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Ben-gurion Arrives in New York; Thanks U.S. Presidents for Aid to Israel

March 2, 1967
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s eldest statesman, a founder of the State of Israel and its first Prime Minister, arrived here this evening for a three-week visit to the United States. He was full of confidence that Israel will achieve its principal aims of building a democracy that will contribute vitally to world peace and the intellectual, scientific and economic development of the entire Middle East region.

The 80-year-old Israeli leader, hale and vigorous after a direct flight from Lydda Airport in Israel to the John F. Kennedy International Airport here, voiced first of all, upon his arrival, his and Israel’s gratitude to the four U.S. Presidents who have been in office since Israel was reborn in 1948. To Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, the late Mr. Kennedy and President Johnson he expressed his "grateful appreciation for the help they have extended to us on behalf of the American people."

"From the first," he stated, "Americans everywhere have understood Israel’s democratic hopes and ambitions. On every level they have been our warm supporters and friends." (On his departure this morning from Israel, Mr. Ben-Gurion said at the Lydda airport that during his stay in the United States he will speak "only on the past and the future" and not on the present internal issues in Israel.)

As Mr. Ben-Gurion and his wife — whom he married in Brooklyn exactly 50 years ago — stepped off the El Al Israel Airlines plane that brought them here, they were greeted formally by a distinguished gathering representing officially the City of New York, the Israeli diplomatic corps in the United States, and the sponsor of the trip to America, the United Jewish Appeal. Included among the small group on the airport’s Tamarac were Avraham Harman, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States; Edward Ginsberg, of Cleveland, associate general chairman of the UJA; New York City Commissioner John F. Palmer, representing Mayor Lindsay; Rabbi Herbert A. Friedman, executive vice-chairman of the UJA; and Michael Arnon, Israel’s Consul-General in New York.

From the field, the guests were taken in a caravan to the airport’s International Synagogue. There, an overflow assembly of 400 Jewish Jay and religious leaders greeted them. Mr. Ben-Gurion submitted to interviews and photographs by a large corps of newsmen representing press, television and radio. In ceremonies at the synagogue, Mr. Ben-Gurion was greeted by Mr. Ginsberg; Rabbi Israel Mowshovitz, chaplain and chairman of the board of the International Synagogue, and two 12-year-old girls who are students at Hebrew day schools in New York. The girls, Leslie Grossman and Merryl Hiat, greeted the guests in Hebrew, and presented flowers to both Mr. and Mrs. Ben-Gurion.


After paying homage to Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Johnson, and the memory of President Kennedy, Mr. Ben-Gurion told the audience that packed the synagogue about Israel’s yeoman work over the years toward the "ingathering of the exiles." He noted that Israel has admitted and is in the process of absorbing 1,250,000 immigrants "from all corners of the world, more than half of them coming from backward lands –without skills, without knowledge of life in the 20th Century, and without education." "Given the right kind of help," he emphasized, "these newcomers and their children will become notable builders of Israel, as were our pioneers."

During his visit to the United States, Mr. Ben-Gurion will visit five major American Jewish centers — New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston — on behalf of the UJA and the UJA’s Israel Education Fund. The UJA’s current campaign for $75,620,000 will be devoted principally to welfare, health and rehabilitation programs. These programs, Mr. Ben-Gurion said, will speed the social and economic absorption of the Jewish immigrants now in Israel. He said he hoped, also, to spur the efforts of the Israel Education Fund for the building of additional high schools, training centers and other educational institutions in Israel, designed to close the "educational and intellectual gap" among the various communities in Israel.

Through these efforts, among others, he said, he believed "Israel can become an important nation and make its contribution to world peace." But such an aim, he added, can be realized "only through the pursuit of excellence in education, science and intellectual activities." Turning to his favorite, personal project — the establishment of a high school and an institution of higher learning in Kibbutz Sde Boker, his home in Israel — he said he hoped "with the help of a great many friends and the UJA" to achieve that goal too.

Mr. Ben-Gurion then discussed prospects for development of the Negev Desert, where Sde Boker is located. Three-fifths of Israel’s area, he noted, is in the Negev, "now a derelict waste." "But with science, with people, and with pioneering spirit, we shall yet turn the desert into a flourishing garden and workshop." He had told the press in Israel before his departure that he hoped the population in the Negev would rise to 2,000,000 in the next 20 years.


A pledge that the American Jewish community would respond generously to Mr. Ben-Gurion’s appeal was voiced during the synagogue session by Mr. Ginsberg. He said American Jewry will work arduously toward carrying out "the great social tasks that remain to be done in Israel — the full absorption of all of Israel’s immigrants; the greater advancement of education and science in Israel; the attainment of economic self-sufficiency and the peaceful conquest of the Negev."

Mr. Ginsberg noted that, on this occasion, he represented not only the UJA but also 50 other national Jewish organizations that make up the Public Committee for the Celebration of the 80th Birthday of David Ben-Gurion. These organizations and the UJA, "which, in its way, represents a majority of American Jews," he said, "speak for almost the entire American Jewish community."

After spending two days in New York — during which period he will meet with Gov. Rockefeller, will be honored at several receptions and will be the guest of honor at a dinner tomorrow night to be given by the Israel Education Fund’s advisory board, Mr. Ben-Gurion will go to Miami Beach. There, Saturday night, he will address the annual dinner launching the State of Israel bond campaign for 1967. His next stop, Sunday, will be in Philadelphia.

While in the United States, Mr. Ben-Gurion will also meet with faculties and some students, including Israeli students, at the various universities in the cities he will visit, as well as at Princeton University.

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