arie lewin

Re-printed from Shalom Toronto, June 16, 2011

shalom toronto news

Arie Lewin and the Rebirth of Israel; from Mein Kampf to Mossad

Doris Strub Epstein

We live in an era when the young tend to be focused on getting and spending, rather than the transcendent idealism that built the State of Israel. Through a documentary that premiered recently at Shaarei Shomayim Synagogue of the life of Arye Lewin, we see a man with immense fortitude, who knew no limits in his fierce commitment to the Zionist idea. A man who devoted his entire life to the building of the State.

And through his life, we are, in the space of one hour, able to witness the history of modern Israel, a history that comes alive through the use of photos, graphics and interviews with people key to Arie's life and like him, key to the history of Israel.

Mickey Lewin, well known as a musician, wrote and produced this film about his father, together with filmmaker Alan Cohen.

He explained how it came about. "My father died seven years ago, but he recorded his life story on audio tape. It was several years before I could bring myself to listen. When I finally did, I was fascinated. There was so much I didn't know. So I got together with Alan Cohen a friend and documentary filmmaker and we began."

The film opens with poignant shots of Arie, a handsome boy of 10, taken in his native Berlin, and Arie, a dashing young man in IDF uniform. His deep voice speaking in carefully enunciated Hebrew is heard until it fades and Mickey, the narrator takes over in English.

Tall, dark and handsome with a Ronald Colman mustache, Arie gives off charisma and authority he could be typecast for a Hollywood movie. Actually, his life with its daring exploits would make a gripping drama.

But it's all real and true. Arie Lewin was born in Berlin in l923. A member of Young Judea, he left Nazi Germany in l938 when he was 15 years old, as part of Youth Aliya (Aliyat Hanoar) and joined a kibbutz.

He served in the British Army, Mishteret Hayeshuvim (field police) and the Haganah. He was an arms and weapons instructor, as well as communication coordinator between several kibbutzim and settlements in the Galil.

He volunteered to serve with the British Army Intelligence Corps disguised as a German soldier in POW camps in North Africa. Arie risked his life gathering intelligence information for the British Army. For this he was awarded the equivalent of a Purple Heart by the British Army.

When Zahal (the Israel Defence Forces) was established, he enlisted and fought in the War of Independence to free Haifa, Tira and surrounding areas. In the battles to free the northern part of Israel, he was an infantry commander and later operations officer.

Just before the Sinai Campaign, Arie implemented and coordinated the decoy attack on Jordan which enabled the successful attack on Egypt. In l964, Lieutenant Colonel Arie Lewin served as Commander in Chief of the IDF foreign Attaches Command.

Following the completion of his IDF service in l969, he was Director of Fundraising for Keren Hayesod in the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv braches.

He continued in this position in Canada from l979 to l984, crisscrossing the country, speaking to all who would listen about Israel.

Even with his eyesight deteriorating he eventually became blind from glaucoma - until his last breath, Arie never ceased being a spokesman for Israel. He died in 2004 in Israel.

Usually joking and impishly smiling, Mickey spoke quietly. "My father hoped to inspire others to continue the task by tape recording his story before he died. That's why I was driven to make this film. I also got to understand him better."

The documentary is called, The Task of Building a Country and so far the response has been very good, Mickey reported. The Toronto Jewish Film Festival is considering it for next year's program.

Here's what Yossi Katz, Professor of Historical Geography from Bar Ilan University and visiting lecturer at the Centre of Jewish Studies at York University has to say: "Historical documentaries are rarely engaging. "Building a Country" is a precious exception. What it lacks in historical comprehensiveness , it gains in recounting the devotion of one man."

Mickey is offering to show and speak about the documentary to any audience, large or small, especially schools and shuls. He can be reached at (416)523-2305. The website is

Copyright 2011 by Alan Cohen and Mickey Lewin. All rights reserved.