It is with great sadness that Hamodia reports the passing of Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Heber, zt”l, founder of Matnat Chaim, an organization which facilitates kidney donations, who was niftar on Thursday due to COVID-19. He was 55 years old.
Born in Tel Aviv, Rabbi Heber learned in Yeshivas Ponovezh, and served afterwards as a Rav and Rosh Yeshiva. When he was stricken with kidney disease some 15 years ago, he was placed on dialysis for several hours three times a week as he awaited a match for a transplant. During that time, he befriended Pinchos, another kidney patient who was in line for a transplant, and after Rabbi Heber received his kidney, he worked to arrange one for his new-found friend.
Unfortunately, by the time one was procured and the surgery was scheduled, Pinchos had deteriorated and passed away two weeks prior to the surgery. Rabbi Heber then founded Matnat Chaim, through which he was able to facilitate hundreds of kidney donations over the next decade.
Recently, Blue and White MK Chili Tropper donated a kidney for a man he did not know through Heber’s organization. He was the 780th donation for Matnat Chaim, and last week they celebrated the 800th transplant.
Rabbi Heber had planned to participate in the celebration of this milestone, but he took ill with COVID-19. He was sedated and on a ventilator in Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Yerushalayim for a couple of weeks, with his condition worsening on April 14, and he succumbed to the virus on Thursday, April 23.
MK Tropper declared that Rabbi Heber was one of Israel’s “heroes” who “dedicated his life to save lives, with infinite dedication, exceptional humility and love for humans that is hard to come by.”
“Many owe him their lives and Israeli society is better and more humane thanks to his life’s work,” Tropper said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “expressed his deep sorrow about the passing” of the rabbi, saying Heber “instilled in the general public the awareness of the importance of donation.”
“Thanks to him, hundreds of people in Israel were granted a new life,” Netanyahu said. “Rabbi Heber was a model of humanity, kindness and mutual responsibility.”
Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz said Heber “spread so much kindness and solidarity.”
“The parents, children, brothers and sisters that owe him the lives of their loved ones, and all of us who were impacted by the power of his giving to the community, are grieving tonight,” Gantz said.
Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman said, “It is a great sorrow for the people of Israel and a difficult evening for the health system, with the passing of Rabbi Yeshayahu Haber, who established the Gift of Life Organization for Kidney Patients. A man of all kindness and compassion, who has been saved many lives in Israel. Rabbi Yeshayahu Haber, zt”l, who sadly passed away after being infected with Corona, was a noble figure, a great man, who devoted his entire life to saving others’ lives.
Rabbi Aryeh Deri of Shas said, “The heart is broken by the unimaginable tragedy of the passing of Rabbi Abraham Yeshaya Heber, z”l, the dear and devoted Jew of a life-giving organization that saved the lives of hundreds of people by advocating for kidney donation, and succumbed to the Corona virus while only 55 years old.”
Rabbi Moshe Gafni of Yahadus HaTorah described him as “a man who was a talmid chacham, [who] saved hundreds of people, devoted himself to them, and sanctified Heaven in his mighty actions…leaving his family, his many friends and all of us mourning and in pain.”
Dr. Hadar Merhav, Director of the Hadassah Transplant Unit, said, “He created an enterprise which is unparalleled in the world. He saved many more lives than I had saved in thirty years of my medical career. Rabbi Heber was an idealist, a man who gave everything he could to save more and more people. ”
Rabbi Heber has been awarded the Health Minister’s Shield by the Health Ministry in April, 2016, and numerous Israeli hospitals honored him for his work.
He was buried at 2 a.m. on Friday on Har Hamenuchos. The public could not attend the funeral to give him the honor he was due because of the coronavirus restrictions limiting the number of attendees.
Yehi zichro baruch.