Monday, August 01, 2005


Today, 25th of Tammuz, is the fifth anniversary of the death of my friend Natan Axelrod. Please read about him.

Natan was born in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) in 1976. In the mid-Eighties his parents applied for the right to emigrate to Israel, and were turned into Refusniks. After several difficult years, they moved to Israel, settling in the northern suburbs of Jerusalem. There they became religiously observant, and Natan was circumcised at age 10. He moved to a religious high school, where we became friends. After school he continued on to Hesder, learning first at Yeshivat ha-Kotel and then at Har Etzion. He served in the IDF in the Artillery Corps.

On a tiyul with his friends from Gush, near Ein Gedi - under extreme heat conditions - Natan collapsed and died.

Natan was a frighteningly sincere person. He had very high standards of ethical conduct, which he demanded from himself, from his friends and from his teachers. He never looked cool, always spoke with a funny accent and an odd way of expressing himself, but that never stopped him.

True to the Russian mold, he excelled at mathematics and sciences. In yeshiva, he applied his methodical mind to Gemara, but more so, to Hassidut and the study of prayer. This was a direction he would undoubtedly have developed further, if he had been given more time.

One story about Natan exemplifies, to my mind, his approach to life. He expended great effort and ingenuity in compiling a list of the birthdays of all his acquaintances. Not just his friends - even people who could barely stand him. And he would make sure to send every person a birthday letter. He would also be sure never to call anyone by a nickname. Not even the kind of back-slapping, boys-club last names that we all used. He would call a person by his given name, regardless of the consequences. Sadly, many of his classmates did not treat him with the same respect.

Natan's parents, and his younger siblings - Shlomo and Rachel - have made valiant efforts to continue their life in Israel. It was never easy, and Natan's death was a crushing blow. I hope that Natan's memory remains alive for them and for others, and that they find many sources of happiness in life.


Anonymous Aviad said...

but you don't say who was in charge of that Tiyul. in the army they would have fired him and here they made him the ramatcal.

11:46 PM  
Anonymous Aviad said...

but you don't say who was in charge of that Tiyul. in the army they would have fired him and here they made him the ramatcal.

11:46 PM  
Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:49 AM  
Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

it's mefurash in billy joel.

never knew natan. we didn't overlap at gush. knew yj, though. supports trk's theory.

3:17 AM  
Blogger Yuen Rose Mae said...

Can some one please explain the references here. What's ramatcal?

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Aviad said...

The ramatcal is the Israeli head of the army (perhaps equivalent to the chairman of the joint chief of staff). I deliberately did not make this very clear, but perhaps manuscriptboy will relate to this tragedy.

11:06 AM  
Blogger manuscriptboy said...

Re YJ - I just missed him at Gush, though I knew his cousin EJ. And his father.

Re Ramatcal - I prefer not to get into it, though if anyone out there wants to make it explicit, I would be glad.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I presume that aviad meant that the Ram (=teacher) who took the group of boys out on that very long and exhausting trail on that scorchingly hot day was clearly guilty of gross negligence. Several other boys suffered dehydration and needed intravenous fluid. Nevertheless, the man escaped not only criminal proceedings but even the mildest rebuke from his superiors, continued teaching, retained his role as tiyul guide, never apologized to Natan's family and now, as aviad has hinted, has been promoted to the most senior position, Rosh Yeshiva (the equivalent of the army's "ramatcal").

2:42 PM  
Anonymous francine marino said...

the above comment, was mistakenly attributed to "anonymous". It was actually posted by francine marino.

3:31 AM  

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