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Robert Dov HaEzrachi (Wieckowski), 44, a Polish-born Israeli and scuba diving guide and instructor, died in a diving accident at Dahab, Sinai, Egypt, Dec. 13, 2007.

HaEzrachi’s death was first announced on the website of Pardes Institute, a Jewish studies center in Jerusalem, where he had been a student from 2003-2005.

(In My Heart Editor’s Update on Jan. 1, 2008: This post offers details on Dov HaEzrachi’s funeral and how the Pardes community rallied around him and his family.)

Pardes Dean David Bernstein told the Jerusalem Post HaEzrachi was a terrific student.

“He was serious about his desire to join the Jewish people and a real mensch,” Bernstein said. “He fell in love with Judaism in Poland and came here.”

The Post reported that HaEzrachi took an active role at Pardes, and was construction manager of the institute’s first rooftop succah in 2004. HaEzrachi remained an integral part of the Pardes community even after his graduation and conversion to Judaism.

He helped out in the institute’s kitchen when he was at Pardes, a former Pardes student told In My Heart.

HaEzrachi helped to translate the Torah into modern Polish, the Post reported in 2005.

HaEzrachi, who lived in Jerusalem, was a scuba diving instructor and ran scuba guiding trips in Sinai. According to his website: “Safety is the most important priority on all my trips and courses. It has been achieved by long Sinai guiding and diving experience and working only with known and trusted co-operators providing transport and accommodation.”

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According to the Post, HaEzrachi suffered his fatal accident Saturday in the Blue Hole, a dangerous and deep (more than 75 meters) diving site in Sinai, where he had worked as a diving instructor for the last four years.

The accident was not the first in the famous and notorious spot. A video from an Israeli documentary (Hebrew) on the fatal accident of diver Yuri Lipski in 2000 at more than 90 meters’ depth can be seen here. (Note: disturbing video from a camera in Lipski’s helmet). According to some reports, more than 70 divers have died in the Blue Hole.

Pardes officials worked with Egyptian officials to bring HaEzrachi’s body back to Jerusalem for burial. According to the Post:

“Rabbi Zvi Wolff, one of the teachers with whom HaEzrachi was closest, has been ‘constantly on the phone’ with the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, in efforts to bring HaEzrachi back to Israel, as his body is currently at an Egyptian hospital.

‘They have been wonderful, as efficient as they are helpful,’ Wolff said of the Egyptian officials and Israeli Consul Eyal Siso.

“Siso will pick up the body and drive it to the Israeli border, where he will be met by an ambulance driver from ZAKA, as arranged by Rabbi Shaul Farber of Itim.

‘The ambulance driver has said he will sleep in the car and wait all night if necessary,’ said Wolff, as they are unsure when the border crossing will be.

A funeral is tentatively planned for Wednesday, Dec. 19.

In My Heart sends its condolences to the extended Pardes community, and invites its members to send us their reminiscences and stories, so that we can pay tribute to Robert Dov HaEzrachi (Wieckowski).

(Note: Date of death corrected in response to note from Pardes. Dov HaEzrachi did not dive on Shabbat. Thanks for the correction. IMH Editor)

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