Tag Archives: Poland

Jew of the Week: Israel Kristal

Israel Kristal, World's Oldest Living Man (Credit: Guinness World Records)

Israel Kristal, World’s Oldest Living Man (Credit: Guinness World Records)

Izrael Icek Krysztal (b. 1903) was born near Zarnow, Poland to an Orthodox Jewish family. At the young age of three he started his studies at a religious school, and by six was already well-versed in Biblical and Talmudic knowledge. He survived the First World War as a teenager, despite the fact that his father had been drafted into the army, and his mother had passed away. After the war, he and his father reunited, and settled in Lodz where they opened up a candy shop. Kristal married and had two children. It wasn’t long before another World War broke out, and Kristal’s family was sooned moved to the Lodz ghetto, where both of his children died. Some time later, he and his wife were sent to Auschwitz, then transferred to several other labour camps. When the camps were liberated, Kristal weighed just 37 kilograms. Tragically, his wife didn’t make it, and neither did anyone else in his extended family. Starting anew once more, Kristal remarried, and made aliyah to Israel in 1950, where he has lived ever since. He continued working in his profession as a confectioner, first at a candy factory, and then from his own home. Last week, Guinness World Records confirmed Kristal as the world’s oldest living man (in addition to his previous recognition of being the oldest living Holocaust survivor). He is now nearing his 113th birthday. Still devoutly observant, Kristal says he hasn’t missed a day of laying tefillin for over 70 years, since the end of the Holocaust. He has nine grandchildren, and many more great-grandchildren. When asked what one should eat for a long life, he said: “There wasn’t always food in the camps. I ate what I was given. I eat to live, and I don’t live to eat. I don’t need too much. Anything that’s too much is no good.”

UPDATE: Sadly, Israel Kristal passed away in August of 2017.

Words of the Week

I don’t know the secret for long life. I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why…
– Israel Kristal

Jews of the Week: Nathan, Benzion and Yoni Netanyahu

Nathan Mileikowsky (1879-1935) was born in what is now Belarus to an Orthodox Jewish family descended from the great Vilna Gaon. When he was ten, he joined the famous Volozhin yeshiva and after eight years of diligent study was ordained as a rabbi. During this time he became drawn to Zionism and soon dedicated his time to the Zionist cause. He traveled across Europe, Russia, and later the United States to raise support for Zionism – becoming one of the world’s most popular Zionist speakers – as well as to raise money for the Jewish National Fund. In 1920, Mileikowsky made aliyah to Israel. He headed a school in Rosh Pina, promoted settlement of the Galilee, and wrote articles for the Hebrew press – often under the pen name “Netanyahu”. He continued to tour globally, at one point giving over 700 lectures in under 9 months, and publishing some of these talks in a popular book. Towards the end of his life, Mileikowsky settled in Herzliya and established a farm.

Benzion Netanyahu

Benzion Netanyahu

His son, Benzion Mileikowsky (1910-2012), was born in Warsaw while Nathan was head of its Hebrew Gymnasium. Growing up in Israel, he adopted his father’s pen name “Netanyahu”. Benzion studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, taking on a more hard-line approach to Zionism. He became editor of a number of Zionist newspapers, and later the chief editor of the Encyclopaedia Hebraica. In 1940, Benzion moved to New York to build American support for the Jewish state, serving as executive director of an American Zionist group. Later on, he became a professor of Judaic studies and medieval history at Cornell University. Benzion published five books on Jewish history, and edited a number of others. His three sons are: Iddo, a doctor and author; Benjamin, Israel’s current prime minister; and Yoni, the eldest son.

Last known photograph of Yoni Netanyahu

Last known photograph of Yoni Netanyahu

Yonatan “Yoni” Netanyahu (1946-1976) was born in New York, went to high school in Pennsylvania, and studied at Harvard. He first enlisted in the IDF in 1964, and fought in the Six-Day War, getting wounded while rescuing a soldier behind enemy lines. A few years later, he joined Israel’s special forces unit, Sayeret Matkal, and by 1972 became its deputy commander. For his heroic service during the 1973 Yom Kippur War he was awarded a distinguished medal. In 1976, now commander of Sayeret Matkal, Yoni led Operation Entebbe, successfully rescuing over 100 Israeli hostages held in Uganda. Sadly, Yoni was the mission’s sole casualty, and passed away during the flight back home. In 1980, his personal letters were published, and were described as a “remarkable work of literature”. Both a film and play have recently been made about his life.

Words of the Week

God treats a person the same way they treat their children.
– Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin