May 20, 2011
Arieh Handler is born in 1915 in Bohemia, today part of the Czech Republic. After attending the Nineteenth Zionist Congress as a delegate in 1935, he moves to Berlin where he becomes the Director of Religious Aliyah. Handler is issued papers by the Gestapo which enables him to travel abroad trying to get visas for Jews to leave Germany. While on a trip to Jerusalem in November 1938, Handler becomes aware of the events of Kristallnacht in Germany. He is told that it is not safe for him to return to Germany.
Handler moves to London in 1939 and becomes a founder of the B’nei Akiva youth movement in the UK. B’nei Akiva (literally Sons of Akiva) which is founded in 1929 in Jerusalem as the youth movement of the Hapoel Ha-Mizrahi (Eastern workers. It is a religious Zionist movement that, according to its founding document in 1922, “aspires to build the land according to the Torah and tradition and on the basis of labor, to create a material and spiritual basis for its members, strengthen religious feeling among the workers, and enable them to live as religious workers.” Hapoel Ha-Mizrahi would be the forerunner to the National Religious Party. Handler takes a leading role in establishing training centers in England which prepare youth for making aliyah by teaching Hebrew and agricultural skills.
Handler moves to Israel in early 1948 and he takes on a role in the leadership of the Hapoel Ha-Mizrahi. As a leader in Hapoel Ha-Mizrahi, Handler receives an invitation to the Declaration of Independence ceremony. In 1956, Prime Minister Moshe Sharett asks Handler, a banker by training, to return to London in order to help build up an insurance company owned by Bank Leumi. He continues to work for Zionist and Jewish causes in England, serving on the Board of Jewish Deputies. In 2006, at the age of ninety, he makes aliyah for a second time.
Photo: B’nei Akiva youth from England visiting with Arieh Handler at his home in Jerusalem (The Jewish Chronicle)