(photo credit: Courtesy)
Avi Raz, the doyen of Israeli pharmacists who worked in his Alba pharmacy on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road for 60 years, died on Saturday at 86 and was buried on Sunday, having missed only the last week or two at work before succumbing to sudden illness.
Born Ernst Rosenberg in East Prussia, Raz was the son of pharmacist Willy Rosenberg, who realized the dangers of Nazism and took his family by ship to Mandatory Palestine in 1938. Willy bought the Alba (“white” in Latin) pharmacy in Jaffa Road, and Avi spent much of his teen years helping his father in the shop, meeting many of the Yishuv’s leading physicians as well as simple Jerusalemites seeking remedies his father prepared.
Five years ago, in a Jerusalem Post
interview, Raz recalled seeing King Hussein’s grandfather – Emir Abdullah, who became King of Jordan in 1946 – sitting in one of the pharmacy’s three chairs waiting for eye drops prescribed by the famous Dr. Avraham Ticho to treat his glaucoma.
The family lived for years in a rented apartment on the fifth floor over the shop.
After a few years at Gymnasia Rehavia, Raz decided to take the British education department’s matriculation in English to be eligible for study at a British school of pharmacy, as he thought he didn’t have the staying power to study medicine.
In 1945, he first set eyes on the beautiful Rina – granddaughter of the famed Hebrew linguist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda – who worked in a nearby shop; they were married less than a year later. The young couple went to England for his pharmacy studies, but four months pregnant, Rina flew back to deliver their first child at home in February 1948. She was on the same flight as Palestine Post
editor Gershon Agron, and it was the night before the infamous bombing of the paper by order of Abdul Kader el-Husseini.
The Razes worked together in the pharmacy until his death, and he retained vivid memories and exact details of events and people during the British Mandate.
Raz held Health Ministry pharmacist license #65 since graduating from the University of London’s School of Pharmacy in 1950 (The Hebrew University’s School of Pharmacy, the first in Israel, was established three years later). He changed his surname from Rosenberg to Raz when his father died prematurely in 1961.
Raz is survived by Rina and their children Itamar, a Hadassah University Medical Center professor of internal medicine and Israel’s leading expert on diabetes; daughter Jacqueline, who has worked for years in the pharmacy; and son, Ronnie, a real-estate lawyer. Since 1980, they lived in a large home in the capital’s Abu Tor quarter.
The secret of his long, active life, Raz said then, was “to keep on working.”
The major changes in the pharmacists’ profession – from preparing
medications to filling prescriptions by selling already packaged
products and marketing jewelry, hats and makeup to provide extra income –
discouraged him and almost made him regret he went into the field, even
though he always had the patience to advise people in and out of the
store. A decline in business in Jerusalem’s center led to the closing of
an Alba branch in Rehov Ben-Yehuda before the second intifada began in
2000, and cut-throat competition by the health fund pharmacies bit into
Raz said in the 2005 interview that pharmacy students should be taught
more about interacting with the public and that they could save lives by
advising customers whose own physicians don’t know much about possibly
harmful conflicts with other drugs.
“There is more stress now on giving advice to customers, but not enough.
There is so much to be learned,” he said.