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Journey to the Negev and beyond

This blog entry has nothing to do with our travels, but instead someone else’s travels.   I received word yesterday that our friend Herschel Shosteck succumbed to cancer.

Long-time blog readers may remember that Herschel has popped up in the blog a couple of times.   I worked for Herschel from 1994 through 2003, and we traveled together on many business trips, including several trips to England, Italy, and Israel.   It was a privilege to work for him, and fun to travel with him.   He was highly respected in the field, and a natural teacher.   The experience I gained while working in The Shosteck Group was absolutely priceless, and has served me well ever since.   But by 2003, I felt burned out, and I left his firm.   A few months later, I started Airstream Life and an entirely new career.

It was tough for me to leave The Shosteck Group, and I think it was hard on Herschel and Jane (his business partner) as well.   We had worked closely together in an often-intense environment for nearly a decade.   While there were many times when we battled, and debated in loud voices, and annoyed each other, we ultimately had become good friends.   My departure was a shock for all of us, and it wasn’t on the best terms.

For while we didn’t speak to each other, and then in 2006 Jane reached out and reconnected us all, when Herschel was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.   I’m glad she did.   We had the opportunity to re-start our friendships.   Herschel, being a kind soul, unconditionally forgave and forgot whatever unkind things I might have said.   Over the next year, I had many wonderful conversations with Herschel (now retired) as he simultaneously worked on a book and battled the cancer that he knew could not be beaten.herschel-and-emma.jpg

Being a fellow writer, I was able to review drafts of Herschel’s book about his journeys through Israel’s Negev Desert. This gave us a basis for our new relationship, and switched the roles we had traditionally had when I worked for him.   Now he was the writer, and I was the editor.   He very kindly incorporated all of my suggestions into his re-drafts, which is the highest form of praise an editor can get.

When we saw Herschel in 2007 for Thanksgiving dinner, he was looking superb.   The cancer seemed to be at bay, at least temporarily. He was feeling reasonably energetic, enjoying a new relationship, and traveling to Europe and Israel.   We talked about his travels and I encouraged him to do as much as he could.   But he told me that those traveling days were soon to end.   He would certainly be gone in less than three years.

Knowing that time was short, I asked for a new draft of his book, and he sent it immediately.   It was greatly improved, and nearly ready for publication.   I began to look forward to seeing it in print.

Shortly after, he wrote to encourage me to get on with my book:

Several hundred pages of raw materials [the blog] are a great foundation for a book.   I might add to that emails as well.   Every now and then people trade meaningful correspondence through the Internet — as they did during the height of the world postal systems.

I agree that editing is no less daunting than writing — in some cases even more so.   Given the material you have, would it be worthwhile to extract an/some outline(s) from it?   It seems that developing your theme will be the next step.   What engrossing story can you pull out of the blog entries — realizing a life dream, evolving a life adventure, searching for (and hopefully finding) part of your soul, educating your daughter?

In January 2008, he wrote again:

I’m now in Silver Spring catching up on back email (note that I have only a week to go), reading, and preparing for a final edit of the manuscript.   I’m also in the midst of a massive cleanup/clean-out (1-2 feet of closet or shelf space per day), in the hopes of trashing cartons of junk or transferring some of the better stuff to a community thrift shop.

My oncologist has taken me off of chemo; and with that my energy has increased to 3/4 of what it was before this mess, thus I’m able to undertake such projects.   I’m almost ready to get into the last revision of my manuscript (Rev. 6.0).

But only a few weeks later, the cancer struck again, this time in his brain, and the final long decline began.   I don’t know if he made any progress on Rev 6.0; all I have is Rev 5.1.   The cancer stole his quality of life and eventually his intellectual mind, and the book never saw publication in print.

A version of the book is now online at, posted by a family member.   It’s not the finished version Herschel intended.   (The “contact” information on the website is pointless, since it shows the postal and email addresses of a man who is now gone.   Unless they’ve managed to connect Heaven to the Internet, he won’t be replying.)   But if you are interested in a very intellectual tale of exploration, you might download the chapters and read it.   It’s not an easy read but it is a fascinating one, both for the religious and personal revelations that he discovered in his Negev journeys.

I’m not going to point out morals to this story.   I’ll just say that a good friend is gone, and I’ll miss him. You can draw your own conclusions as to what all this means to you.

44 Responses to “Journey to the Negev and beyond”

  1. adam Says:

    Rich we are so sad to learn of Herschel’s passing.

    You, my friend, have outlined the lessons and reminded us all how important it is to live each day.

    So glad to learn a bit more about the man who was such a good friend and co-teacher for you.

    Adam & Susan