Monthly Archives: August 2011

Foa, Edouard – French Jewish Explorer of Africa In The Late 1800’s

Edouard Foa

In 1880 Edouard Foa, at 19 years old, left his homeland of France for the wilds of Algeria, where he spent three years mapping the unknown reaches of its rivers. When he came home in 1885, having also explored the French Congo, he was famous, and was decorated with the highest award of the Paris Geographical Society, La Grande Medaille d’Or.

Then he was invited by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of Colonies to make a crossing of Africa from the Indian to the Atlantic ocean. His main exploration started in Gazaland, a little known part of Mozambique. His caravan had 380 members. But many times he would leave the caravan and make detours on his own, often at risk to his life. He started crossing Africa at the mouth of Zambezi, in 1894. For several months the expedition made its way up the Zambezi. There were long halts when the white men went off shooting big game. Foa ranks as one of the greatest hunters that have ever lived in Africa, something nowadays that we might not feel positive about. With a single gun he managed in two years to kill 30 elephants. Altogether his expedition secured for the Paris Zoological Museum several hundred specimens of African animals, including some that were very rare.
Edouard found that the great Lake Nyassa was wrongly marked on the charts, and he found the source of the Zambezi, a place which geographers had argued about for centuries.
In the effort to reach the great tributary of the Congo, the Kasai, he encountered great difficulties, the bearers refusing to undergo further hardships in the mountain. But he decided to cross the heart of the warlike and untamed Wanyambezi country, a home of cannibals. For 20 days he and his men trekked through the giant Congo Forest. Foa was the first white man to see these particular regions.
Finally, after a five and half months journey by canoe, the expedition reached Stanley Pool, and went on to Gabon, where in Dec. 12, 1897, the crossing of Africa was complete.
Foa wrote a book on hunting, full of excellent yarns, and some other books, His health, however, was broken, so he returned to Africa to seek the sun, but he died at the early age of 39 on June 29, 1901. (source "Rhodesian Jewry and Its Story – by Eric Rosenthal – you can find this document on the internet)


Blum, Arlene – Jewish Climber of the Highest Mountains In The World

Arlene Blum

Arlene Blum has often asked herself "What’s a nice Jewish girl from the Midwest doing at 21,000 feet, going down a knife-edged ridge all alone?"

Arlene organized and helped lead the first all-woman climb up Denali in Alaska.

She was also the first American woman to attempt Mt. Everest in 1976.

Two years later, she led the first-ever team of women up Annapurna.
One day she watched the movie "The Endless Summer", about three exuberant California surfers traveling the world in search of the perfect wave, and this gave her the idea of the "Endless Winter".

Beginning with autumn ascents in the European Alps, she could climb during the winter in Africa, spring in Iran and Kashmir, summer in Afghanistan, fall in Nepal, stop at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, then spend our winter in New Zealand and finish off in the South Pacific, exploring mountains under the sea with scuba gear.

She carried this plan out with some companions, and she sums it up: "At a time when U.S. travelers rarely ventured outside Europe and the Americas, we had found our way around the world month by month, carrying out expedition after expedition in some of the most spectacular mountain ranges on earth.

We had made three first ascents and had climbed higher than 23,000 feet."

She notes that the mountains in Ethiopia, Uganda, Iran, Kashmir and Afghanistan shortly after this became inaccessible to foreign climbers.
Arlene has also planned and went on a marvelous adventure trek along the Himalayas in Bhutan, Nepal, India, etc.
On the down side, Arlene lost some of her closest friends to avalanches and other disasters.

She also has a doctorate in biophysical chemistry and is responsible for having several toxic chemicals, used in children’s sleepwear, banned. She also did research in protein folding, and got one of her ideas by watching ice melt in the mountains – this gave her the idea of heating a ribonuclease and then cooling it rapidly to view it in a "partly folded" state.
Her website is at

Bernheim, Louis (A Jewish Belgian general in WWI)

Louis Bernheim

General Louis Bernheim was born Sept 1, 1861 in a suburb of Brussels, Belgium. By the age of 19, he had become a second lieutenant in the grenadier guards. Before he was 30, he was appointed to the chairs of military history and geography in the Royal military academy.

He wanted to be in active service, not teaching, and so in 1901 he left teaching and went back to active service. In 1904 he was promoted to major.

When WWI broke out in 1914, he was a colonel, and commanded the 4th infantry regiment based in Antwerp. In Nov 1914 he was appointed as commander of the third brigade group.

He commanded on the frontline, which was unusual in WWI, since most leaders stayed in the rear.

He and his entire units were so distinguished in those battles that the king awarded both to him and to the regiment the Leopold order.

In one of the trenches he was terribly wounded by shrapnel which exploded near him, a splinter of which penetrated his back near his spine. He was so eager to serve that 2 months after this he returned to active service.

This led to his being appointed to general and commander of the Belgian first army.

He helped the allied attack breaking through the forest of Houthulst, which until those days was considered impassible.

When Louis died, the cortege was followed by King Albert, his son Leopold, and all the ministers of the country as well as the elites of the country.

The final speech at his grave was by Count de Brockeville, the minister of war who said “his service to the fatherland, and his high abilities will survive for all eternity.”