We Remember the Emiel Brothers!




By Arye Shamir, Jerusalem

Prof. Sadye Emiel receives his Ph.D., standing 2nd to the left

Professor Sadye Emiel, our genial townsman, is not forgotten. Not only is he remembered as a great scientist but 13 years after his death, he is still mentioned in Israel by prominent military commentators as an important strategist, who in years gone by, foresaw how wars would be fought in the future. He was quoted quite frequently by analysts during the Persian Gulf War.

Zeev Shiff, a prominent military commentator in Israel and author of many important books, tell us, that after the Yom Kipur War, the Israel Defense Ministry asked a group of specialists to predict the future battlefield and to recommend proper defense tactics. Amongst the documents prepared for then Defense Minister Shimon Peres, is one written by Prof. Emiel describing in the nineteen seventies the future Persian Gulf war, which will take place in 1991. He also described the weapons of the future, such as PGN-guided missiles, the attack helicopter and other weapons of the future.

It is now fitting and proper to return to the interesting book which our young deceased townsman dictated before his death in which he describes the history of his life commencing with his childhood in Bialystok. It was published once before in the "Bialystoker Stimme" in October 1986. Due to the importance of our great townsman, we are therefore reprinting the article in the English language.

The late Prof. Sadye Emiel's book was received with great interest when it appeared in Israel.

The author, born in Bialystok, was one of Israel's most prominent scientists. He was also respected in the international scientific world. He became world famous at the age of 32 with the revolutionary discovery of a faster and cheaper system of working with uranium. He worked on this process 10 years and it was recognized as an "international invention." At the same time he was director of atomic chemistry in Israel's Atom Reactor at Nahal Sorek (near Rechovot). He also served in his last years as head of the important planning section of Israel's Defense Ministry. He also served as scientific advisor to the Prime Minister, and also participated in the strategic dialogue between the U.S. and Israel. He was considered to be one of Israel's top spokesmen.

He suddenly took ill in January 1977. Brain cancer surgery was performed on him.

Although mortally ill for the next twenty months, he put up a valiant struggle to resume his normal activities. He participates in laboratory work, meets with his students and attends two scientific gatherings in Europe. Still mentally alert, he decides to write the above mentioned book. His wife, Tova, acts as his eyes and limbs, after he loses his sight and use of his hands. He describes in this book the progress of his illness and his fight for life.

In a separate chapter, "Roots and Pictures of the Past," he tells us about his family, his childhood and Bialystok of the past. He asks his brother Jacob to contribute his memoirs to this nostalgic chapter. The chapter written by both brothers has great sentimental interest for us Byalistokers. An abbreviated version follows.

Their father Abraham Shlomo Emiel, was Education Director of the orphanage Ezrat Yesomim. He worked there from early morning to late in the evening. The two children, Jacob (born 1923) and Sadye (born 1929), went practically every day from their home in Lipva Street to the institution on Kupitskia crossing the wooden bridge over the Biyale which changed color according to the dye of the textiles.

An important place in their memories is occupied by the orphanage. The intensive cultural life of the children led by their father. The choir, drama group, literary evenings, etc. They especially remembered the wonderful summers they spent together with the children at the orphanage vacation resort.

At home the family led a very modest life. Many times their father would not receive his salary and in its stead he received food for his family. Their father was well versed in many subjects. He was a pedagogue, a writer, lover of poetry. He wrote poetry in the Hebrew language.

He wrote for Bialystoker "Unser Lebel" and the Warsaw newspaper "Dos Vort", and the publication of "Poale Zion" of which he was a member. The Hebrew language prevailed at home as well as the education of the children. Jacob studied at the Tarbut School and the Hebrew gymnasium (high school). Sadye studied at a religious school, a sort of modern Cheder which was run by his father's friend from his hometown of Picsk. Although he was a mischievous youngster, Sadye was able to read and write at the age of three.

The family's lifelong dream of making Aliya in Eretz Israel was finally realized when they received a certificate and they arrived in Haifa in 1935. Then came days of anguish for the new "olim" (immigrants to Eretz Israel). Seeking work, the family wanders from place to place until they settle in Tel Aviv, where the father, who is a linguist, acquires a job as a proof reader in a publishing firm. They rent a three-room apartment and a boarder occupies the third room in order to provide more income for the family. The father never took time off for vacation. His greatest enjoyment in life was reading and writing poetry. He always carried a pencil and paper on himself and every spare moment was spent indulging in his literary endeavors. Being a pedagogue and a writer, it seemed that his "aliya" (emigration to "Eretz Israel"), was a step backwards in that he was not able to practice his chosen profession. He had no bitter feelings or recriminations with regards to the whole undertaking. The mother, full of kindness and devotion, spent her whole life providing for her children. The hope and consolation of the parents was the future of the children. Their sons did not disappoint them. They lived to see both of them receive doctorates.

The road to acquiring a doctorate was strewn with material hardships as well as the wars with the Arabs.

Sadye was an excellent and diligent student. His older brother Jacob helped him achieve what he himself could not attain at that time. Jacob starts working at an early age and he pursues his studies in night school. Sadye, just like his father, was a lover of poetry. He himself often wrote poetry. His teachers and family thought he would major in the humanities but to everyone's astonishment, he turns to mathematics. He starts his studies at the Hebrew University in the school of Natural Sciences. The proclamation of the State of Israel in 1948 forced him to break off his studies. As an active member of the Hagana, he takes part in the defense of Jerusalem. Later on he is mobilized in the New Israel Defense Force and participates in the battles of Jerusalem and Bet Shemen. He resumes his studies after the war in 1949. He takes courses in physical chemistry, publishing a paper in 1952 on the theme of Radioactive Isotopes. Two years later he received his doctorate from the Weizmann Institute. He then pursued his career in the field of nuclear chemistry. His driving ambition is to build the first nuclear reactor in Israel, which is later on constructed at Nahal Sorek near Rechovot.

He leaves for the U.S. in 1956. He completes his post doctorate at Berkeley and at the Brookhaven Institute. After three years he returns to Israel where he continues his intensive research work and his involvement in public affairs. His fame spreads in Israel and in many foreign countries.

His sudden illness cuts short his career. Many of Israel's top doctors do their best to help him, many of them are his closest friends, but to no avail. He is defeated in his last great battle, his fight for life. He passes away at Tel Hashomer Hospital August 8, 1978. He is survived by his dear and devoted wife Tova, his two daughters, his brother Jacob and family, plus many friends, amongst them the elite of Israel's scientific and public sector, also many friends from a.

Much our sorrow, his brother Jacob also passed away at an early age. As we noted before, Jacob started working as a teenager. He later resumed his studies full time. In the 1948 war he participated in the defense of Gush Etzion. He received his doctorate in 1956. He worked many years at the Weizmann Institute and lectured at Tel Aviv University. In the years 1958-59 he delivered a series of lectures at Yale University in the States.

In 1967-69 he served on a scientific mission for the UN in Bangkok, Thailand. Although a leading chemist with many great accomplishments, he always remained the good-natured Yankele. He was always one of the Bialystoker boys, who cherished the memories of our destroyed town. He was active in the Bialystoker Society in Israel and he was loved by everyone that knew him. His sudden death which was due to a heart attack on January 15, 1984 came as a great shock to all of his hometown people and friends. He survived by his dear wife and three highly educated children.

In retrospect we feel great pride in the achievements of the two late Emiel brothers. These were the type of children who grew up in the streets of Bialystok. They were lucky enough to leave before the Nazi Holocaust engulfed them. We cannot forget the other "Moishelech" and "Shloimelech" from Bialystok and from the other cities and towns. A million and a half of these wonderful and delightful children were murdered by the Nazi beasts. One wonders what these educated, worthy and useful people would have contributed to the world once they were grown up? How many fine Jewish homes would have been established. The subject is not new and is well known but is hard to abandon and seek solace.


Chapter 7: Roots and Memories of the Past


Prof. Sadye Emiel with Dan Shomron and the late Chief of the General Staff Mota Gur

Back to the Bialystok Memorial Web Site

Last Updated July 15th, 2003


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