Habonim youth leader passes away after long battle with leukemia

Gideon Prodgers's struggle and his leadership "served as a personal example" to all who knew him.

gideon prodgers 224.88 (photo credit: Habonim Dror)
gideon prodgers 224.88
(photo credit: Habonim Dror)
A heart-wrenching struggle for the life of a young South African Jewish youth leader ended sadly over the weekend with the death of Gideon Prodgers, 20, from Cape Town. Gideon passed away Saturday at Haifa's Rambam Medical Center after an eight-month battle with leukemia. He will be buried in Cape Town later this week. Gideon came to Israel on a gap-year program with the Habonim Dror youth movement. He spent his first three months at the Jewish Agency's institute for training youth movement leaders in Jerusalem. He took ill and collapsed on one of the hikes organized by the institute in July and was taken to a Jerusalem hospital, where he was diagnosed with leukemia. According to his Habonim friends, Gideon's doctors were very pessimistic about his chances. Not well enough to fly back to South Africa for treatment, Gideon was transferred to Haifa's Rambam Hospital. Since his family could not afford the costs of his treatment, the Habonim Dror movement worldwide rallied to raise funds to cover the costs and to help his family travel to visit him. A bone marrow testing drive was also initiated both in Israel and South Africa. In an extremely rare occurrence, the Jewish Agency agreed to allow Gideon to immigrate while still in the hospital so that he could be eligible for health insurance. Gideon became an Israeli citizen and underwent extensive chemotherapy treatments. A bone marrow transplant last December initially succeeded and things were looking encouraging. Gideon was discharged and returned to Rambam's hematology day care center as an outpatient for ongoing tests and treatment as needed. Last month he suffered a relapse and leukemia cells were once again found in the bone marrow. An "experimental" chemo drug was tried but proved too toxic for Gideon's already battered system and his condition worsened. Treatment with antibiotics, immunosuppressant and steroids was started but his condition worsened. Gideon was heavily sedated when he passed away. He was remembered by his friends as an extremely energetic and physically strong young man. From his hospital bed, Gideon communicated with his many friends on Facebook. Two Facebook groups were created to support him with over 1,000 members. Since his passing, another three groups have been created in his honor. Maurice Lipschitz, who knew Gideon through Habonim, wrote a message on his Facebook group: "Your struggle is over and u are now with Hashem. I love u bro." Nicara Young from King David High School in Johannesburg wrote: "Gideon was an incredible human being, and I feel so lucky to have known him and had him as a madrich....the world has lost an amazing young soul." A message on the Habonim Dror Web site eulogized him: "Gideon was involved in Habonim Dror from the age of 12. During this time, he touched the hearts of many of us. As a madrich, Gideon truly exemplified what it meant to be a member of Habonim. Kind and caring, he was a dugma ishit (personal example) to everyone who knew him."