Aryeh Even passed away on March 20 from complications due to COVID-19. He was Israel’s first patient to die as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Born George Steiner in pre-war Budapest, Hungary, in 1932, Even was the son of Franz and Magda Steiner, owners of a stationery store.

In 1941, as the war progressed, Franz was deported to a Hungarian labor camp and then sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.

Meanwhile, Even’s grandfather, a well-connected individual, bribed anyone he could to secure his family’s safety. Even, his mother and younger brother Ivan remained for the time being in Budapest. His grandfather also managed to arrange for a German officer to accompany Franz home for weekend visits.

When German forces occupied Hungary in March 1944, the deportations of Hungary’s Jews began. Even, his mother and brother found refuge in a building designated as Swedish territory, again with his grandfather’s connections. His grandfather was shot dead with his third wife, their bodies thrown into the Danube River.

In 1949, Even emigrated to Israel, where he helped pave roads in the fledgling state. He was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces in 1952, serving as an aircraft technician in the Israel Air Force.

After meeting his wife, Yona—a distant cousin of Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin—he traveled the world with her; she was a career diplomat. They served in Tokyo, Bonn, Marseilles and New Delhi. He gave up on a diplomatic career of his own for his wife’s, and they settled in Jerusalem.

Even is remembered for his concern for human dignity and his love for the Holy Land.

He leaves behind four children, 18 grandchildren and a great-grandchild. He was predeceased, in 2012, by his wife of more than 50 years.

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