Shaul Biber, the founder of the Army Entertainment units of the Israel Defense
Forces was laid to rest on Sunday at Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha, where he had spent
part of his school years.
Biber, a veteran of the Hagana, the Palmah and
the War of Independence, passed away at his home in Tel Aviv on Saturday. He was
90 years old.
A multi-talented satirist, song writer, playwright,
composer, author and director, Biber was born in Palestine when it was under the
rule of the British Mandate. He spent his early childhood in Kiryat Anavaim and
moved with his family to Tiberias when he was eight years old, learning to speak
fluent Arabic and developing a fascination for the folklore of the region. Some
years later, he was sent to the Kadoorie Agricultural High School with fellow
classmate Yitzhak Rabin, with whom he later served in the Palmah. It was in the
Palmah that Biber’s knowledge of Arabic was put to good use as he was appointed
head of the Arabic Intelligence Department.
He was also involved with
illegal immigration, helping to bring Holocaust survivors into the country,
after the British authorities turned them back and placed them in internment
camps in Cyprus.
Following the War of Independence, he was education
officer in the Armored Corps and later chief cultural officer of the IDF with
the rank of Lt. Col.
Many of Israel’s star performers got their start
with Biber when he auditioned them for IDF entertainment units, and many
retained contact with him long after they became famous.
Biber left the
army in 1970 and was appointed head of the government events
He was also active in helping in the absorption of new
The army left an indelible impression on Biber and he never
strayed too far from continuing to contribute.
He maintained close
relations with Hagana and Palmah veterans throughout the country as well as with
friends from the days of youth when he had lived on various kibbutzim including
Alumot, where one of his friends was Shimon Peres.
Both men had also been
part of Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed,z The Federation of Working and Student
Biber, who was a legend in his own lifetime, spent his past 90th
birthday party with some of his closest friends, replete with entertainment at
Tel Aviv’s Cafe Punch Line.
But his favorite haunt in the White City,
which he frequented almost daily, was Cafe Tamar, a remnant from the British
Mandate period, and popular hangout for journalists, artists, and politicians –
particularly those with left wing leanings.
Biber belonged to the
founding generation of the State of Israel, and remained ideologically committed
to the land of his birth to the very end.
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