David Rot was born in Havana, Cuba in the year 1934. His parents
were immigrants from Russia and Poland who, like many other Jews,
wanted to reach the United States, but since the quota was closed
saw Cuba as a stepping-stone. In the end, they remained in Cuba,
where flourished an active Jewish community, schools, synagogues,
David participated in a Jewish Kindergarten “Tarbut” (view
picture) headed by Ida Cohen, and a Jewish Grammar school. He later studied
in a Cuban Vocational
David joined the Hashomer Hatzair Youth Movement 1947
before the Israel War of Independence (view
picture). He was very active in the movement
and with the years
took on more and more responsibility. He even spent a year away from Havana
as a leader in Santiago de Cuba on the east coast (view
In 1952 he spent a year in Israel in the Machon Lemadrichei
a project of the Jewish Agency (view
picture) to train youth leaders for work in the various
Jewish Youth Movements in the Diaspora.
David left Cuba in 1956 and went to the Hechalutz
Training Farm in Hightstown, New Jersey (view
picture). This was a farm that acted as
a mini-kibbutz, where members
of the Hashomer Hatzair Youth Movements in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Cuba
spent a year before immigrating to Israel.
There he met Yaffa, an American. (view
picture) They married and left for Israel in the
fall of 1957. (view
picture) They first went to Kibbutz Nachshon, in the foothills of
Jerusalem, where there were Americans of Yaffa’s group. After 4 years
they decided to move to Kibbutz Dvir in the Negev, where members of David’s
group were residing, and remained there ever since.
David and Yaffa had 4 children and, at the time this was written, 7 grandchildren.
During the years in the Kibbutz, David worked a lot
in agriculture, first growing irrigated crops such as potatoes, and then sugar
beets, clover, alfalfa, and
Rhodes grass (view
picture) as fodder for the dairy cows. He also worked in the barn (view
picture) and milked the cows. He studied plant diseases in the Rechovoth
picture) In his later years he worked in the carpentry shop and was in charge
of the maintenance of the children’s houses in the kibbutz. (view
picture) He was
very interested in modern history, learning by himself and taking evening courses
in the Ben Gurion University of Beer Sheba. He was particularly well versed
in the history of the Spanish revolution and Cuban History.
During all his years in the Kibbutz, David was active
in the political life in Israel, and was sent by the Mapam party (view
picture) to run the branches in Kiriyat
Gat, Kiriyat Malachi, and then Beer Sheva. Wherever he went, he was well liked
because of his easy manner, hard work, and integrity. David’s belief
was that a political party depends on the people who vote for it. He saw great
importance in building the branches in the city and having a nice clubroom
in which to meet. He also endeavored to hold seminars at people’s homes
in informal gatherings. In Beer Sheba David established Tzavta – a branch
of the Tel Aviv Tzavta, a theater housing progressive plays and concerts. He
organized a voluntary group of people, not necessarily from Mapam, who once
a month would set up a rented hall and sell tickets. All who participated had
a wonderful time and fondly remember this period in their lives.
Through Mapam, and later Meretz, David met many Cubans
who came to visit Israel, either to learn agriculture or to the Maccabbia, and
there was hardly one who
was not a guest in his home. He always entertained members of the Cuban Communist
party who came at the invitation of Mapam, (view
picture) since there were no relations
between Israel and Cuba after the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
David always dreamed of returning to Cuba for a visit,
which was impossible till after the Russians left Cuba. When Cuba began to maintain
tourist trade, David managed to obtain visas in March 1993 for a group of 5
Cuban-born Israelis to visit their old homeland. While there, David met with
the Cuban Jewish Community, and many people asked him to help them reach Israel.
picture) David made a list of names, which he always kept in his pocket. He
also met with members of the Cuban Communist party, some of whom he had already
hosted in Israel.
In 1992, after the Pope’s visit to Cuba, 4 young people were allowed
to reach Israel for the purpose of “religious studies”, and this
marked the beginning of the renewed Aliyah from Cuba. David was in charge of
their absorption in Israel.
In March 1993, David organized the Cuban Desk of the
International Mapam Movement, today Meretz. (view
In October 1993, at a dinner in the home of Monica Pollack,
a member of Meretz in charge of International Affairs, David met Margarita Zapata,
of the renowned Mexican Revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata. (view
picture) Since Fidel Castro
had lived in her fathers’ home while in exile from Cuba before the revolution,
he felt responsible for Margarita, and, not only did she study law in Cuba,
but was also living in Castro’s home. At present she is a Nicaraguan
citizen and, until she took ill, was stationed in Paris for the Sandinista
movement. David took out his list of 8 families and asked Margarita to intervene
with Castro to allow them to emigrate. Ultimately these families were allowed
In April 1994, the first group of immigrants arrived
in Israel. They were sent by the Jewish Agency to an absorption Center in Beer
Sheba, and David was in
constant contact with them to help make their absorption easier. Since then,
small groups of immigrants arrive all the time, and have been sent to absorption
centers all over the country, Beer Sheba, Ashkalon and Hadera. Until his death,
David endeavored to be in touch with all of them. At the memorial service commemorating
a year to his death, David received a citation from the Jewish Agency for his
work in absorption of immigration. (view
One of the most important things that he did for these
immigrants was to arrange public housing for them, where they could pay low rents.
He achieved this through
the intervention of Yuli Tamir, Minister of Absorption in the Labor government.
picture) (Jews leaving Cuba for Israel have to leave their houses to the government,
cannot take money out of Cuba, and can bring only 20 kg .of baggage. Thus they
do not have the money to buy a house or pay high rentals after leaving the
absorption centers. David believed that they should be treated as refugees,
like the Ethiopian Aliya. )
In November 1994 David participated in an international conference in Cuba,
devoted to the Middle East, organized by the African-Asian Division of the
Cuban Foreign Office, Icap – Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos.
In January 1996, David was again in Cuba at the invitation of Icap.
Each trip he made to Cuba, he would always meet with government officials in
order to to give them a less one-sided view of the situation in the Middle
East, and to see if there was some way that Mapam could help Cuba. He always
made it a point on these trips to meet with the Jewish Community, and to bring
letters from their families in Israel.
In 1997, David went to Cuba with a group of Israeli businessmen who wanted
to establish a Health Center in Havana. During the following years, he either
accompanied, or sent with his recommendation, various Israeli entrepreneurs
wishing to do business with Cuba. David saw this not only as a chance to help
Cuba economically, but also to deepen the ties between the two countries.
In February 1999, David was again in Cuba at the invitation
of Icaap, and at that time was presented with the Cuban Medal for Solidarity,
picture) under the
auspices of Fidel Castro, in recognition of all he had done for the land of
His last trip was in November 2002, a few weeks before his untimely death,
for a Conference concerning the Middle East conflict. Most of the participants
were either Muslim, or pro-Arab, so he was eager to bring before the delegates
a rational Israeli point of view, and was received with great admiration. He
was invited to return the coming year with an open invitation for other high-ranking
members of the Meretz party, and he was eagerly looking forward to it.
An active Zionist, and an activist in Israeli politics,
David never stopped loving the land of his birth. He tried to help develop the
country, and to
send food and medicines when there were hurricanes in Cuba. He tried to influence
the Israeli government not to vote for the Embargo in the U.N. by participating
in rallies against the Embargo, (view
picture) and in meetings with the Foreign Office.
He also tried to convince the Israeli government to establish a desk for Cuban
Affairs in Israel, through a foreign consulate. The Cuban government appreciated
his efforts, and for this they gave him the Medal.
In January 1997, David had to suddenly have open-heart
surgery to replace two faulty valves, thereby saving his life. (view
picture) Although his physicians predicted
that he would never recover the same quality of life as before, because of
his eternal optimism and inner strength, he managed within half a year to return
to his normal activities, including trips abroad. In March 1999, he underwent
open-heart surgery a second time to replace one of the valves, which had developed
a leak. He again recovered quickly and continued his normal activities.
David was a person with high ideals and deep conviction. He believed in Socialism
and Zionism, in the equality of man, and the brotherhood of nations, and during
his adult years made every effort to strive toward those goals, to make the
world a better place. He was not a dogmatic person, and when he saw that certain
things he held to be true were unrealistic or unfeasible, he would try to maintain
his goals but to match them to reality. He was a mild person, and would try
to convince others quietly and with good humor. He would never forcibly impose
his ideas on another. David was foremost a man who loved his family. He took
deep pride in his wife, his children and his grandchildren, and let them know
it at every opportunity. His motto was that the family should always be united,
and he endeavored to speedily patch up any differences arising among his sons.
On Sunday, December 1, 2002, at home just two weeks
after his return from the last conference in Cuba, David laid down to take a
nap, from which he never
woke up. He left a grieving wife, four fine children, six grandchildren and
an unborn grandson, who was born just 4 days after his death, and a multitude
of loving friends. May his memory be blessed! (view