The late Mr. Haim Teitelbaum was a great friend of my late Dad.
They met during their long service in the I.D.F.
Soon after, the ladies (my Mom and Dvora) would join the friendship, and turn it into a two families story.
Today, the two founders are no longer with us. But my Mom and Dvora kept the warm relationship going until today.
Upon the sudden death of my Dad, Haim said: “It should have been me. It is a mistake.” Haim said those alarming words. The sad reminder of an advanced stage of cancer that Haim was fighting. The battle against cancer will be lost. The cruel disease will defeat the great warrior. In August 2000, Brd. Gen (Res.) Haim Teitelbaum passed away.
Haim left behind him a lovely family, united in their pain and heart-broken. I was impressed with the discipline they acquired in living with the loss.
The ‘Teitelbaums’ – Dvora, Shay, Sagit – live their painful loss preserving the joy of life. Dvora is at her full doing, at work and in the business that Haim left behind. Shay and Limor just had their first born son named Noam Haim (after his late grandfather). Sagit has moved with her family to a new residence.
Meeting with the Teitelbaums, or seeing them together will make you smile. The T (as we call them in SOS) Gang is in full velocity.
I saw Haim for a first brief meeting in Burger King Branch in the city of Rehovot.
Haim had a Burger, I took a Coke.
I told Haim my story. I was looking for a partner for a business adventure in Romania.
I told Haim that my Dad advised me to meet with him, and check whether he wanted to invest in a Medical project in Romania.
Neither of us had any Romanian background. Today I would say that, had we known that working in Romania is a real adventure, maybe our SOS Medical Company in Romania would not have been born.
In February 1999, Haim and I founded SOS Medical in Romania and our partnership was launched.
It took us some time to get accommodated to each other.
Differences of age and approach to life slowed us down. Occasionally, we needed to clear out of the way differences of opinions and approaches to the challenges that our project made us face.
In 1998, Romania was far from what it is today. The country was in a political and economic chaos.
We could not plan or think ahead. You had to face daily changes in legislation, monthly newly appointed Prime Ministers and a new rate of the local currency.
In this environment, Haim and I worked together against all odds.
Somehow, throughout the difficulties, or perhaps because of them, we started to get closer. Haim used to come to Romania to help me with the navigation of our fragile business.
I loved our breakfast talks. I used to hear stories about Haim’s childhood in Budapest, during the world war. Hungarian neighbors turned their backs at the Jewish communities when the Nazi predator appeared. Haim was on his way, with his family to the concentration camp when his Mom pushed him off the moving train – forcing his own destiny and freedom.
Haim made ‘Alya*” to Israel as a young boy. You really have to be Jewish to understand the pride that goes along with the way that Haim made it all the way to the top, and made his life a story of success.
In the Israeli ethos of the post-holocaust era, the real answer and revenge over the Nazi obsession of exterminating all Jews from the world, is the establishment of the state of Israel. One of icons of the new Israeli free state is the Israeli officer. The officer who is sharing a moral code of behavior. The officer who is not racist, who is at war only to defend his land, which is never targeting civilians, who kills only to stay alive.
Haim was a true officer. Haim was to become known for his vast contribution to the I.D.F . He joined the Armor Forces of the I.D.F and served there most of his military career. Haim introduced and built the logistic strategies and concepts unique to the Armor Forces . After the war of 1973, Israel had to rebuild its military might that was somewhat damaged with the Yom Kippur conflict with Egypt and Syria. It is known between the veterans of that time, that Haim had a major contribution to this process. Haim has also built a concept of inventory and heavy equipment management that the I.D.F. has used ever after.
Haim worked shoulder to shoulder with me on SOS project in a way that left me impressed.
Morning in Rachmaninov st. 35 in Bucharest. Haim and I are having breakfast in our small kitchen. We share conversations about the state of Israel and what it means for someone who has experienced the atrocities of wars. We talk about my late Dad, about the I.D.F., about business, work, leadership, friendship, management. We spoke about life.
In the evenings, we used to go out to “OK DELI”, the restaurant that Haim liked. We used to make a daily summary and plan how to push SOS forward on the next day.
Our work in Romania wrote some new pages of the medical history of this country.
We were the first to open a private emergency care unit. We were the first on the market of offer Emergency availability that is based on a Membership. Today, not many will remember that Haim and I were somewhat pioneers in the Romanian medical field.
One evening, surprisingly, Haim did not want to go out to our usual OK DELI treat.
That was very unusual. He complained about some weaknesses that he had experienced lately. The next day, Ana, a nurse in SOS took some blood samples from him. She was the one to tell him that he has Leukemia.
Haim doubted the sad news.
I could only pray for a mistake.
We hopped that a Lab in Israel would prove the test in Romania wrong. At that night, on the phone, Haim mentioned to Dvora of some minor medical worry. “Nothing to worry about.”
The results of the tests done again in Israel were the turning point of Haim’s life story. Haim was hospitalized for 2 Bone Marrow transplants.
In between the treatments, Haim used to come to Romania. He came to work. He wanted to know the problems and we used to advise about the ways to approach the solutions.
As before, Haim cared about the staff. He used to sit down with each and every one of the workers, managers, doctors and nurses, and learn their point of view about life in Romania and work-life in SOS. If you did not really know, you could never tell that this man was so sick.
Haim used to get into details. He read each and every report, asked questions and made comments for betterment.
Haim wanted everything perfect. He wanted a quality workflow with clear objectives and deadlines.
Soon enough, I saw in Haim a wonderful partner to consult with and a wise and experienced personality to be inspired from.
As partner, Haim was honest and transparent. His promises were always kept. Thought at times it was difficult for me to convince Haim about some issues, once convinced, you never had to address the issues again. I never heard from him “I told you” when something went wrong.
Haim lost his life to cancer. But I have gained so much from my friend and partner.
Haim’s fingerprints on my life-style and values were to be carved to stay forever.
At that year, I lost my Dad, and my partner in a very short time. On the first occasion when my senses came back to me, I wrote Dvora the following letter:
(to be completed soon)
* Alya – upcoming, immigrating; Hebrew expression for the Jewish Immigration (to Israel)