Jerusalem unveils bust of Sir Winston Churchill

Former British leader remembered as friend of Jewish people at ceremony in the capital.

RANDOLPH CHURCHILL holds Isaac Winston in front of bust 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
RANDOLPH CHURCHILL holds Isaac Winston in front of bust 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
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.
Present 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 the state.
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 Day War.
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 House.
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 Foundation.
They were both inspired by the book Churchill and the Jews written by Winston Churchill’s biographer, the noted historian Sir Martin Gilbert.
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 cause.
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.
British 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 homeland.
“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 anti-Semitism.
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 known.
Daniel Taub, the British-born Israeli Ambassador to the Court of St. James, referred to the esteem in which Churchill was held by Israeli leaders.
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.”
President Zalman Shazar described Churchill as being “not only the roar of the fighting British lion, but also the roar of humanity fighting and in distress.”
Like Herzog and Rosenfelder, Taub had also been inspired by the stirring tale penned by Gilbert, and credited him with being the inspiration behind the event.
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 feelings.
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 revealed.
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.
The bust 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 in.
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.