Nonagenarian Shimon Reinzilber passed away on April 8 due to complications from COVID-19, after a spate of infection spread within his nursing home.

He was one of the first post-independence settlers to arrive in Beersheva in southern Israel. In 1949, he disembarked the bus along with 17 other families for the dusty, barren city.

Reinzilber was born in Poland before both world wars.

After surviving Nazi rule during World War II, he boarded the illegal ship Hatikvah (“The Hope”) bound for British Mandate Palestine, with more than 1,000 survivors on board seeking to rebuild their lives far away from the ashes of Europe.

Hatikvah never made it to its destination. Intercepted by the British Royal Navy, the ship and its passengers were sent to internment camp in Cyprus. They would spend 14 months there before finally continuing on to Israel, shortly after independence was declared in 1948.

Reinzilber and his wife, Tzila, had their first child while in Cyprus. Yaakov, their eldest, was 8 months old when the young family arrived in the Jewish state. He was killed by a landmine while serving in the Israel Defense Forces in 1969.

After Tzila’s passing before Reinzilber’s own health deteriorated, he told his family prophetically, “I’ll live another three months.”

And he did.

He is survived by another son, three grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

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