Survivor of 1929 Hebron Massacre Recounts Her Ordeal

Geula Molchadsky-Wolfson was born in Hebron on the same day 57 Jews were massacred tin the city.

When the Six-Day War ended and Israelis began streaming to the West Bank, members of the Molchadsky-Wolfson family from Jerusalem decided to visit Hebron. Thirty eight years earlier, the family had fled from that city following the massacre of Hebron's Jewish residents.

Yonah Molchadsky had given up hope of finding the little apartment in which her family had lived in Hebron. But her daughter, Geula Wolfson, and the other family members and friends who went along on the 1967 visit, were not prepared to give up. Finally the apartment was located; it had been turned into a workshop for girls.

Yonah Molchadsky, however, did not say a word about the horrors of the massacre that had led them to leave. The family put no pressure on her. When they returned to Jerusalem that evening, Yonah went to the kitchen and prepared food, and when they sat down to eat, her friend, Sarah Novoplansky said: "Now you must talk. Tell us exactly what happened that day."

So after 38 years, the silence was broken and Yonah spoke, "from beginning to end, without a tear or a tremble in her voice," recounts Novoplansky, who wrote everything down.

It was the story of a family who had survived the terrible day on which 67 members of Hebron's Jewish community were massacred. The story of their survival is connected with the birth of Geula, Yonah's second daughter. Last weekend, Geula Wolfson celebrated her 80th birthday, and at the birthday party she told the story "so that the grandchildren will know."

Geula's parents, Mordechai and Yonah Molchadsky, came to Palestine from Minsk in 1925. They hailed from well-to-do families and hoped the remaining family members would soon follow them. But this did not happen, and the family members who stayed behind perished in the Holocaust.

Mordechai was a forester, but he could not find work here. "They had a very hard life," says Geula. "Those were not easy times, they were years of being absorbed into a difficult country, of hopes that the parents and families would come, years of difficulties making ends meet. What did they have here? Nothing."

Mordechai was advised to open a laundry in Hebron. It was supposed to serve the yeshiva students in the town. "This made it possible to live," she says. "My parents never ever complained and they made do with what they had. Mother was aware of the need to make contact with the Arab neighbors and could speak Arabic even before she learned to speak Hebrew. Indeed, relations with the neighbors were very good. In December 1926, their first daughter, Rivka, was born."

In August 1929, Yonah was nearing the end of her pregnancy when, on August 23, the disturbing news reached them that there had been attempts to harm Jews in Jerusalem. The following day, Yonah started to feel labor pains and a doctor was called. "Don't give birth yet, wait a bit," he told her. But the pains got worse and the birth approached, so the family went to the neighboring family, an Arab family, who put them up in their basement.

As Yonah gave birth to her second daughter in the basement of the Arab family's house, the masses outside began looking for Jews. Yonah related, after many years of silence, that the mob came to the home of the Arab family, looking for the Molchadskys. "We have already killed our Jews," the Molchadskys' hosts and saviors told the mob, who believed them and departed.

The following day, the family - parents, 20-month-old daughter and the newborn baby - left Hebron to start a new life in Jerusalem. The baby was called Geula, "redemption" in Hebrew, "a name which had so much significance for them, a name with content," says Geula today.

The families who were saved from Hebron spread out over Jerusalem but kept in touch with one another. Geula recalls how they would visit each other, in "meetings of a shared fate, a difficult fate." But that terrible time was never mentioned at home. "Silence was part of life in those days. They wanted to hide the difficulties from their children and not to cry and be miserable. They wanted us to have an egg and a tomato every day and to have a good life, not to know worry, pain and difficulty. They wanted to save us from that."

Today Geula does not take part in ceremonies to mark the massacre. One time she went to a ceremony in Hebron, she says, and felt uncomfortable that her day of celebration fell on a day of mourning. But it is important for her that people remember that "that was an important day in the history of the Jewish people, a terrible day, but also the day I was born and because of the birth, my family was saved."