Appreciation: David Israel, 1922-2006

By RICHARD OESTERMANN
September 25, 2006 20:11
3 minute read.
Oestermann every second counts 298.88

Oestermann every second . (photo credit: Courtesy Photo)

 
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David Israel, whom his friends called Dodde, had a heart attack in the dark garden of some friends in Northern Israel, whom he was visiting with his wife Jytte. Falling, he hit his head against a stone, and died immediately. It was a dramatic ending to an extraordinary life. Dodde, 84, came from Vikingland, where the term "chieftain" is known. And indeed, he was a chieftain among us. I had known him since childhood in Copenhagen. We became close friends in Israel. I followed his career with admiration. He used the years of his life more intensely than most. In his quiet way he was one of the most colorful, flamboyant and charming people I have ever met. He exuded a special spirit. He was the man who stood up and fought fearlessly for righteous causes. He did so when, as a 21-year-old member of the Danish Resistance Movement, he returned to Denmark from exile in Sweden and, one night in November 1943 together with a friend from the Resistance, 19-year-old Svenn Erik Oesterholm, he removed - from right under the noses of the Germans - the many Torah scrolls, silver objects and personal belongings of members of the Jewish congregation from the synagogue in Copenhagen, bringing everything safely to Sweden. Dodde never received the full recognition he deserved for this heroic deed, neither from Denmark nor from the Danish-Jewish community. But at his recent funeral in Zichon Ya'acov, a friend said at his graveside: "Dodde, today we all salute you." In postwar Europe Dodde joined in the rescue of Jews in need. He saved 63 Jewish children from Poland to Scandinavia, among them a young girl whom he hid under the seat of a railway car. THE LIST of his quiet and good deeds is endless. He joined Mahal and fought for Israel's independence in 1948, obtaining the rank of captain in the IDF. He was wounded in the battle of Latrun. The war wound on his hand remained with him all his life. Later he found another good cause for which to fight: 13 years ago, in spring 1993, Yad Vashem was about to make a historic mistake in wanting to include Copenhagen among the cities in "The Valley of the Destroyed Communities." Dodde and other righteous people, among them Denmark's former ambassador to Israel, Jakob Rytter, protested that the Danish-Jewish community - unlike most of the Jewish communities in Nazi-occupied Europe - had not been destroyed but escaped to Sweden thanks to the efforts of the Danish Resistance and the Danish people. Said Dodde: "If this mistake is not rectified, I shall organize a big protest torch march from Denmark Square in Jerusalem to Yad Vashem." It didn't happen. Dodde solved the problem in the Dodde way - via action. One day he appeared at Yad Vashem with a ladder and a bucket of concrete. With his own hands he plastered over the name "Copenhagen" until it had disappeared. Yad Vashem fumed over Dodde's taking the law into his own hands. They wanted him arrested. But that did not come to pass either. Dodde was active in many spheres. He cultivated orchids in his home in Zichon Ya'acov. Together with his wife he established Danlux, producing top-quality candles of all kinds. He even exported them to the candle country of Denmark, with good results - it was like selling refrigerators to the Eskimos. He wanted to spread light. Dodde was a caring family man, and he and Jytte opened their home week after week to friends and family for Shabbat meals in a warm, Jewish atmosphere. His many ailments demanded more than a cat's nine lives. And he lived many more. But, above all, he had a wonderful life with Jytte and his loving, wonderful family. We were privileged to have known him. The writer is a Danish journalist and foreign correspondent for Scandinavian papers.

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