Hands belong to daughter Judith Schapira, who is wearing family jewellery.
Born May 24, 1924 | Falticeni (Foltshen), Romania
Died April 25, 2008 | Rishon LeZion, Israel
Nothing can stand in the way of a strong will.
Motke grew up in Piatra Niemtu (now Piatra Neamt), Romania. As a young child, he enjoyed playing and being outdoors as much as possible. He loved his father dearly and was allowed to leave school early to work with him. In mid-1942, Motke was among the many Romanian Jews forced by the fascist regime into labour camps. He was subject to miserable conditions and heavy labour in three camps over two years. In the first camp, a fellow prisoner received 25 lashes when he was unable to complete his work. Loyal, hardworking and kind, Motke resolved to do the work of two men throughout their time together, thus protecting his friend from further beatings and likely saving his life.
In August 1944, after Romania was liberated from the fascists and the Jews were released, Motke resolved to help build Eretz Israel. With the help of the underground, he embarked on a treacherous journey through Nazi-occupied Europe and sailed to British-controlled Palestine. He was promptly arrested and interned at the Atlit detainee camp. Following his release, Motke changed his name from Martin to Mordechai and his surname from Bercu to Gabrieli. His new first name reflected his proud Israeli identity while his chosen last name honoured his father Gabriel, whom Mordechai feared he would never again see. Mordechai met and married his beloved Miriam in 1945 and was reunited with his father and the remainder of his family five years later when they immigrated to Israel. Mordechai and Miriam had three children, Malka, Judith (who eventually settled in Calgary, Canada) and Baruch. Mordechai’s legacy grew to include nine grandchildren, 27 great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.
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