The Jerusalem Post, October 2, 2003


By Erik Schechter and Amotz Asa-El

It was a typically steamy August day in 1950 at Jerusalem's King David Hotel when a defiant David Ben-Gurion admonished his guests, the leaders of American Jewry.

"We need halutzim [pioneers]," insisted the young state's ever-tactless prime minister, "and halutzim have come to us and we believe more will come not only from countries where the Jews are oppressed... but also from countries where the Jews live a life of freedom and are equal in status to all other citizens... they will come from among those who believe that their aspirations as human beings and as Jews can best be fulfilled by life and work in Israel."

Angered by this thinly veiled hint that Israel is out to rob the Diaspora of its young and talented, American Jewish Committee leader Jacob Blaustein retorted: "American Jews vigorously repudiate any suggestion or implication that they are in exile.... To American Jews America is home!"

They come from places as far apart as Canada and New Zealand, can be as religiously observant as those who populate much of Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood and as atheistic as Kibbutz Kfar Blum's socialists.Israel's Anglos also don't behave like any other ethnic group here. It is inconceivable that they will seek to field their own Knesset list; the last party that sought to woo the Anglo vote, Natan Sharansky's Yisrael B'Aliya, all but self-destructed in January's election. An Anglo version of the colorful, cacophonous, and massively attended Moroccan-Israeli mimouna festival is about as likely as a gay parade in downtown Teheran.

Israel's Anglos have yet to make a lasting contribution to the Israeli menu, which the rest of Israel's founding ethnicities have already turned into a happy smorgasbord brimming with everything from Egyptian humous and Kurdish kubeh to Hungarian goulash and Romanian chorba.

In fact, when for most others the relocation to the Promised Land was an exercise in coming down to earth, for the Anglos it is often an exercise in becoming a myth. For many Israelis, it goes without saying that Jews from the English-speaking world are rich, educated, and powerful, and that the women among them are gorgeous.

Anglo-Israelis themselves are the first to laugh these stereotypes away, even while conceding that theirs is a life not nearly as troubled that of other immigrants here. After all, they retain passports and often property with which they can always make their way out should things go sour for them here.

Not that the Anglos don't have their own share of angst here. On the contrary, if they have a common denominator it is that they all came from highly developed countries where a dialogue with a government official is polite, short, and fruitful; where public transportation is rapid, safe, and cheap; and where the local TV channel's evening news team has yet to experience its first-ever live broadcast from a terror-attack scene.

Whatever setbacks the Anglos suffer in the wake of their immigration here they tend to experience them individually, not as a group, the way so many other ethnicities have done before them, from the Yemenites in the 1950s and the Moroccans in the 1960s through the Georgians in the 1970s to the current Russians and Ethiopians.

Even that Anglo-Jewish religious distinction non-Orthodoxy has never managed to become a common fixture here comparable with the ubiquitous Iraqi, Moroccan, Tunisian, or Hassidic neighborhood shul. Yes, practically any non-Orthodox or egalitarian synagogue here is disproportionately Anglo, but most Anglos who frequent synagogues still opt for the Orthodox mainstream, and even within that fold seldom set up prayer houses of their own.

Moreover, the lack of a group identity among Israel's Anglos runs so deep that, unlike the members of so many other ethnic groups, they never gauge the success of their absorption by counting the number of prominent Israelis who emerged from their tribe. When, for instance, Moshe Levi became chief of General Staff in 1983, every Iraqi-Israeli was proud, and when David Levy became foreign minister in 1990 every Moroccan-Israeli felt a sense of breakthrough.

However, when, for instance, Moshe Arens became Israel's first Anglo defense minister in 1983 the country's second most important position, which until then only a handful of Eastern Europeans and sabras had held local Anglos were no more inspired than Williamsburg Hassidim are when an American wins an Olympic gold medal.

Still, over the decades Israel has attracted thousands of immigrants from the prosperous English-speaking world.

From the handful that trickled here steadily starting in the 1920s when Reform rabbi Judah Magnes established the Hebrew University to the estimated 100,000 Anglos who came here soon after the 1967 Six Day War, local Anglos have actually made a surprisingly noticeable contribution to Israel's development.

Generating a prime minister (Golda Meir), president (Chaim Herzog), defense minister (Moshe Arens), foreign minister (Abba Eban), chief rabbi (Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac Halevy Herzog), Supreme Court president (Shimon Agranat), and CEO of the largest holding company (Jonathan Kolber), is an accomplishment that very few other edot, if any, can boast.

(Of course, before anyone gets too excited it would be good to remember that most of the truly influential Israeli Anglos are no longer alive.)

The following is our impression of who belongs in a list of Israel's greatest Anglos, a list which of course is highly debatable. We expect many readers to lose no time disputing at least some of our choices. For those who intend to do so, we would just like to clarify that we defined as Israeli-Anglo as someone who was raised in an English-speaking country, lives (or lived) here full-time, and has made a lasting impact on Israel.

Moshe Arens (1925) – Politics

From the Lavi fighter jet technology to Binyamin Netanyahu, Moshe Arens a three-time defense minister has made more than his fair share of contributions to Israel. Born in Lithuania, Arens moved to the US at 14. And while older brother Richard would become a critic of Zionism, Moshe got involved with Betar, the right-wing youth movement of Ze'ev Jabotinsky. In fact, Arens was there with Jabotinsky in Camp Betar, in rural New York, when the grand ideologue of Revisionist Zionism suffered his fatal heart attack in 1939.

With a BA in mechanical engineering in hand, Arens came to Israel in 1948 and joined the Irgun underground for a brief stint, serving as an emissary to Europe and North Africa until March of the following year.

In the early 1950s, Arens returned to the US and earned his MS in aeronautical engineering training that would later make him vice president for engineering at Israel Aircraft Industries. In the 1980s, Arens pushed for the creation of the Lavi, and though it would later be axed by cabinet vote in 1987, its technological spin-offs would live on. Many see the fingerprints of the Lavi on the Chinese F-10 fighter.

Arens was elected to the Knesset in 1974 on the Likud list and, from 1977 to 1982, chaired the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He then landed the coveted position of ambassador to the United States, and in 1983, he became defense minister for the first of three rounds. (He would get another crack in 1990, and then again in 1999.)

From 1990 to 1992, Arens served as foreign minister. He was also the political patron of Binyamin Netanyahu igniting his rapid rise to Israel's top political slot. In 1982, Arens brought Netanyahu in as his deputy chief of mission in the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and six years later Netanyahu served as his deputy foreign minister.

Netanyahu was like a son to Arens. But in 1999, Arens made a failed challenge for the Likud leadership, disappointed with his protege's support of the 1997 Hebron Accord and 1998 Wye Plantation Agreement.

Tal Brody (1943) – Sports

Who says nothing good ever comes out of New Jersey? Born in Trenton, Tal Brody led the American basketball team to a gold medal during the 1965 Maccabiah Games. Brody's prowess on the court drew the attention of Maccabi Tel Aviv team managers and even Moshe Dayan, who asked him to move to Israel.

But Brody first returned to the US and, declining an offer to play with the Baltimore Bullets, earned an MA in educational psychology at the University of Illinois. In 1966, he returned to Israel and a year later, helped Maccabi Tel Aviv win second place in the European Cup Basketball Championships.

Then Uncle Sam called. In 1968, Brody returned to the US and was drafted into the army, where he did his running and shooting on the court, for the United States Armed Forces All-Star Team. When Brody finally made aliya in 1970, his reserve IDF duty entailed organizing special sports events and fitness days for pilots and air force personnel.

Brody captained Maccabi Tel Aviv when it defeated Italy's Mobil Girgi in 1977, giving Israel its first European basketball title. On its way to the top, Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated CSKA Moscow, after which an ecstatic Brody declared, in a broad American accent, "We are on the map, and we will stay on the map."

That become one of the sound bites of Israeli culture, such that it was recently spoofed in a TV commercial for the National Lottery Board. In the ad, a winning racehorse with an American accent boasts, "We are on the race track, and we will stay on the race track." (The humor was lost on Brody: An opponent of gambling, he sued the board.)

In 1979, Brody was awarded the Israel Prize, the country's highest civilian honor.

Today, he is a philanthropist and businessman, serving as the local agent of Mitsuboshi C.I. Co., a Japanese consumer goods corporation, and as a member of the board of directors of the Japan-Israel Chamber of Commerce.

Efraim HaLevy (1934) – Espionage

James Bond he isn't. But 007 is not the kind of English spy needed to overhaul the Mossad. That task instead fell to Ephraim Halevy, who served as director of the intelligence agency from 1998-2002, after it was buffeted by a series of embarrassing mishaps.

The nephew of the late philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin, Halevy was born in England and came to Israel as a young teenager. At 27, after completing a law degree at Hebrew University, Halevy began a long career in the Mossad. There he earned his reputation as the quiet diplomat to countries that did not have official ties with Israel.

"He is a complex person, really an introvert and a loner," a former agent said of Halevy.

Halevy oversaw the immigration of Ethiopian Jews and, while serving as deputy Mossad chief under Yitzhak Rabin, helped negotiate the peace treaty with Jordan. But by 1998, he was done with the spy business, serving as Israel's representative to the European Union that is, until duty called again.

At the time, the public image of the Mossad was in bad shape. There was the botched assassination attempt against Hamas official Khaled Mashaal in Jordan, agents nabbed in wiretapping and surveillance operations in Cyprus and Switzerland, and the indictment of former agent Yehuda Gil for faking data on Syria's military intentions.

Replacing Danny Yatom as Mossad head, Halevy did some house-cleaning at the agency, and for the first time, placed employment ads in newspapers, in 2001. But by 2002, Halevy quit after repeatedly clashing with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon over his policy vis- -vis the Palestinians.

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Meir Dagan, who fought under Sharon's command in 1973 and headed his election campaign in 2001, replaced Halevy at the Mossad. Halevy went on to head the National Security Council but resigned a year later over policy differences with Dov Weisglass, a Sharon lawyer and political adviser.

Prof. David Hartman (1931) - Jewish thinker

Born in Brooklyn, David Hartman received his rabbinical ordination from Yeshiva University and his PhD in Philosophy from McGill University, Montreal. In 1976, five years after he made aliya, he founded the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. The goal of the institute, in the words of its founder, is "to help build a more pluralistic, tolerant Israeli society."

Hartman taught Jewish thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was an adviser to Zevulun Hammer, a former education minister of the National Religious Party. Hartman has certainly attracted the attention of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

In his November 27, 2001, op-ed ("The Real War"), Friedman opined that the war against religious totalitarianism requires "generals" like Hartman.

"What first attracted me to Rabbi Hartman when I reported from Jerusalem was his contention that unless Jews reinterpreted their faith in a way that embraced modernity, without weakening religious passion, and in a way that affirmed that God speaks multiple languages and is not exhausted by just one faith, they would have no future in the land of Israel."

But you have really made it to the big time when you feature in a Noam Chomsky conspiracy theory. The anarchist and MIT linguist, in a 1988 interview, called Hartman "some marginal character who runs a weird religious school on private money and has never had an idea in his head." According to Chomsky, Hartman's function is to hide the ugly underside of Israeli policies in the territories by serving as a model of the moral, "beautiful Israel." (Peace Now and Haaretz were likewise pilloried as being insufficiently left-wing.)

Abba Eben (1915-2002) - Diplomacy

It is at times like these when the foreign minister brings to the world stage all the charm and wit of a bull terrier that one pines for the days of the late Abba Eban. Born in South Africa, bred in England (where he was called Aubrey), Eban exhibited an unparalleled polish and erudition as the public voice of Israel, be it in the UN General Assembly or at the White House.

The man that Benjamin Netanyahu himself no slouch at the speaker's podium deemed the "founding father of Israeli diplomacy" had an early start in Zionist politics: His mother, Alida, was the secretary of such luminaries as Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow.But Eban would make his name known in every Israeli household by dint of his own work. Before helping the Jewish Agency secure American support for the establishment of a Jewish state in 1947, Eban lectured in Arabic and Oriental Studies at Pembroke College, served as a major in the British Intelligence Corps during World War II, and was a published author.

Oh, and he spoke 10 languages.

Joyce White, a former editor of The Young Zionist, a publication of Britain's Federation of Zionist Youth, remembers Eban in his youth.

"He was a rather cold person," she told The Jerusalem Post, "but he was such a strong Zionist that he inspired everyone who came into contact with him. We all thought he was very clever."

From 1950 to 1959, he served as both Israel's delegate to the UN and its first ambassador to the US long before it developed its "special relationship" with Israel. At the time, Israelis were viewed by foreigners as, at best, uncouth. It probably did not help matters when Paula Ben-Gurion, during her first official state visit to Washington, slid under the dinner table only to emerge and declare in Yiddish, "I've found my shoes."

In 1960, Eban became minister of education and culture and, three years later, deputy prime minister in the Levi Eshkol government. Yet it was when Eban became the country's third foreign minister that he truly shone. During the Six Day War, he declared at the UN, "Never in history has there been a more righteous use of armed force."

While much is made of his remark that the 1949 armistice lines were "Auschwitz borders," Eban was a dedicated Labor Party dove. He complained that, by not making territorial concessions, Israel was "tearing up its own birth certificate," which was predicated on "the idea of sharing territory and sovereignty."

Ahinoam Nini (1969) – Music

Folk-rock singer Ahinoam Nini or Noa, as she is known to foreign fans was born in Israel, but grew up in the Bronx. When she was 17, she visited Israel for summer vacation, fell in love with a handsome IDF officer, and decided to stay.

Her homeland welcomed her back with open arms and drafted her into the army the following year.

"I spent two years performing in an army band, playing hundreds of shows, often in very rough conditions and under difficult circumstances," she says.

Noa spent her two-year army service singing for soldiers, then studied for a year at the Rimon School of Music where she encountered her future music partner, Gil Dor. In 1990, they performed a duet concert at a Tel Aviv festival and have been working together ever since.

A fan Web site quotes Nini as saying that English, not Hebrew, is the language of her dreams and poetic inspiration.

"In the same manner, my musical roots are more Occidental than Oriental," she says. "I've been inspired by musicians like Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Leonard Cohen, and by the poetic genius of e.e. cummings."

And most of her songs are in English, though she has two all-Hebrew CDs.In 1997, Nini played with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and like many artists, she has used her talent to trumpet political causes. Together with the fading Miri Aloni and singer, draft-dodger, and make-up enthusiast Aviv Gefen, Nini performed at the fateful 1995 peace rally in Tel Aviv at which prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.

Later she sang in the White House and in Oslo at special concerts dedicated to Rabin's memory, both attended by then-US president Bill Clinton.

Her most memorable, and controversial, performance was a rendition of "Ave Maria" to an audience of some 100,000, including the pope, at the Vatican in 1994.

Jonathan Kolber (1962) – Business

Vice chairman and CEO of the Koor conglomerate, Jonathan Kolber was born in Canada. He graduated from Harvard University in 1983 with a BA in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and later studied at the American University of Cairo.

Moving to Israel in 1988, he took charge of Claridge Israel, an investment company owned by Charles Bronfman. By 1997, he was vice chairman of Koor's board of directors. A few months later he was CEO.

Claridge made substantial investments in such major local companies as Teva and Osem. No one will ever accuse Kolber of ignoring his enterprises: He was far too busy making money to return a telephone call from The Jerusalem Post.

Chaim Herzog (1918-1997) - Military / Politics

Born in Ireland, Chaim Herzog immigrated to Palestine in 1935 and served in the Hagana during the Arab revolt. During World War II, Herzog participated in the liberation of the concentration camps, and afterward he fought with the IDF at Latrun. In 1962, he retired from service with the rank of major-general having been the head of military intelligence.

Herzog also had a respectable political career serving as ambassador to the UN in the late 1970s, as a Labor MK from 1981-83, and finally as president from 1983-1993.

Rabbi Meir Kahane (1932-1990) – Politics

The founder of the militant Jewish Defense League in New York, Rabbi Meir Kahane moved here in 1969. Declaring that Zionism and Western democracy are incompatible, Kahane espoused a rabbinic state ruled by religious law at the expense of civil rights. He also favored ethnic cleansing of Arabs from Israel.

His Kach Party won a seat in the 1984 Knesset election but was banned from running in the next election in 1988. Two years later, he was murdered by an Egyptian Muslim fundamentalist in New York.

After his death, his movement split into Kach and Kahane Chai both of which were labeled terrorist groups by the government in 1994, after they declared their support for the massacre of 28 Palestinians by Dr. Baruch Goldstein, a Kahane follower.

Judah Magnes (1877-1948) – Education

Born in San Francisco in 1877, Magnes was quite unlike his fellow Reform rabbis in his rejection of the idea that the Jews were only a religious group and not a nation.

In 1922, Magnes moved to Palestine. There, he helped establish the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, serving as chancellor and president. Founder of the intellectual circle Brit Shalom in 1925, Magnes was a devout pacifist and binationalist neither of which caught on in Israel.

Golda Meir (1898-1978) – Politics

Though born in Kiev, Israel's first and only female prime minister (its "mother," many would say) spent her formative years from eight to 23 growing up in Milwaukee.

"She had an American accent to her Hebrew," said the late Simcha Dinitz, who was ambassador to the US in 1973 and was a policy adviser to Meir both when she was foreign minister and when she was prime minister.

In 1921, Golda Mabovitch married Morris Meyerson, and together they moved to Kibbutz Merhavia in Mandatory Palestine. Three years later, the Meyersons moved to Jerusalem, and Golda passed through numerous positions in the Histadrut labor union. (She would Hebraicize her married surname to "Meir" when she became foreign minister in 1956.)In 1946, when most of the Jewish Agency's leaders were interned by the British, Meyerson replaced Moshe Sharett as acting head of the political department until 1948. One of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, Meyerson was appointed Israel's first ambassador to the Soviet Union, though less than a year later she would take her seat in the Knesset, serving as labor minister until 1956.

From 1956-1966, Meir served as foreign minister, and in 1969, with the death of Levi Eshkol, she became prime minister.

She held this post during the traumatic Yom Kippur War of 1973, when Syrian and Egyptian forces launched a surprise attack against the IDF, scoring early victories. Though some have criticized her for brushing off Anwar Sadat's offer of peace in 1971, Dinitz contended that the Egyptian president's position was far from reasonable.

"Sadat wanted a complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines as a precommitment to peace negotiations," he said. "He was only ready to disengage himself from the legacy of [Gamal Abdel] Nasser once he had crossed the Suez Canal and regained Egypt's national pride."

Though Meir once quipped that she didn't want "a fine, liberal, anti-colonial, anti-militaristic, dead Jewish people," she did bow to American pressure not to make a preemptive strike against Syria and Egypt when it was clear that war was brewing. She regretted not following her gut instincts and attacking anyway, Dinitz said.

Though she won the general election two months after the war, Meir still smarted from the criticism that she had left the country militarily unprepared for the Syrian-Egyptian onslaught and resigned from office in 1974.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin(1940) - Settler leader

Formerly rabbi of Manhattan's prominent Lincoln Square Synagogue, Shlomo Riskin marched against segregation in Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s. In 1983, he moved to Israel with the Rayshit Geulah pioneering group and helped found the community of Efrat, in the Judean hills.

Riskin is now the chief rabbi of the town, which has grown to 1,500 families, a third of which are originally from English-speaking countries. He is also dean of the local Ohr Torah Stone colleges and graduate programs.

Under the auspices of Riskin, substantial funds were raised for medical clinics and schools in nearby Palestinian villages as part of a good neighbor policy. It is questionable whether the policy worked. In 1995, he and other settlers were jailed by Israeli police for passively resisting the evacuation from state land claimed by the Palestinian village of El-Khader. In 2002, Efrat experienced terrorist attacks from bordering villages.

Al Schwimmer(1917) - Military Industry

When Al Schwimmer left Israel Aircraft Industries in 1988, the company he had founded was making $1 billion a year. Not bad for an ex-US Army Air Corps flight engineer from Connecticut who cannot speak Hebrew.

Then again, Schwimmer is no ordinary immigrant. After World War II, he helped smuggle aircraft to Israel using his military contacts, a small airfield outside Prague, and some front companies including one purporting to be the official airline of Panama."I knew lots of pilots, Jews and non-Jews," he said two years ago. "They flew over transport planes. We also got some B-17s, the backbone of the US bombing force, and a number of C-46 transport planes carried over disassembled Messerschmidt ME-109 fighters bought in Czechoslovakia."

But the FBI was on his trail. In 1950, Schwimmer was stripped of his US citizenship for violating the Neutrality Act by helping to arm Israel during its War of Independence. A year later, David Ben-Gurion came to visit him at his aircraft maintenance and service company in Burbank, California, and suggested he come to Israel and start an aircraft industry here Israel Aircraft Industries.

As technology and industry adviser to the prime minister, Schwimmer had a role in the Iran-contra operation of the 1980s, introducing US National Security Council staffer Michael Ledeen to Iranian arms merchant Manucher Ghobanifor. Schwimmer had met Ghobanifor who would help arrange the arms-for-hostages deal through Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian weapons dealer. Ultimately, the clandestine arrangement, which included funnelling US profits from the Iranian arms sales to anti-Marxist guerrillas in Nicaragua, fell apart.

In February 2001, Schwimmer won a presidential pardon from Bill Clinton. The eldest son of Hank Greenspan, the late Las Vegas Sun publisher who had helped Schwimmer smuggle arms to Israel, was a good friend of Clinton and used his personal connections to have the then 83-year-old's right to vote reinstated.

Mickey Marcus (1902-1948) – Military

A medal-winning 101st Airborne veteran of WW II, Col. Mickey Marcus came face to face with the devastation of the Holocaust in Europe. After the war, and under the pseudonym "Mickey Stone," the Brooklyn-born Marcus moved to Israel, where he helped train the Hagana.

He was critical of the Palmah, the Hagana's strike force, arguing that grandiose legends aside it was not really an effective fighting unit. That did not endear him to veterans of the Palmah who, like Yitzhak Rabin and others, went on to form the backbone of the IDF.

But under Marcus, the Israeli forces kept the Egyptian army in the Negev on its toes. He also helped save the western section of Jerusalem from an Arab siege just days before the United Nations negotiated a cease-fire.

Marcus was killed by an IDF sentry toward the end of the War of Independence; the American officer had forgotten the Hebrew password. Marcus was buried at West Point, from which he graduated.

Henrietta Szold (1860-1945) - Philanthropy

The founder and first president of Hadassah the Women's Zionist Organization of America, Baltimore-born Henrietta Szold sailed to Palestine in 1918. She helped establish a number of institutions, such as the Hadassah Medical Center, in Jerusalem.

Though unmarried, she said that she would have traded in all her work for just one child of her own.

Naomi Ragen (1949) - Author

Author of books involving Orthodox female characters including Sotah, Sacrifice of Tamar, Jephte's Daughter, and The Ghost of Hannah Mendes Naomi Ragen moved here from the US in 1971.

Her works, written in English and popular abroad, have been translated into Hebrew. Sotah was on Israel's best-seller list for 90 weeks, and a survey by a major newspaper found her to be the second most popular author in the country.

Dov Yosef (1899-1980) - Politics

Though holding a number of government positions in the early 1950s from communications to health minister the Canadian-born Dov Yosef will be remembered for his thankless role as minister of supplies, heading the government's austerity program of severe food rationing and price-controls, in 1949-50.

() The Jerusalem Post

HOME Maccabean comments