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Benni Abileah


Uncle Benni Abileah passed away on December 12, 2012.  His daughter Dafna prepared a slide presentation done two years earlier for Benni's 80th birthday.  I shall try to upload some of these pictures here, as well as recollection about Benjamin Abileah, the last of Miriam & Ephraim Abileah's children to leave us.

Article about Benny in the Canadian Jewish News

Article about Benni in HaAretz in Israel

Here is a text submitted to Main Street, the newspaper I write for, which hopefully will be published in the March 2013 edition.  On my internet column I have included a more detailed version.

Benjamin Abileah (1930-2013)


Benjamin Abileah has passed away, December 12, 2012, just when he turned 82.  "Onkl Benny" as he was fondly called by all of us, was the first born Israeli to have the Abileah family name, which was previously Niswitzski.


People pass away every day, 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.  With Benny departing, a chapter in the Abileah Family is now closed.  I am but a messenger of the now "Older" generation of our family. 


Our grandparents Miriam & Ephraim Abileah were married in Warsaw, Poland.  The young couple moved to Vienna Austria, where my grandfather taught and composed music.  They had a Daughter Julia.  Then my father Hans, and uncles Willy, and Rudy.  The house in Vienna was a hub for many family members. Many family members passed through or lived there at some time in their youth.  A tradition that was kept by Aunt Julie who kept a family home in Kansas City, USA, where uncle Benny went to study, and later on other nephews. 


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 opened a music store, and then brought Marie over.  They moved to Haifa, where the family was known for the "Abileah" music store.  They both taught the piano and my two uncles Willy and Rudy taught violin, viola and cello, and played with the Haifa Philharmonic Orchestra.  Everybody in the family played one instrument or another at some time in their childhood.  We were even put to sleep with the music of Mozart or Hayden.  In the book “History of Haifa”, there is 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 “Ada” music for Yom-Kippur.”


Grandpa Ephraim composed music, in fact, one of his songs "Ma Nishtana" is sung all over the world each year at the Passover Seder.  And almost everybody who gets married in our family does so to the music of the "Seven Blessings" written by Ephraim Abileah.  Grandpa 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, yet they respected each other.  Rudy Abileah organized musical events and represented musicians, and Benny represented the country and worked towards peace through improving agriculture in the region.


As all of us in Israel, Benny served in the army, where he met his wife Ruthy.  He then joined the Israeli diplomatic corps for a thirty-four-year diplomatic career.  Until his stroke last year, and after his retirement in 1996, at the level of Ambassador, Benny was active in 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.


In Canada, Benny was Israel's Consul General in Toronto (1987-1991).  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 Abileah was loved and respected by all who crossed paths with him.  He is survived by his wife Ruthy, his daughter Dafna, his son Amir and three grandchildren.  You will be greatly missed Uncle Benny!  Farewell!


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