The Annual Yom Ha'atzmaut Picnic


The Annual Yom Ha’atzmaut Picnic 1960. Are these kids Jewish or what? Back row: Helen Spengler (Gatooma), Yetta Ehrman, John Loebenstein (Gwelo), Lynette Samson, Miranda Bloom (Gwelo). Behind:  Elmer Phillipson, Rabbi Ehrman, Brian Hirsch.  In front of the Rabbi, Albert and David Hatchuel, Leslie Brom, David Hirsch, ? , Morris Sloman. 3rd row 2nd from left Alan Malkow, Lucille Keril, ?.  Front Brian Brom, Barbara Brom 5th from left is Barbara-Lee Malkow, Gillian Schattil, Michelle Fine, Leonard Loebenstein (Gwelo)

The Annual Yom Ha’atzmaut Picnic 1960

The Phillipsons had escaped Hitler’s Germany just before the war. They settled in Que Que. They were the only Jews from Germany.  Starting with a butchery in due course they bought Forestvale Farm on the Bembezaan River, which became renowned, with prize bulls imported from England.

My brother Brian and their son Elmer were best friends and our family used to visit Forestvale. We’d tour the farm before it got too hot and then settle down in their big screened-in verandah to Sunday breakfast of the very best steak and eggs.

The Annual Yom Ha’atzmaut Picnic 1960

Once a year the Phillipsons hosted the Midlands Jewish community children for a picnic on the anniversary of Israel’s Independence. All the children from Gatooma, Que Que and Gwelo came.  Yetta Ehrman, Rabbi Ehrman’s daughter, always rode the mare because it hardly moved. There was a zebra, too.

Rabbi Ehrman spoke about Yom Ha’atzmaut.  The declaration of the State of Israel was made on May 14, 1948 by the future Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. He declared it 8 hours before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine. The British left virtually overnight without the ceremony which occurred in every other part of the British Empire.  The Egyptian army invaded the very next day, shortly followed by four other Arab armies, including one actually commanded by a formed British officer, Glubb Pasha.

When an armistice was arranged, the Jews had a tiny state two thousand years after the Romans had destroyed Israel.

Que Que’s WIZO  (Women’s International Zionist Organization) had always done its part to fund raise for Israel, with cake sales at the Saturday market beside the Town Hall. The Jewish women were all good cooks, and they all basically went there to exchange cakes.  My father claimed Mrs. Teperson made the world’s best cheesecake. (In those days cheesecake was an exotic specialty.)

WIZO jumble sales were a gold mine of dresses, sparkling gowns and plush furs for Mom’s pantomimes.  She always got a preview at the sorting party, which was often held at our house.  Here the clothes were separated into those that were rugged and practical for shipment to Israel, those that were suitable for African sale or donation to the missions.

Then there were the WIZO poker games in each other’s homes. The women brought the food and the men played and drank whisky. A cut of the winnings went to Israel.

Many thanks to Yetta Harnik (nee Ehrman) for this very special photograph and everyone who has given me input in securing many of the names.