Eran Almog, 23, was born with severe autism. On Wednesday he lost his battle with Castleman's syndrome, a rare and fatal disease which strikes the lymph nodes.
“Doron is crushed, he can’t stop crying.” his wife Didi said, her own voice quavering. “How can someone get such terrible news when he’s so far away? He’s there (in Los Angeles) all alone, and it’s a million times harder: Not to see Eran, not to be next to him, not say goodbye to him. Eran was the most important person in Doron’s life.”
A top IDF commander, Almog participated in some of Israel’s most famous operations, including the Entebbe rescue mission and the secret airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, and served as the army’s Southern Command chief from 2000-2003.
Since Eran's youth, the Almog family was extremely open about their son's disability, which helped dispel some of the stigmas associated with autism and retardation in Israeli society.
Upon his diagnosis with Castleman’s syndrome six months ago, Eran began spending three days of every week undergoing testing and chemotherapy at the Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva.
“The doctors kept telling us his life was in danger,” his mother Didi said. “A month ago we went through an especially difficult period. He was hooked up to an artificial respirator, and the doctors told us no treatment would save him. We were in anguish. But he pulled out of it, and we decided not to put him on a respirator again, because it was inhumane.”
Turn for the worseJust as it appeared Eran was recovering, he took a sudden turn for the worse. It was only a few days before his death, Didi recalls, that the Almogs visited the Basor River for a family picnic, and Eran “was all happiness. Nothing portended that he was going to die.”
It was due to their relative security about Eran’s health that the couple flew to the United States last week to raise funds for the Aleh Negev facility, which they founded and worked ceaselessly to expand and improve.
Didi returned Monday to accompany Eran to his weekly treatment, while Doron stayed on to continue fundraising efforts.
Three days ago, Eran’s health deteriorated suddenly. At 5:00 a.m. Wednesday, Didi was called urgently to the hospital, but despite doctors’ efforts, Eran passed away within hours, before his father could make it home to see him for the last time.
“His place was so deep and strong in our lives. I can’t for a moment imagine life without him. He was a blessed soul, and angel, who did only good things in his short life. The (Aleh Negev) village was founded because of Eran; its beneficiaries became our friend; most of our friends we knew through Eran,” Didi noted.
“And throughout all this, Eran never spoke one word. He never once said ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’. Because of his autism he didn’t look us the eyes. But when we came to the village, he would run over to us lovingly, and hug us.”
“I can’t believe that just yesterday we were with him. He was eating pudding and smiling at us with his beautiful eyes, and today, a day later, he’s not here anymore,” she said.