Israel Guide Dogs Centre loses its inspirational champion

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Israel Guide Dogs Centre loses its inspirational champion

The death of UK Executive Director Martin Segal has left the charity with a huge hole - but a thriving legacy

Brigit Grant is the Jewish News Supplements Editor

“Martin the kibbutznik. Martin the Israeli. Martin the Zionist.Martin the Jew, wearing his Judaism proudly. Martin the soldier, in and out of uniform, defending Israel, and defending our people. Martin the voice of the Israel Guide Dog Centre.”

This is how Noach Braun, the founder of the Israel Guide Dog Center described Martin Segal. It was as executive director of the UK arm of the charity that Martin was best known to the Jewish community.

But for the hundreds of people who attended his funeral on Sunday he wore many important hats, including a cycling helmet that was placed on top of the Israeli flag draped across his coffin.

Martin Segal’s passion for cycling was only rivalled by his commitment to Israel and he constantly tried to combine the two through fundraising, notably in 2019 when he cycled to Be’er Sheva for the IGDC.

From left to right: Orna Braun, Director of Breeding Kennels, Noah Braun, CEO and co-founder, Jon Benjamin, Chairman of UK IGDC and Martin Segal

Alongside him on that sponsored cycle was close friend and fellow biker Damon Shaw, who read a eulogy by Martin’s wife Rebecca in which she described her husband as her “soul mate, her everything and an amazing father to Natan.”

Martin and his wife Rebecca

Rebecca’s sentiments are mirrored in the intro on Martin’s Facebook page which reads: “My family, cycling, and my charity define who I am” and above a joyful family photo posted in August 2022 in which he expresses his pride for Natan graduating as a policeman.

Posts over the past few days have come from his global network of friends, who are sharing their memories of the former Hasmonean pupil who went to Israel in 1986 to do ulpan at Kibbutz Yagur. There he met Grahame Molen, who also gave a tribute at the funeral, highlighting the fun they shared as kibbutzniks and their joint decision to remain in Israel and join the IDF.

Martin in the IDF with serving commander and friend Michael Fejdman, his commander on the Golan Heights

Martin served on the Golan Heights under the command of Michael Fejdman, who in an emotive post wrote that Martin was “a good soldier who was obedient with a large dollop of chutzpah” and his chutzpah, humour and zeal for life has been echoed by all who knew him.

At the shiva this week those tributes have continued with a roster of family, friends and colleagues wanting to honour the charismatic charity director. Martin met IGDF co-founder Noach Braun in 2011, which lead him to joining an an existing Friends organisation in the UK – “that was far from meeting its potential,” said Noach.

“You grabbed onto it and took a completely different approach. With your vision and steely determination, you transformed a volunteer fundraising group and professionalised it. You have revolutionised all areas related to fundraising, taking your vast experience and bringing new life to the organisation. You mobilised interest in our work, raised public awareness, built connections, expanded your donor base, and created an organisation that we are all proud of.”

Martin with UK puppy minders preparing them for duties before they go to Israel

Noach’s initially subdued summation of Martin continued with him describing the former soldier as a man of action, who “without hesitation always challenged us, with your special combination of being both British and Israeli. Many times over the years you told me that if life had permitted, you would return and permanently settle in Israel. Israel was in your heart and soul, and a huge part of your identity. Perhaps remaining in Great Britain was what you were meant to do in life. You made a difference in British Jewry, and brought them closer to us as an organisation, but also to Israel and the Jewish people.”

A 19-month battle against cancer never stopped Martin from working for the Israel Guide Dog Centre or finding new ways to fund raise. And the horror of October 7, which distressed him so much, made him more determined to support the charity, which has been left understaffed and over-populated with new puppies and abandoned dogs.

Consumed by concern, Martin the eternal Zionist, even put on his IDF uniform with the intention of flying to Israel to join the war, but he was too ill to even attend the IGDC’s annual reception.

The reality of his limitations weighed on his emotions, but he was a ray of positivity when he appeared with Rebecca via Zoom to thank the charity’s supporters. Noach’s eulogy included a list of Martin’s most prominent characteristics. Diligence, courage, honesty, sincerity, vision and a fearlessness in expressing thoughts were among them, as well as an “unending passion for Israel, the Israel Guide Dog Centre and our mission to help others.”

Choked with emotion and faltering as he cried, the IGDC co-founder then took a jar from his rucksack. It contained soil from the land on which the centre sits. Soil from the country Martin loved. “You are leaving us with a huge hole,” said Noach. “However, your legacy will continue to thrive. You have taught us to think outside the box, and to not fear treading in uncomfortable waters. Although you are not here with us in person, your voice will not be silenced by your death, but will continue to be heard.”

To donate in Martin Segal’s memory visit:



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