David Bannett
David Bannett Assaf Kliger

David Bannett, scientist, engineer, and inventor, has passed away at the age of 100, just months after the passing of his wife of 75 years. Among his best-known inventions were the Shabbat elevator and a unique patent to enable kohanim (ritual priests) to enter hospitals without being contaminated by contact with the dead.

Bannett was born in the United States and settled in the Land of Israel in his youth. During the War of Independence, he was involved in smuggling radar equipment and airplane components into the country; he also trained soldiers in various technological fields and developed several military-use devices.

Amihai with his grandfather
Amihai with his grandfather Courtesy

In later years, he worked for the Institute of Science and Halacha alongside its founder, the late Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Halperin, particularly focusing on developments that would enable permitted use of technology on Shabbat, such as the Shabbat elevator, telephones for hospitals, and “grama” devices (which only indirectly cause forbidden acts to be performed, which is permitted in specific circumstances). He was also one of the engineers involved in developing “Taharat Petachim” which enables kohanim to enter hospitals without becoming ritually impure.

מסיבת ההוקרה לדוד בנעט
מסיבת ההוקרה לדוד בנעט צילום: חזקי ברוך

Grandson Amihai Bannett told Israel National News, “My grandfather was a very special person who made a huge contribution to Israel’s security, to building up the Land of Israel, and also integrating Torah with the modern world. He refused to patent his inventions, saying that only wanted to enhance Shabbat and help the Jewish People.”

Rabbi Menachem Perl of the Zomet Institute paid tribute to Bannett, saying: “David Bannett was an exceptionally talented engineer as well as a man of values. I was fortunate enough to learn from his perseverance, his determination, and his humility, and I send my condolences to his family.”

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