How President Truman Viewed Our Role in Zion

Dear Friends,
The modern State of Israel was established on May 14th, 1948. President Harry Truman decided to immediately recognize the new Jewish State despite the strong opposition of his Secretary of State and some other high officials in the State Department. The following brief excerpts from an article by the noted diplomat, the late Richard Holbrooke, discuss the opposition that President Truman faced:

Washington’s Battle Over Israel’s Birth

By Richard Holbrooke
Wednesday, May 7, 2008, Washington Post 

In the celebrations next week surrounding Israel's 60th anniversary, it should not be forgotten that there was an epic struggle in Washington over how to respond to Israel’s declaration of independence on May 14, 1948. It led to the most serious disagreement President Harry Truman ever had with his revered secretary of state, George C. Marshall -- and with most of the foreign policy establishment. Twenty years ago, when I was helping Clark Clifford write his memoirs, I reviewed the historical record and interviewed all the living participants in that drama. The battle lines drawn then resonate still.
...Beneath the surface lay unspoken but real anti-Semitism on the part of some (but not all) policymakers. The position of those opposing recognition was simple -- oil, numbers and history. “There are thirty million Arabs on one side and about 600,000 Jews on the other,” Defense Secretary Forrestal told Clifford. “Why don't you face up to the realities?”
President Truman once had a conversation with a noted member of Israel’s Knesset (legislative body), and in this conversation, he revealed the spiritual reason why he decided to recognize the Jewish State. The noted member of the Knesset was the late Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz, a leading activist within the Chareidi organization, Agudath Israel. He was a member of the Knesset from 1951 until 1984, and during his tenure, he served as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee for more than a decade.
Rabbi Lorincz was known for his warmth, wisdom, and integrity; moreover, he was admired by people from across the political spectrum. As the noted journalist, Jonathan Rosenblum, wrote:
“His appointment as chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Bank of Israel after his retirement from the Knesset – his signature appeared on all Israeli currency until just a few years ago – reflected the great respect of his colleagues.”  (Remembering Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz, zt”l, October 16th, 2009)
In the following excerpts from his book, In Their Shadow, Rabbi Lorincz tells the story of his meeting with President Truman:
I would now like to record the fascinating remarks made by the American President, Mr. Harry Truman, who was the prime consideration in influencing the world’s nations to accord the State of Israel recognition in 5708/1848.
On one of my visits to the United States, I met Mr. Truman in the city where he lived, Kansas City, together with Rabbi Solomon, one of the city’s rabbanim (rabbis).
President Truman said to me, “I am glad of the opportunity to explain to you, Rabbi, why I recognized the State of Israel. My decision in favor of six hundred and fifty thousand Jews wanting a state of their own, while surrounded by tens of millions of Arabs firmly opposed to the State’s emergence, ran counter to America’s political interests. Opposition in America to this policy was so fierce that one of the newspapers in the city where I live ran a headline, ‘Truman the Traitor.’
“As a child,” he continued, “I grew up as the neighbor of several Jewish families whom I highly esteemed. On their Sabbath I would switch the light on and off in the home of one of the families, in return for which they gave me a slice of Sabbath challah.
“It was my father’s custom to read from the Bible every Sunday. When we read about Cyrus, King of Persia, who granted the Jews permission to return to the Land of Judaea and rebuild the Temple, I thought to myself. ‘The day will come when I’ll be President of the United States  (“the dream of every American boy,” he added) and I, too, shall do what Cyrus did in his day.’
“My dream became reality, and when your president, Chaim Weizmann, visited me bringing a Torah scroll as a gift and asking me to instruct the American ambassador to the United Nations to support the establishment of the State of Israel, I remembered my childhood dreams.
“Obviously, on its own, a sentimental feeling like this would not have outweighed my responsibility to the interests of the United States. Why, then, did I nevertheless decide to recognize your state?”
He then spoke of the frightful dangers facing the world due to the atomic bomb:
“This terrible threat of atomic warfare will continue to threaten the world with destruction and with worse still: leaving all the world’s inhabitants in a state worse than simple death…And if, despite this, the will to continue living persists within me, it was only because I believe that just as you Jews saved humanity – a barbarous species – three thousand years ago with your Torah, today too, the Jewish People will manage to enlighten and heal the cruel hearts of our age and rescue the world from total destruction!”
When I returned home, I relayed President Truman’s words from the Knesset podium, so that the country’s chosen leaders might know what the world leaders expect from the Jewish People. This ought to teach us that the better elements among the gentile savants are well aware that the Jewish People’s role is to serve as a “light unto the nations” and that through the Torah we can save the world from destruction and make it a better place. If we don’t live up to these expectations, our friends will also turn their backs on us and act in accordance with their own interests, preferring hundreds of millions of Arabs and a billion Muslims over a handful of Jews.
Our duty is to ensure that “the Great name should be magnified and sanctified” (Kaddish). 
(Rabbi Lorincz is referring to our obligation to sanctify the Divine Name through our words and deeds. He concludes by mentioning that through our sanctification of the Divine Name, we will merit the arrival of Elijah the Prophet, the forerunner of the Messiah.)
As we discussed in this series, our mission is to establish a model society in Zion that can serve as a light to the nations. May we all rededicate ourselves to this mission and thereby inaugurate the messianic age of universal enlightenment when “Torah will go forth from Zion” (Isaiah 2:3). This spiritual enlightenment will then lead to universal shalom among the nations, and the following prophecy will be fulfilled:
“They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not up sword against nations, and they will no longer study warfare” (Isaiah 2:4).
Be Well, and Shalom,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen  (See below)
Related Comments:
The above account appears in Volume Two of Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz’s book, In Their Shadow (the English edition). In this three-volume work, Rabbi Lorinez describes the profound wisdom and ethical greatness of the leading Torah sages of his era that he personally knew, and in Volume One, he describes his relationship with the three leading sages who guided him during the period he served in the Knesset.
The amazing stories in this book are full of wisdom, ethical insights, and practical streetwise guidance. This book also gives us a deeper understanding of the secular-religious conflict within Israeli society. I therefore highly recommend this book. It is published by Feldheim Publishers, and the following is a direct link for information about the book and how to get each or all of the three volumes:  



Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

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