The Allies were finally victorious in 1945, but the end of the war did not bring an end to the Jewish struggle for freedom. The war left many Jewish Displaced Persons (DPs) refusing to return to their former homes and searching for new homes, and many now believed intensely in the need for a Jewish state. Aza’s mother and many others volunteered to travel to Europe to help the refugees and their children with the process of immigration.
The British, however, maintained strict limits on immigration to the Mandate for Palestine . Any boats destined for Palestine were captured and their passengers were sent to an internment camp on the island of Cyprus. Unwilling to accept this policy, the members of the Haganah and Palmach fought back against the British.
At this same time, the members of kibbutz Ein Harod sensed an increase in tension with their Arab neighbors with whom they previously had very good relations. In essence, this struggle with the British was the beginning of a call for Jewish liberation and independence, and led to the beginning of a serious conflict between Jews and Arabs.
One day in 1946 while Aza was still in school, a Palmach group passed through Ein Harod. The bravery of the fighters intrigued Aza and her peers. Friendships soon formed, and Aza developed a romance with a young soldier from Jerusalem named Rafi. Over the years of conflict in the land, Aza gained comfort from her relationship with Rafi, even as she feared for his life while he was at battle.
On November 29, 1947 Rafi and Aza were overjoyed to hear the United Nations proclaim a solution to the struggle with the Partition Plan , a proposal to divide the land into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. In the immediate aftermath of the proclamation, however, the discontent of the Arabs grew into violence. At age 19, Aza had also enlisted in the Palmach and worked in an office where she received daily reports of wounded and fallen soldiers. Each day she worried that she would also hear a report on the loss of her own loved ones.
Tragically, Rafi fell in battle on March 1, 1948.
When the fighting finally ended in 1949, Aza reflected on her own personal suffering and on the suffering of the Jewish people as a whole in the process of establishing their homeland. She remembered the young German refugees who came to the kibbutz through the Youth aliya , she remembered her connection with Poland through Dr. Janusz Korczak and Ms. Stefania Wilczynska , and she remembered the orphaned “Tehran Children” who came from all over occupied Europe on a long journey full of pain and loss. Remembering all this, Aza decided to travel to Europe to help the survivors in their efforts to reach the new Jewish state, serving as a counselor for the Dror youth movement. There, though she knew she would never forget Rafi, Aza met and eventually married a man named Joseph.
When she returned to Israel , Aza became a teacher. During her studies, she wrote an important paper about the educator who inspired her as a young girl, Dr. Janusz Korczak . She learned about and was inspired by a simple letter that Dr. Korczak wrote to Ein Harod shortly before the war broke out in Europe.
Aza had always remembered the warm, caring figure of Dr. Korczak, but it was only after the Holocaust that she and others truly learned of the great sacrifices he made for the children in the orphanage in Warsaw. On August 5, 1942 the Nazis deported the entire orphanage to the Treblinka killing center. In an act of great courage and defiance, Dr. Korczak and Ms. Wilczynska chose to remain with the children, to comfort them in their final hours.
Learning about this act of heroism, Aza decided not only to research and write about Dr. Korczak, but also to commemorate him. Most importantly, Aza wanted to share his story with children, those to whom Dr. Korczak dedicated his entire life. Aza was inspired by an idea that came from one of Dr. Korczak’s letters to kibbutz Ein Harod.
The letter arrived on September 1, 1939, the day the Nazis invaded Poland. It was the last letter the community of Ein Harod ever received from him. In this letter, he suggested that the children of the kibbutz fly kites.
TESTIMONY: “KITES FOR KORCZAK”
“And I wanted to turn it into something happy…”
Aza established a kite competition that occurs annually at kibbutz Ein Harod. During the competition, participants receive information about Dr. Korczak and learn about him as an educator and about the great sacrifices he made for his children. Aza also began working in the archives of the kibbutz , to preserve this important history for future generations.