Naphtali Lavie served the State of Israel ever since surviving the Holocaust, from Hagana fighter to spokesman for Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Shamir..
(photo credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)
Journalist author, diplomat, and international community leader and activist Naphtali Lau-Lavie died on Saturday. He was 88.
According to Jewish tradition, only the righteous die on Sabbaths and Jewish holidays, and Lau-Lavie, a Holocaust survivor, certainly qualified as a righteous man. Within a few months of his arrival in the Land of Israel after being liberated from Buchenwald, he joined the Hagana and spent almost all of the rest of his life in service to the state and the Jewish people.
He was among those who welcomed a shipload of illegal immigrants on the Herzliya beach; he was a Mossad operator; and he went to Europe to recruit fighters for the War of Independence, in which he served himself. After the war he worked for several newspapers, most notably for Haaretz, where he was military correspondent and later head of the news desk. He served as a spokesman for Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir.
In 1981 he was appointed consul- general in New York and after his return home, he headed the Israel Office of the United Jewish Appeal.
He was also vice chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, working tirelessly to learn what happened to Jewish properties that had been confiscated first by the Nazis and then by the communists and conducting negotiations with local and state governments, mostly in Eastern Europe.
On the 71st anniversary of his bar mitzva, Lau-Lavie, together with members of his immediate family, returned to his hometown of Piotrkov in Poland, to once again be called up to the Torah. He prayed in the town where his father, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lau, a renowned scholar of generations of rabbis, had been rabbi and where Lau had spent so many Sabbaths of his childhood.
The synagogue is now a public library, but former residents of Piotrkov had come from Israel, the United States, and England for a reunion and joined the Lau-Lavie family at Friday night dinner and at synagogue services. Lau-Lavie who had been in ill health in recent years, was already ailing at the time, but was determined to retrace his own and his father’s footsteps with his wife, Joan, and their children.
One of his greatest joys was seeing his brother, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who had been entrusted into his care by their mother during the war, follow in their father’s footsteps and become a chief rabbi of Israel. They were the only two members of their family to survive.
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau’s son, David, is now chief rabbi of Israel, so the tradition has continued. One of Lau-Lavie’s sons, Rabbi Benny Lau, is a well known broadcaster, educator and writer.
Lau-Lavie’s funeral will take place on Sunday, December 7, at 3:30 p.m.
at Beit Hahesped at Har Hamenuhot, Jerusalem.
He is survived by his wife, Joan, three sons, a daughter, and many grandchildren.