R.I.P: Dr. Dan Kliman

In death, unlike life, Dan Kliman was easy to describe. In death, he is the man who fatally plunged down the elevator shaft of a San Francisco building in late November. Yet, in life, he was a militant vegetarian cycling activist who ardently demonstrated in the streets to support the state of Israel. Oh, and he was a medical doctor. And a gay Orthodox Jew.

"He kept the different areas of his life very separate," friend Judith Schwartz says.

In short, Dan Kliman was a complicated man. The doctor described as "attentive" and "open-minded" by patients was also the man pictured on the cover of a St. Louis newspaper blocking traffic by brandishing a bicycle like Lloyd Dobler's boom box during a Critical Mass ride (which he founded in that city). The "gentle soul" remembered by family is also the same guy who got in the faces of anti-Zionists at an endless litany of Bay Area demonstrations and counterdemonstrations.

I personally witnessed Kliman, 38, engage in many shouting matches during protests. His friends said he'd gotten into physical confrontations, at least one of which landed him in the hospital, and received death threats. Among Bay Area residents who believe Israel is a genocidal, apartheid state — and write such messages on placards and demonstrate in public — Kliman was a much-loathed man. So when his broken body turned up in the building where he took his weekly Arabic class — his friends say he wanted to know exactly what was being chanted at anti-Israel demonstrations — many of his ideological soulmates didn't wait for the police to weigh in. They knew the truth.

"Another Innocent American Victim of Islam Thrown Down Elevator Shaft," one blog post read. "Same day as Mumbai massacres," another noted. While refusing to go into details — he actually said, "You'll have to take my word on it for now" — Inspector Matt Krimsky of the San Francisco Police Department said he has "forensic evidence" that Kliman died climbing out of a stuck elevator.

Is this scenario more likely than a cabal of anti-Zionists luring Kliman to a near-abandoned building and executing the perfect murder? When you consider that anti-Israel activists haven't even been able to get a campus divestment movement rolling in the Bay Area, perhaps. But, then again, no rationale sounds plausible when explaining the implausible scenario of a vibrant young doctor dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft.

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