In 1973, a cease-fire resolution was passed by the U.N. Security Council to halt the Yom Kippur War. Shuttle diplomacy by Henry Kissinger compelled Israel and Egypt to accept the cease-fire. Fighting, however, would continue for another four days. In the war, Israel suffered the loss of 2,600 soldiers and 800 tanks. Four years later, Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat would visit Jerusalem and announce his readiness to forge a permanent peace deal.
In 1927, the Israeli city of Netanya was founded on a plot of empty land. Netanya has since grown to become the fourth-largest city in Israel, with a population of 165,000. Netanya has one of the most beautiful stretches of beach in Israel, with white sands and inviting waters. Netanya was named for Nathan Straus (1848-1931), an American merchant and philanthropist. Straus was a co-owner of R.H. Macy & Co., yet he never amassed personal wealth because he was always using his money to help people. For example, in New York’s winter of 1893, he gave away more than two million five-cent tickets good for coal, food or lodging. His greatest devotion, however, was to Israel. He gave more than two-thirds of his fortune and devoted the last 15 years of his life to this cause.
In 1930, the British government issued the Passfield White Paper, a formal statement of policy in Palestine. The paper was an attempt to appease the Arabs in the aftermath of the 1929 riots: During six days of Arab rioting in Jerusalem, Gaza, Hebron and Tzfat, 135 Jews were killed and more than 300 wounded. The White Paper criticized the Jewish Agency for promoting Jewish employment opportunities, claiming that it damaged economic development of the Arab population. Further, the paper required that Jews obtain permission from the British authorities to purchase land. The result was that Jewish immigration was greatly curtailed.
Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Don Yitzhak Abravanel (1437-1508), a leader during the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry. After having served as treasurer to the king of Portugal, Abravanel became a minister in the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. In 1492, Isabella signed a decree expelling all Jews who refused to convert to Christianity. In the Inquisition, an estimated 32,000 Jews were burned at the stake and another 200,000 were expelled from Spain. Rabbi Abrabanel reportedly offered Queen Isabella the astronomical sum of 600,000 crowns to revoke the edict. Abrabanel was unable to prevent the expulsion and was exiled along with his people. Most of his rabbinic writings were composed in his later years when he was free of governmental responsibilities.
In 1958, the foundation stone was laid for Israel’s Knesset building in Jerusalem. The Knesset is composed of 120 members, the same size as the Great Assembly (“Knesset HaGedola”) that served as the rabbinical body during the Second Temple era. (The Great Assembly redacted the biblical books Ezekiel, Daniel and Esther, and composed many prayers such as the Amidah.) Today, the Israeli Knesset is known as a bastion of democracy in the Middle East, with women, Arabs, and other minorities represented.
In 1985, ground-breaking ceremonies were held for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. Two milk cans containing soil and ashes from concentration camps were symbolically buried on the site. The museum was dedicated in April 1993, with speeches by President Bill Clinton, Chaim Herzog and Elie Wiesel. The museum cost approximately $168 million to build, funded with more than 200,000 private donations. The museum attracts 2 million visitors annually.
Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Simcha Wasserman, a 20th century Torah sage and son of the illustrious Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, who was martyred in the Holocaust. Rabbi Wasserman and his wife had no children, but together they educated tens of thousands of Jews in France, the U.S. and Israel. After Rabbi Wasserman’s death, his wife died 10 days later. Rabbi Wasserman had a sixth sense about people; the story is told of him looking to purchase a used car in Los Angeles. He went to check out one particular car, and asked the owner if he could take it for a test drive. “How do I know you’re not going to steal it?” the man said. Rabbi Wasserman then asked if he could use the telephone for a minute. He called the police and reported a stolen vehicle at that very address. The police arrived, confirmed that the car was indeed stolen, and arrested the man. “How did you know?” the police asked Rabbi Wasserman. “Simple,” he said. “When I asked to take it for a test drive, he suspected that I’d steal it. Only a thief thinks that way!”