Two years ago, when I first decided to become involved in blogging and trying to learn more about Zionism, the Middle-East and Israel, I joined an online Zionist group set up by Ami.
I had just written an article in praise of one of his articles in the Jerusalem Post and this led me to find his group and to apply for membership.
His first response was to warn me that he didn’t want any ‘lurkers’ only committed activists. I bristled, sent him an angry response, he apologised, I apologised and it was only later that I began to realise what a great man he was. I was soon to discover the huge corpus of information on his websites Zionism-Israel.com and MidEastWeb.org.
Ami turned out to be a truly inspirational contact. He wrote brilliantly and his depth of knowledge and his many links to politicians and influential people made him a priceless source of wisdom. I didn’t always agree with him but my respect was boundless. He taught me a great deal over the coming months. In many ways he helped me form my own stance on the issues and he showed me that there is rarely anything black and white about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Ami always, always told it like it was. He disagreed with many of Israel’s policies and bemoaned its inability to make its case properly in the international arena. He was never an apologist for what he knew was wrong, and he was always a champion for what he knew was right: peace and reconciliation.
I never met him. In April this year I spoke to him on the phone when I was in Israel. His first words were: “Where are you?” Not “How are you”. He was an American-born Israeli – not for him the niceties of polite conversation that I, a Brit, am used to. He really did want to know where I was because he wanted to meet me. Finding I was in Jerusalem, he replied that it was the best place to be.
Instead of discussing Israel and politics he gave me advice on how my son could get a job when he came to Israel – and it was good advice.
Ami’s slurred speech was a remnant of the stroke he had suffered months earlier. It never occurred to me that his life was so fragile.
I don’t feel I can do justice to Ami, his intellect, his genius and his humanity. I have to quote his brother’s eulogy, read by one of Ami’s sons at the funeral, and I also want to link to some magnificent tributes from those who knew him much better than I did.
Eulogy for Ami Isseroff Wednesday June 29, 2011
When Ami was born with a congenital heart problem, the doctors said he would not survive, but his mother, Batia, refused to listen and through her perseverance he was able, after several operations, to lead an almost normal life.
She always felt that he was destined for greatness. Today, she would be very proud of him. He fulfilled her fondest dreams in that he married a sweet and caring girl and had three exceptional children, Asaf, Amit and Michal.
He will always be remembered in their hearts as a loving, if irascible husband and father. But the rest of us, will remember him for his wit, intellect and unique outlook on life.
He and I shared many adventures and their retelling always brought us much pleasure.
Early on, we in his immediate family recognized his superior mental abilities as he excelled in his studies throughout high school and college. His memory was phenomenal. He played the piano and guitar as a teenager and his love of music continued throughout his life.
With Ami’s talent for writing and oral disputation, the family thought he would choose to study law. Instead, his Zionist inclinations led him to join a kibbutz in Eretz Ysrael. There, for a time, he was happy to perform socialistically heroic tasks such as driving tractors, moving irrigation pipes, feeding pigs and cleaning out their pens. Difficult as these jobs were, it was the lack of an intellectually stimulating environment that caused him to leave the kibbutz.
He couldn’t believe that at the end of the workday kibbutzniks preferred to watch television rather than have a rousing discussion on some aspect of world affairs, politics or the class struggle. Hence, he embarked on a program of graduate study in Psychology at the Universities of Jerusalem and Haifa.
It was at the University in Jerusalem that Ami met the love of his life, Ruth. Through his long and exhausting, years as a graduate student that included many disputes with his faculty advisors as well as exasperating turf wars between them, it was Ruth”s love and support that kept him from giving up and returning to the States. When the warring parties and their various factions finally agreed to award him a Doctorate in Experimental Psychology we thought that he would be offered secure employment. However, the weak economy and an excess of trained Psychologists made it difficult for Ami to find and keep a University job, despite post-doctoral training at Yale and Worcester Universities.
Fortunately, in the course of his graduate studies he had developed a number of computer skills, including the ability to write complex programs that were at the cutting edge of the technology. These skills made it possible for him to earn a living and to pursue a new vocation as a respected observer and opinion maker in the World’s media and on the internet. It was here that he found his true calling as an outspoken advocate for peace and good will between Palestinians and Israelis.
I know that Ami believed that if ever these two peoples should arrive at a state of mutual trust and respect his major life-effort would not be in vain.
With sadness and love to you all, Hadar Isseroff
I think this is so powerful and moving: http://simplyjews.blogspot.com/2011/06/ami-isseroff-rip-heart-of-real-zionist.html from someone who knew him.
I also recommend this: http://fresnozionism.org/2011/07/ami-isseroff
We often hear people say ‘He/she will be sadly missed’; in Ami’s case this is painfully true. I still feel like a guiding spirit has been taken from me.
The best we can all do to honour his memory is to carry on with renewed vigour from the inspiration we have, and will continue to receive from one who truly is irreplaceable.