Mr. Bezalel Eliahu and wife Bathsion, The Pioneers of Floriculture, Horticulture and
Agriculture in Israel

Several years ago during my tenure as the Founding Director of the Liaison Office of Israel Aircraft Industries in New Delhi India, on 31st December my wife and I organized a New Year Party on 31st December 1996-97.

It so happened that the whole retinue of President Ezra Weizmann being in India were invited by his Excellency Mr. Haim Yehoyodah (Ambassador of Israel to India) to attend the function. Among those attending was The Renowned Mr. Bezalel Eliahu the famous Pioneer Israeli Floriculturist and Agriculturist from the Malabari Jewish Community of Kerala-Cochin.

Then while recently interviewing him it suddenly dawned on me that he had visited my home and attended the party. What a strange coincidence and a unique renewal of connections. Eliahu was born in 1930 to the Pothan-Vitil Family. After completing his basic education he studied in a college in Ernakulum, Kerala State and was very active in the local politics.

The Parents and Siblings of Bezalel Eliahu

With the awakening of Jewish Immigration consciousness and with a view towards immigration to Israel, he studied a profession that would be suitable for life in Israel. He studied to be a certified electrician, with specialization in wireless, Morse and radio servicing.

A month later he immigrated to Israel in 1955 with his father and sister. Together with a childhood friend he moved to Kibbutz Nathan. Here he learned to adjust himself to the life in Israel and complete readjustment of living, eating and work. After a year he left the kibbutz as the parents of the three Malabari Jewish Families disliked the kibbutz.

At this stage he was introduced to and befriended Mr. Arieh Luba and they remained friends till the demise of Mr. Arieh Luba. These three families were helped by Mr. Luba to a North African immigrant Moshav called Shachar. This Moshav was in a very primitive state of establishment and had no roads, electricity and initially even the housing was in the form of tents. Only in 1957 they moved to a very small house of 45 square meters with electricity, water for house and agriculture an advisor for farming, who helped the three families to grow, a variety of consumer and commercial products like vegetables, beet sugar, groundnuts and fruit trees, etc. and rear some sheep. Soon the families were able to enjoy the product of their labor such as vegetables, fruits, chicken, and for festivals even lamb meat.

In the summer of 1958 Bezalel married Bathsion and the wedding was in the Moshav and the guests were from the Malabari Community of Kerala. The food was prepared by the female relatives. He and his wife returned to their work clothes and schedule within two days and till today they work in their garden and hothouses.

In 1958 he was drafted into the army and served as a sapper and miner in the engineering corps of the IDF. In 1960 at the 5 year anniversary celebration for the establishment of Kiryat Gat, Betzalel was elected to sit on the stage together with the Israeli Government dignitaries which included among others, The Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Mr. Ben Gurion, The Hon. Finance Minister Mr. Levi Eshkol.

He was seated between the two. He was given a pre-prepared type written speech, but he decided to give his own speech. In his speech he criticized the government and spoke of the disparity of the level of education, facilities and services between the big towns and the smaller still development towns of Israel where the new immigrants of Asia and Africa were residing.

That impressed upon them that it was essential to invest in the future of our children that they also continue in life as good, productive citizens and future leaders like Herzl Weizmann and Ben Gurion.

The Rt. Hon. David Ben Gurion Prime Minister Visiting The Moshav and residence of Bezalel Eliahu

In 1960, the advisors of the Ministry of Agriculture brought a new type of product to plant, The Gladiola Bulbs for growth and export to Holland as the soil in Holland was over exploited and were causing root diseases to the plants while the soil in Israel was virgin soil. They were not only successful in growing the flowers but were able to develop better, healthier and bountiful crops of flowers for export to Holland. This drew a lot of recognitions, admiration and attention to the small community of Malabari Jewish Community of Israel.

Suddenly the media, the Hon. Minister of Agriculture Mr. Haim Givati, government officials, the bureaucrats and all others were strongly attracted to admiring the people of the hardworking Malabari Jewish Citizens of Israel. The Mariv newspaper editor published a very big write about Mr. Bezalel praising his leadership and guidance in the success story of the Flowers for export program of Israel. All the surrounding Malabari Jewish and others followed in quickly adopting their methods and techniques in floriculture and horticulture for growth and export of flowers. In 1964 Mr. Bezalel Eliahu was awarded the Outstanding Exporter Prize from the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Mr. Levy Eshkol for Export of Gladiolas to Europe.

Because of his fluency in English he received a proposal from the Ministry of Agriculture to study and acquire the technology of growing roses under controlled conditions in Hot Houses. In order to go for this training he had to leave his family and farm to the care of his wife Bathsion who stood by him staunchly for the benefit of the community wellbeing. During the period of the training course he together with a friend went to the Chelsea Flower exhibit. At the exhibit he saw miniature Gladiolas which

impressed him very much as being the best variety for export. After the course in England he together with his Dutch Friend went to Holland and worked there in order to learn how to grow tomatoes in hothouses and see the growth regions of miniature gladiolas. Upon his return and after great effort and persuasion he received the permission of the Ministry of Agriculture to import miniature gladiola bulbs for experimental growth on a dunam of land. Within two years they were able to master the growth technology of miniature gladiolas and make enough money from the export of such flowers in order to build a bigger and more comfortable house in place of the earlier smaller one

In 1967, after much discussion and persuasion he succeeded in obtaining permission to build hot-houses on three dunams of land for growing roses for exports. In 1968 he received permission to obtain loans for constructing a temperature controlled hot-houses in order to grow continuously rose both in summer and winter on three dunams of land. The success of this new export venture was a sensation in Israel. It resulted in great publicity in the media, visits of dignitaries and personalities and great recognition for the successful Aliyah to Israel of the Malabari Jewish Community of Kerala.

In 1971, two members of Parliament from India visited him at the Moshav and wanted to know how the Malabari Jewish Community from India had succeeded in developing the new field of growing flowers for export in Israel. They invited him to visit India and meet them and their colleagues in New Delhi, India. As a result he visited India at the end of 1971. During this visit he traveled across the length and breadth of Kerala lecturing on the development of floriculture, horticulture and agriculture for export and basically in his words “helping his Motherland-India to acquire knowhow that he learned in his Fatherland-Israel”. His message was how to make a success of agriculture under the adverse conditions of poor soil and minimum availability of water. In the same year he was visited by Prof. Yuval Neeman (from the International Committee of Physics) and his wife to know about the growth of flowers.

In 1972, The Family of Bezalel Eliahu had a flood of visitors and dignitaries like the Chief Minister of Alberta, Canada, the Rt. Hon. Prime Minster and the Hon. Defence Minister of Burma, the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion and Noble Prize winners. Bezalel thanked Mr. David Ben Gurion for reactivating the Aliyah from Cochin in 1952 by his personal directive, when he learned that it had been frozen, because of some fictional suspicion of a communicable disease that the Malabari Jewish Community was supposed to have.

From 1972 onwards a whole set of groups, delegations, ministers and dignitaries from various places in the world ranging from California in the U.S.A., to India in the East, from Europe in the north to Africa in the south, visited the Moshav of Mr. Bezalel and he was invited in an advisory capacity to conferences, to lectures and to meet representatives of professionals and government officials on the subject of floriculture, horticulture, agriculture, flower export, improved packaging for minimizing damage to flowers in the process of transportation; growth and maximum utilization of land a water resources under adverse conditions.

His Excellency Mr. Isaac Navon Visiting the Hot-House of Mr. Bezalel Eliahu

In 1993 The Chief Minister of Karnataka (later to become the Prime Minister of India) Mr. Dev Gouda visited the Moshav changed his fine clothes and went into the hot-houses to personally learn and work with Bezalel Eliahu some of the art of successfully growing flowers. Further Bezalel was appointed and advisor by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). In 1994 he was awarded the Kaplan Prize by the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Isaac Rabin, in the Knesset Building in Jerusalem in the presence of the Minister of Agriculture the Hon. Ms. Orah Namir, and others for his contribution to the field of Floriculture, Horticulture and Agriculture in arid climates like those in the Negev and the south of Israel.

Bezalel Eliahu Receiving the Kaplan Award

The Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Isaac Rabin Giving it to Bezalel Eliahu

With Chief Minister Dev Gouda of Karnataka of India


With his Excellency Mr. Ezra Weizmann At the Residence of Mr. Bezalel & Bathsion


In 1996 he was a member of the retinue of His Excellency Mr. Ezra Weizmann during his visit to India. During this visit he attended the New Year’s Eve party at the Residence of The Director of Liaison Office of Mr. Nissim Moses at Misra Farm in New Delhi, India as a part of the delegation of Mr. Ezra Weizmann.


In December 2005, Mr. Bezalel was informed by the Embassy of India that he was selected by the Government of India to receive the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas Saman Award from His Excellency the President of India Mr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in New Delhi, India in January 2006. This is an honor of a
Gold Medal and a Certificate is bestowed upon the Persons of Indian Origin who have distinguished themselves abroad and brought honor to their Indian Roots.

The Pravasi Bhartiya Saman Award being bestowed upon Mr. Bezalel Eliahu by His Excellency Mr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam-President of India

His Excellency Mr. Ranjan Mathias and Wife Ceremony of 50 Years of Cochin Immigration to Israel –Year 2000


Kerala Agriculture Minister Mr. K.K. Parambil attends lunch Party at the Gardens of Mr. Bezalel Eliahu


Mr. Bezalel Eliahu at hosting His Excellency Mr. S.S. Menon Ambassador of India to Israel & his wife at the marriage ceremony of his daughter Bosmat


Mr. Bezalel Eliahu and his Wife Bathsion with Mr. Noah Masil President Central Organization of Indian Jews in Israel


In 2009, Mr. Bezalel Eliahu began to realize his childhood dream of Building a Big House on his family ancestral plot of land in Chennamangalam, Kerala, which he has now achieved.

The House of Mr. Bezalel Eliahu in Chennamangalam, Kerala, India



Nissim Moses-Historian Indian Jewish Heritage and Bene Israel Genealogy Research President Indian Jewish Heritage Center



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