British Israeli Independence War veteran Sidney Lightman dies at 100

Former Jewish Chronicle assistant foreign editor Sidney Lightman served with the Israeli Navy


Sidney Lightman with his late wife Ray and the first issue of the JC that he worked on, dated February 6, 1963

Sidney Lightman, one of the last British members of Machal, the illustrious band of foreign volunteers who helped to secure Israel’s independence, has died at the age of 100.

The former assistant editor of the Jewish Chronicle was a gifted linguist who spoke Hebrew, Yiddish, German and French and continued to work as a translator well into his late 90s.

Having served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, he was a management trainee with a cigarette company when Israel declared independence in 1948.

“My brother and I had been imbued by our parents with a strong Jewish consciousness— and even if we had not been, some of our non-Jewish schoolmates and, later, fellow servicemen, did not let us forget that we were Jews. I decided to volunteer for Israel.”

By the end of the year he had sailed for Haifa and served on a frigate with the embryonic Israeli Navy until he was demobbed a year later. He remained in Israel until 1954.

After working for the Jewish Observer in London, he joined the foreign desk of the JC in 1963 and continued as a freelance after his official retirement in 1986.

His trademark handlebar moustache marked him out as a gent of the old school, scrupulous in his regard for accuracy.

He was a regular attender at the New North London Synagogue until illness prevented him in his final year. But he was able to make it to shul for a kiddush to celebrate his 100th birthday in April, where he was in good spirits as he greeted his many well-wishers.

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