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Arie Bickel 1927 - 1995
About a year ago our granddaughter, Tchelet, prepared, in a school
assignment on family roots, a biography of her beloved grandfather.
These days, around the hebrew New Year 5762, which would have been his
75th birthday, I, Hanna, decided to upload her work to the internet,
with slight amendments and additions.
Arie Bickel was born on September 27, 1927 in Muehlhausen, Thuringia.
He was the eldest of two sons of David Bickel and Toni, nee Weber.
David had a clothing shop and they lived a quiet and relatively secure
life until the year 1933 when the Nazis came to power in Germany.
The Bickels were Zionists, and knew that one day they would want to
make Aliya to Israel (then Palestine), but they were in no hurry to
pull up their roots and leave. Yet David planned what he should do for
a living once he took the big step. He thought rightly that in the
hot climate ice cream manufacture would have a better chance than the
clothing trade. He therefore started to learn the process of ice cream
making, and even taught his sister and brother in law the trade,
so that they might join him in the business once they all made Aliya.
At that time two events prompted them to take a speedy decision.
David was taken in by the German Police and interrogated for several
days. His interrogation was apparently rough and he was even beaten.
Those were the early days of the Nazi Regime, and he was released
unharmed. The main reason had to do with the then 6 year old Arie.
One day the Nazis held a procession in the town which went by David's
home. When David looked out he saw to his surprise many close
acquaintances, among them his neighbour, a butcher, and on his shoulders
little Arie, holding up his arm in fashion of the Nazi salute.
This was the last straw which made David's mind up for him.
It was the year 1934, and they packed a container with their most
important belongings, among them an ice cream making machine.
They disappeared overnight and left for Haifa where they made their
new home. My grandfather Arie also lived in Haifa for all his days.
Arie went to "HUGIM" school and then went on to "BOSMAT" the secondary
trade school of the Haifa "Technion" for his "A" levels.
Arie's name in Germany had actually been Martin Michael, but when the
1st grade teacher asked him for his name he said "Martin". She then
asked whether he had a Hebrew name. He did not know that Michael is
actually Hebrew, so he could not say. He mentioned that his father
said that in Yiddish he was called "Leib", which is sometimes meant
to stand for the German "Loewe", meaning lion. Consequently the teacher
decided to call him Arie, which is the Hebrew for Lion, and this name
David Bickel's ice cream parlour was famous in Haifa. My grandmother,
Hanna, told me that in her youth she went to a school a couple
of miles away on the other end of Herzl street. They would walk all the
way to "Sheleg", Bickel's ice cream shop. Little she knew that one day
David Bickel would become her father in law.
Towards the end of his secondary schooling, Arie joined the Maritime group
of "Hapoel" sports and youth club. On Shabat they would go sailing or
rowing. He also became member of the "Hagana". On the 29th of June 1946,
on what we call the "Black Shabbat", the British mandatorial government
arrested the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine and searched
for weapons in the Kibutzim, especially Yagur, near Haifa. Arie was sent
to Yagur to help out instead of the members who had been arrested.
Arie, who had maritime training from his youth, after he finished
his "A" levels, joined the "Palyam" , the maritime unit of the
"Palmach"in Kibutz Maabarot.
For more details about the "Hagana", "Palmach" and "Palyam" and "Ha'apala"
It was a short time after the end of WW2, and in Europe there were thousands
of survivors of the Holocaust, crowded into DP (Displaced Persons)
camps, trying to come to Palestine. The Mandatory Government, because of
their fear of the reaction of the Arabs, tried with all the might of the
British Navy, to prevent the arrival of the survivors here.
When some ships - or rather boats, did manage to arrive on the shores
of Palestine, the "Palmach" units tried to get them off the ships as
fast as possible and whisk them to Kibbutzim where the blended quickly
into the population. On the 12 of March, 1947, Arie's unit was called
in to get "Maapilim" off a boat called Shabtai Ludzinski on Nitzanim beach.
As soon as the operation began, a navy ship arrived. The soldiers boarded
the Ma'apilim boat in order to prevent the immigrant from reaching the
shore. The Palmach fighters took off their Khaki clothes and instructed
the immigrants to answer any question "I am a Jew from Eretz Yisrael
(the Land of Israel). The soldiers took all of the immigrants, together
with the Palmach fighters onto their ships and carted them off to the
detention camp in Cyprus (which was at that time a British colony).
After a few days the authorities of the camp found out who did not belong
to the immigrant group, and sent the Palmachniks back to their Kibbutz.
Arie in maritime training
In Februar 1948 the Israel Defence Force (the IDF) was established. All the hitherto
paramilitary organization, the "Irgun" (Etzel - national military organization),
the "Stern" group, and of course the "Hagana" were dissolved and integrated
into the one armed force of the nascent state. Arie was slated for officers
training but he declined. He feared that a military career would interfere
with his plans to aquire an engineering training after the war.
Arie was posted with the seventh battalion of the "Palmach" brigade
which was sent to defend the besieged Negev settlements.
On the 15th of May 1948, the day the British Mandate over Palestine expired
and Ben Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel, the
regular armies of 7 Arab states invaded Israel, hoping to annihilate
the new state in a short time.
The IDF official site on the war of independance
The largest army was the Egyptian, and they penetrated deeply into the
Negev, laying siege on the Jewish settlements there.
Arie was one of the defenders of "Bet Eshel". This settlement was close
to the Arab Beer Sheba. Today it is part of Jewish Beer Sheva, and all
that remains of it is a plaque on a wall in one of the quarters of the
The women and children of the settlement were evacuated to safer places,
and only the men and the meagre reenforcement of the Palmach fighters
remained. The weapon were scarce, and the ammunition nearly ran out
right in the beginning. All the houses of the settlement were destroyed
by the Egyptian artillery. The handful of defenders who stayed alive
lived for months in the trenches on the perimeter of the settlement.
Whatever sleep they could get they slept in sleeping bags. So they
survived the blistering summer, with its sand storms and the winter
with torrential rains. Food and ammunition reached them by infrequent
convoys that managed to run the blockade.
The defenders somtimes made forays to help neighboring settlements
such as Nevatim and Halutza when they came under acute attacks.
On one of these forays Arie suffered a slight injury by Arab snipers
who detected them.
Click to enlarge
In the Negev
Palmach Id Card
On October 15, 1948 the IDF succeeded in breaking the stranglehold of the
Egyptian Army on the Negev (Operation Yoav), to open the road southwards
and on October 21 to take Beer Sheba.
The official account
It was told at the time that the then deputy Chief of Staff of the IDF,
General Yigael Yadin, in time one of the foremost Archeologists in Israel,
discovered accounts of a ancient road which was not in sight of the
Egyptians, to advance troops and supplies for the attack.
After the siege of the Negev was lifted, Arie was demobilized and
started his studies in the faculty of Electrical Engineering at the
Haifa Institute of Technology.
When Arie was 23 he met my grandmother, Hanna Friedmann who was
then 19.A year and a half later, on December 12, 1952 they were married.
Hanna, is the daughter of
Dr. Haim Baruch Friedman who was the son of Admor (acronym
for Adoneinu Morenu - our Master and teacher) of Sadegora,
Shalom Joseph ben Israel.
The chief Rabbi of Israel at that time, Rav Herzog (whose son was the
6th president of Israel) officiated at the wedding, and some of the
most important Rabbis of the Hassidic movement were present.
When Arie finished his studies and received his degree in Engineering,
he found employment at the Oil Refineries in Haifa, were he worked
until his retirement after 39 years. In the later years he was chief
mechanical engineer of the plant.
Soon after his graduation his first eldest son, Amitai, was born,
and four and a half years later my mother Iris was born.
My grandfather's and grandmother's hobby was travel. Even
though they started to travel only when in their forties, they managed
to visit the far east, including Japan and China, the U.S., South
Africa and many European countries including Skandinavia. The second hobby
of my grandfather was photograpy, and later, when he retired, video
filming and editing.
My grandfather had three grandchildren from his eldest son, Amitai,
and lived to see 5 grandchildren from his daughter Iris. He was a
warm and caring grandfather, often playing with us. He was very proud
of his family and produced videos documenting their progress.
For the last 20 odd years of his life he was active in the civil guard,
a voluntary auxilliary police unit which aids the overextended Israeli
police in their duties.
One night, at the end of his guard shift, he fell off a faulty step of the
the truck in which he was riding. He broke his hip and had to be taken
to hospital for operation. My mother and grandmother were with him
nearly constantly, but at night, when they went home for a short rest,
a blood clot penetrated into his lungs and heart and he passed away
in his sleep on the Februar 17, 1995.
Click to enlarge
Hundreds of relatives and friends came to his funeral and came to his
home to express their condolence.
After his passed away, my parents had three more children, and in all
their names they included the letters of Arie's name.
I myself, his granddaughter Tchelet, knew Grandpa Arie during my first
6 years. I remember his visits with us in Jerusalem very vividly.
This concludes the assignment of Tchelet, the biography of her grandfather
Arie. On his 75th birthday, which is on Rosh Hashana, I dedicate this
memorial to my beloved husband Arie Bickel, may he rest in peace.