• Tamar Eshel in the chair of he UN Commission of the Status of Women | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Passing of an Angel

Tal Hartuv - 27 September 2022

Tamar Eshel was a woman whose life was ultimately extraordinary as her death. Her influence on the survival of the fledging state and the fabric of the later Israeli society is almost immeasurable.

Tamar Eshel | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Just a hint short of three decades after the first Zionist Congress in Basel called by Theodore Herzl, Tamar’s parents found themselves working as emissaries of the Jewish Agency in London trumping the cause of a national homeland for the Jewish people. Her mother was the sister of one of the leaders of a Jewish espionage network that helped the British during World War I, and her father was one of the first lawyers in the Jewish homeland.

In 1921, when Tamar was just one year old, her parents left England and brought her to Eretz Yisrael which was under the rule of the British. It was a politically tense climate because Britain sought to go back on their promise of the Balfour Declaration and instead appease the Arabs because of the oil.

“During the Arab pogroms of the 1930’s, Tamar enlisted to the Hagana”

During the Arab pogroms of the 1930’s, Tamar enlisted to the Hagana, Israel’s pre-state secret military. There, she worked in communications and built grenades and guns. At only 18, she travelled to London alone to go to university. One thing led to another. She soon joined the British army to fight the Nazis. Little did anyone suspect that she was secretly working for the Hagana.

Her love for her people and her drive to see a homeland was unstoppable. After the end of World War II she went to France and provided fake documents for Holocaust survivors to creep into Eretz Yisrael under the nose of the British.

When the Jewish state had finally been declared, she saw it time to start her political career. There was barely an Israeli politician she did not work with. She was the first Israeli woman to be elected chair of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

“Retirement was not a word Tamar was familiar with”

Knowing that she would be more influential in her country as a Knesset member, she returned to Israel and was elected in 1977. She served for seven years investing most of her time and energy in improving education in the Jewish capital.

Retirement was not a word Tamar was familiar with. Even after stepping down from political life, she never sat back with her feet up. Instead, she devoted her life volunteering for the likes of Hadassah Medical Center, and working with immigrants. It was a beautiful life and one that was lived to the full.

Yet her death was deservingly beautiful as well. According to her daughter Yael, the week before her 102nd birthday, she called all her friends, which she wasn’t prone to necessarily do.

When the big day came, although the birthday celebrations were not scheduled until the evening, Tamar got up, showered and put on her best clothes that morning. Then she laid down: and died. Her daughter is convinced that it was as if she knew her time had come.

Her mother was an angel to so many in life. She comforted so many. How fitting therefore that in her death, it was the turn of an angel to come to her and comfort her.

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