King David Hotel recognizes bombing anniversary as birthday approaches

The elders of both families may remember the incident, even though they were barely adolescents when it happened.

AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR Chris Cannan (in white shirt) with members of the Nippers executive board (from left) Danny Hakim, Lisa Segelov and Paul Hakim. (photo credit: JORDAN POLEVOY)
AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR Chris Cannan (in white shirt) with members of the Nippers executive board (from left) Danny Hakim, Lisa Segelov and Paul Hakim.
(photo credit: JORDAN POLEVOY)
In a melting pot country whose residents come from some 150 national backgrounds, different faiths, and different streams of one faith, the number of historic anniversaries tend to pile up, and their significance is noted mainly on milestone years.
Roots are very important to Israelis, and perhaps more so to Diaspora Jews who due to persecution, discrimination and quota systems in their various host countries, were forced into nomadic lifestyles.
Commemorations in milestone years alone are not always the case. A memorial notice in Haaretz this week reminded readers that July 22 was the 74th anniversary of the fatal bombing of the King David Hotel in which 91 innocent people – Jews, Arabs and Christians – were killed. The notice was signed by the Shimshi and Lamdan families, and carried the line “their memories will be in our midst forever.”
The elders of both families may remember the incident, even though they were barely adolescents when it happened.
The explosion, an operation against the British Mandate authorities, was carried out by the Irgun Zvai Leumi (the National Military Organization) which was then headed by Menachem Begin.
Although he insisted that evacuation warnings had been given in advance to the nearby French Consulate, the British High Command located in the hotel, and to The Palestine Post, the forerunner of The Jerusalem Post, Begin was never able to live down the tragedy, even to the extent of once being introduced when he was the guest of honor at a gala United Jewish Appeal dinner as “the man who blew up this hotel.”
Actually, it wasn’t the whole hotel, it was the southern wing, which was almost entirely gutted. Begin may have given the order, but he was not physically involved in its execution.
Painful though it was, the incident did not subsequently put a crimp in relations between the British and the nascent state. The physical damage to the hotel was repaired, and a series of British prime ministers, foreign ministers and other dignitaries stayed at the King David. So did Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, who two years ago became the first member of the royal family to pay an official visit to Israel, although there had been unofficial visits by his father, his grandfather, one of his uncles and a great-uncle by marriage.
On December 30, the King David, which is Israel’s second oldest luxury hotel after the American Colony, will celebrate its 90th anniversary, with a festive reception planned for January 2021, providing that by then there will be significant easing of social restrictions in relation to coronavirus.
■ UNDER ORDINARY circumstances, the 80th anniversary of the death of Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of the Revisionist Movement and its Betar Youth Group would have been a mega event attended by hundreds of right of center Israelis. But due to the Health Ministry’s restrictions in relation to COVID-19, even President Reuven Rivlin did not attend the state ceremony marking the occasion, but instead sent a video-taped message. Perhaps in October, he’ll put in a live appearance at a ceremony marking the 140th anniversary of Jabotinsky’s birth.
Jabotinsky, who died suddenly while in the United States, had left a will in which he stipulated that if he should die outside the Land of Israel, his remains should not be transferred there until after the declaration of the state. For all his political genius, David Ben-Gurion was a hard taskmaster who was quick to flare up and slow to forgive.
As far as he was concerned, Jabotinsky was on the wrong side of the political divide and therefore did not deserve to be buried in Israel. Jabotinsky’s son Eri, a well-known Israeli politician and mathematician, understandably thought otherwise, and entreated prime minister Levi Eshkol to enable his father’s last wish to be realized.
Eshkol, who was perhaps more interested than Ben-Gurion in national reconciliation, acceded to the request and announced In March 1964 that Jabotinsky’s remains would be brought to Israel for reburial on Mount Herzl.
Begin hailed this decision with great appreciation.
On July 9, 1964, Jabotinsky was re-interred in Jerusalem with all the pomp and ceremony reserved for a great leader.
Rivlin, who in recent months has been accused of political interference, was able in his message for the memorial ceremony for Jabotinsky to make political comments by quoting from Jabotinsky’s writings, which proves that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Noting that rather than make speeches at Jabotinsky’s grave, it was customary to read from his works, Rivlin quoted the five elementary necessities which Jabotinsky had listed in his popular article on social redemption: education, housing, health, food and clothing, which, he wrote, should be the state’s commitment to its citizens. Rivlin opened his remarks by saying, “These are abnormal days. They are days of crisis in the health, economic and social spheres; days where we are fighting for breath, for our daily bread, for the pulse of life.”
He then went on to quote Jabotinsky, who inter alia made the point that in providing each needy person with the five elementary needs, the state must at all times have the means of meeting the demands of its citizens “‘not through all kinds of complicated regulations and mechanisms, but simply, directly and concretely: To give, and be done, because the only thing a society cannot allow itself is hunger.”
At times it was difficult to distinguish between Rivlin’s own message and that of Jabotinsky.
“At times like these, when Israeli citizens are fighting for education, housing, health, food and clothing,” said Rivlin, “we should remember the state’s commitment to this minimal provision. And even if extreme steps are required in times of crisis, we should remember the additional warning of our teacher and leader: “In defining what is minimum intervention of the state in times of war or economic crisis, a patient puts himself in the hands of the doctor when he is ill, and not unless he is, and not permanently. Let me repeat – during the disease, and not more, not permanently.”
The allegory to Israel’s current political crisis in relation to the elements and offshoots of coronavirus was unmistakable.
■ AUSTRALIAN EXPATRIATES living in Israel have been complaining on social media that Australian Jewish organizations which make a regular practice on their Zoom events of interviewing Israelis from various walks of life are ignoring the many Australians who have done well in Israel and are in a position to compare the lives they live now with the lifestyles they left behind.
The Zionist Federation of Australia has apparently taken note, and this coming Sunday at 1 p.m., Israel time, Philip Chester, a former president of the ZFA, will be talking to four immigrants from Australia.
Sarah Vanunu came from Sydney in 2005, and is marketing manager at Team 8, which builds and invests in companies specializing in enterprise technologies, data, AI and cybersecurity. Another Sydneysider, Tali Amir, who has been living in Israel since 2012, is a tour guide in the Arava and runs the travel-themed Color your World.
 Jason Blankfield, from Perth, arrived in Israel in 2010. After serving in an elite unit in the IDF, he established Peak State Performance, to coach and mentor professional athletes, and Frontline Leadership, a mentoring enterprise that works with millennial business leaders, start-ups, professional athletes and more.
  The fourth Australian expat is Dr. Michael Harari, a pediatrician from Melbourne who has been living in Israel since 2011, arriving just ahead of the Syrian civil war. Based in Ziv Hospital in Safed, Harari treated more than 200 wounded Syrian children between 2013 and 2018, along with running a clinic for hundreds of non-wounded, chronically ill Syrian children. He is also a part-time tour guide.
The event will be relayed on the ZFA’s Facebook page.
■ OTHER AUSTRALIAN expats who head the Israeli branch of Nippers – the Australian junior life-saving club that operates under the auspices of the Israel Life Saving Federation – last Sunday celebrated the awarding of Surf Rescue Certificates to 36 of Israel’s newest Nippers who completed a six-week course. The certificates were presented at Herzliya Beach by Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan, who grew up as a lifesaver in Australia, and who was delighted to be part of this important effort. According to Nippers Israel chairman Danny Hakim, there are currently 96 nippers ages seven through 12 coming from geographic areas between Jerusalem and Nahariya who are currently enrolled in life-saving programs.