Politics And Politicians
From the time of Israel’s inception as a modern state 51 years ago, the United States has been its consistent and loyal friend. In our country, many issues seem to be based on political affiliation. The treatment of Israel has not been one of those issues.
Historically, the American/Jewish population has voted Democratic. Our family was no exception. In fact, I can’t recall anyone in my old neighborhood who voted Republican. In our home, the names of Roosevelt and Kennedy were spoken with almost the same reverence as the biblical characters Moses and David. I can remember my mother telling me that she believed the Democrats understood our people better than the Republicans. While that statement is certainly inaccurate, it is true that most Jewish people are politically liberal.
Interestingly, there have been ten U.S. presidents since the birth of the State of Israel, five Democrats and five Republicans. I believe it is safe to say that Israel has benefited from all of them. In the early years of Israel’s modern history, two American presidents—one Democrat and one Republican—set the pattern for our countries” friendly relations.
Harry S. Truman, the Democrat, was the 33rd President of the United States. Known for the slogan, “The buck stops here,” Truman went against the counsel of his advisors and the desire of many in the State Department and recognized Israel’s status as a nation on May 14, 1948. That recognition came just eleven minutes after Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, made the announcement of statehood. I believe three factors contributed to Truman’s action. First, Truman was a Bible reader, having read through the Scriptures three times by the time he was thirteen. Second, he had great sympathy for the Jewish people, especially those who had suffered through the Holocaust. Third, and most important, he had maintained a friendship with a Jewish man named Eddie Jacobson from his days in World War I.
During the war, Captain Truman was made regimental canteen officer. Having no business experience, he selected Jacobson, who had been a traveling salesman before the war, to be his manager. The two men worked well together and were successful in operating these military social clubs. After the war, they decided to go into business for themselves and opened a haberdashery called Truman and Jacobson. The store was quite successful until a severe recession forced them out of business in 1921. Then they split up to pursue their own interests but remained friends throughout their lives.
Truman went on to serve as county judge in Jackson County, Missouri, for several years, followed by two terms as U.S. Senator from Missouri. In 1944, he was elected Vice President on the presidential ticket with Franklin Roosevelt. The death of President Roosevelt on April 12, 1945, elevated Truman to the highest office in the land.
With evidence emerging daily of the horrors of the Holocaust, Truman acted as an advocate for homeless Jews. He petitioned the British government to allow a hundred thousand displaced Jews from Germany and Austria to be admitted to Palestine, but his request was refused. On the day of atonement, Yom Kippur 1946, he delivered a speech to Congress asking for an increase in immigration into the United States to accommodate many displaced Jews. Calls for a Jewish state were on the rise, and so was the pressure for Truman to stay clear of the issue.
In March 1948, Chaim Weizman, a prominent Zionist leader, flew to Washington hoping to meet with President Truman. However, Truman succumbed to political pressure and refused the meeting. It was then that Eddie Jacobson decided to pay a visit to the White House to see his old business partner. Truman was glad to see Eddie but not at all anxious to talk about Palestine. Jacobson reminded Truman of his longtime hero, Andrew Jackson, and compared him to Weizman A. Jacobson said, “I have never met the man who has been my hero all my life, but I have studied his deeds, as you have studied those of Jackson. He is a statesman and a gentleman. He is an old man and a very sick man. He has traveled thousands of miles to talk to you, and you are refusing to see him. Harry, this isn’t like you.” President Truman decided to meet with Weizman and talked with him for more than an hour.
Two months later, the opportunity came to recognize the State of Israel. Harry Truman seized the moment, and history was made. About a year after that historic occasion, Weizman, then President of Israel, came to the United States to formally thank President Truman. He presented Truman with an Israeli torah as a token of Israel’s appreciation. He told Truman that being President of Israel was a more important job than being President of the United States. The reason, he said, was because the U.S. President presides over only 170 million people, while the President of Israel must preside over one million presidents!
To honor Truman, Polish immigrants established a moshav (cooperative settlement) in Israel in 1949. Kefar Truman is still functioning today.
So, God indeed used a Democrat to assist in the birth of the nation.
Meanwhile, after a distinguished military career spanning more than 30 years, former General Dwight David Eisenhower, a Republican, became the 34th President of the United States.
Because of his name, many people thought Eisenhower himself was Jewish, while others accused him of being anti-Semitic. He was, in fact, raised in a Bible-believing Protestant home and had high regard for the Jewish people, acknowledging them as the chosen ones. It was while he served as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe that the Nazi concentration camps were liberated. Having heard about these camps, Eisenhower decided to view them firsthand. He said, “The same day I saw my first horror camp, I visited every nook and cranny. I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to learn about these things in case there ever grew up those who said it was just propaganda.”
General Eisenhower made the unprecedented appointment of Rabbi Judah Nadich as his special advisor on Jewish affairs. This post helped to speed up the process of dealing with the hundreds of thousands of Jewish displaced persons. While attending a Yom Kippur service at one of the displaced persons camps, he told the crowd that the American Army was there to help them and that he understood their suffering. He also said that he believed a sunnier day was coming for them. He was given a standing ovation. Rabbi Nadich later wrote an article, published in the American Zionist magazine, stating that General Eisenhower had played a major role in saving the lives of tens of thousands of Jewish refugees during and after World War II.
All of these events played a role in the many decisions that President Eisenhower made regarding Israel. He authorized the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars in grants-in-aid to the new State of Israel. Included in the package were aircraft, spare parts, and ammunition. His approval of an atomic energy agreement made it possible to train Israeli scientists. Throughout his two terms, he pledged and provided for the continued support of Israel.
So, God used a Republican to help the young Israeli nation by providing the resources necessary to protect themselves.
“I will bless them that bless thee [Israel], and curse him that curseth thee” (Gen. 12:3). That is not a political platform for either the Republicans or the Democrats. Yet, for 51 years and through the administrations of ten Presidents, God has blessed the United States as a nation as we have blessed His people. As political winds change, let us pray that the wind will continue to blow toward the Holy Land—His land.