Menu JTA Search

News Brief

Download PDF for this date

United Nations Secretary General U Thant sent a message to Foreign Minister Eban which said he was “deeply distressed” to learn of the death and asked Mr. Eban to “convey to the members of the Government and the Prime Minister’s family my profound sympathy and sincere condolences.”

Acting secretary of State Elliot Richardson, in a statement today, said that “the American people have been profoundly moved by news of the death of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol. He was well-known to us as a defender of freedom and a friend of the United States. I express sincere condolences on my personal behalf as well as on behalf of my colleagues.” House of Representatives speaker John W. McCormack converged sympathy to Israel’s Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin.

A statement issued by former President Lyndon B. Johnson today in Austin, Texas said: “The death of Prime Minister Eshkol leaves a void on this earth. Israel has lost one of her bravest leaders. America has lost a staunch and worthy friend. And the world has lost one of freedom’s most vigorous champions. I treasure the memory of my personal friendship with him and of the numerous visits we shared. As American citizens, bound by ties of deep feeling to the people of Israel, Mrs. Johnson and I join with them in mourning the passing of this brilliant, able and dedicated leader who gave so much of himself to their cause.”

In Washington, Gen. Rabin termed Mr. Eshkol “a man of the people…an architect of Israel’s democracy.” The envoy said that “from the days of his youth when he labored as a pioneer farmer draining swamps in the Jordan Valley until his last hours as Prime Minister…he devoted his whole being to Israel’s rebirth.” The Embassy and Israel’s eight consulates throughout the United States–and elsewhere throughout the world–announced a seven-day mourning period and lowered flags to half-staff. All the legations opened memorial books on a table that also bore a picture of Mr. Eshkol and a memorial candle. Processions of Jews and non-Jews everywhere filed into the legations to sign the books.

Senator Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, called at the Israel Embassy in Washington this morning to offer his condolences and pay his respects. Sen. Jacob K. Javits extolled “the wisdom, poise and restraint” Mr. Eshkol had shown and said he remained as “an eternal light, not only to the new leaders of Israel but to all the world’s statesmen now concerned with this troubled area.” He noted that in recent years, the Prime Minister had been “the rock of Israel’s determination to survive and to perform its historic mission as a haven for the oppressed and persecuted Jews of the world and as a model of freedom and justice for small nations.” Mayor John V. Lindsay of New York said Mr. Eshkol had been “a statesman of the front lines” and that “he guided his nation at a time when danger and turmoil constantly surrounded it.” The Mayor declared that “those who would honor Levi Eshkol’s memory can do it best by redoubling their commitment to preserving the nation in whose service he died.”


News of Mr. Eshkol’s death came as a blow to the American Jewish community. Leaders of several national organizations planned to fly to Jerusalem to attend the funeral services Friday. It was announced that Rabbi Herschel Schacter, chairman, and Dr. William Wexler, vice-chairman, would represent the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at the services. A comrade-in-arms. Dr. Judah Lapson, New York educator, who served with Mr. Eshkol in the 39th Battalion of the Royal Fusileers, one of the units comprising the Jewish Legion, was to attend the services as representative of the American Veterans of the Jewish Legion of World War I.

The International inaugural conference of the Israel Bond Organization will open tomorrow in Miami Beach as scheduled. The decision to proceed with the conference was reached at the request of the Israel Government in view of “Israel’s urgent need for economic development assistance through the Bond drive.” Ambassador Itzhak Rabin was to replace Acting Prime Minister Yigal Allon as the principal speaker.

Many of the tributes to Mr. Eshkol struck a warm, personal note and reflected the varied close associations with people of many differing interests which Mr. Eshkol had in his long career in the Zionist movement and as a key figure in the Jewish State. In Geneva, Dr. Nahum Goldmann, former president of the World Zionist Organization and chairman of the Jewish Agency, who had worked with Mr. Eshkol for more than three decades, paid tribute to him as “a man of deep kindness of heart and of great common sense” and who was “born to unite people and settle conflicts.”

Many of the statements stressed Mr. Eshkol’s contributions to the Zionist movement and his participation as an early immigrant in the process of the physical redemption of Palestine as a Jewish homeland. Dr. Emanuel Neumann, chairman of the Jewish Agency-American Section, recalled Mr. Eshkol’s “unsurpassed contribution” as head of the Agency’s settlement department from 1951 to 1963, and Mrs. Max Schenk, president of Hadassah, said that he was “one of that great band of leaders who early translated the ideals of Zionism into the practical realities of life in Palestine, first in the kibbutz and then in the high offices which he held.” The Israel Bond Organization lauded his “many achievements in agricultural settlement, the redemption of rocky and desert soil and the economic development of Israel.” Rabbi Israel Miller, chairman of the American Zionist Council, also recalled Mr. Eshkol’s pioneer role and his part in creating “a new form of communal life” and eventually the State of Israel.

Other messages stressed the Prime Minister’s humanitarianism and his deep concern for the refugees and the Jews living under conditions of disability and discrimination. Louis J. Fox, president of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, called Mr. Eshkol “the architect of Israel’s successful resettlement of hundreds of thousands of refugees.” The United Jewish Appeal stressed that Mr. Eshkol “was always intimately associated with the humanitarian goals of the UJA.” Louis Broido, chairman, and Samuel L. Haber, executive vice-chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee, in a message to President Shazar, recalled Mr. Eshkol’s deep interest and concern over the refugee problem.

Mr. Eshkol’s role in the Zionist labor movement was recalled by Leon H. Keyserling, president, and Dr. Sol Stein, executive director of the National Committee for Labor Israel, who noted that during his visits to the United States “he never failed to meet with American friends of Histadrut who shared his dreams of a secure Israel in a peaceful world.” Poale Zion, the United Labor Zionist Organization of America, said that Mr. Eshkol exemplified “the chief ideological commands of his movement–practicing what he preached.”

Dr. Israel Goldstein, and Mrs. Rose Halprin, co-chairman of the World Confederation of General Zionists, described Mr. Eshkol as “the personification of the noblest aspirations of early chalutziut and modern Zionism.” They said he had “served his people with love and his office as Prime Minister with distinction and dignity.” Jacques Torczyner, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said that Mr. Eshkol would be “sorely missed.” Irving Kane, for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said that Mr. Eshkol would be remembered as “one of the greatest architects of Israel’s development and Israel’s defense.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund