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Timerman: ‘important to Be a Jew’

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Jacobo Timerman, the Argentinian Jewish editor recently released from house arrest after years of world wide protest, and who now lives in Israel, declared in a toped interview at United Jewish Appeal headquarters here that “it is very important to be a Jew. After that we can discuss all the other points.”

Timerman will receive the UJA David Ben-Gurion Award at the UJA national conference at Lincoln Center Dec. 7. The exclusive interview, conducted by Rabbi Mark Golub, will be broadcast on a syndicated radio program on Dec. 2 over WMCA, and also aired in Palm Beach, Florida, and Tucson, Arizona under the auspices of local Federations and with UJA assistance.

Timerman will get the award for his “struggle against oppression and for the right to live a Jewish life.” He said, in the interview, that the decision of Soviet Jews to fight for their right to be Jews “is something that I think we don’t realize the importance of.” He said the Soviet Jews show “to us” that Jews really “can survive.”

He said freedom as a human being and freedom as a Jew “are very different.” He said that in Argentina he had been a free man but never a free Jew. “In Israel you are a free Jew,” Timerman said, adding that he still did not know “the broad idea of all the richness of being a free Jew.”

Declaring that “the best thing for a Jew is to live in Israel,” Timerman declared that “if you don’t live in Israel you are still a Jew and you are very important for me.” He said he had “the ambition that Israel should be the best country in the whole world.”

He said he had been arrested because he was editor of the only daily. La Option, “that pointed out anti-Semitic incidents in Argentine life.” After three months in clandestine jails, nine months in “a legal jail” and 18 months under house arrest under surveillance by eight policemen living in his apartment, he was finally released because of international pressure, “especially” Jewish pressure.

Timerman said one day he decided he needed something to live for, so he asked a guard which way was east, “so that I might pray to Jerusalem.” He said the guard said he could not tell him for security reasons “but I was happy that I had asked.” When he was enroute to Israel, he feared his future might be “a mutilated life” because he might not find a job as an editor, a position he was immediately offered by Maariv and which he accepted.

He said when he told the editor he did not know Hebrew, the editor replied it did not matter that, Timer man would write in Spanish “and we will translate,” just as with a Soviet Jewish writer, “he writes in Russian and we translate it into Hebrew.” Timerman said “I am a journalist writing Spanish in a Hebrew paper and I belong to journalism in Israel. This is the miracle of Israel.”

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