Eliezer (Pikholz) Haniel
born 1880 in Kopicienice,
died 9 July 1960 (15 Tammuz 5720) in Tel-Aviv
(by his great-grandson, Or Kopel, as a school, civics project
translated from Hebrew by Israel Pickholtz)
His relationship to me
Dr. Haniel Pikholz is the father of my grandmother Chana, my father's mother.
Since childhood, I have heard a great deal about his special and interesting personality. He was part of the Second Aliyah and was active in many areas. He established a school here and lived in an interesting and important period, before the establishment of the State.
His personal history
My grandfather was born in the town of Kopicienice in Galicia. He received a traditional education and after high school, went to Vienna where he studied in the university and completed a doctorate in agronomy on the basis of his scientific studies, with the intention of making aliyah to Eretz Israel.
In 1910, Grandfather was invited by Dr. Ruppin and the Jewish National Fund, to come to Israel as an agronomist for the Herzl, Ben-Shemen and Hulda forests.
In 1911, while digging a well in Hulda, he discovered some unusual clumps of earth. It aroused his scientific curiosity and he began experimenting by washing these rare clumps. The water uncovered oil spots and he realized that this was a sign of petroleum. During a vacation in Vienna, he spoke to the Director of the Geological Institute in Vienna, who was familiar with conditions here. The Director confirmed his conclusions that there was petroleum in Israel. On the basis of this confirmation, Grandfather asked Dr. Ruppin's permission to do further research, but Dr. Ruppin denied his request, apparently for political reasons. He was concerned lest the Turks choose to remain in Eretz Israel because of the petroleum. (The letter of rejection is in the Zionist Archives in Jerusalem.)
In 1912, Grandfather set up an agricultural high school in Petah Tiqva, for children from Petah Tiqva and for children whose parents had sent them to study here. Grandfather was also a member of the committee of agronomists and experts in the fight against locusts.
In 1917, the Turks suspected him of membership in the Nili underground and he was to be sent to Damascus with other Jewish prisoners. But in the meantime, the British forces opened their southern front and and the Jewish prisoners were freed.
In 1912, he worked at the experimental station of the Zionist Executive (today Weizmann Institute).
Background for "the initiative"
While he was principal of the agricultural school during WWI, Grandfather took an unforgettable initiative, which was later recounted in the memoirs of two of his students who married and lived on Kibbutz Ein Harod. This is the background for "the initiative." In 1911 Grandfather had set up an agricultural high school. This school was in the Jewish moshava Petah Tiqva and brought an agricultural high school education to the children of farmers, age fourteen and up.
This school had some important advantages. The students were able to continue living in the moshava and could help their families with the workload without having to travel to school at the distant Tel-Aviv Gymnasium or in Mikve Israel. In addition to the students from the moshava, there were some twenty students who had been sent by their wealthy parents abroad to live and study in Eretz Israel.
There was much hope for the future of the school but suddenly WWI broke out in 1914. The first to suffer were the students from abroad who were no longer able to maintain contact with their parents and were left without means of support.
The war between Turkey and Britain became fiercer. Many people were deported because they were Russian citizens. Those who remained were required to take Ottoman citizenship and to be drafted into the Turkish army. Many went by sea to Egypt were they waited out the war as refugees. One of the farmers gathered the foreign students and urged them to leave for Egypt where perhaps the Jewish and Zionist institutions would care for them. The students accepted the farmer's advice, collected their belongings and headed for Jaffa Port.
As the students were walking towards Jaffa Port, a carriage came in the opposite directon carrying their teacher and principal, Dr. Pikholz, on his way to Petah Tiqva. He stopped and asked the students what was going on and when they told him he said," No one is going anywhere." He ordered them to return and said," Don't worry, we will take care of you. If we have to suffer, we shall suffer together and whatever happens will happen to all of us."
Upon their return to the moshava, Grandfather had to find ways to support these students who had lost contact with their parents. Since the students were young and inexperienced, it was difficult to find work for them. Grandfather convinced some farmers to give work to the boys in exchange for food - food that was no more than oranges. Grandfather also found temporary work for some of the boys at the JNF farms at Ben-Shemen and Hulda.
In addition, in order to contribute to their own nutrition - during the famine - the students began planting rows of their own vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers.
Grandfather, who was very concerned for the students, was a man of initiative and began collecting small donations from the farmers and set up a restaurant-like "kitchen" for his unfortunate students. As a result of Grandfather's works, the students survived the war, the hardships and the disease that were the lot of everyone here in Eretz Israel.
Grandfather is remembered by his students as a remarkable man and is mentioned in the memoirs of his students Shoshana and Zalman Peled-Eisenberg of Ein Harod. (They were eventually married.)
In my opinion my grandfather's actions were a model of good citizenship.
Translator's note: Eliezer Pikholz took the surname Haniel,
in addition to the name Pikholz which came from his mother who died when
he was a child. His father's name was Greenfeld. His Pikholz
grandparents were Eliezer and Chana-Chaya Pikholz of Skalat and that Haniel
may be a composite of their names, Chana and Eliezer. Eliezer is
- as far as we know - the first Pikholz to make aliyah.
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