February 5, 1998
In 1948, the world agreed to the creation of the State of Israel in a moment of stricken conscience over its outrageous failure to stop or even attempt to mitigate the effects of the Holocaust.
Their motives were mostly cynical. The immorality of their failure was so gross as to require something postitive to put in the history books. In addition, they knew that there were only 600,000 Jews living there, surrounded by five armies representing 50 million Arabs dedcicated to their own form of "final solutions."
In the past 50 years Israel has been subjected to countless wars, an untold number of terrorist acts, repeated suicide bombers, scud missiles, and every form of unprovoked attack, and heinous acts both inside and outside the state. And yet, our people not only survived, they prevailed.
Israel's accomplishments have never been matched by any other people this small in such a short period of time in the history of the world. But they didn't do it alone. The part played in the creation and sustaining of the Jewish state by world Jewry, especially American Jews, is without parallel and without question, crucial to Israel's survival.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the creation of the state and we must celebrate it. And the celebration should be on a scale to match all of our accomplishments.
With this in mind, your Federation, along with many other Federations and Jewish institutions here, in Israel, and around the world, are preparing all kinds of events. We have already begun with an extremely successful Community Mission to Israel next November. Last year, the Los Angeles Federation took 400 members of our community, which was the largest mission to visit Israel from the United States in all of 1997.
Over 3,000 people attended a marvelous Chanukah candle lighting ceremony held at the Westside Pavilion, a record crowd.
On April 14, Los Angeles will host a star-studded national television show, which will be broadcast by CBS. It is being produced by Gil Cates, producer of the Academy Awards, together with Don Mischer, producer of the Emmy show and will be written by Larry Gelbart, the man who created TV's "M*A*S*H." Celebrity performers are now being engaged for the evening.
The production will take place at the 6,300-seat Shrine Auditorium and will be followed by a gala kosher l'Pesach reception for VIP sponsors and entertainers. For all others, the tickets are being priced to assure that everyone can attend. The show and gala will be jointly sponsored by Federation and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. You're all invited to what we know will be the largest, most exciting 50th birthday party in the world.
On May 3, at the Pan Pacific Park, Federation, together with the local council of Israeli organizations, are producing a giant Jewish Festival in honor of Israel's 50th. We expect at least 50,000 people with the cooperation of our synagogues, Jewish institutions, Jewish schools and any other communal partners.
There are many other events now being planned -- some educational, some cultural, all exciting.
The excitement is beginning to grow. The first events have been huge successes and bode well for the future. So get your party hats and dancing shoes on and get ready for a great 1998.
As part of these celebrations, we're preparing a tribute bookhonoring people and families who were instrumental in Israel's creation, frequently at great personal risk and sometimes in violation of U.S. neutrality laws. For example, Amy Paul's late father, Yoland "Yudi" Markson helped purchase U.S. World War II ships for salvage, utilizing vital parts of 10 ships to create one good one for Israel's fledgling navy.
Arie Belldegrun's late father-in-law, Shlomo Zabludowicz, a Holocaust survivor and gifted engineer, formed an arms company called Soltam, which over the next 30 years became a mainstay of the Israeli security industry, at a time when most arms markets were closed to the Jewish state.
Sandra Brown's father, Sam Lewis, a chief pilot and instructor for TWA and part of the U.S. Air Force in World War II, was an early member of Machal, a famous group of foreign volunteers who exported aircraft, supplies and pilots to Israel. He flew World War II surplus planes from California to Panama and Mexico City and then to Israel by way of Suriname, Brazil, Senegal, Casablanca and Sicily. His real life escapades during the War of Independence, and afterwards as one of the first captains of El Al, would make a movie star's fictional adventures pale by comparison.
David Karney served on a team in Israel receiving Messerschmidt fighter aircraft from Czechoslovakia, flown in as "parts" inside Dakota DC3s by Machal members and converted immediately into what became the Israeli "fighter" air force.
Victor and Adrea Carter worked tirelessly fundraising with Teddy Kollek and many members of his family. His cousin, Eleanor Rudnick, who owned an airfield in Bakersfield, trained the first 13 Israel aviation cadets. She was later convicted and fined for her activities.
Bernie Ceazan's father, Julius, was deeply involved with Sid Levine, Stanley Slotkin, and Ike Greenberg, in shipping to Israel bulletproof vests and other military supplies as furniture and other "legitimate" products.
Joe and Bud Feldman's father, Jack, shipped empty oil drums from Los Angeles to New Orleans, where they were barged to Tampico, Mexico, to be filled with fuel and added the proper chemicals to make aviation fuel when it arrived in Israel.
Chet Firestein's father, Max, UJWF chair in 1945-46, raised money for Israel and took Hollywood moguls Sam Goldwyn and others on missions there.
Frieda Meltzer put together the first blood bank with her own Hadassah, Pioneer Women, Mizarchi, B'nai B'rith and UJWF workers. The blood was shipped to Oakland where it was processed and sent to Israel.
All of these "eyewitness accounts" were given to us by members of our local community. You may know of others who were instrumental in Israel becoming a state. We invite you or someone you know who has an interesting story to contact our editor, Sheli Teitlebaum at 818-597-9523 to record your story.
John Fishel is executive vice president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
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