- Born on July 7, 1891
- Made aliyah on June 19, 1908
- Arrived at Degania in 1909
- Died on December 29, 1940
Yitzchak was born in the town of Makrov, which was renowned for its rabbinical dynasty (the Twersky family) and he was the son of one of the rabbis of the town, Reb Zchariah Leib, who labored night and day over the Gemara. His mother, the Rabbanit Nechama, worked to maintain the household.
He grew up in a traditional religious atmosphere, was educated in a ‘cheder’ and excelled in his studies. At the age of fourteen Yitzchak rebelled against tradition, moved to Kiev and took up general studies there, under difficult conditions and with no help from his parents. At the age of sixteen there matured within him the desire to make aliyah. He made contact with two other young men from his town, Menachem Sneh and Aharon Ben Barak (author Meir Shalev’s father) and the three of them decided to make aliyah before they even reached the age of eighteen.
In 1908 they reached Zichron Yaakov, which was a center of the working community, and they worked in agriculture, picking legumes and harvesting the crops. They spoke Hebrew and among them there developed a wonderful friendship. Yitzchak, a handsome young man, played the guitar very well and became the social organizer for all the workers of Zichron. It was then that he was seized with severe pains in his leg and Dr. Hillel Yaffe found no cure for his illness. He was sent to Haifa and from there to Jerusalem and only after many months did he recover and return to Zichron. The trio disbanded and Yitzchak moved to Menachemia. He visited Umm Juni, became friendly with the people there and they invited him to join them. Yitzchak responded to their invitation and he joined the group as a member.
In his work on Degania his various talents were revealed—in blacksmithing, metalwork and mechanics and he was also outstanding in his original and innovative social ideas.
On Degania he met Yona, they married, and here their daughters were born – Saiya, Dita and Ralik.
Yitzchak was a shining personality, always welcome among his acquaintances. Whoever knew him liked him and his opinions were accepted with appreciation.
He was among the initiators of the irrigation network of the Jordan Valley; he did much to further the development of the cowsheds and in order to improve milk production, he brought fine quality cows from Damascus and Holland and he was among the initiators of the first company to insure ‘agricultural’ cattle herds, together with Haim Tsimmerman from Yavniel.
On his historic mission with Avraham Hertzfeld to Damascus, to rescue prisoners who had been accused [by the Ottoman Turks] of spying for the British (the Nili Incident), his unique qualities and devotion were revealed, and he succeeded in rescuing many from torture and death.
In all of his missions he saw himself as the representative of Degania. “Everything I do, I do as an agent of the public”, he would say.
His chief enterprise was ‘the airplane company’, which was founded at the initiation of the Histadrut and the Jewish Agency and whose purpose was to train Israeli pilots who would establish an air transport line within the country and outside of it, for security needs. The first school of aviation was opened in the attic of the cowshed on Degania ‘A’, and the people of the valley, members of the kibbutzim, were the first students. Two airplanes were bought and an immigrant from Poland was found as an instructor. An airplane hangar was set up on Ashdot Yaakov and an improvised airfield on Afikim. In his Diary he writes: “I don’t know by what path we will reach our goal but it’s clear to me that we’ll do everything until we get there.” He himself, in spite of his advanced age, was among the first students and was certified as a pilot.
Yitzchak was killed in the midst of his activities in a road accident, on his way to a meeting in Tel-Aviv about an ‘airplane company’; he was forty nine years old. Also killed in the accident were Dov Hoz and his family.
In his eulogy at the funeral a member expressed the feeling of the entire group: “In Yitzchak’s death the heart of Degania has been wounded.”
He left his wife, Yona, and their three daughters – Saiya, Dita and Ralik.
May his memory be for a blessing.