Israel ranks highly among OECD (Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation) countries today when it comes to life expectancy. According to a recent study reported by Haaretz, on average men live to 82 – two years more than the OECD average – and women live to 84.
Some 75 years ago, one Tel Aviv resident made it way past this average. On 3rd November 1938, the day after the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the Palestine Post reported on its front page that the city’s oldest resident had passed away at the age of 118.
The man in question, Mr. Meir Dickstein, had immigrated to Palestine 35 years earlier from Luck, Poland, where “he was a Hebrew teacher and a leading Zionist.”
His 90-year-old son was with him at his bedside at Hadassah Hospital, where he died from an illness brought on by a cold. “Until recently,” the newspaper reported, “He was in excellent health and used to discuss the political situation with his friends at the synagogue. He hoped to live to see the formation of a Jewish state and would then be prepared to die.”
The discovery that Dickstein was the oldest man in Tel Aviv was a Palestine Post “discovery,” according to the paper. In June 1937, the Jerusalem-based daily reported that the then 117-year-old had moved to Palestine 35 years earlier “to spend his last days in the Holy Land.” This was two years before the Second Aliyah, from 1904 to 1914, when some 40,000 Jews came to Palestine in the wake of pogroms in Czarist Russia.
When asked what the secret to his longevity was, Dickstein, who reportedly read the Talmud “without the aid of glasses” and “whose hearing was likewise good” told the Palestine Post there was no secret recipe.
“The recipe is clearly laid down in our prayers…. O Lord, our God, we will rejoice in the words of Thy law and in Thy commandments; for they are our life and the length of our days,” he told the Palestine Post.