The Israeli Embassy to the United States held a celebration for Israel’s 70th Birthday on May 14, 2018 with a reception beginning at 5:30 PM at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington DC. There was much to commemorate as Israel moved its embassy to Jerusalem on the same day with Senators and Congressmen heading to Israel for the monumental event. This was the only major celebration held in the US where over 600 people gathered in Washington to rejoice in the many miraculous happenings of the past week: namely President Trump’s decertification of the Iran deal, North Korea’s release of three prisoners, and the long awaited Embassy relocation.
Security was tight as Secret Service checked the soles of my sneakers and opened my overnight bag as I stood by helplessly watching my belongings spill out on the floor. The room was hot and coupled with hundreds of people the crowd was growing restless despite the generous helpings of food and beverages. There were many Colonels and Generals in attendance who showed up in uniform to pay homage to the President. While this event occurs each year, this was the most heavily attended with busloads of people arriving from New York, Israel and other states. The evening also honored 70 people who made a significant contribution in strengthening Israel and its alliance with America.
The honorees were an extremely diverse group many who could not attend either because they were no longer living: such as Leon Uris and Albert Einstein; or because their schedules did not permit-including Michael Bloomberg and George Schultz. Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa and tainted lawyer Clark Clifford seemed like controversial choices until I learned that Hoffa used Teamster resources to help organize gunrunning and smuggling efforts to the yishuv throughout the 1940’s and Clifford convinced the U.S. to vote in favor of the partition plan.
There were still a number of luminaries in attendance who were awarded medals including moguls: Haim Saban, Robert Kraft and Michael Steinhardt. The event began approximately two hours late with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer praising Donald Trump for his commitment to Israel and remarking that Truman’s recognition of Israel in 1948 and Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital were the two major events in Israel’s history. The question on everyone’s mind was how Dermer was able to participate in the Embassy opening in Jerusalem with Jared, Ivanka and Netanyahu in the morning and then arrive in Washington at 7:15 PM in the evening.
Dermer remarked that the alliance between Israel and the United States was stronger than ever with cooperation in security, intelligence and cyber making both countries safer. He acknowledged the varied group of honorees while declaring they had two things in common: they were all American; and they all made sacrifices to secure the future of Israel.
He introduced Vice President Mike Pence who said the President regretted he could not attend because Melania had undergone a medical procedure but assured the audience that the US and Israel were bound together and that they would never allow Iran to attain a nuclear weapon. Pence said for 70 years the world has marveled at all the accomplishments of Israel and commented on how “confounding Israel’s birth and survival is” as it continues to be a global economic powerhouse with its movement into high tech.
He said America stands with Israel because “her cause is our cause, her values are our values and her fight is our fight.” Pence then recited “Shehecheyanu, vkiy’manu , v’higyanu, lazman hazeh” in his Indiana accent; congratulating Israel on behalf of the President on this big day with a “Mazel Tov”. Pence concluded by remarking that the “US and Israel will meet our glorious future together.” We were then treated to a spectacular rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah” by two phenomenal singers as a sign language interpreter continued to act out the song and speeches-I’m not sure if he actually knew sign language but it didn’t matter since the only people who could see him were the honorees none of whom were deaf. As the evening ended, guests hurried out into the rainy evening-perhaps an auspicious omen on this historic occasion.
By: Lieba Nesis