In December 2018 two of Israel’s foremost botanists sadly passed away: Dr. Gad Polak and Dr. Michael Avishai, who were among the founding members of Israel’s botanical studies.

Michael and Gadi – may you both rest in peace

Gad Pollak (1940-2018)

Dr. Gad Pollak was a botanist and researcher of plant ecology. He completed three degrees at Tel-Aviv University, in which he studied the eco-physiology of salt marsh vegetation; rare plant species along Israel’s coast; and the biology of various plant species. Gadi was an educator: a senior lecturer at the Kibbutzim College and at several other institutes. He published a large number of books and articles in scientific journals as well as in popular-science journals. His publications include two very important volumes of “The Red Data Book: Endangered Plants of Israel”, which present extremely important data regarding these species and their preservation. During the 1980s Gadi was the editor of “Rotem”, an Israeli botanical field journal (published by The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel). In 2014 he was one of the initiators of Kalanit, an online journal, and he remained its editor until shortly before his death.  

These journals provide valuable and accessible botanical information for both the general public and researchers. Gadi emphasized the importance of all the Botanical Gardens in Israel as sanctuaries for endangered plants as well as constituting a source of knowledge for growing such plants.

Gadi was a charming man, a fascinating field guide, and an excellent and knowledgeable educator. In his tours and through his books we have learned a great deal. A lot of these books are still in use, many years after they were published, and they are part of his botanical legacy. 

Michael Avishai (1935-2018)

At the end of December 2018, Dr. Michael Avishai from the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens (Giva’t Ram) passed away. Michael was born in Germany, and during the Holocaust he was able to survive by hiding. In 1948 he immigrated to Israel with the Youth Aliyah and joined Kibbutz Ein Hamifratz. Michael started to work in the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens from its early years, helping to establish the Gardens and later on became its long-term Director. His MSc. thesis was on the taxonomy of oaks and his PhD on the evolutionary genetics of the Oncocyclus irises. 

Michael was known as an outstanding educator and as an Oak expert around the world. The Oak collection that he planted in the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens is famous world-wide.
As a pioneer in the evolution of plant research, and in particular of irises in Israel, Michael supported and helped many of the researchers who have since continued his work, including the work on Oncocyclus irises by Dr. Yuval Sapir, director of our Botanic Garden.
Michael was extremely knowledgeable, a gentleman with an indomitably energetic spirit. He will be sorely missed; and especially so by the botanists who have followed him.

Dr. Gadi Pollak at “Kalanit” course in the Sharon plain, Photo:  Yael Orgad

Dr. Gadi Pollak at “Kalanit” course in the Sharon plain, Photo:  Yael Orgad

Dr. Michael Avishai, Photo:  Ori Fragman-Sapir

Dr. Michael Avishai, photo:  Ori Fragman-Sapir