I first knew Barry Rubin by his work. He wrote more cogently of the Middle East than almost anyone alive, maybe than anyone alive in the English language.
Some years ago, taking a flyer, I found his email and invited him to write for what was then a media company known as Pajamas, not PJ Media. How lucky we were that he said yes and accepted a position as one of our columnists and our Middle East editor. For the intervening years, this site became one of the most important places, one of the “go-to” stops, for the crisis in that part of the world that itself never stops.
And now he’s gone. It’s hard to believe the voice is stilled. It’s hard to believe that indefatigable human being who — from evidence of the times I would message him — never slept. And there was not one thing that happened between Los Angeles and Tel Aviv, or even Tashkent, that escaped his eye. Ask Barry a question about anything and he would have an answer — always better than yours.
He also became my friend — so I am having trouble accepting this.
I last saw Barry only last June when he escorted my family and me around Tel Aviv. Barry and his family — wife, daughter and son — lived in a beautiful home in the White City — the historic Art Deco neighborhood of Tel Aviv — and he showed us around with the greatest care and pride. When he knew we were coming to Israel — I for the first time in twenty years, my wife and daughter for their very first times — he took it on himself to make sure we saw everything, everything that we possibly could or should, arranging meetings with fantastic people and taking us to amazing places.
At that point Barry had just been through an immense battle with cancer that he had documented online. We were thrilled to find him in a good condition, the same crusading man of conscience he constantly exhibited in his work. Gaunt though he appeared, it seemed he had won the fight with that mightiest of adversaries, at least for the moment.
But no one wins it forever. And Barry’s time was shorter than most of us.
The phrase Tikkun olam— to repair the world — is often used in the Jewish tradition, sometimes by people Barry did not think the best of, and for good reason. But Barry himself embodied that tradition more than anyone I can think of. He indeed was a “repairer of the world,” the conscience of the White City. To say that he will be missed is a cliché not worthy of him.
The deepest condolences from my family to his.