Aliyah Bet & Machal Virtual Museum

 

Honoring The Ship That Launched A Nation

2017 Dedication of Exodus Monument

By Daniel Fliegler

The elderly man recounted how as a child on board the Exodus 1947 he could see the port of Haifa and the Carmel mountains in the distance. Being so close to Israel he was filled with joy, but the men next to him started to cry. He asked them why were they crying. The reply was that they would be forced to go to Cyprus. Yet the knowledge was there that they would return. No one on that ship knew the future events that would lead to their return and how their determination to return would set into motion the final steps for the United Nations recognition of the Jewish state. 

This was elaborated in Haifa port on July 18, 2017, seventy years to the day that the British brought the Exodus 1947 to this port after capturing her. Now on this fateful day a fitting memorial was dedicated to this event with an appropriate ceremony.

After the Second World War, the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust wanted to leave Europe and come home to Israel which was then called Palestine. The British controlled the area through its League of Nations Mandate. It was the British intention to keep control of Palestine as a necessary step for the preservation of their empire. Thinking it more expedient to appease the Arabs, the British through its 1939 White Paper forbade the immigration of Jews into Palestine except for a monthly quarter of 1500. The Jews of Palestine through the Jewish Agency and the underground armies of the Hagana, Irgun, and Lehi brought in Jewish refugees none the less as part of a movement called Aliyah Bet. Since 1946, surplus war ships were brought cheaply in the United States and Canada. They were manned by crews consisting mostly of Jewish volunteers. The ships would sail from the US pick up hundreds and thousands of refugees waiting in Europe and continue onward to Palestine. The British navy succeeded in capturing most of the ships. British policy was to intern the refugees in camps in Cyprus. The Exodus 1947 was to be different. Formally called the President Warfield, it was originally  a pleasure boat transporting passengers and freight between Norfolk and Baltimore. It saw action in WWII with first the British and then the US navy being stationed off Normady, France. It returned to the US and was sold to a dummy company of the Hagana for scrap. The ship was taller than the average British warship making it harder to be boarded and seized by British Royal Marines. The plan was to openly land the refugees in Palestine in defiance of the British navy. With a stroke of genius Moshe Sneh head of immigration in the Jewish Agency came up with the name Exodus 1947 So the ship picked up 4515 refugees in Marseilles and headed to Palestine with the British shadowing it. Two British destroyers rammed the Exodus and the marines managed to board the ship. On the ship, the marines were met with stiff resistance by the refugees who threw everything including potatoes at them. Three people were killed as a result of the assault. One of them was Bill Bernstein an officer on the Exodus who tried to prevent the marines from capturing the wheelhouse which controlled the ship. Instead of being interned in Cyprus the refugees were imprisoned like animals and sent to France. The refugees refused to disembark in France and the French authorities refused to force them. The British decided to send the refugees to Germany and force them to disembark there. Expecting negative publicity, the British were totally unprepared for the firestorm of condemnations that followed. Reports by journalist Ruth Gruber and eyewitness accounts by the Reverend John Grauel who sailed on the Exodus as an official observer convinced the United Nations that this state of affairs could not continue. On November 29 of that same year the United Nations voted in favor for the establishment of the Jewish state. The Exodus 1947 truly earned its nickname as ‘the ship that launched a nation.

Jerry Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, learned that there were monuments for the Exodus 1947 in Italy, Germany, France, and the US but none in Israel where the main historical events occurred. It is entirely due to Klinger’s efforts that a monument now stands in the port of Haifa where the ship was taken to by the British. The monument, sculpted by Sam Philipe consists of an anchor behind or ‘launching’ a three dimensional map of Israel. A fitting monument for ‘The ship that launched a nation’.  The ceremony was most fitting going on for hours. Speaker after speaker spoke of their connection to Exodus, while on a screen behind the podium were video clips of the ship and the land of Israel. One of the most moving connections of the Exodus came from Natan Sharansky, former refusenik and now chairman of the Jewish Agency. When he was a refusenik in the former USSR, Sharansky would ask visitors to bring with them copies of the novel Exodus. Although the novel gave the story of a different Aliyah Bet ship it still had an impact on the refuseniks in their struggle to maintain their Jewish identity. In an irony of history, most of the American volunteers for the Aliyah Bet crews kept their involvement a secret for fear of criminal prosecution by the US government. At the ceremony, was Michael Snowden representing US Ambassador Friedman proudly recounting that most of the Exodus crew were American.

Singing icons Noy Sassover and Shuli Natan sung song after song with Natan including her famous renditions of Jerusalem of Gold and Captain My Captain. 

Representing American Veterans of Israel Legacy Corp were, Donna Parker, Jerry Klinger, and this writer.

 

Also See

Baltimore Jewish Times Article

Jerusalem Post Article

Video of July 18th Dedication Ceremony

Augustine L. (Duke) Labaczewski

Duke Labaczewski

Augustine L. (Duke) Labaczewski, 89, the cook aboard the American Aliyah Bet ship Tradewinds (later named “Hatikvah” – Hope), died in Williamstown, New Jersey, on June 29, 2017.   His daughter, Mrs. Theresa Forbes, said the cause of death was lung cancer, contracted during his 40-year career as a cook, able-bodied seaman and boatswain aboard American commercial ships. He was buried on July 5 in Manahath Cemetery, Glassboro, NJ, next to his wife, Myra. He is survived by his daughter, his son William Labaczewski, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Duke was born April 21, 1928 in Camden, NJ.  He was Roman Catholic, yet fluent in Yiddish,  learned from Jewish neighbors. At 19 he was one of the youngest Jews or non-Jews to participate in Israel’s War of Independence.   The Tradewinds, a former U.S. Revenue cutter, was refitted on the Miami River in 1946 and 1947.  It departed Miami in 1947, sailed to Baltimore and crossed the Atlantic taking aboard 1,414 Jewish refugees in La Spezia, Italy.   It was intercepted and rammed by a Royal Navy Destroyer on May 17, 1947.   The crew, including Duke, and the refugees fought the British boarding party, but were overwhelmed.  They were transferred to a British Prison ship and interned in Cyprus.  Duke was later freed and returned to the U.S. in December, 1947.

When asked what impelled him to join the Israeli cause, Duke said, he had returned from sea [in 1947] and his friend Mike Perlstein said, “Duke, we need sailors to help bring my people to Israel.”  “I was always for a Jewish state,” Duke recalled, and responded to Mike, “I’m your man.” He joined Mike as a crew member on the “Hatikvah” and on many occasions later stated that it had been “the right thing to do”.

Duke participated in almost every reunion of Aliyah Bet and Machal.   He was once asked what benefit he derived personally from his experience with Aliyah Bet.  He responded, “I believe we brought over the people needed to fight for a free state and freedom from all the persecutions around the world.  It makes me feel very proud that I had a part in it, no matter how small.”

We will miss our friend and comrade-in-arms, Duke.

Zichrono Livracha (May his memory be for a blessing)

Duke Labaczewski
Duke Labaczewski
Duke Labaczewski and Marcel Berkowitz at the 2016 Mickey Marcus Memorial
Duke Labaczewski and Paul Kaye
2016 Mickey Marcus Memorial Group Photo

American Veterans of Israel Legacy Corp

2017 Celebrate Israel Parade

AVILC Celebrate Israel Parade 2016

AMERICAN VETERANS OF ISRAEL

LEGACY CORPORATION

CELEBRATE ISRAEL PARADE

SUNDAY, JUNE 4, 2017

COME AND MARCH WITH US ON FIFTH AVENUE

SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL

PAY TRIBUTE TO OUR LOST MEMBERS

LINE UP ON WEST 55th STREET Between Fifth and Sixth Avenues (Behind the Scouts formation)

PARADE ENDS ON FIFTH AVENUE AND 74TH STREET

ASSEMBLY TIME: 10:30 am

STEP-OFF TIME: 11:00 am

Wear Dark slacks or skirts, white shirts, blue berets or caps Wear comfortable shoes and carry a bottle of water Bring Family and Friends

********************************************

NEED TO RIDE IN THE LINE OF MARCH ? RIDE THE VETERANS TROLLEY IN THE PARADE

QUESTIONS?..... CONTACT :

Si - spiegelsi@aol.com

Donna - donnakparker1@gmail.com

Exodus 1947: 70th Commemoration: Project Update

Exodus Baltimore Memorial

Congressman John P. Sarbanes of Maryland has entered into the U.S Congressional Record recognition of the famed Holocaust Rescue Ship, the Exodus 1947. (see copy below). The ship, out of Baltimore, was American funded and crewed.  Its historic voyage in running the British naval blockade of Palestine made it a foundation story of the modern State of Israel.  Ruth Gruber called the Exodus 1947, the "Ship that Launched a Nation". Nine other largely US manned ships sailed from the U.S. among the 66 ships that ran the British naval blockade to bring remnants of European Jewry to the shores of Eretz Israel between 1945 and 1948.

Seventy years have passed since July 18, 1947, when the battered Exodus 1947, with 4,454 Holocaust survivors on board, was towed into the port of Haifa by British destroyers that rammed her in international waters. The Second Officer, Bill Bernstein, was clubbed to death on the bridge by the British boarding detail when he refused to abandon the wheel.  He was the first Machalnik who gave his life in the struggle to establish the Jewish State.

This iconic episode in modern Jewish history will be remembered and honored at the AVILC Mickey Marcus Memorial taking place at West Point on May 7, 2017. Among the speakers  are Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel; Ambassador Vasilios Philippou, High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus; NYC DOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte and Mr. Jerry Klinger, President of JASHP. There will be an  exhibition portraying the “Aliyah Bet” or clandestine immigration that daringly confronted the British destroyers engaged in the naval blockade. There will also be a photo display of the refugees and crew apprehended by British authorities and shipped to internment camps on Cyprus.

This year being the 70th commemoration of Exodus 1947, the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation (JASHP) and Jerry Klinger, its president have launched the Exodus Memorial Project. A permanent historical, informative sculpture memorializing the Exodus 1947 has been commissioned and will be sited with supportive panels in the plaza of the port of Haifa. Jerry Klinger was instrumental in the restoration of Bill Bernstein’s  grave site with honor and dignity in  a Haifa cemetery.

Our purpose is to remember and reaffirm the saga of the Ma’apala (Clandestine immigration) and to tell  the story of the Exodus 1947 as emblematic of the Aliyah Bet operation and the creation of the Jewish State.   A dedication ceremony is being organized to be held at the port of Haifa on July 18, 2017, the day Exodus 1947 docked seventy years ago.

Those planning to travel to Israel and attend the July 18 dedication of the memorial in Haifa are asked to please contact Donna Parker at donnakparker1@gmail.com

Those interested in knowing more about the Exodus Memorial project in Haifa may contact Jerry Klinger, President, Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, directly at Jashp1@msn.com

Donna Parker

Rafi Marom

Si Spiegelman

 


 

Congressional Record, Jan. 24, 2017

HON. JOHN P. SARBANES

OF MARYLAND

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Mr. SARBANES. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the extraordinary events surrounding the SS Exodus 1947, to which a historic memorial will be dedicated in the Port of Haifa in Israel this coming July.

The SS Exodus 1947, originally known as the President Warfield, was a passenger ship operating on the ‘‘Old Bay Line’’ between Baltimore, MD and Norfolk, VA. The ship served in that role for nearly 15 years before being repurposed during World War II, when it served both the Royal Navy and the United States Navy. Following the war, the ship returned to the U.S. and was placed in the Naval Reserve Fleet in Virginia, where it was to be sold for scrap.

Before the ship could be scrapped it was sold to the Haganah, the precursor to the Israel Defense Forces. The Haganah intended to use it, amongst 9 other ships, to evacuate displaced Jews from Europe to what was then Palestine, at the time under British Control. Before undertaking this mission the ship was towed to Baltimore, where it was refitted and crewed, primarily by volunteer Jewish-American ex-soldiers.

Once in Europe, the ship originally designed for 400 passengers was loaded with 4,454 Holocaust survivors and departed from the French Port of Se`te. The ship was intercepted in international waters by a task force of eight British Naval vessels and was boarded by Royal Marines. While the unarmed crew and passengers fought back with whatever could be turned into weapons, they were eventually overwhelmed and taken back to France and then to displaced persons camps in Germany on British prison ships.

The events on the Exodus garnered international media attention and are considered by historians to have played a role in the passage of United Nations Resolution 181, which established the State of Israel. The mayor of Haifa in 1950 dubbed the Exodus the ‘‘Ship that Launched a Nation.’’

Memorials and historical markers for the Exodus have been placed in the Baltimore Harbor, as well as France and Germany. I am proud of the small role that Baltimore played in these historic events and also commend the work of my constituent, Dr. Barry S. Lever, with the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation to dedicate a memorial to the Exodus in Israel, and I congratulate them on their successful efforts.

 


 

Further reading:

1.  For reference information and lists of North American volunteers that served on the U.S-sourced Aliyah Bet ships, see Murray Greenfield’s The Jews’ Secret Fleet… (Gefen Publishing House).

2.  For a global perspective on all the Aliyah Bet ships (1938-1948) see Paul Silverstone’s Our Only Refuge; Open the Gates…. http://paulsilverstone.com/aliyah-bet-project/

Exodus 1947: The Ship that Launched a Nation

Exodus Ship

The S.S. Exodus was an American Aliyah Bet ship crewed by American volunteers together with Haganah operatives from pre-state Israel. Her mission was to rescue Holocaust survivors trapped in Europe after the murder of 6 million Jews, bringing them to British Mandatory Palestine. Despite the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the British prevented Jewish immigration to Palestine through a naval blockade. 

July 18, 1947, the unarmed Exodus, carrying 4,515 Holocaust survivors, tried to breech the British blockade. In international waters, two British destroyers rammed the ship, threatening to sink the Exodus. British Marines boarded, killed three, including an American Mahal crewman- Bill Bernstein. 147 refugees were injured. The Jews resisted bravely. 

Captured, the Exodus was taken to Haifa port where the brutalized refugees were transferred to British prison ships and forcibly returned to camps in Germany. World news captured the pathos in Haifa, garnering international sympathy to the Jewish plight. 

In Jerusalem, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine was deliberating the Palestine question. They declined to consider Holocaust refugee testimony. An eyewitness aboard the Exodus was American Methodist Minister Reverend John Stanley Grauel. The Haganah smuggled Grauel to Jerusalem to tell the Committee the story of the Exodus. The Committee agreed to go to Germany and consider Survivor testimonies. That testimony changed the Com-mittee’s recommendation to the United Nations from against to in favor of Partition. 

November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to end British control of Palestine, setting the stage for the rebirth of a Jewish State and a new Arab State. American journalist Ruth Gruber named the Exodus, "The Ship that Launched a Nation.” 

August 1952, the Exodus was scuttled near Haifa harbor after a disastrous fire. She lies there to this day. 

 

RUTH GRUBER, Z"L

Ruth Gruber in 2007

By Daniel Fliegler

‘If a tree fell in the forest and no one heard it did it really fall?’ a proverb

Ruth Gruber, a trailblazing journalist, author and humanitarian passed away on November 17, 2016. She was 105 years old.

Her earliest encounter with Holocaust survivors was in 1944, when she escorted 1000 refugees from Europe to the United States. Ruth Gruber in her own way was a key member of Americans who helped in the establishment of the State of Israel, despite the fact that she was not a military volunteer in the struggle for independence. As a reporter and a photographer, Ruth gave a voice and an image to many important events in Israel’s struggle for independence thus influencing them and hastening independence.

In 1947, the New York Herald assigned Ruth to cover the Aliya Bet Ship Exodus 1947 as it made its journey to Haifa. It was a converted pleasure boat carrying 4500 Jewish refugees to Palestine defying the British naval blockade. Ruth witnessed the Exodus being escorted to Haifa by British naval boats after they had rammed her causing severe damage to her hull. She then flew to Cyprus to witness the refugees being interned there. However, this time the British decided to ship the refugees to Port de Bouc, France. Ruth went there to cover the refugees' refusal to disembark. She was given permission to visit the refugees in the prison ship Runnymede Park. There she photographed them in wire cages with barbed wire on top of the cages for good measure as they held a Union Jack with swastika drawn on it. Her reportage of the refugees being forced to go to Germany created such a world uproar that the British gave up their mandate of Palestine setting in motion the UN decision on November 29, 1947 to establish the Jewish state.

Not resting on her laurels, at the age of 74 Ruth visited the Jews of Ethiopia in 1985. Her account of their rescue was published in her book, ‘The Exodus of Ethiopian Jews’.

For years Ruth had been a friend of the AVI. With her health permitting, she attended and participated in many AVI functions and events. She will be sorely missed.

May her memory be a blessing.

Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn, by Daniel Goldis

Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn, a new book by Daniel Gordis, describes the history of modern Israel through the eyes of thinkers, leaders, immigrant groups, and soldiers. Giving equal weight to the dream of Zionism with the realities of a tough defense environment, this book provides a feeling history. Songs and poems await each depiction of tension, survival and victory. The reader gets a sense of the creation of the Israel we know today as a breathtaking miracle, one with nuanced and bittersweet chapters.

Mickey Marcus Memorial Service - Sunday, May 7, 2017

The 51st annual Mickey Marcus ceremony will take place on May 7, 2017 at the Jewish Chapel of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

PLEASE JOIN US FOR OUR ANNUAL PROGRAM COMMEMORATING COLONEL DAVID ‘MICKEY’ MARCUS AMONG THE 41 U.S. AND CANADIAN VOLUNTEERS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN ISRAEL’S WAR OF INDEPENDENCE (1947-1949).

10:00-10:50 - Coffee hour in the Chapel Social Hall.

11:00-12:15 - Memorial Service in the USMA Jewish Chapel led by Chaplains and choir; Jewish War Veterans-Rockland/Orange District presenting the Colors. CH (MAJ) David Ruderman(USMA) and guest rabbis officiating. 

PROGRAM:  To be announced. 

THEME: Commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the "Exodus 1947" saga; the ship that launched the State of Israel. Bill Bernstein, who hailed from Passaic, N.J was the 2nd officer of the ship and the first American Machal volunteer to give his life in the creation of the State.

 

12:45-1:15 - USMA Military Cemetery. Honoring Col. David ‘Mickey’ Marcus  among the fallen volunteers in Israel’s War of Independence.

Mourners Kaddish and wreath-laying ceremony at the graveside. Firing Salute and Taps by the USMA Honor Guard. 

PLEASE BRING FAMILY AND FRIENDS. 

WEST POINT SECURITY REQUIRES A GOVERNMENT-ISSUED PHOTO ID AT THE GATE.

Gino Narboni, Machal Pilot, Dies at 92

Gino Narboni

We remember Roger Nathan "Gino" Narboni, a pilot who served three nations, including Israel in 1948, and died on July 16th, 2016. He was born in Constantine, Algeria, the son of a prominent physician. As a teenager with a thirst for action, he enlisted in the Free French Air Force and a few years later became a MACHAL. He received word of the newly created state of Israel's need for pilots and voluntered because he "felt strongly about our Jewish heritage." After emigrating to the United States, he served as a surgeon in the U.S. Air Force and retired with the rank of Colonel.

Narboni Obituary, from Peter Loring Mortuaries

Image from Peter Loring Mortuaries

 

Below is Col. Narboni's obituary in the Jerusalem Post.

 

“Gino” Narboni, Machal 1948 pilot, dies aged 92:

 

Roger Nathan « Gino » Narboni, one of the legendary Machal (foreign volunteer) pilots who helped turn the tide in Israel’s 1948-1949 War of Independence, died at his home near San Antonio, Texas, on July 16, his family said. He was 92.

Born in the now-extinct Jewish community of then-French Algeria on November 18, 1923, Narboni was later one of the first pilots of Israel’s El Al and Arkia airlines.

His remarkable career also included flying for the Free French Air Force during World War Two, and a 25-year-career as a chief flight surgeon with the United States Air Force which he left in 1981 with the rank of full colonel.

Narboni, the son of a prominent physician in the eastern Algerian city of Constantine, had planned on medical studies, but wars long kept getting in the way.

He joined General Charles de Gaulle’s Free French Air Force in May 1943 and was sent to the United States for flight training late the following year, qualifying as a pilot on B-26 twin-engine bombers.

But, by the time he got back to Europe in mid-1945, the war was over and he began his medical studies in Paris.

In 1948, he was contacted there by the pre-state Haganah Jewish underground recruiting Jewish pilots with experience in Allied armies to help the incipient state of Israel which did not then have a single combat aircraft and only a handful of pilots.

Narboni was asked to fly a single-engine Norseman aircraft secretly from Paris to Israel because of an international arms embargo imposed on belligerent Middle East states but which only affected Israel since Arab armies already had standing air forces.

“Why did I come to Israel in 1948? I was not brought up in a religious atmosphere, but my family and I felt strongly about our Jewish heritage,” he told the Jerusalem Report newsmagazine in July 2014. “We believed in the case of the Jews. I had a skill that Israel could use, so I decided to use it. Today, I am still attached to Israel which has an importance in my life and in that of my wife.” He then spoke on return from a visit to Israel where he was officially received at Tel Nof air force base from where he flew in 1948-1949.

Narboni was one of some 4,000 volunteers who came to Israel in the framework of the Mitnadveï Hutz l’Aretz (Volunteers from Abroad, or MAHAL, programme) from the United States, Canada, South Africa, Britain, France, Scandinavia and 20 other countries. They were joined by a couple of hundred non-Jewish volunteers.

The role of the Mahal volunteers was especially crucial in the Israel Air Force where they made up the near-totality of flying personnel during the War of Independence.

After his ferrying flights to Israel, Narboni served as a transport pilot, flying supplies and evacuating wounded soldiers. “In those days there were few formalities. I don’t remember signing any papers or being sworn in, but I was given a commission and reported to duty as Captain Narboni.

After his stint as a civilian airline pilot in Israel, Narboni was drawn back to his first love, medicine, and returned to Paris to complete his medical studies.

When he graduated, he found post-war Europe too drab and emigrated to the United States where he embarked on a long career in the U.S.A.F. including medical evacuations under fire in Vietnam.

Retiring from the air force in 1981, he long directed a clinic in San Antonio, Texas specialized in oncology, his medical specialty. In 2013, Dr. Narboni’s wife Charlotte published When I grow up, I want to be… his memoir as he recounted it to her.

Dr Narboni, an inveterate world traveler and classical music lover, is survived by his wife and by daughters Nicole and Cecile.

(By Bernard Edinger, Paris)

Machal Contributions Recognized in U.S. Embassy July 4th Celebration in Israel

Zipporah Porath and Amb. Daniel Shapiro

Ambassador of the United States to Israel Daniel Shapiro continues to recognize the contributions of the Machal in his Fourth of July reception. In his speech in front of 2,400 people at his residence, he remembers pilot Lou Lenart, Z"L, as "the man who saved Tel Aviv."

Below is the full text of the speech.

 

June 30, 2016 - Remarks of Ambassador Daniel B. Shapiro at the Embassy’s Fourth of July Reception

 

A TRIBUTE TO OUR FOUNDERS 

Good evening everyone, and welcome! 

Tonight is a celebration, but before I begin my remarks, I must acknowledge the terrible tragedy and outrage that is on all of our minds.  The murder of 13-year-old Hallel Ariel, z”l, was an unspeakable act of terrorism.  I want to restate my government’s and my personal unequivocal condemnation of this terrorist act, for which there can be no justification. Our hearts are heavy and they are with Hallel’s family, and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured in the attempted rescue. 

Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Netanyahu, thank you for being with us this evening; thank you for your decades of friendship to the United States; and thank you for your personal kindnesses to Julie and me and our family.  

You honor us with your presence at our celebration. 

We feel privileged to host you in our home. And it is only a small measure of the hospitality you have shown me. I come through your offices so often – with the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, Cabinet Secretaries, Members of Congress, or my own visits – so often that I am tempted some days to ask for my own desk and cubicle and parking place.  

Don’t worry, I won’t.  

But I do feel very much at home and want you to equally feel at home here in our house. 

Ministers, Members of Knesset, Leader of the Opposition, representatives of the Israel Defense Forces and the National Police, other Israeli public officials and religious leaders, representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, distinguished guests, to everyone who came from far and wide, welcome to America’s home in Israel. 

Let me also welcome our special guests from the United States, including Congressman Ted Deutch from the great state of Florida. 

On behalf of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry—and on behalf of the entire American people—we thank all of our Israeli guests for their partnership and their friendship. 

Julie and I also want to personally thank you for joining us and our colleagues from the U.S. Embassy for this celebration of America’s independence. 

Let me briefly acknowledge our generous sponsors, who helped make this beautiful event possible. You will see a list in your program, a list that includes our fireworks sponsor—Boeing—which is also celebrating its 100th anniversary. Please join me in thanking all of the sponsors. 

Let me also offer Ramadan greetings to our guests who are celebrating the holy month. Ramadan Kareem

I also want to thank all of the musical talent we heard tonight, including our anthem performers, Brett Loewenstern, Amitai Levin, and Kinneret Hendeles; one of Israel’s hottest bands, the great A-WA; Niv Harnam and Tal Ardity of the Rimon School of Music; and a special thank you to the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band – Flagship. 

To our entire U.S. Embassy staff, Israeli and American, I offer an enormous, heartfelt thank you for this amazing event, and for everything you do year round. 

You hosted so many high-level visitors this year; you welcomed so many American navy ships and armed services personnel; you renovated and built so many facilities; you protected all of us and countless official visitors; you engaged with dozens of local communities in every corner of this country; and you hosted numerous trade visits. Trust me, it's a challenge just to keep track. 

And since we do not take enough opportunities to thank our dedicated Embassy community – the spouses and partners who make enormous sacrifices, including interrupted careers, yet who contribute to our mission in innumerable ways, and our family is no different – let me also offer a special acknowledgement to our spouses and families. 

One of our staff’s many accomplishments this year is featured at our event tonight — and I hope the folks at the buffet in the back can hear me — and it is American kosher beef. 

At this reception, we are pleased to be serving the first American beef imported to Israel in over twenty years. Our governments have worked hard over a long period to re-open this trade channel and I know Israeli consumers will be delighted as the first imports—from the great state of Nebraska, I should add—reach Israeli kitchens, b'ezrat ha'shem, later this year.

 

B'te'avon. 

 

Tonight, we are fortunate to have with us so many special guests from all walks of life in Israel, so many agents of change: 

·         community leaders from the Galilee and the Negev who are expanding access to higher education, building economic opportunities and strengthening Israel’s shared society 

·         philanthropists who are reaching deeper into communities on the periphery to ensure equality of opportunity; 

·         innovators and business leaders who are fueling Start-Up Nation and transforming our strategic alliance into a partnership for prosperity; 

·         soldiers and security professionals who are standing guard to keep Israel safe and who are deepening the extraordinary security partnership between our two nations; 

·         and civil society leaders from every one of Israel’s communities who are working to protect Israel’s environment, promote the rights of women and children, support migrants and asylum seekers, empower those with disabilities and promote Middle East peace. 

You represent the best of our shared values. And you also carry forward the legacy of Israel’s founders – dor ha’meyasdim – those fearless, wise and innovative pioneers who established Israel. 

 

Some of Israel’s founding generation and those who built this nation from its infancy are the Embassy's frequent guests and our partners. They continue to provide me with valuable counsel. 

People like Moshe Arens, former President Shimon Peres, and many others. Your engagement and your friendship is a blessing. Some of these founders are even with us this evening. All are in our hearts. 

Still, others were lost this past year, like Lou Lennart, z”l, “the man who saved Tel Aviv.” 

Lou was an American and part of MACHAL, the overseas volunteers who came to Israel in its most dire hour. I stood at the MACHAL memorial at Shaar Ha’gai two months ago, on Yom HaZikaron

 

It was there that I met Tzipora Porath, an American who fought for Israel in 1948. Tzippy—who at 92 still has all the vigor of a young Hagana recruit—was among about eight hundred Americans who came here, including the first commander of Israel’s navy. 

They risked everything to fight for an ideal. Their sacrifice, their values and their vision laid the foundation for the U.S.-Israel alliance of today. These courageous freedom fighters also harken back to America’s founders. 

Unlike Israelis, Americans long ago said goodbye to their founding generation. But I suspect if our founders could meet up with Israel’s founders, they could find much in common – a love of freedom, a commitment to principle over personal gain, a willingness to take risks, and an ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. 

For most of the past two centuries, our founders have been with us only as legends and as guiding lights. 

Yet they remain as honored today as they were in Philadelphia on that momentous July day in 1776. 

When they gathered to declare our independence, our visionary founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. 

These were not empty pledges. Many lost their lives, their family members, their homes, or their fortunes in the terrible, costly war that was necessary to achieve our independence. 

Yet our founders demonstrated that through personal sacrifice, through the defense of universal values, and through their vision and leadership, they could bestow upon future generations an endowment of freedom and an inheritance of democracy. 

Americans feel a deep bond to our founders to this day. Biographies,  films and musicals about the founders continue to be hugely popular; their homes and museums remain some of our most visited destinations; and anyone who has been to New York the past two years knows that Broadway is experiencing a whole new love affair with the founders. 

Alexander Hamilton, who left an indelible imprint on our constitution, on our armed forces, and on our financial system, can now claim no less than eleven Tony awards. 

Our first President, George Washington, is still revered for his stoic resolve in the face of adversity, and his steady, calming hand guiding the fragile new country through its birth and infancy.  

Thomas Jefferson, our third president, penned the Declaration of Independence, which is the cornerstone of the values we consider at the very heart of our democracy, “that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." 

The intellectual James Madison, our 4th president, is often referred to as “The Father of the Constitution,” as he authored the first drafts, was one of its principal defenders in “The Federalist Papers,” and was a chief sponsor of the Bill of Rights. 

 

Many of our founders, by the way, were immigrants, like Hamilton, who arrived in the thirteen colonies from the Caribbean islands. Others were signers of the Constitution and some of the first justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Immigration, openness, and opportunity, have always been among the values at the very heart of America. 

“Our Founders conceived of this country as a refuge for the world,” President Obama said last week. “And for more than two centuries,” he added, “welcoming wave after wave of immigrants has kept us youthful and dynamic and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character, and it has made us stronger.” 

At this time when we are witnessing unprecedented waves of migration, at this time when millions are fleeing war and despair, we are renewing our commitment to the vision of our founders – a vision of a nation that welcomes with open arms all who want to build with us. 

Our founders were not perfect, of course, which they knew and acknowledged. They were flesh and blood. They reflected the prejudices of their time. Their vision had its limits, and even their greatest accomplishments fell short of extending the gifts of freedom to all of America’s inhabitants. 

Yet they led with a deep awareness of the frailties of human society and had the wisdom to establish a system of government that could protect its own institutions and principles against human weakness. With great foresight, they understood that they needed to establish a system that could evolve and adapt in order to ensure “a more perfect union.”  They gave us the tools to make that happen. 

Subsequent generations of Americans have stood on their shoulders and improved our union by abolishing slavery, establishing universal civil rights, ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and minorities, empowering persons with disabilities, and enshrining marriage equality into the law, to name just a few examples. 

Our work to fulfill the vision of our founders continues. 

Even as we celebrate our independence, the great gift of freedom, we are deeply aware that here in Israel, the struggle to enjoy all of freedom’s gifts – peace, security, and recognition – still continues. 

As does the struggle against terrorism, a scourge we condemn without equivocation, and call on all others to do so. 

We are perhaps even more attuned to this struggle as we also mourn our own painful losses, like the dozens murdered and injured in Orlando two weeks ago. 

The United States and Israel are partners in all of these struggles. 

Whether it is the edge we provide diplomatically in international fora; or the edge we provide on the battlefield through next-generation systems like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and our extensive support for Israel’s missile defense; or our steadfast commitment to seek and promote peace between Israel and its neighbors, including the Palestinians; we are Israel’s partners. 

Fighting for Israel—for its security, for its freedom, for its prosperity, and for its ability to live at peace with its neighbors—this was a commitment President Obama has demonstrated from his very first day in office. And he will carry forward until his last day in office. 

It is a commitment, in its essence, to enable Israelis to live their founders’ vision of “being a free people in our land.” 

And it is a commitment rooted in the story of the birth of our own nation and the great sacrifices we made to secure our own freedom. 

This commitment to freedom is at the very core of the American story, and it remains at the center of the special friendship between our nations.

 

Thank you again for joining us tonight.

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