Eliezer Ayalon, a veteran tour guide for Jewish Federation missions, died late last month.
Born in Radom, Poland in 1928, Ayalon was the only child from his family to survive the Holocaust. He spent a year in the Radom Ghetto and then three years in five different concentration camps in Poland and Austria, among them Plaszow and Mauthausen. Shortly after being liberated from a camp in Austria in May 1945, he made aliyah to Israel through the Jewish Agency for Israel’s youth aliyah department. He served in the Israeli army, fighting in the 1948 War of Independence. He then became a tour guide, but it wasn’t until a 1981 meeting with fellow Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel that he began sharing his story, becoming a docent at the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem and lecturing at conferences and universities in the United States and Israel.
Wiesel “came for the purpose of teaching us Holocaust survivors, knowing that many of us do not want to speak about the Holocaust. He came to show us how to open our hearts,” Ayalon recalled in an interview several years ago. “He looked at me and said, ‘Eliezer, you survived for a reason … It is your obligation and responsibility to speak because maybe it is beshert (destiny).’”
In 1991, Ayalon published the story of his childhood and survival, “The Cup of Honey.” Two years ago, he was given the honor of lighting a torch in Israel’s national public ceremony on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Ayalon is survived by his wife, two children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The funeral was held May 29 in Jerusalem.
Ayalon served as a tour guide for several Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona trips to Israel and Poland. “He touched many folks in Tucson,” says JFSA President and CEO Stuart Mellan.