My friendship with David Brumer began with an email. He’d written an Op-Ed in defense of Israel for his local daily newspaper, David wrote me. Would I mind taking a look at it?
It was during the terrible days of the second intifada, when buses and restaurants were blowing up and Israelis were feeling not only besieged, but abandoned. And now here was a Jew from Seattle, someone I didn’t know, sending me what turned out to be a compelling defense of Israel.
David died suddenly on Sunday, July 8. He was 56 years old. The news of his passing devastated me.
Through his blogs and Op-Eds, his promotion of Israeli films and his nearly full-time volunteer work for pro-Israel groups, David revealed an irresistible common sense on Israel’s behalf. Few knew as well as he did how to speak to Israel’s critics. He understood their concerns even as he refuted their distortions. He won an argument because he was ready to concede points to his opponents, because he was committed more to telling the truth than to winning.
David soon became my favorite pro-Israel advocate. Partly it was the way he combined reason with passion, never losing his good humor no matter how relentlessly he argued a point.
Partly it was his empathy. Even many American Jews attached to Israel experienced a certain fatigue during the years of the suicide bombings. But David lived through each one with us, refused to allow distance to undermine empathy.
No one was more courageous in advocating for Israel. David wasn’t afraid to take on the most difficult issues, like refuting the blood libel being promoted by the family of Rachel Corrie.
David would laugh if he’d heard me call him courageous. He didn’t think he was doing anything special in devoting himself to Israel. In his mind he was simply doing what any stand-up guy would do. Israel was being unfairly judged and sentenced, and someone had to take on the defense.
But no one defended Israel with such grace, such generosity. Israel’s opponents perplexed more than infuriated him. Why couldn’t they see how wrong they were, what damage they were doing? David was especially frustrated by the Jews among the anti-Israel lynch mob. But he was incapable of expressing rage against them. He loved the Jews too much, even those who were hurting their own people.
Anyone privileged to have worked with David in defense of Israel knew that what inspired his prodigious energy and output was an open heart. As if David were trying to protect Israel by loving it as totally, as unconditionally, as its enemies hated it.
In the end, it was about family. David loved Israel the way he loved his Israeli wife, Iris, the way he loved his two sons Nadav and Asaph, the way he loved his friends. There was in David an inexhaustible generosity, a pride in the achievements of those he loved. And a quiet ferocity in defending those he loved from harm.
With all his loves, David asked for nothing in return. He only wanted to continue to love. May his love continue to bless us.