The golden book of the Jewish nation’s most generous people includes names such as Nakdimon ben Guryon, Kalba Savu’a, Doña Gracia Nasi and Baron de Rothschild. Now, there is a new name being etched onto this list, that of a dear woman, Lily Safra a”h, alongside that of her dear husband Edmond z”l.
I had the great privilege to work with Lily on two historically significant projects. The first was at the Western Wall, where she helped renovate the prayer hall at Wilson’s Arch. The words of the verse, “The stone that the builders rejected has became a cornerstone” came true before our very eyes when Lily and her staff, with wisdom and sensitivity, led the huge renovation project that included painstaking archaeological preservation, installation of high-quality furnishing and tiling, and preparation of the long-neglected site as a place of prayer, including a beautiful women’s section.
I was also privileged to collaborate with Lily and her representatives Ezra Marcosand Yair Torenheim, when the rare opportunity arose to renovate the tomb structure of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in Meron, fifteen years ago. Lily joined the project with full devotion and excitement, making sure to renovate and glorify the ancient structure, as is worthy of a sacred site. What there is there is to her credit. If it were up to her, the entire site would be glorious and magnificent, as is suitable for such a holy place.
Throughout all the years of knowing her, I was amazed by the fact that her deceased husband, Edmond, and she were present everywhere assistance was needed. Lily’s presence was felt everywhere: in establishing educational institutions, Torah institutions, helping society’s needy and weak, in the world of medicine and more. There was not a pain in the world that she did not recognize and try to ameliorate. There is no Israeli who has not been privileged to come across and benefit from at least one of her many projects, whether it be in the Tel Hashomer Hospital, in the Adi Negev or Adi Jerusalem institutions, in Israeli universities, and so much more.
Sir Moses Montefiore said, “We are worth what we are willing to share with others.” Lily was the same. She was the richest woman in the world – rich in good deeds, in charity, and in donations that set into motion and nurtured goodness around Israel and the world.
A great woman lived among us and is no longer. May her memory be blessed.
The writer is rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites.