Bezalel (Tsalik) was born on December 12, 1938 to Yaakov and Rosa Fischer in the town of Piatra Neamț în România. Because he was a small child during the war, Bezalel has only few memories of that time.

In fact, his first memory is of 1945, just before the end of the war, when he and his family had already moved from two hiding places and were then staying in their third hiding place. Bezalel doesn't remember the exact location but he knows that that was in Hungary.

"The house was located in front of a hill", he says, "and close to the river". At that point in the war, says Bezalel, the Russians had almost subdued the Nazis, which made it very difficult for the Nazis to deport Jews to the extermination camps, but they were still in danger, especially because of Romanian fascists who helped the Nazis and denounced Jewish families that were hiding.

"I remember that night. A mortar shell was fired at us from the hill in front of our house. In the house, there were three families hiding. During the bombardment, the neighbor was killed on the spot and my cousin, who was 17 and a half years old, was hit by shrapnel in his legs."

"That night, my father realized that we had to flee again, and this time for good. He explained to us that if we didn't escape by the next day, there was a very high probability that another bombardment would kill us all. We collected some money and gold, clothes and what we had in terms of food and started fleeing. We knew we wanted to get to Austria. The thing that helped us in our escape was that my father knew a little Hungarian because he had served in the Transylvanian army, and with that capability, we were able to advance towards the Hungarian border. We were 14 people. When we got to the border, we bribed the guards with the money we had left and they let us cross the border."

Bezalel and his parents during the war
Bezalel and his parents during the war.

"We arrived in a big city called Debrecen and there we saw the American JDC. They were kind and took care of us. They provided us with food and blankets. We were there for about two weeks and then we went on and arrived in Budapest. We stayed in Budapest for two more weeks and the next stop in our journey was Austria, where there was a big refugee camp."

"Even though I was already 7 and a half years old, my father carried me on his back during the whole trip. That was because in that year (1945), the winter was very hard; the snow reached my knees and I could not walk on my own. When we arrived at the Austrian border, there were trucks waiting for us. On the trucks were defense (“Haganah”) personnel who had come to protect us. I was surprised to see that they were armed. That was the first time I felt a bit of security. They put us on the trucks and, after a short drive, we reached the Linz refugee camp near Vienna. It was a huge camp. We lived in that camp for a long time, about a year and a half to the best of my recollection."

Bezalel says that after a year, wealthy Jews from Canada  came to help. They offered to take professional craftsmen back with them to Canada. "At first, my father agreed to go with them, but the day before our flight my father thought about it again and felt it was not the right move for us. We had just escaped from the Nazis who wanted to kill us. Would we again go and live among the Gentiles in a land other than our own? The only place we would go was Eretz Israel!"

"My father took the papers and the plane tickets and tore them up. He told the Jews from Canada that the deal was canceled and we were not going to join the flight to Canada. We waited in the camp for a while and then we were transferred to Italy. In Italy, we waited until they opened the gates of Eretz Israel – The Holy Land. Our journey ended when the ships that left the port of Naples, Italy arrived in the port of Haifa. It was such a wonderful feeling!”

Bezalel notes that part of the process of arriving in Israel was changing his name. His original name was "Tsalik" but his parents explained to him that the name "Tsalik" was a Diaspora name, so they retained the Hebrew letters "tzadik" and "lamed" and changed his name to "Bezalel".

Bezalel in his “Palmach” uniform.
Bezalel in his “Palmach” uniform.
An Israel Defense Forces certificate
An Israel Defense Forces certificate Bezalel received upon completing a course for tank commanders.

Bezalel initially settled in the city of Netanya, but that was only for a short time. Shortly afterwards, the city of Acre was conquered, and his family was among the first 30 Jewish families to come and resettle the city. Bezalel himself joined “Aliyat Hanoar”, and later joined the “Palmach” and was a partner in the Zionist vision of the conquest and settlement of the land of the patriarchs.

Bezalel in Acre
Bezalel in Acre. In the background is the house where he grew up in the early 1950s.