Frank Sinatra reportedly played a role in smuggling guns to Israel in 1948.
Brian Greenspun, a son of Hank Greenspun, the Las Vegas media and real estate magnate who helped lead the gun smuggling effort, related the account Wednesday night to a Washington fund-raising dinner for Israel’s Rabin Center, an institute that promotes democracy and pluralism.
Greenspun, who said he heard the story from his father, later confirmed it with Teddy Kollek, the late Jerusalem mayor. According to the account, which Greenspun said he was making public for the first time, Kollek – who was in 1948 Israel’s point man heading the arms smuggling effort in New York – got to know the singer while staying in Hotel 14, atop the old Copacabana nightclub where Sinatra headlined.
Kollek needed to pay the captain of a ship a cash bribe to smuggle the weapons out of New York harbor, but knew he was being watched by the FBI because the United States was party to an arms embargo of all parties to the conflict.
Kollek left the hotel on the appointed day carrying a satchel, and was followed by the agents; Sinatra left through another entrance with a paper bag containing the money and paid the captain.
Sinatra and Kollek remained friends and the singer contributed to a number of Jerusalem building projects at the mayor’s behest.