Benny Abileah Z"L By: Ilania Abileah

 

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Benjamin Abileah (1930-2013)

 

Benjamin Abileah, has passed away, December 12, 2012, just when he turned 82.  His daughter Dafna sent on a beautiful slide presentation she put together two years ago for his eightieth birthday.  This is one of the pictures included in it.  And that is the way I remember my uncle Benny, the almost look-alike, much younger brother, of my father Hans Abileah.

 

"Onkl Benny" was fondly called so by all of us, including the two nephews who were born in Vienna, Austria, and were actually older than him.  As far as the name Abileah, Benny was the first born Israeli to have that family name.  (I was the second one, as my brother Ron noted). Previously the family name was Niswitzski.

 

Until now, I could not write an article about any of my departed family members, I did not know how, and did not have the venue to do so.   It is now up to me, the oldest Abileah born in Israel to pass on the history.

 

Note:  This is the famous picture showing the family in Vienna:  Back row, Heinrich, Marie's brother, Aunty Julie, and Hans (my father) Center from left to right: Grandma Marie with her mother and father Mosabowski, Ephraim's Mother Feige (née Solzman) Niswitski, Efraim's sister Bertha.  Front Left to right are the young Willi and Rudi.

 

People pass away every day, some of us receive post-humus accolades, and some of us are not mentioned at all.  However, each life has a value to someone, somewhere, and especially if that life has touched so many, has contributed so much, and has left a great legacy. This is the case with quite a few members of the Abileah family.  With Benny departing, it is time to tell his story since a chapter in the Abileah Family is now closed.  It is up to the younger generations to continue the legacy.  I am but a messenger of the now "Older" generation of the family. 

 

Our grandparents Myriam & Ephraim Abileah, were married in Warsaw, where Ephraim came from Russia to teach Piano, and Grandma Marie was one of his students at the Conservatory.  The young couple moved to Vienna Austria, where my grandfather taught and composed music.  They had a Daughter Julia, whose two sons Uri and Otti are the older nephews of Uncle Benny.  Then came my father Hans, then Willy and then Rudy.  The house in Vienna was a family hub, and many cousins passed through or lived there at some time in their youth.  A tradition that was kept by Aunt Julie (pronounced Youlie) who kept a family home in Kansas City, USA, where uncle Benny went to study, and later on cousin Jonathan and my brother Ron. 

 

Benny was born in Tel-Aviv where my grandfather came to establish a home for the family in 1926.  The story in the family is that when grandfather heard the first speeches Hitler made in Bavaria he said: "This is not going to be a place for Jews" and went on to Israel.  He brought my father Hans, then Willy and Rudy, opened a large music store, and then brought Marie.  They moved to Haifa, where the family was known for the music store "Abileah" where my grandfather sold instruments, sheet music, pianos, and also tuned pianos.  He taught piano to the advanced students and Grandma Marie taught the beginners.  My two uncles also taught music.  Willy taught Violin, Viola and Solfège, and Rudy taught Cello.  Both these uncles also played with the Haifa Philharmonic Orchestra.  Everybody in the family played one instrument or another at some time of their childhood.  We were put to sleep with the music of Mozart or Hayden.  In a book about the history and people of Haifa, there was a story that when the synagogue could not get a cantor for the high-holidays, my grandfather (whose father was a well known cantor in Russia) was obliged to sing and it was “The first time that they heard “Aïda” music for Yom-Kippur.” *


Note: Benny is circled in red, and in the center row from left to right, 2nd person is uncle Rudi, grandma Marie, Grandpa Ephraim, and uncle Willi.

 

Benny played the violin and is shown with the rest of the students in annual music school pictures.  Grandpa Ephraim was a composer.  He specialized in Jewish themes.  One of his songs is "Ma Nishtana" which is sung all over the world each year at the Passover Seder meal.  Cousin Effi (Willy's daughter) still plays our grandfather's Freedom Holiday (Chag Ha-Cherut) Orathory during the Seder each year.  And almost everybody who gets married in our family does so with the music of the "Seven Blessings" written by Ephraim Abileah.  Epharaim Abileah was a pacifist, his son Willy was the organizer of the Israeli Pacifist movement**, while his brother Hans was a decorated Lieutenant Colonel in the communications sector of the Israeli army, Rudy Abileah organized musical events and represented musicians, and Benny represented the country and worked towards peace through his work with improving agriculture in the region.

 

As all of us in Israel, Benny served in the army, where he met his wife Ruthy.  He joined the Israeli diplomatic corps for a thirty-four-year diplomatic career.  Until his stroke last year, even after his retirement in 1996, at the level of Ambassador, Benny was still active within government programs.  Benny and Ruthy served in Nicosia, Cyprus, Manila in the Philippines, New-York, Los-Angeles, and Washington in the United States, Toronto, Canada, and even the Republic of Georgia. The children Dafna and Amir, were both born outside Israel while Benny and Ruthy were serving in an Israeli consulate. 

 

                                              Benny with his two children Dafna and Amir.

 

 

In Canada, Benny was Israel's Consul General in Toronto (1987-1991).  He came to the Laurentians to visit in St. Adolphe d'Howard, only to take a "anonymous" breather.  However, many people who now have country dwellings in the Laurentians may have met Benjamin Abileah during his long career representing Israel.  After his service in Toronto, Benny was the General Director of the "Bible Lands Museum" in Jerusalem, while on a leave of absence from the Foreign Affairs Ministry. 

 

 

 

Since 1996, Benny worked actively as a senior adviser for "Mashav" and was the regional co-ordinator of its Regional Agricultural Program of Egypt-Israel-Jordan-Palestinian Authority, a collaborative border-crossing project that continues undisturbed despite regional unrest.

 

Benny was the last person to whom I was still a "Niece" or like my uncle Rudy called me "Meine kleine nichte."  He was loved and respected by all those who crossed paths with him.  He is survived by his wife Ruthy, his daughter Dafna, his son Amir and three grandchildren, Ethan (Dafna's son), Jonathan & Adam (Amir's sons)You will be greatly missed Uncle Benny!  Farewell Benny!

 

 

Bellow are two articles written in memory of my uncle Benny in the Canadian Jewish News and in the Israeli newspaper "HaAretz":

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* As far as I know that book about Haifa (or rather a history of the people of Haifa, in Hebrew) is out of print.  I read the passage about my grandfather in it myself, quite a few years ago, while serving in the army. The book was from the Library in Haifa.  I am not sure but a copy of it may still be among the books left by my uncle Willy-Joseph Abileah.

 

**  See:  "Israeli Pacifist: The Life Of Joseph Abileah" by Anthony G. Bing, Syracuse University Press, 1990, 214 pp. 

 

Note:  In the next little while I shall be adding details, pictures and anecdotes to tell the story of my grandparents Myriam and Ephraim Abileah and the Abileah dynasty they started in Israel with their youngest born son Benjamin, who joined Julie (Seiden), Hans-Aaron (my Father), Willy and Rudy. I shall pay tribute to Benny's parents, and other children, as well as my Grandfather's brother Arie (Onkl Leo) and his family, and going back to my great grand-parents who originated in Russia.  This will be a continuation of a project started ten years ago together with two other cousins to create a family tree.  see here: http://ilania-ivil.tripod.com/family/index.html .   

 

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