Israel Shahak (Hebrew: ישראל שחק; born Himmelstaub, April 28, 1933 — July 2, 2001) was a Polish-born Israeli professor of chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, known especially as a radical political thinker, author, and civil rights activist. Between 1970-1990, he was president of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights and was an outspoken critic of the Israeli government. Shahak’s writings on Judaism have been a source of widespread controversy.
Born in Warsaw, Poland, Shahak was the youngest child of a cultured, religious, pro-Zionist, Ashkenazi Jewish family. During German occupation of Poland, his family was forced into the Warsaw Ghetto. His brother escaped and joined the Royal Air Force. His mother paid a poor Catholic family to hide him, but when her money ran out he was returned. In 1943 he and his family were sent to the Poniatowa concentration camp, near Lublin, where his father died. Israel and his mother managed to escape and returned to Warsaw, but within the year, they were both sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Shahak was liberated from the camp in 1945, and shortly thereafter emigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine, where he wanted to join a kibbutz, but was turned down as “too weedy”.