Aza was born in July 1928 in the Mandate for Palestine . Her parents had left Russia when they were young because of the prevalence of antisemitism there, and around the world, at that time. They believed that a Jewish state was important for the freedom and security of the Jewish people. Lilia Basewicz and Reuven Vinia Cohen, Aza’s parents, were idealists and ardent Zionists. Aza, her parents, and her younger brother, Eitan, lived on a kibbutz called kibbutz Ein Harod. Aza’s parents helped found kibbutz Ein Harod in 1921. They were halutzim, pioneers in the early years of farming the land and building the country. Even at a young age, children also made serious contributions to life on the kibbutz . Aza truly felt that she was a part of the establishment of the Zionist state.
TESTIMONY: “LIFE ON THE kibbutz ”
“And in us, the children, they saw the future of everything.”
Despite difficult physical conditions, there was a real feeling of cooperation and sharing on the kibbutz . For example, when Aza’s father attended an important meeting, he would borrow a nice coat from another member of the kibbutz . When Aza traveled to the big city of Tel Aviv, she would borrow a dress from a friend. On the kibbutz , everyone shared and lived a communal life.
In the outside world, the kibbutz was within close vicinity to an Arab village called Kumi. The British controlled the land, where both Jews and Arabs lived together. There was often violence between Jews and their Arab neighbors, and the Jews protected themselves through establishing a military group called the Haganah . However, the village of Kumi and kibbutz Ein Harod had friendly relations. Aza recalls bringing the Arab children candy and gifts, and both communities came together on occasion for special celebrations. Aza’s parents told her that both the Arabs and the Jews were inhabitants of the land, and they had to learn to live with one another.
Beyond the fields of the kibbutz , certain important events were making international headlines. In 1933, the Nazi party gained power in Germany after electoral success. antisemitism was not only increasing in that country, but even became a part of many official government policies. Most of the kibbutz members had relatives in Europe, and they feared for their safety.
As a result of increasing persecution, many Jews emigrated from Germany. In 1934, kibbutz Ein Harod felt the shadow that was spreading over Europe when they all welcomed a group of young Jewish refugees from Germany who came as part of a Youth aliya (a Jewish organization that arranged for the rescue of Jewish children from the Nazis and their resettlement in kibbutzim). The new immigrants who arrived without their parents were all 15 to 16 years old, and everyone on the kibbutz brought them warmly into their homes as new members of the kibbutz family. Everyone hoped that the parents would soon be able to leave Germany and join their children.