This morning a tremendous man and a true lover of Israel passed away. I counted Professor Barry Rubin as a personal friend and he was always a great fan of Israellycool and the audio show, Shire Network News, I used to host. Others will write the academic and political obituaries, this is a personal recollection of a friend.
I first met Barry Rubin virtually through cyberspace. He was the serious interview subject on the largely satirical audio show I helped put together. He appeared on the show and was, himself, a big fan of our mix of frank discussion and humour. He said we were funny and that made all of us working on the show proud.
Despite numerous appearances on established media channels, he was tremendously excited by the opportunities available on blogs, podcasts and new media. In 2009 he chatted live to Israellycool readers giving direct insight on the Israeli election results as they came in.
Having met online at least a year before making Aliyah, we met up in person in Israel. Barry was an academic who loved to learn and listen. A chat over lunch with Barry was never an academic lecture, it was always an exchange with the feeling that all views could be changed or moved with persuasive arguments. I will always remember him apologising profusely before answering his mobile phone as we ate in a café round the corner from his home in Tel Aviv. This was what I overheard:
“Ahh hello Ambassador, no, sorry, now is not a good time, I’m in a meeting, can I get back to you? Yes, certainly thank you.”
Bumping an Ambassador is surefire way to make your lunch companion feel more important than they really are.
Whether he was talking about the details of Middle Eastern history, politics or current affairs, or the story behind the person named on any given street name in Israel, his knowledge was encyclopaedic and shared in an entertaining way. And when presented with new facts or stories, he lapped them up, always able to sort the information and bring back something new to fit with it and build up.
I will particularly remember him speaking of his journeys back in history to the American Civil War. To his weekends spent in muddy fields as a lowly foot soldier in the Union Army. He posted this tremendous story which Israellycool ran here. I love this story.
I miss Barry already and we will all miss him. His legacy lives on in his numerous books, articles and the memories of those whose lives he touched.
He is survived by his wife Judith Colp Rubin and their two children.
Baruch Dayan Emet, May his memory be a blessing.