NEW YORK (Mar. 29)
Premier Menachem Begin of Israel received a hero’s send-off last night from more than 2700 Jewish leaders and members of the Jewish community who gathered at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center to pay tribute to the man who signed the historic peace treaty with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat on Monday. Begin and his entourage, including government ministers and Knesset members, left for Israel from Kennedy Airport last night shortly after Begin’s tumultuous reception.
Beain his wife Aliza. and members of his Cabinet received prolonged ovations and cheers by the jubilant audience, as they walked to their seats on the podium. The gathering was cosponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, United Jewish Appeal and State of Israel Bonds.
“This event is a salute to peace in honor of Begin,” Theodore Mann, chairman of the Presidents Conference, declared, adding. that Begin has and will have the support of American Jews and Jews everywhere.
Begin, who was in a relaxed, humorous mood despite the hectic events of the last few days, started his address by declaring: “My brothers and sisters, I have a statement to make: Am Yisreal Chai Vekayarn. “(The people of Israel are alive and exist.) Begin declared that “There are several things for which we (the Israelis) are prepared to fight–one is Jerusalem.” He said Israel is ready to go to war to keep Jerusalem united and the capital of the Jewish State. “Jerusalem is the capital of the Israel and will forever be the capital of Israel. It has been reunited. It is indivisible,” Begin declared.
He warned that if Israel was attacked by Syria Iraq or Saudi Arabia on “account of Jerusalem,” Israelis would fight back with “devotion” and “fervor” and with the backing of all the Jewish people.
NEED TO SOLVE SOCIAL PROBLEMS
Begin said that now, with the peace treaty with Egypt signed, he is going to devote more time and effort to solve Israel’s pressing social and economic problems. The Israeli Premier made a direct appeal to American Jewry to increase its contributions to the UJA, to solve the “intolerable” situation of many Israeli families living in sub-human conditions. He called on each American Jew to start “since tomorrow” to “make a better effort” to meet the goal of $600 million for Project Renewal in the next three years. “We must reach a just society,” he said.
Begin also appealed to American Jews to make mass oliya to Israel. “We need you” in Israel, he said. He also expressed the hope that Soviet Jewry will be allowed to emigrate freely, and appealed to the Soviet authorities by declaring: “Let my people go.” He said he hoped President Carter will raise the issue of Soviet Jews when he meets with Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev.
Sam Rothberg, general chairman of the Israel Bond Organization, declared in a short statement that his organization is “ready to assume and carry out new responsibillties created by the coming of peace between Egypt and Israel, and promised that the Israel Bond campaign would be accelerated throughout the U. S. and wherever Bonds are sold.
Frank Lautenberg, president of the UJA, said that the UJA is celebrating the coming of peace by asking American Jewry to revive its commitment and support for Project Renewal. Calling Begin a “peace-maker, “he said the celebration affirmed the “one-ness of the Jewish people.” The event was broadcast live to major Jewish centers in the United States and Canada.