By: Fern Sidman
Herbert Zweibon, the founder of Americans For A Safe Israel (AFSI), a major political support group for the Jewish communities of Judea, Samaria and the Golan, passed away in New York after a brief illness on Thursday January 20th, at age 84.
Founded in 1970, as an American counterpart to the Land of Israel Movement, AFSI’s platform promulgates Israel’s historical, religious and legal rights to the territories won in the 1967 war and has consistently argued that a strong territorially defensible Israel is essential to U.S. security interests in the region and that “land for peace” is a delusional policy.
A beloved Jewish activist known to many both in Israel and the United States, Mr. Zweibon will be best remembered for his generosity, kindness and tireless devotion to the Jewish people and the land of Israel.
In a 2007 interview with The Jerusalem Post, Mr. Zweibon said, “It makes little difference to us whether the government of the United States or the government of Israel believe that they can somehow compromise with the Muslim community. This just will not happen.”
Helen Freedman, executive director of AFSI in New York City said, “Mere words do not seem adequate enough to describe the legacy of Herb Zweibon. He was an exceptionally magnanimous man who lived and breathed the security and well being of Israel and he was totally dedicated to his beloved family, his friends and the entire Jewish nation. It is with a heavy heart that we must go on without his ebullient presence. He was a dear and loyal friend and I will miss him terribly.”
“Herb was a righteous man, and he will be sorely missed,” said David Wilder, spokesman for the Jewish community of Hevron. “Herb’s love for Israel, for the state of Israel, for Eretz Yisrael knew no limits.” He praised Zweibon’s generosity as well, noting that he continued his financial donations as usual even during the global financial crisis.
Mr. Zweibon encouraged support for Israel from all peoples, irrespective of religion affiliation, race or nationality and as such, AFSI has fostered working relationships with pro-Israel Christian leaders as well.
Long time Jewish activist and radio personality, Charlie Bernhaut, a close friend of Mr. Zweibon for many years said with great emotion, “I have never met a more devoted man in my life. Herb was someone who served in the American army and had a fierce loyalty to the United States and its cherished democratic principles and at the same time his support for Israel’s right to maintain a Jewish presence in the liberated territories was absolutely unyielding.”
As an ideological disciple of the legendary Revisionist-Zionist leader, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Mr. Zweibon made it his priority to educate new generations of Jews and supporters of Israel on the teachings of Jabotinsky. One of his last public appearances at an AFSI event was in the summer of 2010 in which he hosted the annual Jabotinsky Yahrzeit commemoration at the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan. He spoke of Jabotinsky’s prescience and called upon Jews throughout the world to heed his message of a strong and unapologetic State of Israel.
To this end, AFSI, under Mr. Zweibon’s leadership initiated a very special essay contest dedicated to Jabotinsky’s memory in which Israeli high school students would participate. In December of 2010, awards were presented to the 15 winners of the 2010 Ze’ev Jabotinsky National Essay Contest at the Knesset building in Jerusalem.
Mr. Zweibon said the essay contest “marked the culmination of a 10-month effort to rekindle an intimate relationship with Zionism among Israeli youth, undermined by decades of high school teaching that made Zionist history and their attendant heroes hostage to universalist myths and ‘narratives,’ that smacked of blatant ant-Zionism.”
David Wilder of the Hevron Jewish Community said that AFSI was “one of those rare organizations which I can define as pure. Without any hidden agendas, without any need or desire for anything for itself, AFSI simply helped Israel; Judea and Samaria included.”
Mr. Zweibon is survived by his beloved wife Shiela, his three sons, Kenny, Mark and Donald and five grandchildren.