By: Fern Sidman
On Wednesday evening, July 25th, over 400 people gathered at the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan to commemorate the 72nd yahrzeit of legendary Revisionist Zionist leader, Ze’ev Vladimir Jabotinsky. Sponsored by the Americans for A Safe Israel (AFSI) organization and members of the Nordau Circle (the Jabotinsky fraternal order), the attendees listened to informative addresses from an eclectic group of speakers who offered their personal paeans to the “most prescient and brilliant of all modern Zionist thinkers.”
Serving as the evening’s emcee was renowned Jewish activist, Helen Freedman, executive director of AFSI, who said, “This event was initiated many years ago by AFSI’s beloved chairman, Herbert Zweibon, ZT”L and we are proud to say that the Jabotinsky ideology is alive today. AFSI’s guiding principles as outlined by Jabotinsky in his prolific writings and speeches are the belief in the Jewish biblical, legal and historic rights of ownership of the entire land of Israel.”
She added that, “It is noteworthy to mention that in order to educate a new generation of young Jews on the teachings of Jabotinsky, one of Herb’s final accomplishments on this earth was the sponsorship of an essay contest amongst Israeli high school students, honoring Jabotinsky on his 70th yahrzeit. Many of the essays spoke about “Aliyah Bet,” Jabotinsky’s effort that brought 100,000 European Jews to what was then called Palestine despite British efforts to blockade the ships. Herb is no longer with us, but tonight’s program, and all of AFSI’s work is dedicated to his memory which continues to lead and inspire us.”
Describing Jabotinsky as a “towering intellectual, a visionary thinker, a brilliant writer and dynamic orator,” Ms. Freedman said that amongst Jabotinsky’s innumerable credits was the creation of the Jewish Legion during World War I, which was the first Jewish army in over 2000 years in a Jewish state. She recalled Jabotimsky’s leadership of the vibrant Betar Zionist youth movement, which he founded in 1923 in Riga, Latvia, Russia and named for his friend and fellow Jewish soldier, Yosef Trumpeldor, who fell in battle defending the settlement of Tel Chai in the northern Galilee in 1920. Affectionately known as “Rosh Betar” by the young and idealistic Jews of Europe who joined the ranks of the organization, Jabotinsky was also the ideological figure of Menachem Begin’s Herut party and the Supreme Commander of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, whose members hailed from the ranks of Betar.
“Jabotinsky was a prophet who saw the coming of the horrible storm that destroyed the lives of millions of people – including 6 million Jews. On the eve of Tisha B’Av, 1938, Jabotinsky called upon Polish Jewry to save themselves from the catastrophe that was to destroy their world. He told them, “I see that you are not seeing this because you are immersed and sunk in your daily worries.” He asked for their trust, and promised that whoever would escape would see the rebirth and rise of a Jewish state. This was Jabotinsky’s great dream, and great belief,” declared Ms. Freedman.
Recalling other calamities that befell the Jewish people during this traditional time of mourning, Ms. Freedman said, “We remember that it was Tisha B’Av 2005, almost 7 years ago, that the Jews of Gush Katif/Gaza were forcibly expelled from their beautiful homes and thriving communities by order of the Sharon government. Today, they are just beginning to rebuild their lives with new homes in new locations. The effort is enormous and costly. We at AFSI have never forgotten these people and continue to visit them on our AFSI Chizuk missions to Israel, and to give them whatever support possible. We also continue to work with communities that are still threatened with expulsion and destruction, despite the death of Oslo and the findings of the Edmond Levy report.”
Ray Kaplan, a member of the executive committee of the Nordau Circle, paid tribute to the life and legacy of Emanuel “Manny” Zweibon, a cousin of the late AFSi chairman, Herb Zweibon. “After battling a long illness, Manny left this world on June 18th of this year, but he shall forever be remembered as a valiant Betari and the beloved secretary-treasurer of the Nordau Circle. An engineer by trade, Manny was not only one of the founders of the Nordau Circle but it was he who found a burying place for Jaobtinsky in upstate New York and was responsible for having his remains transferred to Israel in 1964,” said Mr. Kaplan.
Singing the Ka’ale Maaleh Rachamim for the yahrzeit was the Park East Synagogue’s own internationally acclaimed Cantor Benjamin Rogosnitzky.
Introducing the evening’s keynote speakers, Ms. Freedman said of Arieh King of the Israel Land Fund, “I have watched him grow up since he was a young boy and am proud to say that he is a tireless and courageous advocate for Jewish rights to live in all of Jerusalem.”
Informing his audience of his background, Mr. King said, “I was a kibbutznik and never thought I would live in Jerusalem, but when I came there, I just couldn’t leave as it is so precious to all of us.” Mr. King ruefully reported that today in Jerusalem a state of apartheid exists in which certain neighborhoods are legally off limits to Israels. “When you come to Jerusalem, you can see eight neighborhoods in which signs are posted saying Israelis cannot legally enter because these are exclusively Arab enclaves. Do you know who authorized these signs? It was the Prime Minister of Israel himself, Bibi Netanyahu.”
He also spoke of the incessant atrocities being carried out by Arabs on the Mount of Olives cemetary in East Jerusalem. “Everyday there are reports of Jewish being attacked by Arabs on Har HaZeisim. It is the only cemetary that does not have a fence surrounding it and if we call for a fence to be erected, the government of Israel tells us that a fence will disturb the Arabs,” Mr. King noted. In addition to physical attacks upon Jews, Mr. King said that Arabs bring their camels and donkeys to the 3000 year old Jewish cemetary and use it as a place to park their cars, to take drugs, have sex and drink alcohol.
Informing his audience of the Israeli government’s efforts to impede Jews from building homes in East Jerusalem, Mr. King said, “Today there are 27,000 illegal Arab buildings in East Jerusalem and no one says a word. Beit Hanina, an East Jerusalem neighborhood in which Jews are beginning to settle, has been attacked by Arabs throwing Molotov cocktails. Cars have been burned and property has been vandalized and the Israeli police refuse to come to the aid of the Jewish residents there.”
New York City attorney, strategic defense analyst and noted topographer Mark Langfan, delivered a compelling presentation of the inherent existential perils that Israel would inevitably face if Judea and Samaria would become an independent Palestinian state under any future “peace” negotiations.
Displaying his topographical 3-D raised-relief maps of Israel along with overlays that highlight the geography of the region, Mr. Langfan described in nuanced detail how easily a possible genocide of Israelis could occur at the hands of her Palestinian neighbors. Pointing to his map and setting forth to debunk some popular myths, Mr. Langfan said, “If you look at the central Mediterranean coast of Israel, from Hadera to Tel Aviv, you will see that 70 percent of the Jewish popluation of Israel lives there and 80 percent of Israel’s industrial base is located there as well. Those who tell you that it is feasible for Israel to survive if a demilitarized West Bank Palestinian state would come into existence is neglecting to tell you that Katyusha rockets with chemical warheads can be smuggled into the Tel Aviv-Netanya corridor and that would spell mass death and destruction.”
Besides the overwhelming data indicating that a future Palestinian state would serve as a security risk for Israel, Mr. Langfan has done exhaustive research on how Israel’s most precious natural resource, namely its water supply will play a key role in the nuts and bolts survival of the Jewish state. “People don’t realize that close to half of the water in Israel comes from underground aquifers in Judea and Samaria. Many of the key “settlements” like Ariel and Kedumim were built along the line from which water runs down westward towards the coast in order to protect this vital source. Israel gives Palestinian Arabs much more water than demanded by the peace agreements and that could spell big trouble. Transferring control of these areas to the Palestinians could seriously harm the natural equilibrium and drastically effect Israel and that should be duly noted,” he declared.
Concluding the evening was an address from Daniel Tauber, the director of Likud Anglos in Israel and the grandson of Jack Tauber, who served as Jabotinsky’s personal secretary. “My grandfather had a special rapport with Jabotinsky, and they shared some intense and humorous times together,” said Mr. Tauber. Focusing on the theme outlined in Jabotinsky’s 1927 novel entitled “Samson,” Mr. Tauber spoke of his famous words, “Tell them three things in my name, not two: Gather iron, anoint a king and learn to laugh.”
Using this as a vehicle to inspire Jewish youth of the time to embrace the concept of Jewish strength, the book was a parable of the Jewish people and their experience in exile, especially their weakness in the face of anti-semitism and assimilation.
Wearing his Betar uniform (tilboshet) from decades ago, Charles Waxman of Queens, New York honored the eternal legacy of “Rosh Betar,” Ze’ev Jabotinsky by delivering a heartfelt rendition of “Shir Betar’ (the Betar anthem) at the evening’s conclusion. “What meant so very much to Jabotinsky was the Jewish youth; his Betarim, and I’m sure that he would be thrilled to know that many in this room still remember his immortal words,” said Mr. Waxman.