HomeLocalLocal NewsWinnipeg branch of Canadian Magen David Adom launches fundraising...

Winnipeg branch of Canadian Magen David Adom launches fundraising drive in memory of Yoram East

By MYRON LOVE “A force of nature” is a phrase that has long been popular in artistic circles to describe outstanding individuals in that field. Although it is a descriptor that I use sparingly, it certainly applies to the late Yoram East. From his first appearance on the Winnipeg stage, so to speak, he was larger than life.
Two weeks ago, the Winnipeg branch of Canadian Magen David Adom (CMDA) launched an ambitious fundraising drive in memory of East.
For readers who may be unfamiliar with MDA, the organization is Israel’s version of the Red Cross – and much more. It functions as the Jewish state’s ambulance service as well as its blood bank. And it is inarguably the best in the world in delivering the services that it offers.
Incredibly, the CMDA carries out its mission without a shekel of government funding. Most of the work is done by thousands of volunteers scattered throughout the country. Funding for the MDA’s ambulances and other vehicles as well as state-of-the-art lifesaving equipment comes largely from generous overseas donors, such as those of us who contribute to CMDA Winnipeg.
“I first met Yoram about six months before we formed our CMDA chapter,” recalls Ami Bakerman, the Winnipeg chapter’s national board member. “We considered honouring him shortly after he died (on October 13, 2010) not only for his contributions to the State of Israel, but also because of the work he did here raising awareness of social issues and working with a wide range of refugees and other new immigrants to Winnipeg. While we were not in a position to do so at that time, we decided that now is the right time.”
I wrote a story about Yoram East for the Canadian Jewish News at the time of his passing. In that story, I described him as “one of the most colourful characters to have ever made his home in Winnipeg’s Jewish community.”
Born in Jerusalem, Yoram Hamizrachi was a seventh-generation Jerusalemite on his father’s side. He was, by turn, a journalist and author, soldier and counter-terrorism expert, lecturer and community activist, restaurateur, artist and fortune teller. And, in stereotypical Israeli style, he was blunt and direct with his views, letting the chips fall where they may.
At age 17, he joined the Israeli Defence Force and became a paratrooper After his army duty, he studied at the Bezalel Fine Arts School in Jerusalem and then continued his studies in Wiesbaden, Germany. In 1967, as a reservist, he fought in the battle for Jerusalem, and immediately thereafter returned to civilian life.
He worked for many years as a radio and TV journalist for Israeli and foreign media in Israel and abroad. During the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Hamizrachi covered the war for German TV.
In the late 1970s, he rejoined the army as a colonel for what was supposed to be a year to work with the Lebanese Christians on the other side of the border. He stayed for several years and became the first Israeli officer to work with the South Lebanon Army. After that, he returned to journalism and, in the spring of 1982, he immigrated with his young family to Winnipeg. He had several relatives on his mother’s side of the family living here.
In Winnipeg – where he changed his name to Yoram East – he continued to serve as a correspondent for Israeli media. He also began writing a regular column in The Jewish Post & News, commenting on political developments in Israel. To say that his column was not well received is a bit of an understatement. He was highly critical of the then-Likud government that was led by Menachem Begin. He was also an early advocate for a “two-state” solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In his new home, he quickly became involved in community work, becoming the co-ordinator of the International Centre’s multicultural committee. As such, he uncovered a scandal involving forged signatures on application documents for the funding for his position. He pursued the matter through the courts to a successful conclusion.
He subsequently helped found the Manitoba Intercultural Alliance and became the co-director of the Winnipeg-based Counter-Terrorism Centre.
The problem with being a community activist is that it doesn’t pay the bills. In the late 1980s, East’s wife, Beate, went to work as a school principal in a couple of native communities in northern Manitoba. Yoram went with her.
While in the north, he and his wife separated. He returned to Winnipeg and eventually married again. In his later years, until his health began to decline, he was involved in a variety of ventures, ranging from running a restaurant (where he would tell fortunes using a deck of cards he created that combined elements of Tarot and Kabbalah), to lecturing on world affairs at local universities and synagogues, churches, temples and mosques. Later in life, he also resumed painting.
East died of complications from diabetes at the age of 68.
Bakerman reports that the goal of the MDA campaign in memory of East is to buy an ambulance to be based in the northern border community of Kiryat Shemona – a fitting location considering East’s years of service on the other side of the border in Lebanon. The cost of an ambulance, Bakerman notes, is between $140,000 and $150,000.
This ambulance will be the fifth that CMDA has sent from Winnipeg since the chapter was formed in 2011.
Readers who may wish to make a donation can either email Bakerman at amibakerman@gmail.com, donate online at cmdai.org or call 1-800-731-2848. 

- Advertisement -