A cousin of mine is visiting from the Old Country. He is a patriot, proud of America''s accomplishments and sensitive to its pains. He asked to visit Israel''s monument to 9-11. A 9-11 monument here in Israel? Oh yes. I saw something about a dedication ceremony several months ago.

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How can you find it? Googling found me a number of sites describing the monument and its dedication in 2009. They noted that it was the first in the world to commemorate 9-11, beating even the New York City memorial still under construction. But where is it actually located? How can you get there?

I know how to Google, but this took unusual effort. Eventually I found a description attached to one of the YouTube clips about the monument. The instructions, in Hebrew, required eleven lines of type to guide the way from Tel Aviv, and five lines for the way from Jerusalem. You leave the main road, turn hither and yon from one secondary road to another, looking for signs that guide you to other locations or businesses but not the monument, and finally get to a dirt road that leads to your objective.

The story of Israel''s 9-11 Memorial resembles the story of its Kennedy Memorial. That has been in existence since the mid-1960s. Both are as close to the "middle of nowhere" as possible in the area near Jerusalem. The site is located seven miles from downtown Jerusalem, in the same general direction as Hadassah Medical Center. It is reached by following the winding mountain roads past Ora and Aminadav.

The Kennedy Memorial is an impressive building on a scenic site. It has plaques showing the seals of all the American states, but there is not much to see in the large empty hall - except for an eternal flame that is no longer lit. At the height of its popularity with tour groups, there was a kiosk nearby selling drinks and snacks. Then there were years when the kiosk and the Memorial fell into disrepair. The last time I was in the vicinity the kiosk was no more and the Memorial closed, but it was clean, and broken windows had been replaced.

Why does Israel have memorials for John Kennedy and 9-11?

Kennedy''s presidency came before the era of extensive American government aid to Israel, and one is strained to find indications of his strong support for the country. 9-11 was no less dramatic than Kennedy''s assassination, but its connection with Israel is problematic.

Web sites concerned with both Israeli memorials identify the inspirations for the projects and the money as American. The theme of Islamic extremism may link the United States with Israel as well as a number of other countries.

Perhaps Jewish donors saw the tragedy bringing the two countries closer together, but American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan may have heightened Muslim animosity toward Israel as a client of the United States. If any Muslims take note of the Memorial in Israel, or work through numerous lines of Hebrew to find it, they may feel even more certain that Israel is an American colony, or perhaps that the United States a colony of Israel.

The sudden death of close to 3,000 people was a great tragedy for the families and the country. But there is also the matter of Iraqis who have died or been displaced since the American invasion with a tenuous linkage to 9-11.  Estimates of their number vary greatly. The counts range from 77,000 deaths (the official American claim before the latest posting by WikiLeaks of documents showed the secret American estimate to be over 100,000) to more than a million according to other sources.

Liberty Bell Park is another Israeli site with an American connection. It opened in 1976 to honor the Bicentennial of the United States. The day occurred on the same July 4th that was eclipsed by breaking news of Israel''s Entebbe Operation.

The structure that houses the replica of the Liberty Bell is far more modest than either the Kennedy or the 9-11 memorials, but its site is alive with urban use. The area around the bell includes sculptures, areas for sports, exhibitions, and places to sit in the shade. It is close to the center of Jerusalem, easily reached by a number of bus lines. It is within walking distance of Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, and the crowds are multi-cultural.

The Liberty Bell Park is one of many projects created by the Jerusalem Foundation, established by the late Mayor Teddy Kollek 40 years ago. The Foundation has a sizable professional staff concerned with designing projects and raising funds from people in numerous countries with an interest in Jerusalem. It sponsors programs that make continuing use of the facilities it has constructed. Its programs for the Liberty Bell Park feature puppet festivals and story programs for children.

Israelis'' and Americans'' feelings toward one another are infinitely more complex than the Kennedy or 9-11 Memorials, or the Liberty Bell Park. One doubts that these monuments figure prominently in the thoughts of people in the two countries. The Liberty Bell Park is a favorite place for Jerusalem families in good weather, but the replica of the Liberty Bell may have little to do with their visits.

The monuments differ little from the heroic statues of famous people erected in other countries that do not have  Jewish or Muslim problems with "graven images." Pigeons may enjoy them, even if most people seldom think about their significance.
 


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