My delay in signing the guest book in no way reflects my love for Avraham Biran z"l. If anything, it marks the opposite. In the first few days after his passing, I found it too challenging to try to summarize in a few words what Avraham's friendship meant to me, and then somehow, I let the time pass.
I first met Avraham as a child growing up in San Francisco, where he met and befriended my grandparents, my parents, and my aunt and uncle - a friendship that ultimately spanned four generations.
During my first trip to Israel in the summer of 1970 with my temple's confirmation class, we visited Tel Dan. I will always remember that first encounter with Avraham on his home turf - it was at the site of the entrance to the city, and Avraham greeted us wearing his quintessential straw hat and with that twinkle in his eye. He took our group around Tel Dan as if we were the only visitors he had ever led around the dig.
I returned to Israel for two of the following three summers, and Avraham and Ruth took me under their wing. We continued to stay in touch and to see each other during his visits to the West Coast.
When I moved to Washington, D.C., Avraham would often stay with us during his annual trips to the States, which he continued to make well into his eighties.
My family grew to know him during those visits and our family trips to Israel. He made archaeology come alive for them and was always eager to share the latest discovery from Tel Dan.
Avraham lived such a fascinating life, but it took great effort to get him to talk about himself and to share his amazing stories. As he always used to say, he considered himself nothing more than a "little boy from Rosh Pina". Of course, all of us who were privileged to know him knew that he was so much more than that.
I remember how pleased he was to receive the Israel Prize - not boastful at all, as that was not in his nature - but after all that he had done for the State of Israel and for the Jewish people, no doubt it was gratifying for him to be recognized as one of Israel's National Treasures.
In the last few years, after Avraham's fall, I continued to visit him whenever I was in Jerusalem. These visits were emotionally very painful, as it was difficult to see my beloved friend slip further and further away from the person I knew. But out of respect for the years of friendship with me and my family, I felt compelled to stop in and see him.
Now that Avraham is no longer of this earth, I prefer to remember him as he was in better years - with all of that energy, intellect, force of personality, warmth, joie de vivre, and of course - that eternal twinkle in his eye.
Avraham - you are greatly missed.