Written by Yan Landau on behalf of the entire IGA Board.
Prof. Nissim Silanikove passed away on 13 August 2017, after combatting cancer for many years. Nissim was an Associate Editor of Small Ruminant Research over a 14-year period for papers addressing milk products and lactation.
Nissim was born in Rehovot (Israel) in 1950 to a family of Bulgarian Jews. He was interested in agriculture from a very young age and studied at the Youth Agricultural Village of Kfar Silver from 1964 to 1968. After three years of duty in the Israel Defence Forces, Nissim joined the Faculty of Agriculture at Rehovot (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), where he earned B.Sc. (1974) and M.Sc. (1976) degrees in Animal Science. His thesis, with Prof. H. Tagari, was on the availability for sheep of phosphorus contained in poultry litter.
His Ph.D. program was at the Tel-Aviv University with Prof. Shkolnik as a part of a team working on the adaptation of Bedouin desert goats to harsh conditions and to water and food scarcity. This was his first exposure to goats, which he loved all his life. Nissim showed the ability of Bedouin goats to recycle considerably more nitrogen than Saanen goats and to produce milk when given only straw, as an adaptation to an environment poor in nitrogen. Nissim used milk from the goats, and his future wife Dana, who was a temporary guide in the Abu-Kabir gardens where the goats were kept, knew how to make Labaneh from the milk. This complementarity of interests was the basis of their union, which eventually yielded 7 children.
After a short period spent at Migal (the scientific R&D program of Upper Galilee), in 1986 Nissim joined the Institute of Animal Science of the Agricultural Research Organization (ARO, The Volcani Center) in Bet Dagan, close to Tel Aviv, where he was employed until his last days.
His Ph. D. studies had fuelled a passion for livestock thriving in harsh environmental conditions (Livestock Production Science 67 (1), 1-18, 2000; 672 citations), dairy cows under heat stress (Livestock Production Science 77 (1), 59-91, 2002; 747 citations), and goats in hot and arid environments (Small Ruminant Research 35 (3), 181-193, 2000; 414 citations) and with cycles of water scarcity and abundance (Experimental Physiology, 79(3), 281-300, 1994; 115 citations). His interest in nitrogen metabolism led him to investigate the nutritional limitations of tannin-rich browse and the use of dietary polyethylene glycol to alleviate the deleterious effects of tannins in sheep (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 42 (12), 2844-2847, 1994; 209 citations) and goats (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 44 (1), 199-205, 1996; 203 citations), for which tannins are not toxic (Small Ruminant Research 21 (3), 195-201, 1996; 167 citations) but can impair intake and digestive processes (Animal Science 64 (3), 479-483, 1997; 99 citations).
Later in his career, Nissim developed a keen interest in the physiology of lactation, including goat milk quality (Small Ruminant Research 89 (2), 110-124, 2010; 263 citations) and the impact of mastitis (Journal of Dairy Science 87 (6), 1719-1726, 2004; 176 citations) on it, with emphasis on somatic cell count (Small Ruminant Research 74 (1), 221-225, 2008; 102 citations). He discovered a method to dry-off cattle with Casein hydrolyzate intramammary treatment (Livestock Science 110 (3) 292-297, 2007), which was patented ("Pharmaceutical compositions comprising casein derived peptides and methods of use thereof." U.S. Patent 8,338,363, issued December 25, 2012).
Nissim was not a man of compromise. He could ask questions in a very rough, some would say, non-polite manner at the end of presentations. He did not like bureaucracy and some bureaucrats may have felt the same. He did not appreciate writing reports to funding agencies. His office was an indescribable mess. However, he was certainly one in his generation, as numbers speak for themselves. He was cited 7314 times, which places him at the top of his field. Why were his reviews cited so extensively? It seems that he combined an exquisite knowledge of biochemistry and enzyme technology with a wide understanding of the whole animal, resulting in a thorough characterization of processes from cell to animal.
One cannot speak of Nissim without mentioning his relationship with the International Goat Association (IGA) and Small Ruminant Research. From the early nineties, Nissim never missed an International Goat Conference. He attended the 16th conference at Antalya, against the recommendation of ARO Security Officers, and delivered a presentation, even though he was already combating his disease. We had the pleasure to see him singing and dancing to Turkish rhythms, with his wide smile spread on his face and friends from the US, Spain, Italy, China, and Turkey queuing to hug him.
Finally, as noted above, Nissim was Associate Editor for Milk and Lactation for 14 years. He recruited me as a reviewer, and then I was appointed Associate Editor for Nutrition and finally Editor-in-Chief in 2016. In the last year, I noted that manuscripts were delayed because treating his illness was so time-consuming and proposed to un-assign him from some of the papers. He did not accept, as reading these papers were a source of joy and comfort, he said.
Many friends propose to dedicate a conference to Nissim’s memory. We will do our best to fulfill their wish.
1/9/2018 10:21:35 am
I live in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, and met Nissim while he was on sabbatical teaching at the University of Cincinnati. We met at the Esquire Theater waiting to be seated for a movie. I was sitting on a bench and Nissim took a seat next to me. We chatted about books, and of all things, about a book written by Samuel Clemens. We exchanged email addresses, and after that shared a couple of meals together (for clarifification, our relationship was platonic). We met only a couple of months before he was to return to Israel. I began a search for him this morning with the hope I would find him well, and now I am so deeply saddened and shocked to learn of his passing. Although he talked little of his work and many scientific accomplishments, he talked much about his family and his beloved homeland with passion. Even though I only had the privilege of knowing him for a few months, he left a lasting impression - a brilliant man with a big heart.
1/9/2018 10:27:49 am
Thank you for sharing this wonderful note. This is a great example of just how many lives Nissim touched. We are all better for knowing him.
1/29/2018 11:14:09 am
The Israel Journal of Veterinary Medicine will be publishing this March (2018) an article written by Prof. Nissim Silanikove shortly before his passing. The article is entitled: Biochemical Properties of Milk Reflect Evolutional Adaptations of Reproductive Strategy in Women, Cows and Mice".. A short obituary follows the article.
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