In Memory of Ester Golan

I sometimes use this column to pay tribute to prominent or “important” people who have passed on. Now I want to mention a woman who perhaps wasn’t that prominent but was no less important.

Ester (that’s how she spelled it!)  Golan was born in Germany. She left on the last Kindertransport for Britain and never saw her parents again. (Picture on the left: Ester Golan 1936). As soon as the War was over, she boarded a boat for what was then Palestine. Ester raised a family that developed into a clan and was active in many public roles. In her later years, she took up writing and painting.  In November, 2009, when the ICCJ sponsored a seminar in Israel called “From 2 Narratives to Building a Culture of Peace,” we brought Ester to speak to us on the anniversary of Kristallnacht.

There is a tragic irony connected with the day she died. It was April 7th. The Hebrew date was the 27th of Nissan, which is marked yearly as Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah. However, because the Hebrew day always begins on the evening before, and in Israel, we don’t want to violate the Shabbat, Yom HaShoah was postponed until April 8th. (This year, the theme is 70 years since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.) Eleven years ago, during the Second Intifada, Ester’s grandson, an officer in the IDF, a promising young scientist and a peace activist, was killed in Jenin, in Operation Defensive Shield. The battle occurred on Yom HaShoah. The next day, I heard Ester speak at his funeral.  That day, she was supposed to have been giving testimony at a seminar in Yad Vashem.

Given this biography, one might have expected Ester to have been a hard-line hawk.  Quite the contrary; she was committed to working for peace through dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians. I believe I met Ester through the Rainbow, a veteran Christian-Jewish dialogue group in Jerusalem.  About ten years ago, she was on a visit to Auschwitz for Israeli Jews and Arabs organized by Father Emil Shufani of Nazareth.

She died at 90. Her funeral at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel brought together left-wing and right-wing Jews, secular and religious. May her memory be blessed.