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KKL-JNF World Chairman: "This Monument is a Symbol of a
Free People in a Free Country"
On Thursday, 12th November, 2009, a very moving ceremony was conducted in Arazim Park on a hilltop near Jerusalem where hundreds of local and international dignitaries participated at the inauguration of a monument commemorating the 2,974 victims of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. The memorial, designed by Israeli artist Eliezer Weishoff, was commissioned and built by the Edward Blank family of New York City through JNF America and KKL-JNF Israel, a thirty-foot bronze sculpture representing an American flag that gradually turns into a memorial flame. It rests on a base of granite from the Twin Towers and is the only memorial site outside New York on which are engraved the names of all those killed.
Addressing the participants KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler warned that if the free world will survive it has no choice but to defend itself against those who would destroy it. "We must be prepared for self-sacrifice in the spirit of the brave firemen and policemen who risked their lives to save those trapped in the Twin Towers. The war against terror must be fought simultaneously in many places throughout the world. No freedom-loving country is exempt from this threat or from the need to join the struggle.
"We deliberated over the best site for this memorial, finally choosing Arazim Park, one of a string of parks within a huge metropolitan park encircling Jerusalem, serving as a Green lung for Jerusalem and comprising forests, springs, fruit orchards, ancient mountain terraces and many attractions. The park will reflect the past, present and future of the Eternal City and will be visible from the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, so that whoever goes up to Jerusalem will be reminded of the innocent victims of that murderous attack and will find hope in the vision of the prophet Isaiah that 'nation will not raise sword against nation, neither will they make any more war.'
"I would like to thank our noble friends from the United States, including JNF America President. Stanley Chesley; JNF America Chairman of the Board Ronald Lauder and JNF America CEO Russell Robinson, without whom this vision would not have become a reality. I would also like to thank Carmi Schwartz. The estate of his aunt, Bronka Stavsky Rabin Weintraub, funded the beautiful plaza built around the memorial. There could be no better site for this memorial, a symbol of a free people in a free country."
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem on that fateful September 11 and had been involved in the plans for the Living Memorial. "I will never forget the sight of what is now known as "Ground Zero" which I visited a few days after the attack. Walking through the debris with Rudy Guiliani, then Mayor of New York, I realized that the attack should not have come as a surprise to anyone who had listened to the terrorists' talk until then.
"The same suicidal, vicious spirit that was behind the almost daily terrorist attacks that were being perpetrated at that time in Jerusalem inspired the murderers in the United States. The United States leadership concluded that they need to lead the worldwide war against terror. This is no easy or simple war as it affects those uninvolved in terror. However, there is one dramatic difference between the victims we remember today and the terrorists. The terrorists specifically target innocent citizens whilst countries like the United States and Israel target the bases of the terror groups and sometimes innocent people are unintentionally affected. We must never forget this difference when we hear the self-righteous and hypocritical attacks directed against countries that defend themselves against those who would destroy them."
The ceremony was eloquently emceed by Zeev Kahanov, who noted that if any city in the world has endured horrors similar to those that New York experienced on 9/11 it is Jerusalem. He had invited a representative of the US Embassy, Richard J. Burgess, and the commander of the Israel Fire & Rescue Services, Shimon Romach, to lower the flags to half-mast.
The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yonah Metzger, expressed the prayer that God would open the eyes of world leaders to bring peace to our region and to the entire world. He thanked JNF America and KKL-JNF Israel for envisioning and building the memorial which will be "a new light on the Jerusalem landscape."
The Honorable James B. Cunningham, US Ambassador to Israel, recalled that on September 11, 2009, he was acting representative of the USA to the United Nations. "We were in shock over this terrorist attack on American soil when Kofi Anan called a meeting of the General Assembly on 12th September. Speaking on behalf of my government, I said that as the entire free world had been targeted we must all work together to fight this threat. The Living Memorial reminds us of the victims and of our purpose. I would like to thank Israel and KKL-JNF for creating such an eloquent monument. Enveloped by the forests of the Judean Mountains, it invites us to contemplate not only the tragedy and loss, but also our shared desire to choose life and peace, to remain committed to fight terror around the world."
Five Israelis were amongst the almost three thousand people who were killed in September 2001. Hagay Shefi, the son of reservist brigadier general Dov Shefi, was one of them. His father spoke on behalf of the families of the victims. "I am the proud and sad father of Hagai, whose loss is a black hole that has become part of our family's daily life, a loss that must remind us that terror does not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. It took seven years to bring to fruition the idea of this memorial and I would like to thank JNF America and KKL-JNF in Israel for their persistence and perseverance. For the families of the victims, this site is sacred. May I suggest to the American ambassador that every year on 9/11 the central commemoration ceremony will be held at this site?"
After a touching musical interlude provided by Yishai Shefi, Hagai's brother, and his wife Yehudit Tamir, Carmi Schwartz, former head of the Council of Jewish Federations, spoke about his aunt, Bronka Stavsky Rabin Weintraub, whose estate funded the monumental project: "By the way she lived her life and her commitment to the Zionist vision, my aunt Bronka was a bridge between the citizens of Israel and the citizens of the United States. I knew her for 50 years and was privileged to be her primary caregiver during the last three yeas of her life. She died two months after 9/11 so for me, these two events will always be bound together. This memorial represents the closing of a circle of bonding between the United States and the great State of Israel that took place on 9/11, when hateful, subhuman forces of destruction struck American soil. It also commemorates the life and commitment of my aunt Bronka, a dedicated daughter of the Jewish people. Her memory shall be a blessing." In honor of the occasion, KKL-JNF Co-Chairman, Avraham Duvdevani, presented Carmi Shwartz with a unique leather-bound Bible from Jerusalem with an inscription honoring the Bronka Stavsky Rabin Weintraub Trust, which Carmi Schwartz heads.
The impressive and moving ceremony concluded with the placing of wreaths on the Living Memorial by the distinguished guests, including government minister Benny Begin and two American congressmen, Harry Waxman and Erik Paulsen; Archbishop Elias Shakur of the Catholic Church, ambassadors of countries whose citizens were killed in 9/11 and Israeli families of 9/11 victims. The moving blasts of Shofars were sounded and white doves were released into the Jerusalem skies. In the words of JNF America's CEO Russell Robinson, "Jerusalem is a battleground of civilization but also a place of hope. What better place could there be for this Living Memorial, which reaffirms our commitment to tolerance and to the unity of mankind?"
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