Meet Israel Kristal, a 113-year-old Israeli whom the Guinness Book of World Records has deemed the world’s oldest living man.
Kristal, a resident of Haifa, was born in Poland in 1903—when Theodore Roosevelt was president and just two years before the Russian Revolution. He’s lived through two World Wars and survived the Lodz Ghetto and Auschwitz concentration camp, though his wife, whom he married at the age of 25, and their two children, were killed there; he weighed just 81 pounds at the end of World War II.
Before the war Kristal operated a confectionery. After the war he moved to Haifa where, again, he ran a candy shop. To this day, Krital lays tefillin every morning, his daughter told JTA earlier this year, when her father was given his official title by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Aged three Israel Kristal started to learn in a local Heder school and began to speak Hebrew. At four he learnt Bible and at six, Mishna. At eleven, separated from his parents, he survived the First World War.
Kristal reached his bar mitzvah age during World War I but was unable to become a bar mitzvah at the time. Soon, perhaps 100 members of his family will gather in Israel to celebrate Kristal’s bar mitzvah. Said his daughter Shulimath Kristal Kuperstoch, “We will bless him, we will dance with him, we will be happy.” (Maybe they’ll pop some Cristal.)
Of course, one wants to know how Kristal has lived so long, should be hold a key to it all. “I don’t know the secret for long life,” he said in March. “I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why. There have been smarter, stronger, and better looking men than me who are no longer alive. All that is left for us to do is to keep on working as hard as we can and rebuild what is lost.”
Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.