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Israel Mourns Death of Kennedy; Knesset Holds Commemorative Meeting

November 26, 1963
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

All of Israel today mourned the death of United States President John F. Kennedy. The Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, held a special commemorative session, heard a eulogy by Acting President Kadish Luz, and adjourned. At the Yeshurun Synagogue, here, services were conducted by Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim, with the eulogy spoken by Dr, Zorach Warhaftig, Israel’s Minister for Religious Affairs, El Mole Rachmim was recited.

From all governmental buildings on all levels–national and local–flags flew at half-mast. All official functions, and many of an unofficial nature, were canceled, as Israel officially observed a three-day period of mourning decreed at a special meeting of the Cabinet.

Messages of condolence had been sent immediately after news of Mr. Kennedy’s assassination had been received by President Zalman Shazar, who flew later to Washington to attend the funeral; by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol; and by former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Mr. Eshkol, in a cable to President Johnson, said:

“The Government and people of Israel, and I personally, are shocked and deeply grieved by the tragic and dastardly assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In his all-too-brief term of office, he proved himself to be a great and dynamic President of the United States of America, and a courageous leader of the free world, who aroused hopes in the hearts of all mankind. He was, during his Presidency, as during his earlier career, a stout friend of Israel. Please convey the deepest sympathy of the Government and the people of Israel, as well as my own sincere condolences, to Mrs. Kennedy, her children and all members of the late President’s family, as well as to the Government and people of the United States on their irreparable loss.”


Today, Mr. Eshkol received from President Johnson the following response: “The Kennedy family, the American people and I deeply appreciate your message of condolence for the tragic death of President Kennedy. I know you share our sense of loss. His friendship for Israel was in the tradition of the close bonds which link our two countries. I intend to carry on the tradition to the best of my ability. You have my sincere thanks for your thoughtful expression of sympathy.”

The impressive, special commemorative session of the Knesset was attended by U.S. Ambassador Walworth Barbour. Mr. Luz, regularly the Speaker of the House, but now acting in the place of the absent President Shazar, said Mr. Kennedy had seen himself as “the standard bearer, not only of a mission on behalf of the United States of America but for the entire world.” In regard to Israel, Mr. Luz said, Mr. Kennedy “showed understanding of the spiritual motif of Zionism and the vision of Israel’s independence in its homeland. He felt it was the duty of the United States to protect the State of Israel and our people and Government. We always had feelings of confidence in his faithful friendship for us and for all Jewry.”

Portraits of the late Mr. Kennedy, framed in black ribbons, are displayed throughout Israel and many special memorial meetings were conducted yesterday and today. In the main hall of the Weizmann Institute of Science, at Rehovoth, all members of the Institute’s scientific staff and others–totaling about 400–attended a special mourning assembly. The eulogy was delivered by Israel’s Vice-Premier Abba S. Eban, who is also president of the Institute.

Mr. Eban recalled Mr. Kennedy as a man of “restless and vivid energy, constantly seeking new areas of expression.” He said the late U.S. President was “Israel’s friend, and the champion of all causes of which freedom was the central theme. “We, the men of his generation,” said Mr. Eban, “have lost our proudest standard bearer.”


All flags on Government buildings and in all cities and towns in Israel flew at half-mast today. Official functions scheduled for today, as well as those to have been held yesterday, were canceled. The Cabinet had declared a three-day period of national mourning, starting on the Sabbath and ending today after the funeral services for Mr. Kennedy at Washington.

Kol Israel, Israel’s radio, has canceled all light programs, schools throughout the country were devoting special assemblies and lessons to the life of Mr. Kennedy, and pupils in virtually every school in the country drew portraits of Mr. Kennedy to hang in classrooms and school auditoriums.

Four hundred Americans living in Israel, members of the Farband Sirkin Club, held a memorial service at Hamlin House in Tel Aviv. At Haifa, a United States Naval vessel, the S. S. Tallchie County, had scheduled to admit visitors yesterday and today. Those “open deck” ceremonies were canceled.

At the religious services conducted today by Chief Rabbi Nissim, Dr. Warhaftig, Israel Minister for Religious Affairs, told the gathering in the synagogue that “President Kennedy’s sudden, violent death is felt in Israel with particular grief. We knew him as a sincere friend.”

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