John Friend was a Founding Member of the Middle East Study Group at the University of Hull.
John was Emeritus Professor of Plant Biology, Head of the Department of Biology, Dean of the Science Faculty, and Science PVC. He was a visiting Professor in the Botany Department of Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His main Israeli research collaborator was Professor Alfred (Abraham Max) Mayer. Their main collaboration was on biochemistry of plant diseases. John was also the first chairman of ASGIME, the Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East. ASGIME organised visits of British academics to Israel and invited many visiting Israeli academics in the UK to lecture in Hull.
John died of COVID on 6 December 2020.
The following was written by his son Mark:
Recollections on the life of John Friend (31st May 1931 – 6th December 2020)
I would like to offer some personal reminiscences of my father.
Dad was born in Liverpool on 31st May 1931, the only child of Lilian and Richard Friend.
As a child he was evacuated during the war and billeted with a family in Wales. He never spoke about it, but from what I can gather, this must have been a very difficult time for him, being separated from his parents at such a young age. Back in Liverpool after the war he was evidently a bright spark at school – although with his characteristic modesty he always said that the real academic star of the family was his first cousin Fay, who aced her ‘school certificate’ (the equivalent of GCSEs) with straight distinctions. But Dad didn’t do too badly either – to the extent that – from what I understand – he was two years ahead of his age group and took his ‘higher school certificate’ (the equivalent of A levels) when he was only 16. As he was considered too young to go to university, and as the concept of a gap year had not then been invented, he ended up remaining at school and taking his A levels two more times; not surprisingly getting slightly worse results on each occasion.
Eventually he attended Liverpool University where he got a First in Biochemistry, subsequently completing a PhD there, and then another one, for good measure, at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge. Pictures of John in the 1950s show a cheerful looking, athletic sort of chap, who evidently enjoyed playing rugby and tennis, driving open-top sports cars and smoking a pipe. Mum and Dad got married in Liverpool in 1956. There is an old ciné film of around this time showing them both on holiday somewhere beside the seaside. Dad is shown lovingly licking an ice cream cone from all sides, before offering it to my mother for a taste. Mum hesitates for a moment and then politely declines.
While completing his PhD in Cambridge, Dad had a job working in the low temperature research lab. As this was deemed to be work of national importance, it gained him an exemption from national service. But in 1960 my parents moved to Hull when Dad was appointed as a lecturer in the Botany Department at Hull University, later becoming senior lecturer and then professor of plant biology and head of department in 1969 while still in his late thirties. That was an unusually young age to become a professor in those days and reflected the fact that he was considered to be a highly talented scientist on an upward trajectory.
In fact in 1972 he was one of a group of 30 or so leading scientists of the day who were invited to become co-signatories to the so-called ‘Blueprint for Survival’ that was printed as a special edition of The Ecologist magazine and subsequently re-published in book format by Penguin Books. I have recently checked this out online and it is clear that this was a radical and forward thinking manifesto for the cause of environmentalism – at a time when most people had never thought seriously about these issues.
Subsequent roles at Hull University included being Dean of Science and then Science Pro Vice Chancellor, and he eventually retired in the late 1990s as emeritus professor of plant biology.
But returning now to the earlier part of his career, in 1967 Dad was able to take a sabbatical year as an associate professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and the whole family accompanied him. Looking back on it, it was a wonderful time for all of us, exposing us to a different culture and a different way of life. My memories of Dad at that time are mainly of going on picnics at the weekend at the nearby lake, usually with families of other academic colleagues, and swimming beneath the waterfalls.
Dad was always on the lookout for a bargain, but when it came to buying cars I am not sure he necessarily succeeded. Shortly after arriving at Cornell he purchased an old Chevrolet for the equivalent of just under £200. Cheap it may have been, but it also had a large rust hole in the floor under the driver’s footwell. In the summer of 1967 we did a 2,000 mile road trip to Iowa to visit my mother’s American relations; Dad drove of course, though happily not in the Chevrolet, but in a modern rented car.
We also had two more foreign excursions as a family, courtesy of Dad being invited to work in other universities. In 1970 he was asked to teach the summer school term at Harvard, and we therefore spent two months living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We rented a flat in a rather ramshackle old house that had mice and unmentionable creepy crawlies in it, but Dad was not worried by such things. Again, my memories of Dad are mainly of what we did at weekends – picnicking on a nearby beach – although this time there is one overriding memory of a particular picnic site which was well known for having swarms of green headed horse flies. We should have paid more attention to the warning sign at the entrance to the beach which advertised the fact and said that there were no refunds available. If you have never experienced these creatures, let me say: you don’t want to. They hunt in packs and they bite. So maybe this will help you imagine the picture of the Friend family on the beach, cowering under towels and blankets, trying to fend off the marauding insects, and thoroughly enjoying ourselves.
Dad later became a visiting Professor in the Botany Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he collaborated with Professor Alfred Mayer on the biochemistry of plant diseases. That led to an invitation to spend the summer there to work on his research project in 1974, and again the family came with him. This was our first visit to Israel, and a wonderful experience getting to know Jerusalem at first hand.
Other travel related memories of Dad include holidays in the South of France in the early 1980s, staying with Mum’s aunt Shirley and her family. Dad spoke a bit of schoolboy French, but it was probably not his strongest suit. I remember one evening we were queueing at a self-service restaurant, and when it came to Dad’s turn he asked in his best Franglais for “un chicken et chips”, to the consternation of the French serving staff, and the general amusement of the rest of the family.
Returning to the theme of Israel, this was a cause that was close to Dad’s heart, although he was certainly not an uncritical observer of Israeli politics. He was fundamentally a liberal- minded intellectual and believed in tolerance, and the need to foster greater understanding between different cultures through collaboration. He espoused these values by becoming the first chairman of the Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East at Hull University, organising visits of British academics to Israel and inviting many visiting Israeli academics in the UK to lecture in Hull.
He also played an active role in several local and regional interfaith groups, including serving as chairman of the Standing Committee on Religious Education for the four local authorities of Hull, the East Riding, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire where he represented the Jewish community. The role of this committee was to provide and review the religious education syllabus for all maintained schools in these areas, and it is clear Dad’s contribution was greatly valued by fellow member the Reverend Canon Kate Goulder, with whom he also collaborated on the Hull and East Riding Inter Faith Group; she has commented that he welcomed adult students to the Hull Reform Synagogue, greatly enlarging their perception of the Jewish scriptures and of Jewish worship. As the Reverend Canon Goulder has said to us: “Thank you so much, John, for all you have taught me and have shared with me.”
Dad was defined by his Jewish identity and in later years his interest in Judaism became an all-consuming passion. Anyone who has visited my parents’ house will have seen the extensive collection of literature on all matters relating to Judaism, and he decided to have a second Bar Mitzvah in 2014, a mere 70 years after the first one. The ceremony was officiated by Rabbi Amanda Golby, who has written movingly of the fact that his portion was the same as the one his granddaughter Eve had read the previous year for her Bat-Mitzvah. As Amanda said to us: “I am sure that will be the only time in my life when I have officiated for both grandfather and granddaughter.”
But if Judaism was at the core of Dad’s life, particularly in lis later years, it was by no means his only interest in life. Dad was cultured, well-read, and interested in both classical music and jazz. In fact it was Dad who gave me my first introduction to some of the great clarinet legends of the Swing era, notably Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, both of whom were among Dad’s favourites. Fundamentally, Dad was also a kind and compassionate human being, as all those of you who knew him will, I’m sure, attest. And one could not ask for more than this.
In the last few years, Dad’s health began to fail and eventually he required 24 hour care. The decision to move him into St Mary’s was not an easy one, but had to be taken. It is a terrible thing to see someone whose whole life has been dedicated to intellectual pursuits becoming incapable of doing even the most basic things, and unable even to hold a conversation. Somehow you think these things can’t happen to someone like this, but they do. He was very well looked after at St Mary’s and the whole family would like to thank them for everything they did for him. The last few months have been particularly hard for Mum, with the care home being closed to visitors due to the COVID virus. To me the most remarkable thing about Dad was how he bore his fate with courage, fortitude and good humour, always chuckling about something or other. I think he had a knack for appreciating the absurd in life.
We have had a long time to prepare for the fact that we were going to lose him, but it is still a shock to realise that he has now left us. I prefer to think not about the recent past but about all the other wonderful memories he has given us, some of which I hope I have been able to convey today. As a husband, father, father in law and grandfather, as well as in his capacity as a member of the community, he will be greatly missed.
In Memoriam: Ralph Halbert (1930 – 2018)
I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of Ralph Halbert. A very special man.
I first met Ralph and his wife Roz in Israel in the mid-1990s, at the Israeli-Canadian Studies Conference that was held at the Hebrew University. The relationships between Canada and Israel was of immense importance to Ralph and Roz. Since 1977, they co-sponsored with the Government of Canada the Programme of Canadian Studies. Ralph was the President of the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University and he invested much of his time and money to establish connections between the two countries. The Programme of Canadian Studies was headed by the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Professor Nehemia Levzion (who later became “my boss” at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute). In 1981, Professor Arie Shachar, director of the university’s Institute of Urban and Regional Studies, replaced him in this position and di extraordinary job in promoting the programme. In 1995, the status of the programme was elevated to the Halbert Centre for Canadian Studies. The Centre’s activities focus on research, publications, public lectures, visiting professors program, courses in Canadian Studies, Library Resources, and Conferences.
I participated in many of the Centre’s programs as Canada is one of the countries I have been researching for many years. We met in Jerusalem and in Ralph’s hometown Toronto and kept in touch up until his death. Ralph was an unusual businessman. He was always kind and polite, engaged, engaging and genuinely interested in research. Ralph attended the conferences that he sponsored, set in the sessions, listened and made remarks. I wish all businesspeople would have Ralph´s capacity to listen.
Ralph cared about his family, business, Judaism, Canada and Israel. He was a long-term supporter of the United Jewish Appeal and of The Beth Tzedek Synagogue in Toronto. His academic babies were The University of Toronto and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Ralph invested a lot of his time and personal wealth to establish relationships between the two institutions, to establish centers of learning of Judaism and Israel in Toronto, and to establish centers of Canadian studies in Jerusalem. He felt very much at home in both places, knew the key people and was a loyal servant of both institutions, promoting their best interests in Canada and in Israel. There are not many people who have promoted relationships between Canada and Israel to the extent that Ralph did.
Ralph graduated from the University of Toronto in 1954. He took personal interest to build the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. In 2012, Ralph furthered his support of Jewish Studies scholarship by establishing the Ralph & Roslyn Halbert Fund for the Centre for Jewish Studies to support the exchange of ideas in the areas of classical Judaism, Jewish thought and philosophy, Jewish history and modern Jewish culture.
Ralph and Roz also supported scholars through the Roz and Ralph Halbert Professor of Innovation at the Munk School’s Innovation Policy Lab. Of the professorship, Ralph said in 2013, “We know that countries that lead in innovation become world leaders in every sphere and sector of study from business to the sciences. It is said that creativity is thinking up new things; innovation is doing new things. With a foundation of innovation at U of T, today’s generation will increase Canada’s capacity to be competitive, and realize advances for society across the spectrum.”
Of the professorship, Ralph said in 2013, “We know that countries that lead in innovation become world leaders in every sphere and sector of study from business to the sciences. It is said that creativity is thinking up new things; innovation is doing new things. With a foundation of innovation at U of T, today’s generation will increase Canada’s capacity to be competitive, and realize advances for society across the spectrum.”
Ralph was very interested in Israeli politics. He subscribed to my monthly blog until near his death, when his secretary told me that Ralph no longer comes to office and reads his mail. When we met, we spent hours discussing Israeli politics, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and prospects of peace. As a man of peace, Ralph was yearning for cessation of hostilities, and for peace and tranquillity for the people of Israel.
Ralph was gentle, warm and genuine. He was always welcoming and supportive, interested and interesting, a true mensch who wanted to do good and to contribute to the communities in which he lived and to which he felt at home – Toronto and Jerusalem. I will miss his annual Shana Tova, our exchanges and our discussions.
Ralph is survived by Roz, his wife of 65 years, and their loving children, grand-children and great-grand-children. Yehi Zichro Baruch (Of blessed memory)..
May you rest in peace, dear Ralph. You will continue to live with me forever.
In Memoriam: Amos Oz (1939-2018)
Amos Oz was a giant literary mensch. He was one of my favourite Israeli authors who had tremendous impact on modern Israeli literature. But more than that he was a public intellectual who tried to influence Israel´s public and political life to build a society that is just, humane, in the spirit of social democracy. Oz wanted Israel to be a country that cares for its poor, for its minorities, and for its neighbours. Amos Oz was a person who was true to his ideals, who lived the life he preached and was a role model to many. He was humane and conscientious liberal; modest, caring and passionate individual; bold, thoughtful and articulate writer and orator, an inspirational peace-loving activist, a man who encapsulated the essence of humane Zionism.
In my mind, Amos Oz was an integral part of an impressive trio that includes him as well as A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman. Three brilliant writers and public intellectuals; three caring and passionate individuals who have been devoting their lives to forge not only a modern and authentic Israeli literature but also a compassionate, decent and just Israeli identity and society. Now the trio has been broken. One of its essential ribs and organs is missing. The three are good friends. I am sure Avraham and David will miss Amos in each and every day of their lives.
I met Amos a number of times, first during the 1980s in Oxford, where his daughter Fania studied. Fania did her DPhil in History while I was doing my DPhil in Politics. Amos came with his wife Nily a number of times to visit their daughter. Later I met him on flights, various universities including Ben-Gurion, where he lectured, and at the University of Haifa, which used to be my home, and at the Israel Book Fair at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. We had some correspondence during the years, last time when I invited him to receive the Wilberforce Freedom Medal. I was able to persuade the Lord Mayor of Hull to grant Oz the prize. However, for some reason the invitation never materialised. Oz received many other prizes, both national and international including The Israel Prize for Literature, The French Legion of Honour, The Goethe Prize, The Heine Prize, The Abraham Geiger Award, The Jonas Weiss Memorial Award, The Primo Levy Prize, The Jerusalem-Agnon Prize and The Brenner Prize.
In awarding Oz the prestigious Israel Prize in 1998, the judges wrote: “For some 35 years, in his writing he has accompanied the realities of Israeli life and expressed them uniquely as he touches upon the pain and ebullience of the Israeli soul.”
Oz’s work has been published in 45 languages in 47 countries and enjoyed wide readership. His books include: In the Land of Israel; The Slopes of Lebanon; Touch the Water, Touch the Wind; Black Box; To Know a Woman; My Michael; The Same Sea; Scenes from Village Life and Judas which was his last book, published in 2014.
With his daughter Fania Oz-Salzberger he co-authored Jews and Words, published in 2012. Oz’s autobiography A Tale of Love and Darkness was adapted for the big screen in 2015 and marked the directorial debut of Natalie Portman. The NY Times wrote about his 2004 memoir: “It’s an extraordinary book that will endure as one of the greatest works in modern Hebrew. In many ways, through this memoir, Mr. Oz perfected what he had tried to do again and again in his fiction — to capture the coming together of the personal and the political, with neither of the two elements suffering from the collision”.
Oz was born Amos Klausner in Jerusalem on May 4, 1939, and his early years were spent in an atmosphere that was both scholarly and militant. His father, Yehuda Arieh Klausner, a librarian, and his mother, Fania Mussman, had immigrated from Eastern Europe. They met in Jerusalem. When Amos was 12, his mother committed suicide. Two and a half years after he lost his mother, Amos rebelled and moved to Kibbutz Hulda, swapping his urban bourgeoisie home for socialist, communal life. It was there that he changed his surname to Oz, which means courage in Hebrew. Amos said he “decided to become everything his father was not.” Much of his writing including his autobiography revolve around intimate portraits of Israeli life laced with a sense of loss and melancholy. “Without a wound,” Oz once said, “there is no author.”
In Hulda, Amos met Nily Zuckerman. They married in 1960. She and their three children, Fania, Galia and Daniel, survive him, as do their grandchildren.
Since the late 1970s Oz supported the Peace Now movement. He maintained close relationships with the leaders of the Labour Party who at times sought his wise counsel. Loyal to his uncompromising conscience, Oz continued to speak up his mind also when his views became marginalised as Israel turned more and more to the right and to the extreme right. Oz systematically denounced the occupation. His support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict led some to brand him no less than “a traitor”, which Amos said he wore “as a badge of honour”. In a recent interview to the Washington Post on November 30, 2018, Oz said: If you look at areas where about three-quarters of Israelis live, you see that it is not a country of extremists. The only reason the Israeli people presently oppose a far-reaching compromise with the Palestinians is that they do not want to be suckers. The myth is that we gave the Palestinians Gaza on a silver platter and in return we received missiles; so the public does not want to see this happening also in the West Bank. Oz maintained: There is a perception that two-state solution is dead, and the occupation of the West Bank is something that can no longer be changed. “I lived a very long life and time after time, I saw that almost everything can be changed”. Oz believed that two-state solution is the most just and the least bloody solution, and that reaching it is vital for the future of Israel. He rejected any notion of a one-state solution, saying he was not ready to live as a minority in what would inevitably become an Arab country.
In a 2009 interview with The New York Times, he said he marked the separation between his political and literary writing by using pens with two colors of ink, one blue and the other black, that sat on his desk. “I never mix them up,” he said of the pens. “One is to tell the government to go to hell. The other is to tell stories.”
His final collection of three essays, Dear Zealots, published in 2017, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dear-Zealots-Letters-Divided-Three/dp/1784742384/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1546076255&sr=1-1&keywords=Dear+Zealots, was written out of a sense of urgency, concern, and a belief that a better future is still possible. It touches on the universal nature of fanaticism and its possible cures; the Jewish roots of humanism and the need for a secular pride in Israel; and the geopolitical standing of Israel in the wider Middle East and internationally. Oz explains why two-state solution is no less than “a question of life and death for the State of Israel”. Wise, provocative, moving and inspiring, these essays like the man himself illuminate the argument over Israeli, Jewish and human existence. Oz wrote that he was, “afraid of the fanaticism and the violence, which are becoming increasingly prevalent in Israel, and I am also ashamed of them.” But this didn’t get in the way of his love of Israel. “I like being Israeli. I like being a citizen of a country where there are eight and a half million prime ministers, eight and a half million prophets, eight and a half million messiahs. Each of us has our own personal formula for redemption, or at least for a solution. Everyone shouts, and few listen. It’s never boring here.”
Israel lost one of its foremost novelists and public intellectuals, a man I very much appreciated. Yehi Zichro Baruch.
In Memoriam: Ceri Peach (1939-2018)
Ceri Peach was born in Bridgend, South Wales, on October 26, 1939. He arrived in Oxford as a geography undergraduate in 1958 and remained in the city until his death. He became a tutorial fellow in geography at St Catherine’s College in 1969 – a role he would hold for 38 years – as well as serving as acting master in 1993-94 and various college officer roles. His main field of research was migration, and the segregation of minority ethnic and religious groups in Britain, America and Western Europe.
I met Ceri at St. Catz High table in my second year at Oxford. As a recipient of the College Post-Graduate Scholarship during the duration of my studies (1987-1991) I received High Table privileges and had the honour to meet the College tutors and many distinguished guests. At the High Table, I had my “favourites”, those whose company I enjoyed during dinner and following drinks. Ceri had a warm and welcoming personality, kind and bright smile and eyes. It was hard not to be enchanted by him. Ceri was a truly lovely person with whom I could converse about many issues, including geography, politics, travels, places in Oxford and in the world, academia and rowing.
When my wife underwent a complicated operation and was unable to climb the steps to our apartment, Ceri generously offered her to stay in his college lodgings until she recuperated and was able to return home. Zehavit and I never forgot this act of generosity. Ceri tried to underestimate what he did for us, saying this “was nothing”.
After retiring in 2007, he was elected to an Emeritus Fellowship at St Catz and in 2016 was awarded a Doctorate of Letters, one of the university’s highest academic honours.
Ceri was well loved by his many students and colleagues. He made significant contributions to research, to St Catz and to Oxford University. Humble and kind, knowledgeable and wise, Ceri was a wonderful human being. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.
Ceri is survived by wife Susan and children Huw, Guy and Katie.
In Memory: Barry Dodd CBE
We are deeply saddened to hear about the premature and tragic death of Lord Lieutenant for North Yorkshire, Barry Dodd CBE. Barry died on Wednesday 30th May 2018.
Barry was the Chair of Council and Pro-Chancellor of the University of Hull since 2013.
Barry cared greatly about our university. He enjoyed his role as Chair of the Council and always wanted to do good.
On a personal level, I will miss Barry greatly. He was a great supported of the Middle East Study Group, thinking it is one of the most important things in our university.
Barry will surely be missed by all who knew him.
Our thoughts are with his family, close friends, and colleagues at this very sad time.
In Memory: Jack Hayward
The University of Hull lost one of its most loyal servants. The Department of Politics lost one of its pillars and the Middle East Study Group lost one of its founding members: Jack Hayward.
Jack taught in the department from 1973 until 1992. He then became a professor of French politics at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. After his retirement, Jack returned to Hull as a research professor. Jack remained loyal and interested in the department until he died. His office is now empty and cold.
Jack was one of the reasons I came to Hull. Although French politics is hardly my field, Jack was a renowned scholar of whom I heard while in Israel. He had many notable contributions to the field, including his many books and articles and his many notable capacities in the British Academy, British Political Science Association, including serving as Editor of the Association’s flagship journal Political Studies. During those years the Department of Politics was ranked among the 3-4 most important departments in Britain.
When I arrived in Hull in February 2007, Jack took an immediate interest in me. He welcomed me with stretched arms and showed keen interest to help in whatever way he could. We used to have luncheons at Staff House, where he told me about his rich life.
Jack was born in China to a Jewish family. A classic story of the wandering Jews, his father was a British subject born in India and his mother was born in Iraq. When the Japanese invaded South-East Asia, they captured approximately 50,000 prisoners of war, as well as thousands of civilians, many of whom were British subjects. As a boy in 1943, Jack was interned with his parents near Shanghai. This was a difficult experience as the Japanese were not known as kind wardens. It is estimated that around 1,000 died in captivity. Many years later, the British government decided to compensate those who survived the ordeal but only those with close blood-links to the UK. Jack, who arrived to the United Kingdom after the War and who lived in the UK ever since, was denied. Jack was insulted when he was told he was ineligible.
“The Japanese did not inquire whether I had a blood-link to the United Kingdom. Had the British government at the time alerted them to the fact that I was a third-class British subject who didn’t deserve to be put in incarceration because they were not real Britons, it might have been of some interest to my family.” In his direct language, Jack complained to the Ministry of Defence that after some debate decided to send him a token check. Jack refused to receive it. In a letter to Veterans Agency, Ministry of Defence, Jack wrote:
I have now received the unsolicited cheque for £500 (returned herewith) forecast in your letter of 25 October.
No doubt badly advised by his officials, Mr Touhig (to whom I wrote about this matter) instead of belatedly discharging in full the debt of honour incurred by the errors made by his predecessors, has chosen to fob off people in my situation with a desirory “tangible” expression of regret for the maladministration identified by the Ombudsman.
Would you confirm receipt of this £500 cheque which I categorically reject. Money is not the measure of all things, least of all when matters of national and personal honour are at issue.
My rejection of this gesture is motivated by the fact that it is an evasion of the main and reiterated issue: an official apology for the insult to those who suffered internment as British subjects and have arbitrarily been denied this recognition. Persistence in this discreditable conduct is unworthy and unforgivable and I will not appear to countenance it by accepting the sum offered.
3 November 2005
Jack told me this story, among many others. He wrote his autobiography including an elaborated chapter about his life prior arrival to the United Kingdom. I hope that this book will be published. Jack unfolded his life journey: his Jewishness, his family that was divided because of religious sentiments, his rich career. Jack had a most fascinating life.
Jack built his life with his own hands, motivation and will power. He was a liberal individualist who believed in liberty, equality, fraternity, the values of the French Revolution as well in justice, knowledge and reason. Jack was a thoughtful and caring man. He was passionate, direct, conscientious, responsible and a wonderful colleague.
When I established the Middle East Study Group in 2008, Jack was among the founders. He joined as an interested individual, not as a scholar in Middle Eastern studies. Jack was genuinely interested in Israel and the Jewish people. He was very curious to understand Israeli politics. As a Zionist, he was deeply concerned about the destiny of the Home of the Jewish people, and deeply troubled by the Israeli government whose policies toward the Palestinian people he had hardly appreciated. As a just person, he was troubled by the occupation. As a Jew, he felt that Israeli leaders lead Israel in the wrong direction. Injustice is not sustainable in the long run.
Jack was a curious scholar, an intellectual and a humble towering figure who led by example. His heart and mouth were the same. If he said he would do something, he would do it. If he appreciated something, he would show it. Similarly, if he did not appreciate something, he would say it. When it came to academic matters, I never heard the word NO from Jack. He was supportive and attentive, a most wonderful colleague to have. A true blessing.
In 2008, when I returned from the United States and engaged in writing my book Confronting the Internet’s Dark Side I asked Jack whether he would be willing to read and comment on a draft of the manuscript. Jack humbly said that this was not his field but if I wish him to read it as a lay scholar, he would do it. Jack read the book cover to cover, making notes on the entire manuscript. Then he thanked me for providing him with an opportunity to learn about the Internet.
Jack loved classical music. We exchanged notes on music. He would sit at home, put one of his records or the radio and listen to music. He knew about music more than the radio broadcasters and would complain about their limited selection of music.
Jack cared mostly about three countries: Britain, where he lived; France, a country he studied, loved and criticised; and Israel, the land of the Jewish people. We could have discussed these three countries for hours.
Jack was not a believer. He was a cultural Jew. He could have been a great friend of the Reform Movement were he to find a welcoming community. The values of the Reform movement – tolerance, justice, pluralism and peace, were close to his heart.
Jack’s older brother became Hassidic and tried to coerce young Jack to accept this way of life. The stubborn and opinionated Jack would not have it. He rejected all forms of coercion and moved away from established religion. Jack married a non-Jew and together they raised two children, Alan and Claire, in a home that was free of any religious sentiments (they did have a Christmas tree). But I think this was a reaction more than a thoughtful decision. Jack was connected in many ways to the Jewish people and identified with them until the moment of his death.
A few days before he died, I visited Jack at his home. He told me about his funeral preparations. He instructed his children to play three pieces of music, two of them with clear Jewish connections. “I am a cultural Jew”, Jack explained. “Jewish culture is important to me”. At the same time, he was himself a bit puzzled by his selection, that at the end of the day, although he led un-Jewish life, two of the three musical pieces were Jewish.
I am glad that I had an opportunity to see and converse with Jack last week. When I departed, I knew this was the last time.
Jack died at his home on 8 December 2017. May your soul rest in peace, dear Jack. Shalom.
MOSHE NEGBI (1949-2017)
BY RAPHAEL COHEN-ALMAGOR
JANUARY 29, 2018
Moshe cared about everything. He was an inherently good man, a mensch.
Moshe Negbi (photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)
With Moshe’s death, the world is poorer.
Sounds grand, I know. But it is true. This isn’t something I say about any loss, but I say it about dear Moshe. A tower of goodness, of truth, of kindness and of virtue. A model to follow. One of Israel’s best citizens. A wonderful husband and father. A kind and good friend.
As a student at Tel Aviv University, doing my first steps as a student of Israeli democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, I read and reread Moshe’s books.
I read his columns in the newspapers, and listened to his radio talk show, which is a model of democratic broadcasting. When I returned to Israel from Oxford in 1991 and started to work at The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute I met Moshe and a strong bond began to form. We shared the same worldview, same concerns and worries, same hopes for the future of Israel.
Moshe and I could talk for hours. Politics. Media. Free speech. Democracy. Culture. Family. The justice system. We talked nonstop until it was time for us to move to other duties. Moshe invited me to take part in his radio show and I accepted his invitations whenever I could. I was honored to participate in what I perceived to be the best talk show on Israeli radio. By far, Din U’Dvarim was the talk show on Israeli affairs.
Moshe cared about everything. He was an inherently good man, a mensch. An avid reader, he had encyclopaedic knowledge of Israeli law and media. He was always honest, true to himself and to others, a bastion of justice, often an island to himself, a lighthouse in depressing darkness. Moshe was totally incorruptible. He continued to raise his clear voice also when he knew people would not forgive him for speaking the truth to their faces. Moshe was for justice for all, notwithstanding race, religion, nationalism, gender, sexual preference, or any other factor. Moshe cared about people qua people.
Moshe was a social-democrat, a human rights activist, a feminist, a liberal and a humanist. Moshe was a pure soul. He continued to believe in the goodness of others when there was little to cling to by way of evidence. He remained hopeful when darkness loomed. He continued to fight for justice for all until his last day.
Moshe fought for Israeli democracy, for freedom of speech and of the press, for freedom of religion and from religion, for minorities and refugees, for guest workers and prostitutes, for gays and transgenders, for the Supreme Court and for just law.
Moshe was always there to fight for the weak, to give a voice to the voiceless, to shine and speak the undefeatable truth when everyone else chose silence.
Moshe paid a price for his bravery. Many did not like his firm stance for justice.
When they failed to corrupt him, they tried to silence him and to push him aside. They had some success but Moshe continued to speak his mind in his quiet, direct and wise voice. Moshe was a model to follow.
Moshe started to work in the broadcasting authority in 1969. He also wrote for various newspapers, and taught at the Hebrew University and other departments of communication. He worked hard in several places to enable good living for his wife, Irit, and their three children. Moshe was modest, honest, brave, direct, kind, caring and loving. He was a true professional and a person of great integrity. This is why I feel that we are all impoverished to continue living without his wise and enlightened presence.
I lost a friend. Israel lost its foremost knight for justice. Who will take his place? Dear Moshe. Your memory and legacy will live with me forever. I love you dearly.
The author is director of the MESG, School of Law and Politics at the University of Hull.