My Brother, Shmuel Karniel

By Dr. Mordechai Karniel, Translated by Jessica Cohen

Painted by Oded Netivi

My brother Shmuel was born in 1901 in Buczacz in Eastern Galicia. Our father was a great merchant and a prominent figure, active in public affairs and involved in the life of the town. The family’s wealth enabled upbringing and education for all the members of the household, beyond the borders of the town. Shmuel, who had a weak constitution, received prolonged treatments in Lvov and Vienna.

Our house was filled with a Zionist and traditional spirit. Grandfather, of blessed memory, was a learned and observant Jew, loved and respected by his peers. Our father was a man of action and business, in keeping with the spirit of the times, and was considered a progressive. As a result, there was a more liberal spirit and a keen approach to Zionism and Eretz-Yisrael in our home.

In this family atmosphere, Shmuel was raised and educated. He studied in the town high-school and then continued in the Stanislaw town district. There, he joined the “Shomer” movement, where he first accepted the Eretz-Yisrael idea as his destiny.

The world war broke out. In 1916 the family moved to Vienna, due to the Russian invasion. He continued to study there, and was enthusiastically involved in the movement, taking part in the founding committee of “Hashomer Hatzair” in Vienna in 1917.

When he returned to Buczacz he brought with him a new spirit and initiated Zionist activity among the youth. Due to this activity he was expelled from the school, together with his friends. Shmuel and his friends drew a conclusion from this event, founded a hachshara group and began agricultural work. Shmuel had an affinity with farming work. During his childhood, he would often visit the agricultural farms leased by our father, and would show an interest in the work.

Shmuel decided to make aliya, to work in Eretz-Yisrael. He trained himself in carpentry too, and this was his first job in Israel.

In July of 1920 he left the town with a group of 30, intending to make aliya. They had no passports or other papers. They had many trials and tribulations. They crossed the Poland-Czechia border as smugglers, and had to remain in the country for several weeks, anonymously. They were often in danger of being caught by the authorities, but thanks to the community they were finally transferred to Vienna, and made their way from there to Israel, with many adventures and obstacles.

In September 1920 he arrived in Israel, from here on he began a life of work and creation, society and economy.

During the 28 years of his life in Israel, he visited family overseas twice. As happy as he was to visit us, he was eager to return to his farm and his kibbutz. He had no doubts in this regard. In the same way he had started his path, he followed it with no deviations. The path he had begun became the king’s way, which he followed until that bitter day, when he was hit by enemy fire and fell dead.

Dr. Mordechai Karniel