My late husband survived WWII and helped to build Jewish state

My Jewish hero is my late husband, Steven Meir Blau, who had an indomitable will to survive. At 14, he lived through the German occupation of Hungary and was forced to perform slave labor digging trenches in one of the bitterest winters Budapest has ever experienced. With his extended family, he was made to vacate the family apartment and business and move to an overcrowded yellow star house in the Jewish ghetto with strangers, most of whom had never been to or lived in a city. Conflict and confrontation were endemic.

With World War II over, the Russian liberators brought communism to all of Eastern Europe. Life became extremely restrictive. In 1948, my hero made aliyah, arriving in Israel just in time to fight in the War of Independence, not speaking Hebrew or knowing which end of a gun to aim at the enemy.

After this victorious war, the young Mapai pioneers founded Kibbutz Givat Oz. This malaria-infested swampland, just 15 miles from the hostile Jordanian border, had been neglected for millennia. Brutal hard work in the broiling Israeli sun soon turned the quagmire into one of the most profitable orange groves in all Israel.

Wounds received in a 1950 terrorist attack ended his rigorous farm life. In 1962 he immigrated to the United States to study photography. In July 1998, his indomitable will gave out. He is buried at Kibbutz Givat Oz among lush pines overlooking the orange grove he helped plant in the land that he loved.