…And I also ask myself, still, endlessly, how is it
that from that crowded press,
from the piles of thousands of corpses,
the rows of mass graves and mounds of ashes,
how is it that I, a random creature like me,
was pushed out to remain alive?
That question, too, remains unanswered.
….But Lot’s wife looked back…
How hard it is to look behind and not to turn to stone.
(From the Epilogue, Crossing the River, The Alabama University Press, 2008)
Shalom Eilati (Kaplan) was born in Kovno, Lithuania, in 1933. His mother was a nurse and poet, his father a teacher and author. In 1941 he and his family were imprisoned in the ghetto, where he survived the various Aktionen until 1944 when, at his mother’s initiative, he escaped from the ghetto alone and survived the war. In 1946 he came to Palestine, finishing junior school in Tel Aviv and high school in Tel Yosef in the Jezreel Valley. He became a member of Kibbutz Tel Yosef, and later served as the secretary of the Kibbutz.
He served as an officer in the Israeli Defense Force, an agronomist with a Ph.D. in horticulture, a tour guide, and publishing editor.
He was one of the volunteers that prepared the ground for the agricultural settlement of Kibbutz Ein Gedi near the Dead Sea, later a regional orchard researcher in the Arava valley in southern Israel, and a lecturer of Horticulture in the Faculty of Agriculture at the Hebrew University in Rehovot.
Shalom Eilati is married, lives in Jerusalem, father to two daughters and a son, grandfather of five
He is among the founders of the Environmental Protection Service and, from 1974 to 1980, served as the editor of the Service’s national annual report. Between 1981 and 1994 he compiled the “Cathedra”, a scientific quarterly published by Yad Ben Zvi on the history and settlement of Israel.
In 1999, he published in Hebrew a literary autobiography, “Crossing the River”, about his childhood during the Holocaust. The English version appeared in 2008 by the University of Alabama Press and was widely reviewed. In summer 2009, he made a highly successful book tour in the U.S.A. A second paperback edition has been published on 2013.
The book has been translated to German (“Am andern Ufer der Memel“) and was published by the Denkmal Stiftung in Berlin on May 10. The Landvertretung North-Rhine-Westphalia presented the book with the active participation of Professor Monika Gruetters, Minister of Cultural Affairs and Media. More than 100 guests attended the event, including several editors, publishers, and representatives of the Jewish community in Berlin. The consul of Lithuania was also present. A reading of excerpts from the book by the well known actor, Christian Berkel, concluded the evening. (See also the talks by the author and by Professor Grutters).