In memoriam: Professor Eli L. Edelstein (1922–2008)
Professor Edelstein was born in Vienna. At the age of 15 he joined the Zionist youth group Hashomer Hatzair and added to his German name Ludwig the Hebrew name Eliezer – Eli. The year after “Reichskristallnacht,” in 1939, Eli left his parents and emigrated to Palestine with Youth Aliya, and settled in Haifa. He moved to Kibbutz Merhavia, later to Negba, completed high school examinations and served in the British Army 1942–1944. During and after World War II he studied biochemistry and bacteriology and became head of the IDF’s first clinical laboratory. Since he had wanted to become a doctor from the age of eight, after the war of independence he began to study medicine in Bern, Switzerland, and completed his MD at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He then began psychiatric residency at Talbieh Hospital, continued as staff psychiatrist and travelled to NIH in the US for two years of psychiatric research. Back in Jerusalem he widened his horizons with courses in pharmacology and neurobiology. During those years he met and married Sarah Nesher, with whom he had three sons, Amos, Roni and Arnie (1). In 1964 he became head of the inpatient services of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. In 1973 he was appointed Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Hebrew University – Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. He remained a modest person, maintaining friendly relationships with colleagues and students. His main academic interests were eating disorders and pain, and he published three books. He was editor-in-chief of the Israel Journal of Psychiatry (1981–1992), president of the Israel Psychoanalytic Society (1983–1985), and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. In 1977, when chairman of the Israel Psychiatric Association, he was the first Israeli physician to be elected to the committee of the World Psychiatric Association. Besides his various research interests his main clinical activity was in liaison psychiatry and the interface between biological and psychological effects. “To those psychoanalysts who would decry the emergence of psychopharmacology, I always used to say that Freud himself said that eventually an organic biological basis would be found to the serious psychiatric disorders, and this is what is now being born out” (2, p. 199). For almost 10 years he was psychiatric consultant of the Shaare Zedek General Hospital in Jerusalem. An exceptional tape and book called “Eli fights his way through” was completed by Eli together with Ingrid and Christian Mittecker from Vienna: “A book which lets one of the unheard collective dramas of our history up to the present become understandable as the sum of individual dramas for which this gripping biographical story must be called exemplary” (from the Laudation for the Children’s and Youth books Prize of the City of Vienna, May 12, 2003). Despite his painful experiences as an adolescent in Austria he remained attached to his mother tongue, wrote a chapter in one of his books in German and participated in German-speaking congresses. He was blessed with a wide range of interests and talents, including painting: in January 2008 an exhibition of his works opened at the Jerusalem Municipality Gallery. In his late forties, Eli’s physical health began to decline. He succumbed to incurable pneumonia. May he rest in peace.
Uri Lowental, Jerusalem In memoriam:
Professor Eli L. Edelstein (1922–2008)