Met verslagenheid namen we vandaag kennis van het overlijden van Ami Isseroff afgelopen woensdag. Ami was een ontzettend actieve en toegewijde blogger met een fenomenale kennis van het Midden-Oosten en de geschiedenis van de regio en het conflict, het zionisme, de diverse vredesplannen etc. Ami zette zich aanvankelijk vooral in voor vredesinitiatieven en dialooggroepen, maar is zich in reactie op de delegitimatiecampagne tegen Israel meer en meer op het verdedigen van Israels bestaansrecht en het zionisme als legitieme bevrijdingsbeweging van het Joodse volk gaan richten. Hij schreef vele achtergrondartikelen voor de websites Mideastweb en Zionism Israel Information Center. Hij ging niet alleen de discussie aan met antizionisten, en in zijn ogen te naieve vredesactivisten, maar ook met rechtse zionisten die het bestaansrecht van een Palestijns volk en Palestijnse rechten ontkennen. Zijn verdediging van Israel, haar legitimiteit en recht op zelfverdediging, leidde niet tot een blind oog voor misstanden en extremisten aan de eigen kant.
It is a sad day indeed for all those who knew and appreciated one of the most unusual and brave people in the Internet community.
When a blogger mentions someone in blogging "business", it is an accepted practice to connect the name to a link. When Ami is mentioned, it is simply impossible to choose which one of the sites Ami kept and nurtured to link. This or this or this or... And all of the sites were not just a whim or a temporary storage for something to read and forget. Ami was one of the most prolific and talented writers I have seen in my life, producing two or three new articles a day wasn't rare for him.
And when one mentions the Internet communities he created and kept alive, his correspondence with anyone who needed assistance, his readiness with advice and/or criticism, it is impossible to see how mere twenty four hours a day were enough for what he has done. Day after day, year after year, doing an impossible amount of work, without being paid, without being honored or appreciated by powers that be, fighting enemies without and within with the same fierceness and bravery that he fought his physical frailty. A demanding and exacting man, Ami was demanding of his friends and partners, but much more demanding of himself.
I had the honor of personal acquaintance with Ami. It didn't happen because of Ami's Internet activities. The company I worked for was looking for a good technical writer, and Ami answered our ad. The first appearances could be deceptive, and none more than in Ami's case. His small stature, his rumpled clothes and sometimes unclear speech (it became obvious quite soon that it's Ami's frail heart, leaving him frequently gasping for air, that is the cause) - all this was forgotten in a few minutes, and I was captivated by Ami the person. And in a short while I have started to learn from Ami how to do my job better - while being an experienced software developer, which Ami never was. I didn't know then about Ami's Zionist activities, getting wise to these only in a few years and only then getting to really appreciate the enormous work Ami performed daily.
Ami was a real Zionist. His love of Zion wasn't qualified. He didn't live in the world built on religious fervor, nor in one full of nationalistic rhetoric. Coming from the left, he didn't hide his rejection of the (part of the) left's anti-Zionist trends and his disillusionment with their feel-good empty slogans. On the other hand, his Zionism, his love of Israel were never blind, never of the "my country, right or wrong" kind.
And, to his last moment, Ami remained a believer in peace - not in the fake peace process we lost our belief in, but real and tangible peace. I looked for a link to one of the Ami's articles and a quote to complete this post, and this will be the best and the most appropriate:
For the Zionist movement, peace has always been the only option, but it has never really been on the menu before. Peace may not be on the menu this time, either. But if we are consistent in pursuing our goal, it will be, one day.
Peace requires patience. It will be an ugly baby when it is born. It will not look anything like the utopia described in first paragraphs of this article, just as in 1948 our economy did not resemble the Israeli economy of today, and the Jewish Legion of World War I did not resemble the IDF of today.
He didn't live to see peace coming, but it was always in his heart, the big heart of a real mensch. And when peace eventually comes, it will be to some extent because of his efforts to make it real and tangible.
Rest in peace, Ami, and may your memory be blessed.