Murdered Glaswegian Bernard Cowan was ‘generous and hospitable with an overwhelming love for Israel’

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Murdered Glaswegian Bernard Cowan was ‘generous and hospitable with an overwhelming love for Israel’

ECCLUSIVE: In his only interview since the tragedy, Colin Cowan pays tribute to his 57-year old brother, slaughtered by Hamas terrorists at Kibbutz Sufa

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Bernard Cowan; Pic from the Cowan family
Bernard Cowan; Pic from the Cowan family

The heartbroken brother of former Glaswegian Bernard Cowan, shot dead by Hamas terrorists at his kibbutz on Saturday, has spoken of his “generous, hospitable” nature with an overwhelming love for Israel.

Colin Cowan, speaking from his home in East Kilbride, Renfrewshire, told Jewish News that the surviving residents of Bernard Cowan’s kibbutz, Sufa, had been moved to Eilat and that contrary to earlier reports, his brother’s funeral had not yet taken place “because it is still too dangerous”.

The family — he, his mother and elder sister, Laura — had been given permission by the rabbi of Giffnock and Newton Mearns Synagogue, Rabbi Moshe Rubin, to sit shiva this week. More than 150 members of the community turned out to wish the family long life and to hear Colin Cowan make an emotional tribute to his brother.

Bernard Cowan would have been 58 this Shabbat, his brother said, remembering that the parsha of the week had been Bernard’s barmitzvah portion.

The middle of the three siblings, Bernard Cowan had left his Glasgow home aged 17 for a six-month tour of Israel. “He loved it. He came back to Glasgow and because he wasn’t very academic, and didn’t want to join our father’s business, he went back and made aliya”.

During his army training, he was posted to Sufa, just eight kilometres from the Gaza border, and it was there that he settled in his early 20s. He met his wife, Margaret, who comes from a Ukrainian family who had emigrated many years ago, when she was working as an English teacher in the area. Married for more than 30 years, together they had three children and two grandchildren.

Colin Cowan described his brother as someone who was “passionate” — about Israel, diving, travelling, and coffee. He boasted a huge collection of Starbucks coffee mugs from all over the world, and was famous in the area for his barbecues.

“We knew Israel had been attacked early on Saturday and we tried to get hold of him”, Colin Cowan said. “We spoke to his son. Apart from Margaret, his wife, fortunately none of his children or grandchildren were on the kibbutz. We sent messages to Margaret but we couldn’t reach her. They had a safe room in their house on the kibbutz. Then we got a message from Margaret to say she hadn’t seen him, he’d gone missing.”

His brother, Colin said,”was one of those people who, whenever there was an air raid siren [frequent because of the kibbutz’s proximity to the Gaza border], would say, oh, it’s not going to affect me, and wouldn’t go to the safe room. But when [the terrorists] originally attacked, he went into the safe room with Margaret”.

But Bernard Cowan famously could not sit still. He decided to leave the shelter, and went into his house’s kitchen. “Two terrorists were walking by and they saw him and shot him dead”. Two other kibbutzniks were also killed.

On the kibbutz Bernard had worked in Sufa’s factory, producing bromide chemicals, and had taken a second job as a gardener in the region. “He was a grafter, a really hard worker”.

Colin Cowan recalled a visit with Bernard to Jerusalem when he was in his early 20s, to see their cousin. “Our cousin was doing his army training at the time and he didn’t agree with being sent to places on the Gaza border or the West Bank, because of the risk. And Bernard turned round and said, you come to this country, you love this country, you live in this country and you are willing to die for it”.

For once, Colin Cowan said, his normally argumentative cousin had no answer.

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