Oded Reinin, veteran of Israels War of Independence, dies

Not many people can claim they grew up with neighbors like Golda Meyer or classmates like Yitzhak Rabin. But Oded Reinin did.

An Israeli pioneer, a fighter for Israeli independence and a lifelong partisan for the Jewish state, Reinin died Nov. 8 at age 76 after a long illness.

The longtime San Mateo resident left behind many friends and family members, both here and in Israel.

Reinin was born in 1930 in pre-state Israel, into a family of pioneers. “Dad was really coddled by his four older sisters,” says his daughter Elana Reinin of Berkeley. “He grew up in both small town and agricultural environments, surrounded by his parents’ pioneering friends — Golda Meir, Yisrael and Mania Shochat and the poet Rachel.”

Reinin was a member of the first graduating class of Israel’s Kadoorie Agricultural School, attended by Yitzhak Rabin and other influential Israelis. His studies were cut short at 16 with the outbreak of the War of Independence. Reinin, along with his classmates, joined the Palmach to fight.

His unit saw action with the First Regiment of the Yiftach Brigade, stopping an invasion from Lebanon in the north, liberating Lod, Ramleh and Modi’in from the Jordanians, and helping to drive the Egyptians from the Negev. Reinin took command at Nevatim, an isolated kibbutz under siege, arriving under fire in a small plane landing between the minefields.

At the war’s end, Reinin went back to Kadoorie, and graduated from the first graduating class in the new state of Israel. But he never forgot the many classmates that died in the war.

In 1950, Reinin took up agricultural engineering studies at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Soon after arriving, he went on a double date, met Sandy Goldbaum and was, says his daughter, dumbstruck with love.

“He proposed to my mom after a week, to which she replied, ‘You’re crazy!'”

They were married in Rehovot, Israel, in 1953, and stayed in the country. They returned to California the next year, settling in San Mateo. The couple went on to have four children and six grandchildren.

Oded enjoyed a long career as a service supervisor in the paving industry, but his abiding passions were family and his Israeli homeland. He was a member of Peninsula Temple Beth Sholom.

“Dad and Israel were intricately woven into my psyche,” remembers Elana Reinin. “From the youngest age, I remember hearing Hebrew spoken when my dad talked on the phone or visited with friends. He taught us Israeli songs and made humus and falafel with Mom. It was years before I learned that salad wasn’t a typical breakfast food.”

At his funeral last week, a letter from surviving members of his Kadoorie graduating class was read to the assembled crowd.

It read in part, “We will always remember him from that period, his striking figure, tall, handsome with an impressive forelock. He was a leader in our class, cheerful and full of love of life. Oded was the poster child for the sabra of that time and we all looked up to him.”

Added Elana, “He had a very strong moral compass, and taught me the importance of honesty, of sensitivity toward others, of fairness, and of being your own person, no matter what anyone else says or does.”

Oded Reinin is survived by wife Sandy, his children Elana Reinin of Berkeley, Donn Reinin of Tracy, Tamar Bittelman of Berkeley and Gil Reinin of Mountain View; six grandchildren; and sister Tsika Kaliski. Donations can be made to Beit Midrash Ohr HaChaim, P.O. Box 9215, Berkeley, CA 94709.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.