Karl was born into an unusual family in Germany in 1923. His mother was a feminist who founded a fruit tree farm, an accredited training center for gardeners, which also offered horticultural therapy. His father, who was from Russia, was a librarian and writer and one of the founders of Zionism. Karl lived in Germany up to 1934, when the family escaped the Nazis and fled to Palestine. The impact of living on a farm, and seeing his mother and other women tilling the land is something that stayed with Karl all his life.