We mourn the death of Suzy Eban on Friday 16 September 2011 and remember her with affection.
Ismailia, on the Suez Canal, was once serene and prosperous. There Shoshana Ambache (soon known as Suzy) was born into a Jewish family where her father was working for the Suez Canal Company. His family had emigrated to Palestine from Russia “long before the Zionists” and he and his wife brought up their children in Hebrew, giving them all a life-long passion for Zionism. Suzy spent her adolescence in Cairo where the world offered an early marriage and a life of leisure. But her upbringing made her stand apart. During the Second World War, she met the brilliant Aubrey (Abba) Eban, then working for the Jewish Agency promoting Palestine as the Jewish homeland, and for the British government. Suzy and Abba were to dedicate their lives to each other and to the future State of Israel. Abba Eban was to have a key role in the establishment of Israel, negotiating at the United Nations to secure sufficient votes for the Partition Plan for Palestine. Suzy describes his extraordinary speech there – which proved decisive to the vote – with admiration. The Ebans remained in the US with Abba serving as Israel’s first Ambassador, establishing good relations with America and obtaining Israel’s membership of the newly created UN. On their return to Israel, Abba rose to Foreign Minister. Suzy describes both the enthusiasm and the hardships of the early years of the State and the dark days of the Six Day and Yom Kippur Wars. With insight, compassion and great wit she portrays the personalities of the era: Israeli politicians and their highly independent wives, as well as heads of state including Anwar Sadat and King Hussein.
Suzy Eban has lived at the forefront of Israel’s creation and proves a perceptive witness to these years, as well as an outstanding example of its founding generation. Her descriptions of the last years of Jewish life in Egypt are a lively testament to a vibrant community that has now disappeared. She has lived an active life both as an ambassador and politician’s wife, and working in her own right with Jewish communal organizations in America and for the Israel Cancer Association back at home. She continues to live in the house that she and Abba built in Herzlia, Israel.