In Memoriam: Menachem Jochanan (John) Berlinger

Menachem BerlingerMenachem Jochanan (John) Berlinger, respected Israeli entomologist and integrated pest management scientist, passed away in late 2016.

Menachem had the good fortune to be born into a family with the foresight to envision the destruction of Jewish communities in Germany, and hence was born in Haifa in 1937 not long after their immigration to Israel.

Menachem graduated from high school in 1955, served in the Nahal Brigade of the Israeli Defense Force, then entered his undergraduate studies at The Faculty of Agriculture of the Hebrew University in 1958. He specialized in agricultural entomology and completed an M.S. on insect-plant relationships in 1963. He was then hired by the Agricultural Research Organization, Ministry of Agriculture, to work at the Gilat Research Center.

Menachem married Nechama in 1963 and together they raised their three daughters, Michal (of blessed memory), Orah, and Efrat in Beer-Sheva, the capital of the Negev. Menachem and Nechama chose Beer-Sheva with the Zionist wish and mission to settle in the wilderness and contribute to developing it into a flourishing community. During this time he started working on his Ph.D. through the Faculty of Agriculture. He was awarded a Ph.D. in 1972 for research into biological control of citrus mealybug in grape vineyards in the Negev and continued working as a researcher at Gilat until his retirement in 1997.

He specialized in behavioral ecology of insects, biological and physical control, and integrated pest management. Over the years he studied a wide range of pests of deciduous fruit trees and vegetables and pest control in organic farming. In the mid-1960s to 1970s, the whitefly Bemisia tabaci vectored viruses to tomatoes, and growers were spraying with insecticides once a day to combat the pathogen spread. Menachem was instrumental in helping to establish insect-proof screening as a management technique and worked closely on the development of different screening types and materials, saving the tomato industry from destruction in Israel.

Menachem was one of the first teachers in the Department of Life Sciences at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Additionally he joined different research teams during sabbatical leaves in Wageningen, The Netherlands; Zurich, Switzerland; and Wooster, Ohio, USA. Throughout his years of teaching, Menachem influenced many high school, undergraduate, and graduate students both nationally and from abroad. He published many academic review and non-review articles and chapters, as well as articles in the popular press and growers' magazines until 2004.

In retirement, Menachem was still very active. He continued his professional activities, serving for several years as a consultant for farmers producing insect-free vegetables, and acting as the historian for the Gilat Research Center, in which he published the "Gilat Jubilee: 1953-2003". He was very active in his community, holding weekly religious studies of the Torah/bible, volunteering to help cancer patients, and volunteering on a telephone hotline for people in distress.

Menachem will be remembered for his inexhaustible patience and warm enthusiasm that he always graced anyone who had the good fortune to know him personally. He will be greatly missed by his many friends and colleagues, his wife Nechema, daughters Ora and Efrat, three sons in law, and their 11 grandchildren and one great grandchild.