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Man said to be Israel’s oldest dies at 117

Shlomo Sulayman, who his family says was born in 1903, immigrated from Yemen; grandson says pandemic-caused isolation and not going to synagogue damaged his health

ILLUSTRATIVE -- A man walks through a cemetery in Jerusalem (Nati Shohat /Flash90)
ILLUSTRATIVE -- A man walks through a cemetery in Jerusalem (Nati Shohat /Flash90)

JTA — A man who claimed to be Israel’s oldest, Shlomo Sulayman, has died at the age of 117, his family said.

Sulayman died Sunday with his family by his side, according to Ynet. He is survived by six children as well as “dozens of grandkids, great and great-great grandkids.”

Sulayman’s age has not been confirmed, but if it was, he would have been not only Israel’s oldest man, but also the world’s oldest man ever.

Sulayman was living on his own and his mind was clear until the very end, said his grandson Gil Radia, who said that confinement to his home in recent months due to the coronavirus pandemic did his grandfather “harm.”

“Until the pandemic, he would go to the synagogue, even at the age of 116. He was a very modest man, which is why everyone loved him. But I guess the isolation at home contributed to his health deteriorating,” Radia said.

Sulayman, who his family says was born in 1903, immigrated from Yemen to Israel with his wife and four children in 1949. Two other children were born in Israel.

Sulayman served in the Israel Defense Forces and worked in agriculture. His wife died several years ago at the age of 94.

The record for oldest man ever is currently held by Jiroemon Kimura, who died in 2003 at the age of 116 years and 54 days, according to Guinness World Records.

In 2017, Kurdish-born Rabbi Zecharia Barashi, who was widely believed to be Israel’s oldest citizen, died at the self-proclaimed age of 117. When officials from Guinness World Records attempted to determine Israel’s oldest citizen several years earlier, however, Barashi was deemed ineligible because he did not have the original documentation they required.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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