Alexander Barash was born on 22 July 1900 in Berdichev, Ukraine. He attended at first a Jewish elementary school, a so-called “cheder”, and later on the High School for Commerce in Berdivech. This was not such a surprise because his father was a merchant. He graduated from the latter institute in 1920.
A construction worker who became a zoologist
In 1922 the whole family, his parents Izchak and Lea and their two children Alexander and Chava, managed to fulfill the dream of so many Jews living in an Eastern European “shtetl” and settled in Palestine, the Promised Land.

Initially Alexander began to work as a construction worker, but not satisfied with this highly physical work he started to attend the teacher's seminary in Jerusalem, from which he graduated in 1925. In the same year he became a teacher at a school in Merchavia (Palestine).

After four years he decided to study biology at the University of Berlin. He completed his Ph.D.-studies in 1934 with the following thesis on the systematics of Lepidoptera: “Natuerlich Gruppierung der mittel-europaeischen Coleophoriden (Lep.) auf Grund der Struktur der maennlichen Kopulationsapparate und ihre Beziehung zum Sackbau der Raupe und zum System der Naehrplanzen”, which study was published in the German Entomological Journal (1934, nos. I-II: 1-116).
Before he went to Germany he married Zilpa Goldin, who passed away on 13 February 1980. They had two children: a son Isaac ("Jitzchak"), who became a Professor in Plant Physiology at the Department of Botany of the Tel Aviv University and in Plant Pathology at the Volcani Center, Bet Dagan, and a daughter Amira (now Amira Reyer).
His work as a zoologist
After his return from Germany he started to teach biology at high schools and the teacher's seminary in Tel Aviv. At the same time he was closely associated with the Biological Institute of Yehoshua Margolin in Yehuda Halevy Street in Tel Aviv. During those years he specialized in invertebrates and published many popular articles and textbooks in that field. They were the first of their kind in the Hebrew language. He became also more and more involved with the curriculum for biology at high schools and teacher's seminars. Therefore it came not as a surprise when he was appointed the country's supervisor for biology teaching.
Between 1951 and 1953 Barash played an important role in the establishment of the University Institute at Abu Kabir, which later became the Tel Aviv University. From the beginning he taught invertebrate zoology at these institutes. His interest was, however, not confined to the lower animals. Together with J.H. Hoofien, a banker of profession, but a herpetologist in his spare time, he wrote the first book in Hebrew on the Reptiles of Israel (1956), which saw not less than 12 reprints!
His malacological interests
Nobody knows exactly when Barash became interested in molluscs, however, judging from a publication in Hebrew (1938) concerning the behavior and feeding of the predatory pseudo-slug Daudebardia saulcyi on earthworms, we may assume that it must have been quite soon after he returned from Germany.
Seven years passed before his second malacological paper saw the light. This time it was dealing with marine molluscs living on rocks. He co-authored that paper with Zippora Danin. Who could have imagined at that time that she should become his cooperator for 45 years sharing with him 37 publications on molluscs. Zippora acted also more-or-less as a kind of private secretary for Barash. Her flat in the Arlozoroff Street housed the major part of the Mediterranean molluscs of the Tel Aviv University and the extensive malacological library. At her apartment they worked quietly on their numerous publications. During that period they received also much help from Ezra Danin.
In the mid-seventies Barash found another female cooperator in the form of Zaida Zenziper, a biology teacher at the Teacher's Seminar in Tel Aviv. She followed in the footsteps of Zippora Danin and co-authored another 14 malacological papers with Barash.
At the age of 70 he was still actively working in the field. A good example formed his participation in the expeditions to Rhodes and Cyprus organized by the Tel Aviv University. He astonished most of the much younger zoologists by his stamina and long working days.
Under the governance of Barash the university collection became especially rich in Eastern Mediterranean molluscs. After the initial sorting of the numerous dredged samples, which he received regularly from various marine biologists working at the Shiqmona Marine Laboratory, the micro-molluscs among the material were sent to specialists abroad for identification. In this way he established contacts with a large number of malacologists all over the world. They provided him with reliable identifications for all those tiny species in difficult groups like Rissoidae, Turridae and Pyramidellidae. However, sometimes these identifications caused also some problems, because now-and-then the same material was sent to two specialists. More than once two different identifications were received for one and the same sample. Barash developed a unique way to “solve” that problem: both names were simply included in the various checklists. This mishap occurred also with the identifications carried out by the famous J.R. le Brockton Tomlin of the British Museum in London, who had identified most of the micro-shells in the collection of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the late thirties for Georg Haas. These identifications were copied from the original cards by Barash and Danin and were included in their various articles without checking the original material. These are the only mishaps Barash and his cooperators made during their involvement with molluscs for almost 60 years.
From a scientific point of view his masterpiece, coauthored by Zippora Danin, was without doubt the “Annotated list of Mediterranean molluscs of Israel and Sinai”, published by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Unfortunately it was printed only 12 years after it had been submitted!
Most credit goes to Barash for popularizing the study of Mediterranean marine molluscs by writing numerous short articles, which found their way in the Hebrew press even before the establishment of the State of Israel. His “Field guide to the Mediterranean mollusca of Israel” (Barash & Danin, 1965), in fact an expanded Hebrew version of J. Arrecgros (1958): “Coquillages Marins”, is still in great demand 40 years after it was published. This in spite of the fact of the publication of a much more recent and more up-to-date book in Hebrew dealing with that subject: “Mediterranean molluscs of Israel” (Barash & Zenziper, 1991).
In the last years of his productive life Barash tried to write still a similar companion volume about the molluscs from the Red Sea in general and those from Elat in particular. However, due to increasing health problems his advanced plans remained an unfulfilled dream. Alexander Barash passed away on 22 September 1995.
Now, after 10 years, the name of Alexander Barash goes still hand in hand with the mollusc collection of the Tel Aviv University. Hopefully this legacy will remain so for still quite some time.