A testy exchange between Ben Gurion and the White House

Thursday, 9 April, 2015 - 8:43 pm

In 1954, when Ben Gurion was Prime Minister, he traveled to the USA to meet with President Eisenhower to request his assistance and support in the early and difficult days of Israel.

John Foster Dulles, who was then the secretary of state, confronted Ben Gurion and challenged him as follows:

"Tell me, Mr. Prime Minister - who do you and your country represent? Does it represent the Jews of Poland, perhaps Yemen, Romania, Morocco, Iraq, Russia or perhaps Brazil? After 2000 years of exile can you honestly speak about a single nation, a single culture? Can you speak about a single heritage or perhaps a single Jewish tradition?"

Ben Gurion answered him as follows:

"Look, Mr. Secretary of State - approximately 300 years ago the Mayflower set sail from England and on it were the first settlers who settled in what would become the largest democratic superpower known as the United States of America. Now, do me a favor - go out into the streets and find 10 American children and ask them the following:

What was the name of the Captain of the Mayflower?

How long did the voyage take?

What did the people who were on the ship eat?

What were the conditions of sailing during the voyage?

I'm sure you would agree with me that there is a good chance that you won't get a good answer to these questions.

Now in contrast - not 300 but more than 3000 years ago, the Jews left the land of Egypt.

I would kindly request from you Mr. Secretary that on one of your trips around the world, try and meet 10 Jewish children in different countries. And ask them:

'What was the name of the leader who took the Jews out of Egypt?'

'How long did it take them before they got to the land of Israel?

'What did they eat during the period when they were wandering in the desert?'

'And what happened to the sea when they encountered it?'

'Once you get the answers to these questions, please carefully reconsider the question that you have just asked me!"

Clearly, the knowledge of our past is what propels the identity of our future. It is our responsibility to ensure that we are not just ‘good Jews’ but knowledgeable about our past. This is the only way we can secure a Jewish tomorrow.

If we don’t study our traditions, then how can we possibly hope for ours kids to?

The first two days of Pesach commemorate our exodus from Egypt, but the last two days of Pesach commemorate the ultimate and imminent future redemption.

What will life be like when moshiach comes?

Will we still have the houses we worked so hard to build and our nice cars?

Will we still go to work?

What about relationships and love?

Will we still eat out in our favorite restaurants? 
How do we know all this?

….And how soon is all this happening?

Just as our parents generation experienced a rebirth after the Holocaust, the Rebbe promised us that our generation will witness the greatest rebirth the world has ever known as the world reaches its ultimate perfection in our lifetime, with the arrival of Moshiach.

Rabbi Dovid and Chana Vigler  

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