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plane crash – major events in my life

I just learned that my close friend, Shlomo Silberberg (ref Shlomo Zilberberg), died yesterday in a tragic plane crash in Namibia.  My heart goes out to his wife and two sons.  Shlomo was a phenomenal individual who had a heart of gold and the energy of several men.  We enjoyed many times with him and his family.  I spoke with him just a couple weeks ago and wished him a happy birthday and a happy New Year.  Many things happen that make one take a step back and think about how precious life is on this earth.  But above all, at this moment, I will miss my friend. 

Shlomo and I met when our daughter Natasha and his oldest son, Aloni, were in nursery school together in Manhattan.  It was one of those rare times when the kids became friends, and the parents became good friends as well.  Our families did all sorts of things together.  A few years later, they moved to Israel, and we went twice to visit.  Shlomo was so proud of his country!  We toured from the Golan Heights to Eilat.  We swam and dove in the Red Sea, floated in the Dead Sea, rafted on the Dan River, and stayed in a kibbutz.  We flew in a buck-eye parachute plane (he made sure the Israeli Air Force knew it was us – so we did not get shot down), landed on the shores of the Sea of Gallilee, and stripped down and ran into the water.  He even arranged for both families to take a day trip to Jordan, where we visited Petra, toured the ancient ruins and rode donkeys and camels back to the bus. 

About eight or ten years ago, we convinced him to take a week with us up on Cape Cod.  We (both families) rented a condominium on the bay side – wandered the tidal flats (one of my favorite places in the world), spent a day in Provincetown, and went whale watching.  Although he always said that Israel had every sight and activity you could want, he had to admit that Cape Cod was special.

In NY, Shlomo took me to the Diamond Exchange where I watched him buy stones.  He was a shrewd negotiator – but had a reputation for fair dealing, knowledge, judgment and integrity rarely seen in any business.  The respect of his peers and associates was evident in NY, as well as when I had the privilege of going with him to the exchanges in Tel Aviv and Antwerp, too.

On subsequent trip to Israel, Shlomo had invested in a fishing boat (I think it was just another thing to do with his friends).  We got up in the early AM, as you need to get out there and pull in the nets before the fish spoil.  We heaved and hoed, and pulled and brought up lots of fish from the Mediterranean.  There were also octopus, but he was adamant that although I had a wonderful recipe, they were NOT KOSHER, and threw them back.  We went for long walks on the beach and he shared a lot  about his family, his life, his business, and his dreams. Shlomo bought a beautiful piece of real estate in Ramat Poleg (near Natanya), which was expansive enough for a horse ranch.  He started going to the US to buy horses, and the barn was nicer than many houses.  Sadly, though he had plans to build a house, he and his wife Marjorie did not get a chance to construct it.  Once, on a trip out to the American West for a horse show and buying expedition, Shlomo found a taste for Oklahoma steaks, and many of us enjoyed them on his backyard barbecue grill, while trying not to question how they got there.

Shlomo was umbilically attached to his cell phone.  He also was an early adopter of technology, having designed and contracted a Web site to sell diamonds.  He was patient and fair with many of my friends that I sent to buy a stone for that special girlfriend or wife.  It was always tough to figure out how to do something for him – but if you needed anything, all you needed to do was ask.   He helped many people of his acquaintance, both friends and relatives, and relatives of his friends, too.  In fact, many of his closest friends were Israelis with whom he had grown up since childhood, who had served together with him in the Israeli Army.  Shlomo’s military service sheds a little more light on his character – he was in the explosives ordinance disposal unit, going into captured tanks and vehicles to ensure that they were safe for others in his unit.  He was brave, and a real risk taker, always laughing off any chance of a problem or complication. 

A couple of years ago I called him, and said that I wanted to get away during the winter holiday time.  He told me to come to Israel and we would go on a little road trip.  That time, we spent a few days in Israel, then flew to South Africa to visit De Beers (a rare and unbelievable opportunity to see how rough stones are acquired,) and then went on to his manufacturing plant.  He told me of his plans for expansion into other markets in Africa.  We left Johannesburg, and went to Belgium, where I met his partners there.  I saw more diamonds than you would see in several lifetimes, and he was incredibly enthusiastic about the opportunities that existed in his industry in Africa and other venues around the world.  It is ironic and so sad that he lost his life in one of these exotic locations, when he had expended so much time and energy creating business opportunities there.

On one of our visits, we attended Alon’s Bar Mitzvah, which took place shortly after a series of bombings close to where they lived in Netanya.  We were struck by the family’s courage in moving forward with the party, and with Shlomo’s appreciation for the joy that such occasions brought to him, his family and friends.  Just a few short weeks ago, they celebrated Eytan’s Bar Mitzvah as well, and we are certain that Shlomo was equally proud of his younger son on that special day.  We have lost a very good friend.  Our love and sympathies go out to all of Shlomo’s friends and family, but particularly to his devoted wife Marjorie, and his two sons, who are so special to us:  Alon and Eytan.

News story below. 

Namibia: Plane Crash Victims Identified

The Namibian (Windhoek)

Posted to the web 17 January 2008

Denver Isaacs

THE process of officially identifying the five foreign victims of a plane crash that happened in Windhoek last week was concluded yesterday.

The bodies of the five Israeli men were expected to be transported back to their country of origin last night, following a memorial service that was held for them last night at the Avbob Funeral Parlour in Windhoek.

The deceased are Shlomo Silberberg, Avihay Abaro, Ilan Adadi (45), Amit Cohen and Zigdon Shmuel.

They had been in Namibia as technical partners of the NamGem Diamond Manufacturing Company at Okahandja, and were employed as executives in the New York-based Lazare Kaplan International diamond manufacturer.

An Israeli team of police officers, pathologists and religious inspectors have been in the country since Monday, assisting the Namibian Police in the investigation of the plane crash.

Police spokesperson Chief Inspector Angula Amulungu said this week that the Israeli team had brought with them DNA samples and dental records to help with the identification.

The Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Ilan Baruch, has been in Namibia since the weekend to try and resolve the matter of identifying the five foreign bodies. Israel does not have an embassy in Namibia.

The five Israelis and the South African-born pilot of the Cessna 210 aircraft that they had been travelling in died after the plane crashed into a house in the Olympia residential area on Friday afternoon.

All the bodies were burned beyond recognition. The cause of the crash, which happened minutes after takeoff from the Eros Airport, remains under investigation.


Source:, Last update – 18:38 14/01/2008

Israeli delegations land in Namibia to identify plane crash victims –By Yigal Hai and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents and Haaretz Service Tags: Israel, Namibia, ZAKA

Delegations from the Israel Police and the ZAKA rescue and identification organization landed on Monday in Namibia in order to begin the process of identifying the five Israelis who perished in a plane crash near the southern African nation’s capital on Saturday.

The delegation members will meet with the local police commander in order to coordinate their work.  Diamond industry officials have identified five passengers killed when their light aircraft crashed in a residential suburb of Namibia’s capital Windhoek on Saturday as Israeli diamond dealers.

Family members of the five casualties – Shlomo Zilberberg, Shmuel Zigdon, Amit Cohen, Ilan Hadadi and Avichai Abarov – arrived Sunday at Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine, in Jaffa, to provide DNA samples and dental records of their relations, to help in identifying the bodies. The five Israelis died together with four other local workers who were also aboard the plane. 

The crash occurred on Friday afternoon, shortly after the chartered Cessna-210 took off, after a refueling stop in Windhoek. The deceased were apparently headed to a lodge in the Etosha National Wildlife Park in northern Namibia. About two minutes after takeoff, the plane crashed, as it was attempting an emergency landing in a residential suburb of Windhoek.

The men were in Namibia to oversee the construction of three new diamond-cutting facilities in South Africa. The project was initiated by Zilberberg, who was a leading figure in the Israeli diamond trade. The trip to Etosha was meant to provide his employees with an opportunity for rest and relaxation.

Zilberberg, 54, is survived by his wife, and two sons, aged 13 and 18. He lived with his family in Netanya, and meant to move to Udim, a moshav nearby, where he owns a horse ranch.

Amit Cohen, 26, from Herzliya, is survived by his wife, Sivan, whom he married several months ago. She is five months pregnant. Cohen’s uncle, Mordechai Halfon, said that his nephew, who worked for Halfon, had planned to buy the apartment he was renting with his wife.

Shmuel Zigdon, 53, is survived by his wife, and four children, aged 16, 18, 24 and 30. He also lived in the Sharon region, in Moshav Porat, where he was born and raised. He began working in the diamond industry at the age of 14, slowly working his way up through the ranks before opening his own cutting plant in Ramat Gan.

The fourth Israeli casualty, Ilan Hadadi, 44, from Netanya, was single. He met Zilberberg as an electrician, and the latter hired him to work on the the Udim horse ranch. The fifth casualty, Avichai Abarov, a gemologist, was supposed to run one of Zilberberg’s plants.


5 Israelis die in Namibia plane crash Light plane crashes into home near Namibian capital Friday afternoon, killing six people; Israeli officials arrive at crash site Saturday, five Israeli passports found at scene; Efforts underway to identify bodies (01.12.08, 21:36 / Israel News)

Disaster in Namibia: Five Israelis and a local pilot were killed Friday afternoon after a light plane crashed in Namibia shortly after takeoff. Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa, Ilan Baruch, arrived at the crash scene Saturday morning along with Israeli Consul Sharon Dadon. Five Israeli passports were found at the crash site. Officials who are dealing with the incident told Ynet that the task of identifying the victims is a very difficult one because the plane completely disintegrated.  Moti Ganz, president of the Israel Diamond Manufacturers Association, said that all five crash victims are members of the diamond industry. "In recent years, many diamond factories have been established in the southern section of Africa, and about 50% of Namibia diamond factories are under Israeli ownership," Ganz said.

Up in flames The accident occurred after the plane attempted to perform an emergency landing near the capital. Local police investigators, who are looking into the circumstances of the crash, said the plane belongs to Atlantic Aviation.

"I was on my way back home from the store when I saw a plane flying above our heads at very low altitude," a local resident said. "Suddenly the plane crashed right into a home." The eyewitness said the plane was up in flames immediately after it crashed.

A Namibian police spokesperson confirmed that six people were killed in the crash, including five foreigners. A senior Namibian aviation official told AFP the plane crashed "five minutes after takeoff."

Press is listing Shlomo ZILBERBERG

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