Elizabeth Taylor – an ardent Zionist

Screen legend converted to Judaism in 1959 and was among Israel’s most vocal advocates.

Elizabeth Taylor 311 (photo credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)
Elizabeth Taylor 311
(photo credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)
With the death last Wednesday of Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor – who converted to Judaism in 1959 – Israel lost an advocate who matched her unwavering support for the Jewish state, with genuine pro-Israel action.
In 1977, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Simcha Dinitz, revealed that Taylor wanted to swap herself for Jewish and Israeli hostages held by Palestinian and German terrorists at Entebbe Airport in Uganda.
RELATED:Actress Elizabeth Taylor dies at 79
According to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) news item from 1977, Dinitz told Taylor that Israel “appreciated” her willingness to help, and “the Jewish people will always remember it.” However, the obituaries written about Taylor’s passing at age 79 in Los Angeles overlooked the depth of her activities to advance Israel’s security.
The New York Times devoted only a footnote to Taylor’s rock-solid commitment to Israel’s security, noting that she “divided her time between her charitable works, including various Israeli causes.”
Ami Eden, however, the editor-inchief of JTA, extracted a list of news dispatches from the JTA archive about Taylor’s fund-raising activities for Israel, her opposition to the toxic combination of Western leftism and Palestinian terrorism and Taylor’s early criticism of the infamous UN resolution equating Zionism with racism.
After the terrorist members from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and left-wing German terrorists took an Air France plane at Entebbe airport in Uganda hostage in 1976, Taylor offered to exchange herself for the remaining 100-plus Jewish and Israeli passengers.
The German terrorists ordered a new selection process – eerily reminiscent of the Nazi selections at Auschwitz – and separated the Jewish passengers from the non-Jews aboard the plane.
The terrorists released most of the non-Jewish passengers. Israeli commandos were able to secure the dramatic release of 103 hostages. Lt. Col.
Jonathan Netanyahu, the late brother of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, led the mission and was shot dead during the rescue operation.
A fascinating footnote to the spectacular Israeli mission was Taylor would later play one of the hostages in the ABC film version, “Victory at Entebbe,” in 1976.
Taylor was also one of 60 signatories of a telegram addressed to UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim (ex-Nazi) from famous women, slamming the UN Anti-Zionist Resolution in 1975.
She did this at time when it was highly unfashionable to come out against the anti-Israel UN resolution.
In 1967, she pulled the plug on a trip to the Soviet Union because of its diplomatic attacks on the Jewish state.
One could continue with this list of her activities in support of Israel.
In 1959, Taylor began her lifelong activity to raise funds for Israel, and bought $100,000 worth of Israel bonds. Eight years later, she joined other Jewish and non-Jewish actors in London to help raise $840,000 for Israel.
Taylor frequently visited Israel, meeting with then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1976. She would meet with Israel’s first Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1983.
He and Taylor conversed for 15 minutes, and the prime minister presented her with flowers.
Taylor’s conversion to Judaism and pro-Israel support prompted the Egyptian government, under its former military president Gamel Abdel Nasser, to boycott Taylor films and bar her from entering Egypt.
In 1962, according to the JTA archive, “Gen. Essam Elmasri, head of the Cairo regional bureau of the Israel Boycott Office, said in the Egyptian capital that Miss Taylor will not be allowed to come to Egypt because she has adopted the Jewish faith and supports Israeli causes.”
Liz Taylor, as she was known in Hollywood, was not only ahead of the international curve in her support to combat AIDS in the 1980s – her pro-gay rights positions attracted great attention and respect as well.
Paul Schindler, the editor-in-chief of America’s premier gay newspaper, Gay City News in New York City, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that “She lived a very full life. Continually bounced back from adversity. Never belly-ached about the ‘burden’ of celebrity. Contributed big time. Stood by her friends in their lives’ adversity.”
Schindler defined her life as “tikkun olam,” the Hebrew phrase meaning to “repair the world.”
She was also ahead of the international democracy curve in her advocacy for the State of Israel at a stage where the Jewish state was building its institutions – and facing terror attacks from German groups and PLO terrorists. All of this pro-Israel support helps to explain why the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) issued a statement mourning her death, and remembering her as an “ardent Zionist.”
With her piercing blue-violet eyes and sensational acting, she breathed fire and light onto the silver screen.
With her support for Israel’s security, she helped light up the Jewish state.