessed with a talent for languages, and after an intensive, three month study period, he could speak English fluently. His status in the company kept improving, and when his supervisor Mack Parson retired, he recommended Nahum as his successor. He frequently travelled to Iraq for work purposes. Towards the end of December 1936, grandfather decided to return to Israel earlier than scheduled, to be present at the Philharmonic Orchestra's début concert, under Toscanini's conducting. There was not one seat available on the flight back to Israel, but a woman let him have her seat on the aircraft. The weather was stormy and the plane crashed near Afula. Grandfather was severely injured and died on his way to the hospital. He was 49 years old at the time of his death and was buried in Nahalal, at the request of many of his friends in the valley. Grandfather did much to promote Hebrew work force, he had many friends, and participated in many charitable activities. As compensation for his death, IPC gave Grandmother Fanya an apartment building which she rented out for her sustenance. After some two years, she went back to Tel Aviv, to be with her family, the Eiteen family. She died on Passover of 1967, close to thirty years after the death of her husband, Nahum, and two months before the Six Day War broke out, in which my brother, Yaal, lost his life.

We started the second day of our journey in Haifa, where, due to an accurate phone navigation conducted by Achsa, my father's sister, we arrived at the family's old house on Ben Shemen Street, and also at the apartment building that grandma rented out, after Grandfather Nahum died. This neighborhood is in the area of the old Technion, where father studied civil engineering. During my years at Ein Hashofet, we travelled many times to Haifa, the closest big city. I had wandered around the adjacent streets, not at all knowing that the family home was so nearby.

From Haifa, our journey continues to Segera. There we visited Havat Hashomer, where the Paper family lived in 1917, after the great expulsion of the Jewish residents of Tel Aviv. They lived there until General Allenby entered the country and enabled their return back home.

Our next station was the Nahalal Cemetery, where Grandfather Nahum is buried. The Nahalal Cemetery is on the Shimron Hill, a mount that looks out over the valley. The view revealed from grandfather's grave embodies the love of Grandfather Nahum and my father for the valley and its residents, who became their friends.

After grandfather was killed, father inherited his share of the office, and in that role arrived at Segera to measure the land. Father visited nearby Ein Hashofet, and formed ties of friendship with the kibbutz members, who even invited him to join them.

Over that period of time, father developed an aversion to the fact that he had to court those who hired him. His growing sense of disgust led him to sell his share in the office and join Kibbutz Ein Hashofet. We continued to Juara, where the members of Ein Hashofet lived before settling on the grounds of Ein Hashofet itself. We entered the center of the military base, and there, on and around the main square, we shared childhood stories that are related to the place and to the stories of the place itself.

On a hill opposite Juara is the cemetery of Kibbutz Ein Hashofet. On that hill, my dear ones are buried next to each other: my brother Yaal and my parents Sima and Yizhar. As part of the family story, we visited their graves: it was a way to include them in the entire journey that is related to the story of their lives and deaths.

From there we arrived at nearby, Ein Hashofet, where each and every corner, path and house unfolds many memories of a life that is tied to the house in which I was born and raised, and to the home internalized within myself.

When father arrived at Ein Hashofet, he met Sima Karmenchugsky, my mother, and some time later they were married.

During his first years at the kibbutz, father worked as a shepherd. Then, he started working at Aliyat Hanoar, teaching and educating youth members that were educated at the kibbutz. Father taught math, physics, chemistry and biology. He taught and educated for 16 years. Alongside that occupation, father was always involved with music. First, in accordance with the internal needs of the kibbutz: he composed songs and music for the kibbutz holidays. Later, he collaborated with the dancer and choreographer, Yardena Cohen, who became a family friend. He composed music for dance and choir performances, and gradually moved on to create greater and more complex pieces of music, such as a children's opera called The Legend of the Months of the Year, music for plays, primarily children's plays, and chamber music.

Father very much loved Arabic music and was influenced by its elements in his creation.

In 1965, he published Rinot, a book of his songs, including his known songs: Eglei Tal, Im Ba'arazim, Shir Hayayin Vehagat. He also published and participated in the publication of other books and booklets.

I remember my mother, Sima Yaron, as woman with a thin, erect body and a protruding stomach. Walking was difficult for her, and her breath was heavy, due to a heart disease that worsened after my brother Yaal died in battle. She was forced to learn how to use the first little electric car on the kibbutz, which she called Kakamaika. She had a deep blue, understanding and stroking gaze, which was sometimes mischievous too.

Mother was born in 1913 to her parents Dov and Feige Karmenchugsky, in the little city of Chashchevata, at the border of Poland and the Ukraine. She was the youngest of four children. Mother's father, Dov, organized the Zionist Laws undercover, during the time of the Russian Tsar, and there were Zionist gatherings in their house designated to collect funds for Keren Hayesod and Keren Kayemet. Grandfather Dov's father was the head of the Jewish community of Chashchevata, and he represented it to the authorities. The family made its living by producing oil and soap. Following the 1917 revolution, the family escaped to Grandmother Feige's city of birth, Kramenitz, where it owned fruit trees and a flour mill. Mother and her siblings belonged to Hashomer Hatzair Movement, and underwent agricultural training in preparation for kibbutz life. Mother immigrated to Israel in 1936, and arrived at Kibbutz America Banir, that was the initial core group which later formed Kibbutz Ein Hashofet. Mother worked in the field of education, and held central positions in this field. Then she transferred to work in accounting.

Mother was a beloved woman on the kibbutz. Many people used to consult with her and share their hardships with her.



Our family story is linked to the First Fruits Festival, Shavuoth, with ties of happiness and sorrow, since it is one of the agricultural holidays always celebrated at Ein Hashofet, and for which my father's songs served as a source of inspiration, for the dancing and for the holiday content. And on the eve of the holiday, in the year 1947, my brother Yaal was born; he was my parents' second son and brother to Nahum.

Exactly on this date of Shavuoth eve, twenty years later, on Yaal's twentieth birthday, we received the message that Yaal had lost his life in the battle of Tel Faher, on the Golan Heights, during The Six Day War. That moment changed our lives - it was not the offering that we were praying and yearning for!

My parents had two sons and a daughter:

Nahum 1944

Yaal 1947

And myself, Merav, 1956

I was born on February 10th, 1956, as the youngest child to parents that were forty three and forty five years old, and with a great age difference from my two brothers. I was raised and educated at Kibbutz Ein Hashofet. I am married to Shuki Bar-Niv and we have a son, Elad (1990) and a daughter, Doron (1992). We are members of Givat Haim Ichud.

Unlike my two older brothers, who chose to continue in father's musical path, playing instruments and singing in choirs, I chose dance and movement. As a teenager, I danced with Yardena Cohen, a fact that brought me to choose my profession - Dance Therapy. I studied special education at Seminar Ha-Kibbutzim in Tel Aviv, and after several years studied Dance Therapy at Haifa University.

I worked at the Tokayer Dormitory with boys that were removed from their homes due to difficulties or failures in their parents' functionality, with mentally ill adults at the closed ward of the Psychiatric Hospital Shaar Menashe, and at a community center for child development; I also see private clients at an arts therapy center.

I studied at a school for psychotherapy and took various, specified courses, specializing in therapeutic approaches that deepen my clinical understanding.

My oldest brother, Nahum, was born on August 8th, 1944. He is named after Grandfather Nahum. Nahum is married to Rina and they live in Ein Hashofet. They have three children and two grandchildren. David is married to Yodfat and they are the parents of Omer and Gali, Ariel married Yaara recently, and their youngest daughter is Orit.

Nahum spent many years in the field of agriculture - in orchards and in avocado, and he studied at Ruppin College.

In 1995, Nahum opened a creamery, and his main profession these days is that of a cheese maker. He loves his work and is filled with interest and curiosity about the cheese making process.

Nahum absorbed father's love of music, and throughout the years he has been interested and has occupied himself with music. As a teenager, he played the clarinet, and would solve the musical quiz with father ; his name was quoted on the radio in the list of the quiz solvers, on a weekly basis. For many years, he sang in various choirs. In the last few years, he has been singing with the choir of the Megiddo Regional Council.

Despite the fact that Nahum and I are very different, the losses that we experienced have brought us to cling to each other and to keep our families connected through special ties of love. To me, Nahum's children are like my younger siblings - the ones I never had. When I was about to give birth to my son, Elad, Nahum's children asked me, what will he be to us, a nephew, or a cousin?

My brother Yaal was born on February 25th, 1947, on the eve of Shavouth. Yaal was a sensitive child, socially active, he was a youth leader in Hashomer Hatzair Movement, and he loved being a leader; in it he saw an opportunity for humane, educational action, as a way of understanding interpersonal values, while maintaining principles of internal integrity. Yaal knew how to be serious and wholeheartedly engaged in his important goals that were studies, playing music, youth leadership and social activity. Together with the seriousness and the great dedication, he was full of joy, and his friends gathered around him when he played his guitar. Yaal played the French horn, and practiced for many hours (about 4 hours per day). His friends mocked him, saying that they would hold a time collection, so that they could offer him a few more hours a day.

Before he enlisted for the military, Yaal worked in the orchard with Nahum.

He tried to see the best in everything and related to everything from that point of view.

Yaal did not like the military framework, but he understood the necessity of it and decided to go for the best - the Golani reconnaissance platoon. He only managed to serve in the military for half a year. He lost his life in the battle of Tel Faher in the Golan Heights, on June 9th, 1967, during the Six Day War.

Yaal was our special brother: he was close to Nahum in age, and they had similar interests. For me he was the admirable, older brother, whom I followed in whatever he did, perhaps because I sensed that I would not spend too much time with him.

After his death, we became aware of his entire world of social and inner life through his diary and the letters exchanged between him and his closest friends.

On the morning of June 9th, 1967, Yaal sat down to eat a breakfast of field rations with his friends, when suddenly fate directed him to notice a silver-plated image of a skeleton on the ground. He picked it up and said that it would be his amulet. He hung in on his neck and so went out to battle...it was an amulet of death!!!!

We heard about Yaal losing his life in battle five days after the fact. It was on the eve of the holiday of Shavuoth - his twentieth birthday. I remember in great detail the moment when I was informed that my brother lost his life, and it is engraved in my memory forever.

The days were the hot days of mid June, the days after the war. It was the eve of Shavuoth.

After lunch at the children's house, I showered, and while I was combing my hair in front of the mirror, I heard the low hum of a conversation coming from outside between my nanny, my classroom teacher and a woman with educational authority in the kibbutz. I had an inexplicable, gut feeling that they were talking about me. When I finished getting myself organized after the shower, I intended to return a blanket that we kept in the bomb shelter during the days of the war in case we had to spend the night in the shelter, to my parents' house. They followed me, watching every move that I made, under the pretense that these were the hottest hours of the day and it was not a good idea to meander outside. After a while, the woman left the place, and they called me in for a conversation (inside, I asked myself why it had to be me?) We sat down on the grass, under a tree in front of the children's house. One of them opened by saying that people came from the army to inform us that my brother had lost his life in the war, in the battle of Tel Faher, on the Golan Heights. My stomach turned over, I didn't know which one of my brothers? It took me many long seconds that seemed like eternity to manage the question: who? Crying, she answered, it is Yaal.

From that moment on my life changed. I was only eleven years old. We became a family whose life centered on the pain and the yearning for Yaal.

During the night, I would dream that he was coming back and we were all preparing to meet him and very happy for his return, but the awakening from the dreams was so bitter and painful.

Yaal's death wounded us; time does not heal, and the sadness does not stop, but rather bursts out more and more.

My parents tried to move on, saying: We have a young daughter and we must enable her to grow up like a flower striving upwards. They said the words - but they did not have the power needed to make it happen.

Father stopped composing music. Mother was subjugated to her pain. She tried to carry on from Yaal's point of view: how he would have liked us to behave, to hurt and to remember. Perhaps, based on what she understood from what was revealed to us after his death, from his letters and diaries.

Because of my parents' pain, I reduced my own, learning the measure that enabled me to survive. But I actually thought that I was experiencing the pain totally. I did not even feel the extent to which I guarded myself from hurting too much, not to drown in the sea of pain and sadness. I clothed myself in an invisible, secret suit that helped me isolate the pain, the direct, threatening contact with it. I learned to skip over, walk around and think that I might be touching my feelings, because we are an open family that tends to discuss things openly. But the openness was purely ostensible. My parents' pain was seen and discussed, mine - much less so. Many years later, I understood that I was buried alive - facing the myth of my special, beloved, dead brother!

After Yaal lost his life in battle, my mother's health weakened and her dormant heart problems broke out. She had a hard time walking and her breath grew heavy. On December 11th, 1981, mother died of heartache, while preparing for her grandson Ariel's birthday.

After Yaal's death, father's creative musical work came to an end. He continued to work in positions of musical management and adult education, wrote music criticism for Al Hamishmar and Hotam, and taught musicology at Tel Aviv University. He was a member of Akum and of the Kibbutz Composers Union. During the last years of his life, his eyesight weakened, and he needed glasses with particularly thick, telescopic lenses. At the age of 74, he suffered a massive heart attack and was under the care of a doctor who was also a musician and a violinist, Professor Kaplinsky. They had a relationship that filled father with hope, and so, towards the end of his days, he had a special relationship with a doctor through the music which was woven throughout his life like a leitmotiv. He passed away three and a half months later, on May 23rd, 1984. Father's heartache defeated him and he could not withstand the pain. It was a cumulative pain over the untimely losses of dear ones: his grandfather Eliezer who committed suicide, his father Nahum that died in an airplane accident, his mother Fanya who died on Passover, two months before Yaal, his son, lost his life in battle as he turned twenty years old, and his wife Sima, who died two and a half years before him.

When I arrived at the Parents Circle - Families Forum, I continued to protect myself and I felt that the support offered to me at the forum could have been a suitable framework for my parents, and especially for my mother; because I have my own support groups in my professional and social circles, so I thought. And when I was invited to certain meetings, I warded them off with such arguments. But lately, through the Forum's activity, I realized that for the past 40 years I have been skipping over, escaping and bypassing the terrible pain to avoid feeling it, and with that knowledge and realization, I could open the great pain, stay with it and connect to it. I feel full and experience less of a need to escape; a sort of a present on the way towards being myself - Yaal's sister choosing to mourn and to deal with the many questions that will never be answered, while crying for the missed opportunities.

I connected with my roots through father's parents and grandparents, who immigrated to Israel more than 100 years ago. This is the story of my family. I soaked in the values of the love of the land and its roots, the love of humanity and of the family. As one who was raised and educated in a kibbutz belonging to the Hashomer Hatzair Movement, in the ways of Mapam and Meretz, warring is as strange to me as it was to my brother Yaal, who did not like the military framework, but understood the necessity and joined a combat unit.

Now that I am arriving at inner peace, it is important for me to respect the pain of others, our Palestinian partners at the Forum, so that we can know each other's pain and suffering as a basis for real communication, reconciliation and peace.

The journey that we conducted following the stations in the life of my father and his family was exciting and experiential. In that spirit, if my parents only could, they would bless me for a continued peaceful journey.


*Merav's personal story was written as part of the "Knowing is the Beginning," project.

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