It may have been more than 64 years since the British Mandate ended, but at
Jerusalem’s Mishkenot Shaananim on Sunday, the predominant language was English,
and the accents were decidedly British.
The occasion was the unveiling of
a bust of multi-talented British statesman Sir Winston Churchill.
for the occasion were great grandson Lt. Randolph Churchill and wife Catherine,
in Israel for the first time and mightily impressed by what they saw, the fourth
generation of the Churchill family to visit since before the establishment of
Churchill’s grandfather Randolph had laid the foundations for
the Churchill Auditorium at the Technion, and his father, Winston Churchill –
who like his namesake, Sir Winston, was a famous journalist – covered the Six
Sir Winston’s youngest daughter, Baroness Mary Soames, was a
frequent visitor to Israel.
According to Uri Dromi, the director general
of Mishkenot Shaananim, there was no more appropriate place in Israel for a bust
of Sir Winston than the first Jewish neighborhood built outside the walls of the
old city at the initiative of Sir Moses Montefiore, who also secured financial
support for the project.
The dedication ceremony took place in Yael
Garden, a plaza outside the original houses – refurbished and updated, but
retaining an old world charm, and now part of the Mishkenot Guest
The bust, cast from an original by sculptor Oscar Nemon – who
found sanctuary in Britain after fleeing Nazi Germany – was the brainchild of
Labor MK Isaac Herzog and of Anthony Rosenfelder, a trustee of the Jerusalem
They were both inspired by the book Churchill and the Jews
written by Winston Churchill’s biographer, the noted historian Sir Martin
On the morning prior to the ceremony, Randolph Churchill
received a message from Lady Esther Gilbert telling him how thrilled she and her
husband were to have Jerusalem as a permanent home for Winston Churchill’s bust,
because he had been such a steadfast supporter of the Zionist
British Consul General in Jerusalem, Sir Vincent Fean remarked
that Churchill “knew and loved Jerusalem the Golden” and had even written that
no two cities counted more with mankind than Jerusalem and Athens, which had
each given so much to civilization.
Churchill had saved Britain from
slavery and in doing so also saved its neighbors in other countries, and was an
inspiration for the welfare of mankind, said Sir Vincent.
Ambassador Matthew Gould, speaking both as Her Majesty’s representative in
Israel and as a proud member of the Jewish community of Britain, said that it
was “absolutely right” that the memory of Winston Churchill be honored in
Jerusalem, when he stood so firmly for the Jewish people and the Jewish
“He stood up for the rights of the Jewish people to a Jewish
homeland long before it became fashionable – if it was ever fashionable,” said
Gould, who noted Churchill’s passionate stand against
Gould was also critical of the fact that Churchill has not
been honored sufficiently in Israel, that his story is not told enough, and that
his contribution to the Zionist enterprise is not sufficiently well
Daniel Taub, the British-born Israeli Ambassador to the Court of
St. James, referred to the esteem in which Churchill was held by Israeli
Founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion wrote to him: “Like so
many others in all parts of the globe, I regard you as the greatest Englishman
in your country’s history, and the greatest statesman of our time, as the man
whose courage, wisdom and foresight saved his country.”
Shazar described Churchill as being “not only the roar of the fighting British
lion, but also the roar of humanity fighting and in distress.”
Herzog and Rosenfelder, Taub had also been inspired by the stirring tale penned
by Gilbert, and credited him with being the inspiration behind the
Randolph Churchill spoke of the two intensive days that he and his
wife had spent in “beautiful” Jerusalem, and of how enamored they were with the
culture of the city, especially by what they had seen in the Israel Museum. They
had also spent a day in the Dead Sea area.
Churchill gave a brief resume
of his family’s history, pointing out that Sir Winston’s father Sir Randolph had
raised his many children in famine- torn Dublin where he and his wife had helped
relieve the hunger of the starving masses.
Unlike other nobility of the
day Randolph and Lady Churchill did not harbor any anti-Semitic
On the contrary they had many Jewish friends, and Churchill
frequently spoke out against anti-Semitism, so it was not surprising that his
grandfather, Winston was so well-disposed, not only to Jews but also to people
in dire economic straits.
Winston Churchill was not only a great
statesman and a great politician, but also a talented sculptor and painter.
Copies of a sunset he painted on Mount Scopus in 1921 hang in the offices of
both Gould and Taub.
Churchill was also a noted journalist and had
already made his name during the Boer War at 25, his great grandson
Back in England before he was 26, Churchill stood for
parliament in a working class area. He fought tooth and nail against the Aliens
Act which sought to shut out Jewish immigration from Russia, and in the 1930s,
he spoke out against Hitler and Nazism.
“He was a lifelong friend of the
Jewish people and the Zionist cause,” said his great-grandson.
will eventually be transferred to Mishkenot’s international press club,
currently under construction.
Considering Churchill’s reputation as a
journalist, there is no more fitting place for it, according to both Dromi and
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
The mayor observed that one of the reasons
Churchill was so greatly admired by Israelis and Jews everywhere was his
stubbornness and his amazing ability to stand up for what he believed
According to Dromi, the press club will have all the state-of-the-art
facilities required by electronic and print media personnel. The grand opening
is scheduled for June, 2013.
The press club project is funded by the
Helmsley Charitable Trust.