Being a Pioneer 40 Years Ago

We moved from Haifa to our little village (now a small town) just a little over 40 years ago. We didn’t think of ourselves as pioneers. That’s what new immigrants to Israel were back in 1880. We were just moving to a new home. We were going to a real house, with indoor plumbing, running water, heating and electricity. At least that’s what we thought.

Reality took us by surprise the first week. It was December, 1978, and the Judean hills had a blizzard that shut down the roads to Jerusalem almost totally. Israeli Army tracked armored personnel carriers were pressed into service to deliver milk and other essentials to the 17 families in our tiny enclave. The electric lines went down. But we weren’t worried. We had our own emergency generator. Well, that’s almost true. The generator was too small to provide for all the electrical needs we had. The central offices and perimeter lights all were covered, but the homes weren’t.

The folks that planned our community thought we were a co-operative settlement, something similar to a Kibbutz. But we did not have a central communal dining room. There would have been electricity for one, if it existed, but not for all the separate family homes. And the planners missed another small problem. The heating systems used oil fuel and water radiators, but they were electrically controlled. We were fortunate. We had a kerosene heater we brought from Haifa. We could keep the children’s rooms warm. No electricity for the refrigerator? No problem! stick the milk cartons into a snowbank alongside the house. So there was a little discomfort, but we got through the winter.

The difficulties really started when the town planners tried to solve the generator problem. Our generator didn’t have the capacity needed? So they ordered a new one that did. But when it was delivered it was too big to fit in the little generator building where the old one was housed. OK, we’ll order a new prefab generator building that is larger. But there’s no budget. We have to wait till next fiscal year. Meanwhile, our new generator can’t be left sitting idle. So they took it away to be given to a different settlement. When the new building arrived we went through the same drill again. This time we had to wait another year for a new generator to be ordered. When both building and generator were activated we thought our electrical problems were over. Silly us! The first time we needed it the generator wouldn’t start. It seems the lubricating oil was too cold and the machine just would not turn over. We needed an oil pre-heater to keep the lubricating oil warm enough to be able to start the generator. One of our neighbors was an electrical engineer. He hand built a temporary heater until a permanent one could be purchased. That really was the end of the saga. But it had taken over 3 years before we finally had a permanent solution.

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