The Zvi I Knew

Considering all of the difficulties he faced as a Holocaust survivor and a moneyless, unemployed immigrant in a precarious Israel, Zvi Kalisher had every reason to become cynical, wary, and suspicious. But he became exactly the opposite.

My first encounter with Zvi was in my local church many years ago, prior to my coming to serve at The Friends of Israel. There he shared with the congregation his amazing life story of defying the deadly designs of the Holocaust and experiencing God’s saving grace in the land of the Bible. In the decades since, I came to know Zvi as a person of many loves, all of which were rooted in his great love for his Savior.

Zvi loved his family dearly. His wife, Naomi; their children and spouses; and the grandchildren were a huge part of his life. He carried their pictures for everyone to see and was always quick to share, visually and verbally, how the Lord was at work in their lives.

He loved the Bible as the Word of God. It was his constant companion. There was no greater defender than Zvi of its truth, no greater advocate for its message of redemption in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. He was so eternally grateful for God’s saving encounter in his own life that everywhere he went and everyone he met he considered to be a divine appointment—an opportunity to share God’s love and grace.

Hosting and cohosting numerous Friends of Israel Up to Jerusalem journeys to Israel, I frequently experienced another of Zvi’s great loves. He planned for and looked forward to the tour participants coming to his city, the holy city of Jerusalem. He loved riding on our tour bus, meeting the people, and making himself available for sharing and fellowship. He was like a magnet, attracting everyone to him. And everyone on our tours loved him back.

A highlight on each tour was “An Evening With Zvi,” when he recounted his compelling testimony of surviving the Holocaust, making it to Israel, and finding peace in the Lord. Following his presentation, people would hang around to hear more, ask questions, and take pictures. In fact, pictures of Zvi hang in homes around the world, reminding tour participants of the remarkable man they met personally when they went Up to Jerusalem.

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