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Aharon Behar
Aharon Behar

Lives Lived: Aharon Behar, 88 Add to ...

Father, tool-and-die maker, sabra. Born on Nov. 9, 1927, in Jerusalem; died on Aug. 15, 2016, in Thornhill, Ont., of natural causes, aged 88.

Aharon was born in 1927 in Jerusalem, the eldest son in a poor Jewish family that went back six generations in Palestine. As a child he attended a French-Catholic mission school near the one-room home he shared with his parents, sister and two brothers. He took seriously his responsibility as the eldest son and quit school at 13 to help support his family. Recognizing Aharon’s potential, his employer paid for him to attend night school, where he learned his trade of tool-and-die making.

When the Second World War ended, a teenaged Aharon joined the Jewish paramilitary underground fighting to end British occupation and establish a Jewish state. After the 1948 war in which the state of Israel was formed, he went to England to apprentice with a company in London. Despite the recent enmity, British industrial ties, forged over 30 years of occupation, persisted after Israeli independence, making England the prime destination for a young engineer looking to hone his craft. One day Aharon’s employer called him into his office and told him that he had had a brother in the British army who was killed by a Zionist fighter; he wanted to assure Aharon that he held no hard feelings. This gesture was never forgotten by the young man, who developed a lasting admiration for the gentility and order of British society.

Back in Israel in the 1950s, Aharon became a successful engineer and businessman. In 1954, he married Berta Doueck, with whom he had three children (Sara, Yael and Joseph). As a dark-skinned Sephardic Jew, Aharon’s success ran against the tide in Israeli class relations, and he grew tired of the difficulties and indignities he endured, as well as what he felt was the stifling hand of state bureaucracy.

He made the painful decision to leave his beloved country for greater opportunity and freedom across the Atlantic. Recalling his affinity for all things British, he and Berta immigrated to Canada right after the 1967 war. His parents and siblings came to Canada at the same time.

A fourth child (Haim) was born in 1969, just as Aharon was finding his feet in Toronto. In the years that followed, his tool-and-die business flourished and he was able to raise his children in middle-class comfort, and help other family members as well. He loved being among the first residents in new developments: new houses, new buildings, new neighbourhoods. He planted many trees but never stayed long enough to see them mature.

When he was 75, and looked 10 years younger, he suffered a heart attack and stroke. He fought hard to regain his health, walking and exercising daily and quitting his lifelong smoking habit (mostly). However his ability to speak never fully came back, nor did his neat penmanship. He did have the presence of mind to move one last time to a condo with a pool, where Berta could swim.

In his final years, with dementia setting in, his circle of visitors shrank. But his wife and children, with help from loyal and loving caregivers, were able to keep him at home to the very end. He leaves them strong, independent, and grateful.

Joe Behar is Aharon’s son.

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