The Makings of History / Hadera's Lost Pioneers

Not all of Hadera's founders can be honored for the town's 120th anniversary: Dozens disappeared without a trace, and nobody knows where they are buried.

In February 1941, the moshava (farming community ) of Hadera celebrated its 50th anniversary. "The moshava wore a festive air," the newspaper Davar reported, "many had tears in their eyes." Some could still remember the strife, disputes and scandals that accompanied the purchase of the land on which they built their community. The seller was Salim Khoury, a wealthy Maronite Christian from Haifa. The buyers were representatives of Hovevei Zion associations from Lithuania.

Next week, Hadera will celebrate its 120th anniversary; today, it's a city of about 80,000 people. The Khan Museum of the History of Hadera and the municipality are planning to reenact the jubilee festivities. Among other things, the city's symbol will be affixed to the gravestones of the early settlers, a few of whom are buried in Zichron Yaakov's cemetery. But not all of Hadera's pioneers can be honored in this manner: Dozens disappeared without a trace, and nobody knows where they are buried.

The Khan Museum - Daniel Tchetchik
Daniel Tchetchik

This is a mystery that for a quarter of a century has preoccupied Shmuel Shimshoni, a veteran member of Hadera's hevra kadisha (religious burial society ). Day after day he would walk among the graves, paper and pencil in hand, writing down names and dates from between 1891 and 1920. He identified about 120 graves, but many remain unaccounted for.

This would often turn into detective work. The grandson of one of the early settlers, Yaakov Yisrael Eidelwein, was searching for his grandfather's lost grave, but the hevra kadisha's index had records only for Eidelman and Eidelson. Eidelwein's grandson knew his grandmother's maiden name had been Shargrodsky. On one of the index cards Shimshoni discovered that Rachel Shargrodsky was the daughter of Eidelson, and therein lay the solution: Eidelson was Eidelwein. Elementary. He was evidently the first person to die in Hadera, probably from malaria, like so many of the early Haderites.

The nameplates they placed on the gravestones were made in Tantura (now Dor Beach ), some 15 kilometers up the coast, and delivered to Hadera by boat. Sometimes the names were written incorrectly, but they were not sent back to be fixed due to the distance and the expense. Names were not always recorded on the file cards, and some could have been lost or destroyed during World War I, over fears of the Turkish authorities pursuing the pro-British underground group Nili.

And thus the locations of the graves of 40 Hadera pioneers remain unknown. According to the records, they lie buried in the city's cemetery, but no one knows where, and there are about 30 unidentified graves. Sixty Haderites are buried in Zichron Yaakov, and there too, nobody knows precisely where. Shmuel Shimshoni, now 79, has not given up. He is still searching for them.