‘It is possible that we are the sons of merchants, but we are mainly the grandsons of prophets’, said the late Chaim Weizmann.
Here are 30 much-missed British-born men and women who helped build Israel. Top 30 posthumous:
- The Aliyah 100 List
- A daunting task: The Aliyah 100
- OPINION – Mark Regev: Reflecting on Balfour’s aims, 100 years on
1. Chaim Weizmann
If not for Chaim Weizmann there would be no Jewish state. He migrated from Belarus to study chemistry in Germany, later taking an academic post at Manchester University. He lobbied for the 1917 Balfour Declaration, and he subsequently led the World Zionist Organisation almost continually throughout the Mandate period, negotiating in the world’s uppermost diplomatic echelons to pave the way for Israel’s creation. He was barely opposed in his candidacy to become Israel’s first President in 1949, and by the time of his death three years later had succeeded in consolidating the new state’ most vital engines.
2. Abba Eban
Widely considered the greatest prime minister Israel never had, Abba Eban was a master of diplomacy and an oratory powerhouse. Born in Cape Town, Eban moved to London as a child. He was Israel’s ambassador to the USA and to the UN and elected vice-president of the General Assembly. He held numerous top ministerial posts.
3. Chaim Herzog
Belfast-born Chaim Herzog reached the peak of his long military, legal, diplomatic and political career in 1983 by being elected the sixth president of Israel.
This is a position he held for a decade.
He was the first Israeli president to make an official visit to Germany, and ushered in the post-communist era by laying a plaque at Auschwitz in 1992.
4. Zina Harman
In 1965, Zina Harman became the first Israeli to claim a Nobel Prize, collecting the Peace Prize for UNICEF, which she chaired at that time. She consistently advanced the causes of human rights and the status of women in both the Israeli and international arenas and enjoyed a broad and lengthy diplomatic and political career.
5. Yehuda Avner
Yehuda Avner wrote the bestseller The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership, encapsulating his unique proximity to power. He was adviser to four consecutive Israeli leaders – Eshkol, Meir, Rabin and Begin – during the most formative years and later became the first British-born Israeli ambassador to the UK.
6. Asher Ginzberg (Ahad Ha’am)
Asher Ginsberg, also known as Ahad Ha’am (‘one of the people’) was a contemporary of Theodor Herzl and no less influential in shaping Zionist ideology. He established the Cultural Zionist school, and a central component of Ahad Ha’am’s doctrine was the unequivocal promotion of Hebrew as the national language.
7. David Landau
David Landau’s life spanned Haredi yeshiva studies as a teenager to editor of liberal mouthpiece Haaretz from 2004-2008. He fused Israeli society’s often tribalised strands in one brilliant mind with an unorthodox yet cohesive worldview and also founded and edited Haaretz’s English-language version – his greatest single accomplishment.
8. Wellesley Aron
Born in London and educated in Cambridge, Wellesley Aron was lured to Palestine in the 1920s but returned to the UK to serve as Chaim Weizmann’s political secretary. From this, he left the indelible impact of having established the youth movement Habonim as a means of educating young people about Jewish civilisation and Zionism.
9. Rav Kook
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook was the founder and chief ideologue of Religious Zionism. His synthesis of modern nationalism with halachic values turned members of Orthodox communities previously typified by their rejection of secular Zionism into leading partners in the movement to create a Jewish nation-state.
10. Isaac Halevi Herzog (Chief Rabbi )
Rabbi Isaac Halevi Herzog was the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, a post he previously occupied during the Mandate era. Herzog thus canvassed religious support for the establishment of the state, symbolically ripping up a copy of the 1939 White Paper, which limited Jewish immigration to Palestine, outside the Old City’s Hurva synagogue.
11. Avraham Harman
Avraham Harman was Israel’s ambas-sador to the US between 1959 and 1968, a period covering the Six Day War, a pivotal moment in cementing ties with the country. After passing the post to one Yitzhak Rabin, Harman became president of the Hebrew University and founded the Israeli Public Council for Soviet Jewry.
12. David Herbert Samuel (3rd Viscount)
Inheriting a peerage from his grand-father Herbert, High Commissioner of Mandate Palestine, David Herbert Samuel held the distinction of being the only Israeli to sit in the House of Lords. A scientific researcher who studied at Oxford alongside Margaret Thatcher, Samuel headed the faculty of chemistry at the Weizmann Institute.
13. David Kimche
Mossad spymaster David Kimche was purportedly the main middleman between the US and Iran during the Iran-Contra affair, articulating Israeli interests clandestinely throughout Asia and Africa and befriending many heads of state. After retiring, he served as Director-General of the Foreign Ministry in the 1980s.
14. Arieh Handler
Arieh Handler, who passed away in 2011, was the last surviving witness of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Generally credited as the founder of Bnei Akiva UK, Handler was a leader of the religious-Zionist community and a lifelong campaigner for Zionist causes and the rights of Jews in Ethiopia and the Soviet Union.
15. Norman Bentwich
Norman Bentwich was Attorney-General to the British Mandatory authorities in Palestine throughout the 1920s. His ties with Zionism led to suspicion from British officials, yet he belonged to Brit Shalom and his first lecture as chair of International Relations at the Hebrew University was disrupted by right-wing agitators.
16. Esther Cailingold
Bnei Akiva leader Esther Cailingold made aliyah alone aged 21 in 1946, serving in the Haganah as a combatant and radio announcer. She was fatally wounded in the Old City of Jerusalem during the War of Independence. Her courage and perseverance are preserved through memorials in the Jewish Quarter and Kibbutz Lavi.
17. Micky Rosen
Rabbi Mickey Rosen established the innovative liberal-Orthodox Yakar synagogues in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The Yakar network emphasised social action and interfaith dialogue alongside rigorous commitment to Torah study and soulful Carlebach services, and became a magnet for English-speaking olim.
18. Marc Weinberg
After Marc Weinberg died in 2010 aged just 35, Modi’in’s chevra kadisha claimed his funeral saw the largest crowd in the city’s recent history. The entrepreneurial former Bnei Akiva mazkir revived the London School of Jewish Studies before making aliyah to Modi’in in 2006 and helping to establish the El-Ad synagogue.
19. Pamela Kaplan
Pamela Kaplan devoted her life to encouraging aliyah and immigrant absorption in Israel. She first chaired the UK-based PATWA, which brought professionally-qualified Britons to Israel, and following her own aliyah after the Six Day War directed the Bat Yam absorption centre and an ulpan for Hebrew study in Tel Aviv.
20. Joshua Cohen (Dr)
Glasgow-born Joshua Cohen oversaw one of the most dramatic moments in pre-state history as medical care director for 4,500 passengers aboard the refugee ship Exodus. In the 1950s, he devised a standardised plan for managing Israel’s hospitals, and later advised the World Health Organisation on immunisation and tropical diseases.
21. Zev Sufott
Zev Sufott became the first Israeli ambassador to China in 1992, opening a new and significant chapter in Israel’s diplomatic history. His remarkable journey from Liverpool to Beijing encompassed studies at Oxford and Yale, IDF enlistment during the War of Independence and diplomatic postings in the UK and the Netherlands.
22. Fred S. Worms
Philanthropist and entrepreneur Fred Worms came to Britain from Germany as a refugee, investing in Israel’s educational, cultural and sporting infrastructure before retiring to Jerusalem. His achievements included the student village at the Hebrew University and the Maccabiah village in Ramat Gan, among many other things.
23. Michael Fox
Michael Fox made aliyah in 1968 and co-founded Herzog, Fox & Neeman, now Israel’s premier law firm, employing more than 300 lawyers. Fox’s contribution to commercial relations with the UK earned him an MBE, and in retirement he contributed a monthly Haaretz column on politics and culture.
24. Leo Sachs (Professor)
In 1980, molecular biologist Professor Leo Sachs became the first Israeli to win the Wolf Prize for Medicine, for ground-breaking research on cancer cells. Born in Germany, he headed the Weizmann Institute Genetics Department for 27 years, won an Israel Prize for natural sciences and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in London.
25. Cyril Domb
World-leading theoretical physicist Cyril Domb spent most of his career at King’s College London before making aliyah in 1981 to teach at Bar Ilan University. He wrote extensively on the tensions between science and halacha, and advised the Lubavitcher Rebbe on responding to such issues as evolutionary theory.
26. Asher Selig Kaufman
Asher Selig Kaufman headed Bnei Akiva UK as Israel declared independence, but stayed in Edinburgh to complete his doctorate in plasma physics. He later became Israel’s leading scholar in the field. He was devoted to the study of antiquity and used innovative archaeological methods, with the Mishnah, to locate the Holy of Holies.
27. Bernard Cherrick
Dublin-born Bernard Cherrick made aliyah in 1947 and became vice-president of Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His fundraising brought a degree of celebrity and his networking skills led to the nickname ‘Mr Hebrew University’. The institution’s Cherrick Centre for the study of Zionist history is named in his honour.
28. Shabtai Rosenne (Sefton Wilfred David Rowson)
Shabtai Rosenne was a scholar of naval law and Israeli diplomat, joining the newly-formed Foreign Ministry at the establishment of the state. He represented Israel at the UN, held a professorial post at Bar Ilan University, and before passing away in 2010 assisted the inquiry into Israeli forces’ conduct during the Gaza flotilla raid.
29. Isser Yehuda Unterman (Chief Rabbi)
Rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman was Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv at the time of Israel’s declaration of independence, and served as Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel between 1964 and 1972. Unterman studied in Lithuania and migrated to Liverpool, serving the city’s congregations until the end of the Second World War.
30. Yonatan Boyden
Yonatan Boyden made aliyah from Manchester aged 12. He served in the Israeli navy and then an elite paratroop unit and at 19 sustained fatal wounds from Hezbollah fire during a rescue mission in Lebanon in 1993. Kehilat Yonatan synagogue in Hod HaSharon, where his father Michael is the communal rabbi, is named for him.