On the 15th of December, as the turbulent year of 1961 moved to a close, an Israeli war crimes tribunal sentenced Adolf Eichmann to die after being found guilty on all counts of crimes against humanity during the holocaust.
U Thant, a Burmese diplomat, was appointed new Secretary-General of the United Nations after his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjold died in a tragic plane crash.
In January 1962, the Foreign Press Association, consisting of some 200 foreign correspondents from all regions in the world, unanimously elected David Horowitz as General Secretary succeeding Zivko Milic of Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Horowitz at the time represented a number of foreign papers in Canada, Italy, South Africa and Israel and had been an active member and officer of the association for the past eight years.
Also in January, Horowitz delivered two lectures; one before a Manhattan branch of the American Jewish Congress, and another at Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck, New Jersey, on the universality of the Hebraic faith.
Professor Abraham S. Kotsuji, head of the Institute of Hebrew Culture in Japan arrived in the United States during the month of April and attended the 19th Annual Meeting of United Israel as an honored guest. He spoke to the group briefly about his work in Japan. Also attending were noted Israeli educator, Dr. Israel Ben Zeev and internationally renowned artist and sculptor, Dr. Rene Shapshak. It was Dr. Shapshak who designed the iconic United Israel emblem as previously covered in this series, ”
A few minutes past midnight on June 1, 1962, Otto Adolf Eichmann was executed by hanging at a prison in Ramla, Israel. The German Nazi SS lieutenant colonel was one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. He personally facilitated and managed the logistics of mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in German- occupied Eastern Europe during World War II.
In his last hours, Eichmann remained defiant and unrepentant. Refusing a last meal (asking instead for a glass of red wine) and the traditional black hood, he was hanged.
The historical irony in this demonstration of poetic justice was not lost. The engineer and supervisor of Hitler’s “final solution” resulting in the systematic murder of six million Jews had met his fate at the hands of a Jewish tribunal. He stood before Jewish judges in a nation established by Jews. Within 4 hours of his death, Eichmann’s body had been cremated at a secret location, and his ashes scattered in the Mediterranean Sea, outside of Israeli territorial waters, by an Israeli Navy patrol boat.
July provided another first in the changing policy with Israel. President Kennedy agreed to the sale of HAWK anti-aircraft missiles, the first major weapons system to be supplied by the United States.
The main source of Israel’s weapons was France, whose support was critical in enabling Israel to meet its defense needs. The HAWK sale was significant not only because it was the first major direct arms transfer from the United States to Israel, but also because that system required that Israeli soldiers be given extensive training in the United States and that spare parts be supplied to Israel.
On October 22, President Kennedy delivered a nationwide televised address on all of the major networks announcing the discovery of Soviet medium range ballistic missiles in Cuba and the administration’s plan to implement a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba.
The tense 13-day (October 16-28) political and military stand-off between the United States and the Soviet Union played out on television worldwide and was the closest the cold war ever came to escalating into a full-scale nuclear war. The situation eased on October 28 when it was announced that Kennedy and Khrushchev had reached an agreement. Results of the agreement were the complete withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba, withdrawal of American nuclear missiles from Turkey (a secret part of the agreement at the time) and an agreement that the U.S. would never invade Cuba without direct provocation.
The naval blockade of Cuba was lifted on November 20th. The Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation that had brought the world to the brink of nuclear disaster had ended.
In November, the first Annual Dinner of the Tarbuth Foundation, created by Dr. Emanuel Neumann with the view to advance Hebrew culture, was held at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan. Some 300 of America’s outstanding Jewish leaders and educators attended the unique event. The keynote speakers were former French Ambassador to Israel, Monsieur Pierre E. Gilbert, and former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban, who at the time was serving as Israel’s Minister of Education.
Former Ambassador Gilbert, who did more perhaps than any other person to cement Israel-French friendship during one of the most critical moments in the history of the Jewish State, the 1956 Suez crisis, was a Catholic who had been educated in a Jesuit school. It would be what the Catholic Monsieur said in his address that would hold the audience spellbound.
Declaring that the Hebrew language alone “can bring out the true meaning of the Bible,” Ambassador Gilbert remarked that the Jewish peoples “had been chosen by God to bring Monotheism to the whole world.” Mr. Gilbert further revealed that through the study of Hebrew “a new world gradually opened up before my eyes.”
“At first, as a linguist and a philologist” he told the distinguished audience, “I discovered the beauty of the Bible. In addition to its religious, historical and philosophical interest is a colossal literary monument. Now that I have read it in the Hebrew text, which is the only one able to bring out all its values, I find it to be the most captivating book I’ve ever read.”
The surprise of the evening came when Gilbert began to speak in a fluent Hebrew to the amazement of even the scholars in the audience, including Harry Orlinsky, the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation of the Torah.
The message delivered by Ambassador Gilbert was one that David Horowitz, in the audience at the time, would have heartily endorsed.
As 1962 drew to a close, it marked seven long years of U.S. entanglement in the Vietnam War. Sadly, it was to last over another decade.
On March 6, 1963, David Horowitz departed for his sixth visit to the Holy Land. His first two visits: 1924-1927 and 1932-1934 were sojourns while Britain held the Mandate over Palestine. The other three: 1951, 1953 and 1955 were pilgrimages to the re-born Third Hebrew Commonwealth.
Following a three-week visit in Israel, David was off to Turkey. It was a special occasion.
The Turkish Government had invited the United Nations correspondent to be its guest for a week. The Turkish Press Association, representing reporters of all the leading Turkish dailies and agencies, paid special tribute to David Horowitz at a reception given in his honor at the press club in Izmir, Turkey. The Association officers presented David with a certificate making him an honorary member of the Association.
Following the reception, a press conference was held at which David answered questions relating to the basic issues facing the United Nations. Among these were Vietnam, Cyprus, and the Middle East.
In Ankara, the capital of Turkey, David was feted at a special dinner given by the heads of the Ministry of Information and Press. Mr. Ben Yitzchak Yaakov, the Israeli Charge d’Affairs, was among the invited guests.
During his stay, David met with other officials, including the Governor of Istanbul State, Niyazi Aki and its Mayor, Necdet Ugur. He also visited the Jewish community leaders who spoke very highly of the Turkish Government, which has close and friendly relations with the State of Israel.
After four weeks of intense activity, that included some well-deserved recognition, both in Israel and Turkey, a tired, yet inspired David Horowitz was finally back home.
During this commemoration year of UIWU’s 20th anniversary, David Horowitz received a personal letter from an old friend. It was a friendly letter, hand-written in English, addressed to David. The envelope was also hand-written with the back flap containing only two letters: B.G. It was from David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, and the one who had declared the independence of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.
The former Prime Minister concluded his letter to David by quoting a passage from Isaiah 62, writing it in Biblical Hebrew.
The personal hand-written letter from David Ben Gurion, dated July 27, 1963, remains on display today in the David Horowitz Memorial Library archives located at United Israel World Union’s headquarters.
David Horowitz had experienced a remarkable year. There would be yet another award as The Deadline Club, New York City Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, and America’s most outstanding professional journalism fraternity, selected him for “distinguished journalistic achievement” for United Nations reporting.
As 1963 drew to a close, a November event would shock our nation and the world. It would leave a lasting impression on many Americans who will always remember where they were when the tragedy struck.
Ralph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.
This post is the sixteenth in the ongoing series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.