* In 2009 tijdens een bespreking met ons en enkele gelijkgezinden in zijn woonkamer.
Last week I received the devastating news that Ami Isseroff had passed away.
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.
I just found out that Ami Isseroff had died last week.
While he was an anti-religious and very liberal Zionist, he was, above all, a Zionist. He literally wrote an on-line encyclopedia about every major event and concept in Israel's modern history. He practically single-handedly ran two major websites: MideastWeb, on the Middle East altogether,and Zionism-Israel, which has a plethora of information as well. The latter site, besides having lots of information, also housed his blog.
I always hoped that he would organize the sites better, because they should be read by everyone who wants to learn about Israel.
I'm going back to a couple of his pieces I've linked to over the years, and I am again amazed at his knowledge and erudition. The best on-line resource on Arab land ownership in Palestine before 1948 is on his site. Not too many people can take on Benny Morris on specific facts in his books. But he was similarly impressive as a blogger - and as a satirist.
Here is a eulogy written by his brother.
May his family be comforted and may his memory be a blessing. And I suggest helping keep his memory alive by browsing the thousands of articles he has written on his sites.
It is a sad day indeed for all those who knew and appreciated one of the most unusual and brave people in the Internet community. For the Zionist movement, peace has always been the only option, but it has never really been on the menu before. Peace may not be on the menu this time, either. But if we are consistent in pursuing our goal, it will be, one day. He didn't live to see peace coming, but it was always in his heart, the big heart of a real mensch. And when peace eventually comes, it will be to some extent because of his efforts to make it real and tangible.
When a blogger mentions someone in blogging "business", it is an accepted practice to connect the name to a link. When Ami is mentioned, it is simply impossible to choose which one of the sites Ami kept and nurtured to link. This or this or this or... And all of the sites were not just a whim or a temporary storage for something to read and forget. Ami was one of the most prolific and talented writers I have seen in my life, producing two or three new articles a day wasn't rare for him.
And when one mentions the Internet communities he created and kept alive, his correspondence with anyone who needed assistance, his readiness with advice and/or criticism, it is impossible to see how mere twenty four hours a day were enough for what he has done. Day after day, year after year, doing an impossible amount of work, without being paid, without being honored or appreciated by powers that be, fighting enemies without and within with the same fierceness and bravery that he fought his physical frailty. A demanding and exacting man, Ami was demanding of his friends and partners, but much more demanding of himself.
I had the honor of personal acquaintance with Ami. It didn't happen because of Ami's Internet activities. The company I worked for was looking for a good technical writer, and Ami answered our ad. The first appearances could be deceptive, and none more than in Ami's case. His small stature, his rumpled clothes and sometimes unclear speech (it became obvious quite soon that it's Ami's frail heart, leaving him frequently gasping for air, that is the cause) - all this was forgotten in a few minutes, and I was captivated by Ami the person. And in a short while I have started to learn from Ami how to do my job better - while being an experienced software developer, which Ami never was. I didn't know then about Ami's Zionist activities, getting wise to these only in a few years and only then getting to really appreciate the enormous work Ami performed daily.
Ami was a real Zionist. His love of Zion wasn't qualified. He didn't live in the world built on religious fervor, nor in one full of nationalistic rhetoric. Coming from the left, he didn't hide his rejection of the (part of the) left's anti-Zionist trends and his disillusionment with their feel-good empty slogans. On the other hand, his Zionism, his love of Israel were never blind, never of the "my country, right or wrong" kind.
And, to his last moment, Ami remained a believer in peace - not in the fake peace process we lost our belief in, but real and tangible peace. I looked for a link to one of the Ami's articles and a quote to complete this post, and this will be the best and the most appropriate:
Peace requires patience. It will be an ugly baby when it is born. It will not look anything like the utopia described in first paragraphs of this article, just as in 1948 our economy did not resemble the Israeli economy of today, and the Jewish Legion of World War I did not resemble the IDF of today.
Rest in peace, Ami, and may your memory be blessed.
It is a sad day indeed for all those who knew and appreciated one of the most unusual and brave people in the Internet community.
For the Zionist movement, peace has always been the only option, but it has never really been on the menu before. Peace may not be on the menu this time, either. But if we are consistent in pursuing our goal, it will be, one day.
He didn't live to see peace coming, but it was always in his heart, the big heart of a real mensch. And when peace eventually comes, it will be to some extent because of his efforts to make it real and tangible.