Aliya, Hitler and Turmoil: 1930-1939


Aliya, Hitler and Turmoil : 1930-1939

The background for the  second decade of WIZO’s history was marked by the 5th wave of aliya (immigration)  from Eastern and Central Europe, the rise of Hitler in Germany and Jewish-Arab conflict in Eretz Israel. 

The 3rd Aliya of pioneers (1919 – 1923) had established many of the institutions which became the infrastructure for the future state: kibbutzim, moshavim, cooperatives, the Histadrut labor federation and the Haganah (underground defense force). The 4th Aliya (1924-1932), mainly from Poland, and the 5th Aliya, from Poland and German-speaking countries (1933-1939) settled primarily in the cities, particularly in the new town of Tel Aviv, which had been established in 1909.

With the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party to power in the 1933 elections, some German Jews began to leave, coming either to Eretz Israel or to other countries in the Diaspora.  The specter of the coming catastrophe began to loom over all of Europe.
In Eretz Israel, tensions between the Arabs living in the land and the returning Jews had initially erupted in riots in Hebron and Jerusalem in 1929. 

A second Arab revolt broke out between 1936 – 1939.  This led the British government to establish the Peel Commission (1936), which proposed a partition plan to divide the land between the Jews and the Arabs.  After both the Jews and the Arabs rejected the proposal, the British issued a “White Paper”, which limited the right of Jews to immigrate to Palestine.

Throughout this whole period, from the moment that the United States closed the gates to immigration in 1924, Jews who did not come on aliya moved from Eastern and Central Europe to Latin America, creating the foundation for strong Jewish communities and WIZO Federations there.

Agricultural Training

In 1932, summer courses were started, given by WIZO's teachers, for madrichot and kindergarten teachers to qualify  in the growing of vegetables and flowers. The courses were held at the Peda¬gogical Institute for Biology, founded by Yehoshua Margolin of Tel Aviv.
In 1931, the Vaad Leumi (National Committee) handed over the general supervision of gardens attached to kindergartens and schools throughout the country, to the Training Department of WIZO. This was, in effect, official and public recognition of the value of the project, and WIZO's monopoly over it.

For the first time, in 1933, the Municipality of Tel Aviv awarded a grant for the work and, in 1934  the Municipality included gardening as part of its educational curriculum. This spread to other towns and settlements and gardening was included in the education curriculum in local municipalities.

In 1934 the Vaad Leumi awarded the first allocation to cover part of the expense. WIZO hoped to persuade the Vaad leumi to introduce gardening into all schools, as a compulsory subject. But this only came about in 1949, when the Ministry of Education took over all agricultural instruction in elementary schools.

In order to reach a large sector of the population, the Training Depart¬ment began to publish articles on the care of gardens attached to educational institutions, which appeared in in the monthly magazine, 'Hed Hagan'.
In addition to the instruction n schools and nursery schools, the Training Department undertook sending madrichot to outlying settlements. First they were sent to kibbutzim (where they mainly taught cookery), and later to moshavim- communal settlements (through the initiative of the Agricultural Centre of the Histadrut (Workers' Organization), which had included WIZO in 1933. The madrichot taught new settlers how to grow vegetables.  "It was the Training  Department that first brought home to the kibbutzim an awareness of the importance of kitchen gardens that were intended simply and solely to serve the needs of the local kitchen. This was a great achievement, and brought about a change in the kibbutz menu. These vegetable gardens became an independent branch of the economy in most kibbutzim, and…….. interestingly……they served as a source of labor for female members of the kibbutz.

In 1937 one-sixth of the Jewish-owned vegetable areas were under the guidance of WIZO madrichot .The work of the roving madrichot (as those who moved around from settlement to settlement were called) was unable to meet the demand. In the early thirties, each madricha visited 120-160 women a month, in different settlements.
In 1934, an operation called  "The Settlement of a Thousand Families" was organized by the Settlement Department to help the absorption of European immi¬grants, mainly from Germany. The young settlers, who had meager means at their disposal, were forced to take outside employment, in addition to developing their  own farms. Agricultural work in the backyard gardens became almost entirely the responsibility of the women, particularly the cultivation of vegetable gardens, and care of the poultry coop and cowshed
The organizers applied directly to WIZO with all appeal for help training for vegetable gardening and poultry-rearing. The effort was a great success after which WIZO was asked to undertake the training of settlers in each new area of settlement.  During that period, staff from the Training Department helped in newly-formed urban settlements, and in the larger urbanized villages, by setting up auxiliary holdings, which included orchards, small sheep-pens and poultry runs. The purpose was a dual one: to foster a bond between the town dweller and the soil, and to provide a livelihood for those who could not make ends meet otherwise.

Up until 1936, the "Maon" was the direct source for the provision of mad¬richot. In 1936, when it became clear the extent of the work, the WIZO Israel Executive created  a separate department to centralize this activity. The activity further expanded and became diversified.

Agricultural Farms

In 1928, Moetzet Hapoalot asked WIZO to help with the upkeep of other farms, due to ongoing financial problems.  A decision was reached in which three other farms that had trained women, Shechunat Borochov, Nachlat Yehuda and Petach Tikva, were transferred to WIZO in 1930.  The American organization, Pioneer Women, undertook the financial maintenance of the other farms belonging to Moetzet Hapoalot.

Cooperation between WIZO, and Moetzet Hapoalot, in the management of the farms, became possible due to a more detailed cooperation agreement between the two organizations that was drawn up in 1932, at the Congress in Zurich.

In 1932, the farms were fully integrated into part of WIZO’s program.  The administration was shared by WIZO and Moetzet Hapoalot, with WIZO being responsible for maintenance, together with the participation of the Jewish Agency.

The farms all developed and grew except for the farm in Shechunat Borochov, which could not be extended since it was surrounded by urban housing schemes.  Eventually, still under the joint administration of WIZO and Moetzet Hapoalot, the farm was converted into a hostel for immigrant women, in 1946.  Later on, it was taken over by the Jewish Agency, for use as a Hebrew Ulpan (center for the study of Hebrew). 

Similarly, the farm in Petach Tikva, was also surrounded by urban housing.  The farm was converted into a school for gardening and nursery work, the only one in the country at that time, and it began to prosper.  During the course of time, an extra years study was added to the High School agenda, making it possible for students to specialize in landscape gardening.  The school is under the sponsorship of WIZO Switzerland.

The farm at Nachlat Yehuda, was converted into an agricultural high school.  In 1958, Moetzet Hapoalot dissolved the partnership leaving WIZO as the sole owner.  The decision by Swiss WIZO to take over sponsorship of the farm saved it from closing down.

Training Department

In addition to two other projects set up at the time (Shani and Home Industries) the Training Department organized special courses for urban employment for women starting in 1933, in conjunction with the Workers' Council. Since the situation in the labour market was not stable, these courses changed from time to time, adapting themselves to the need for manpower required. At first the courses included hairdressing, photography and  laundry.  Later weaving, pressing, citrus packing and window-cleaning were introduced. After completing a course, the women were able to work successfully in various jobs.  The need for urban courses became more urgent with the riots of 1936-39, as a result of which many girls were forced to leave agriculture.
In 1937 the following courses were organized by the Training Department (in addition to the cookery and baking courses):

 Sewing in the kibbutzim
 Training in art weaving
 An evening course in cutting - for seam¬stresses (to complete their training)
 A course in office work for clerks

In addition, loans were given to help the girls as well as a maintenance fee throughout their training.  Preferred vocations were infant care, office work, and the training of immigrant counselors.
With the establishment and development of the Israel WIZO Training Department for Women, the Training Department gradually ceased dealing with vocational training (although for a number of years there was overlapping in the work of the two departments) . The Department of Training for Women was given sole responsibility for the subject.

 WIZO, the Women's International Zionist Organization, is a non-party international movement dedicated to the advancement of the status of women, welfare of all sectors of Israeli society and encouragement of Jewish education in Israel and the Diaspora.
 WIZO is an international movement of Zionist women, founded in England in 1920. Today, there are over a quarter of a million volunteers in 50 Federations throughout the world, working actively for the welfare of the citizens of Israel and providing help and support in the operation of hundreds of education and welfare projects and services.