Trip to Pavlovka

In 1882, eleven men from the hamlet of Pavlovka (in present day Belarus) set out on a 20 day journey to Palestine to build a farming colony that would serve as a model for others to follow. In 1883, they founded the community of Ekron, later to be renamed Mazkeret Batya, after the mother of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, their benefactor. Two of the founders from Pavlovka were the brothers Zvi and Yaakov Arkin whose descendants continue to live in Mazkeret Batya to this day.

Four descendants of the Arkin* family went in 1995 to the village of Pavlovka. They wanted to see with their own eyes the alleys and houses, and expected to recover from it glimpses of memories and ways of life intertwined in the stories of the founders. “It seems time came to a halt here,” remarked one of the visitors. The words were his impression upon seeing the wooden and stone houses along the only street, the little vegetable gardens watered by hand with a cup , the local wells manually operated, no running water inside, here and there a few sheep tied with a simple rope and an old woman tending them. She is poorly dressed and wears a colorful scarf on her head, looking at the cows coming back from the pasture at the edge of the village along the street a few hundred yards long

Rozhinoy was no different. Cows and Hens were running around while their owner worked hard sweeping the yard with her makeshift broom. The toilet is a wooden outhouse with a pail to be emptied from time to time. At night the place is completely dark. There are no street lights

Pavlovka was founded in 1850, in the days of Tsar Nikolai the First, in the province of Grodno in White Russia near the town Rozhinoy. His idea was that the uprising in Russia that erupted in the early days of his rule will not be repeated when the ethnic minorities, Jews included, will be assimilated into the Russian people. This doctrine expressed itself by prohibiting Jews from wearing traditional clothes, abolishing the activities of the local Jewish community councils (kehillot), censorship of Jewish books, and prohibition of exclusive Jewish education (in the cheder) without secular studies. The cruelest of all was conscription of Jewish children to serve 25 years in the army. Thousands were kidnapped and educating in the Christian faith.

In order to make the Jews productive to the state*** the government announced they could establish their own agricultural settlements with no financing by from the authorities, and by fulfilling this they would be exempted from army service for the next 25 years. The law was the catalyst for the establishment of two Jewish settlements near Rozhinoy. 30 Jewish families from various places lived in Pavlovka from 1850 on. The first 7 years were the hardest. But in spite of the hunger and shortage they built a Beit Midrash, hired a rabbi and paid him with “wheat for his family’s needs, a place to live, wood and candles and even one ruble every week.” In the cheder the children also studied the Russian language too, their parents paid the 3 teachers of the 3 classes. The parents studied Torah every day between the afternoon and evening prayers

The visitors from Mazkeret met in Rozhinoy a few women coming out of church. They remembered the names of the Jews who used to live there and showed them the house of the Arkin family. The nails of the Mezuzah were still attached. The house served for a while as a residence for the Russian soldiers who freed the village from the German occupation. The women told them that all the Jews of Pavlovka were annihilated. An old man remembered that horrible day: The Germans ordered all the Jews to assemble on Milner Street. Then they were marched 30 miles away to the town of Volkovysk.. The people who could not make it were killed along the way.

Before leaving Rozhinoy, the women were separated from the men and the children were taken away from their mothers. The old man said he cannot forget their heartbreaking cries. The Jews from Pavlovka and Rozhinoy were taken to the Volkovysk ghetto. The dignitaries of the community were killed there. The others were sent to Treblinka by train, the rails of which can still be seen along the road. None of the Pavlovka Jews survived