Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ami Isseroff

This site has been quiet for the past few months.  In part that's because of lack of time on my part; in part it's a major hat tip to the folks over at Pro Israel Bay Bloggers who have been so timely (and so effective) in posting commentary about our little hub of delegitimization that there wasn't anything for me to add.

But I learned last week of the death of Ami Isseroff, and his life and work should be memorialized.  Many of you have never heard of Ami.  But in his own way, this physically small man has left a giant impression on many of us who advocate for Israel online.

 I made his acquaintance when, shortly after this blog was launched, we received an e-mail from Ami who had found our new site online.  Ami was trying to organize a network of pro-Israel bloggers, and also trying to teach us how to be more effective in setting up our blogs to be more visible online.  I learned about search engine optimization, about how and why to set up links to other sites, and also about Ami's brand of proud Zionism-- he loved his country, he wanted peace but was realistic about the attitudes of the Palestinian leadership, and he didn't tolerate extremists whether on our side or theirs.  He also didn't tolerate sloppy thinking and in our online discussion group was not hesitant to critique his own government's policies and inadequate (too often inept) public relations, not to mention our own contributions to the discussion if he felt they were unsound.

But Ami's achievement was what he left behind-- a veritable online encyclopedia of Israel and Zionism, .  It has been an invaluable resource to me-- every time I needed information on any topic related to the history of modern Zionism or the state of Israel, it was there.  In better times, he had also created, a site organized by Arabs and Jews committed to peaceful coexistence.  And he wrote, with amazing frequency and clarity, distributing his posts (as well as mine and others from our worldwide network) on the Yahoo group ZNN (which stood for Zionist News Network, something our enemies would accuse almost any US news outlet of being). 

I met Ami in 2009 on my most recent trip to Israel.  His poor health, due to a congenital heart defect, prevented him from traveling easily so I came to Rehovot to meet him.  Ami in person was quite different from Ami online.  Though an Israeli for decades, he still retained the accent (and attitude) of his New York area upbringing, not hesitating to be profane when the topic under discussion justified it.  We spent most of an afternoon talking about how to be effective in activism and advocacy.  

Ami never lived to see his ultimate goal-- peace between Palestinians and a Jewish state of Israel.  Those of us who learned from, and were inspired by, Ami will continue our efforts with our eyes on that prize.  And if we live to see that day ourselves, I know that we will be thinking of Ami.

Ami Isseroff z"l, 1946-2011