SHLOMO HIZAK 1941 - 2018
In early 1941 a little boy was born near Zion Square in the center of Jerusalem. He was named Shlomo (Solomon) and the family surname was Hizak. His ancestors came from Bukhara to Jerusalem to escape pogroms in the area around Uzbekistan and took part in building the first areas outside Jerusalem's city walls. Shlomo was the fifth generation of his family living in Jerusalem. All his life he was deeply involved in the situation of the Jews from and in Bukhara, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.
The first year of Shlomo's life was at a time characterized by great and dramatic events in Jerusalem. In Europe, a war started with the aim of annihilating the Jews of Europe. Many who could, fled to the British Mandate Palestine. In Jerusalem, several tent cities intended for the refugees were erected. The whole city and the country were characterized by large refugee flows. Europe was a Christian continent. For the little boy Shlomo, the word Christian was synonymous with threats to the Jews. He said how scared he was every time he saw a cross. Like all boys, he enjoyed "exploring the world." One day Shlomo was walking on the street Hovevei Zion, in the Talbiyeh area of Jerusalem, and from a house in the area he heard singing. Curious as he was, he went in and found a group of Christian Englishmen. For the first time, he met Christians who expressed a love for and blessed the Jewish people.
At about the same time, the independent Jewish state of Israel was proclaimed. After 2000 years the Jews had their own homeland again. Visitors and Bible readers began pouring into the country. Shlomo loved to meet people from different countries and eventually he felt that his calling in life was to become a bridge builder. In order for Christians to be able to understand the Bible and to avoid anti-Jewish interpretations, they must learn more about the Jewish Bible, the Torah, and the culture in which Jesus lived. Instead of suspicion and questioning, knowledge and exchange is needed. Shlomo truly loved the Bible. He also loved being able to teach, explain, and bless others.
After being a bodyguard for David Ben Gurion and living on a kibbutz, he started in a small scale by spreading Bibles to anyone who wanted one. For Shlomo, the word "small" or "impossible" did not exist and it was not long before the whole world was his field of work. The Israeli non-profit organization the AMI Center, in Hebrew Merkaz AMI, was founded and soon Bibles were sent out in 40 different languages to the four corners of the world. Shlomo's vision grew bigger and soon an active course and seminar program started. This intensified after the new building was completed in April 1983. Mercaz AMI had purchased the building on Hovevei Zion Street that Shlomo had visited at a young age. Now it was expanded with several floors, a library, lecture hall, office and much more. Shlomo's vision was now a reality.
There is hardly any city where there is so much knowledge about the Bible and Israel as in Jerusalem. This is conveyed by the best lecturers through courses and seminars at the Center. AMI stands for the People, the Land, and the Scriptures. Those are the three main points of the Center's work. Many are those who have visited the center for a day, a week, a month or more. The knowledge gained has changed lives, Bible understanding, the view of Israel and the Jewish people while at the same time making lifelong friendships.
Shlomo loved welcoming visitors to the Center. He was everywhere; sometimes it seemed to be at the same time. After giving a lecture, he was able to quickly run up to the kitchen to make sure the lunch, chicken, got the right seasoning. The garden should always look neat, like everything else in the Center. He knew a few phrases in countless languages and knew that a door would open if he could greet a Dutchman in Dutch and a Japanese in Japanese. Globetrotter is not enough of a description of all the trips that Shlomo made. He received invitations all the time and was tireless in reaching out with the vision of AMI.
During the last few years Shlomo's health deteriorated. He struggled as long as possible and was happiest when the AMI Center was full of visitors, from different countries, with the aim of learning more about the Mercaz AMI: the People, the Land and the Scriptures,
It is hard to imagine how anyone has fulfilled the words of Isaiah 2:3 "... For from Zion the law shall be proclaimed, from Jerusalem the word of the Lord" as Shlomo Hizak did during his deeds.
The loss of Shlomo is great but the inspiration and determination that he spread around him means many are working to ensure the work continues. The center is located in the middle of Jerusalem and the prayer and desire of all of us is for the house to be filled with visitors so the words of Isaiah can continue to be a living reality in our time.
I end these lines the way Shlomo Hizak always used to end his letters:
“For Zion's sake,”
Ewa Jonsson (former Office manager of the AMI Center)