Cables arrived today in Jerusalem from Soviet Jews expressing their condolences at David Ben Gurion’s death. One cable, from a group of Jews in Riga, stated: “His death is a personal loss to every Jew–wherever he may be.” Five Moscow Jews wrote: “We mourn and grieve with you together.” A message from West German Chancellor Willy Brandt to Premier Golda Meir stated that Germany would never forget Ben Gurion’s efforts in reconciling Germans and Jews. “….He will remain unforgotten as the Israeli statesman who extended to the new Germany the hand of a new beginning,” Brandt wrote. West German President Gustav Heinemann wrote: “…with Ben Gurion a great statesman has passed away. We mourn him with respect for his great historic achievements.”
Tributes also came from West German opposition leaders. Helmut Kohl, CUD chairman, described the former Prime Minister as “one of the greatest leaders of our time.” Danish Premier Anker Joergenson hailed Ben Gurion as a great statesman and leader who tried to create a society based on social justice. Former French Premier Guy Mollet, France’s leader during the 1956 Suez crisis, praised Ben Gurion as “a true pioneer, a great patriot, but beyond the problems concerning Israel he could see the broader horizons of the world.”
A message of condolence sent to Israeli President Ephraim Katzir by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, and signed by David Mann, chairman, stated: “South African Jewry joins all Israel in mourning the passing of a great statesman, founding Premier and principal architect of the Jewish State. His memory will remain an imperishable heritage and light for future generations.” A message to Mrs. Meir by the chairman of the Executive Council of the South African Zionist Federation stated: “South African Jewry grieves with you and the people of Israel the death of the founder of the State and first Prime Minister. We hold in fond memory his unequalled qualities as statesman, scholar, Zionist pioneer and architect of modern Israel. His memory will live forever.”
In New York, Robert H. Arnow, president of the American Association for Jewish Education and past president of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, said that the passing of Ben Gurion “leaves an irreplaceable void among the Jewish people. His dynamic statesmanship, manifested in unyielding efforts to see Zion reborn and sustained through the reality of a national Jewish homeland, was combined with an equally unyielding commitment to the intellectual quality of Jewish life. This was a life of long concern demonstrated time and again by his affirmation of the study of the Bible and of Jewish history and teachings as essential elements of Jewry’s creative survival.” Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, termed Ben Gurion “a giant among Jewish leaders who shape the history of Jews in our time. As a pioneer in the Zionist movement and as a statesman after his dream of Jewish statehood came true, he was a molder of Jewish destiny.”
The American Jewish Committee announced today that it will hold a memorial service tomorrow for Ben Gurion as part of its Board of Governors meeting. Elmer L. Winter, president of the AJCommittee, said: “The passing of David Ben Gurion marks the end of an era in thousands of years of Jewish history. He brought to fruition an age-old dream of the Jewish people and gave substance and meaning to the prayer for a return to Zion. His sense of practical statesmanship helped give birth not only to an old-new land but to a substantive partnership with world Jewry.” Among the many Jewish leaders expressing their condolences today were Harold Ostroff, president of the Workmens Circle; Judge Jacob T. Zuckerman, president of the Jewish Labor Committee; Harry K. Gutmann, chairman of the board of trustees of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations; and Mrs. Henry N. Rapaport, president of the Womens League for Conservative Judaism.
In Washington, a number of Senators praised Ben Gurion’s determination to establish the modern State of Israel and find a way to achieve peace with its Arab neighbors. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Mansfield described Ben Gurion as “a man of broad visitation and very practical in his outlook for Israel in its relations with its neighbors.” Sen. Walter Mondale (D.Minn.) said “hopefully the negotiations will realize the dream Ben Gurion nourished since he first arrived in Palestine in 1906 –Arab acceptance of the Jewish homeland as a fact of life.” Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D.Conn.) said “Israel and the world have lost a great and historic leader. During a crucial period in history of Israel he infused a spirit of dedication and commitment that made Israel a strong and vibrant nation.”
Sen. Henry Jackson (D. Wash.) said: “David Ben Gurion was a great and courageous leader who fought hard to establish the State of Israel and to protect its security.” Sen. Jacob Javits (R.NY) said the former leader “helped bring into reality the State of Israel, the messianic dream of persecuted millions. Under his Premiership, the State of Israel grew from aspiration to one of the most exemplary and courageous democracies in the world.” At the United Nations, Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, in a message to Premier Meir, said that Ben Gurion “was a towering figure who played a decisive role in the history of his country. His courage and his vision were widely respected.”