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Ben-Gurion ALS in English Admits He Can’t Find a Drawing of Proposed Statue of Peace
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DAVID BEN-GURION. Autograph Letter Signed, to Belle Gerald, December 1, 1964, Tel-Aviv. 1 p., 5 x 8½ in. on his lined pad, perforated at the right.

Inventory #24890.01       Price: $1,500

Complete Transcript

Tel-Aviv, 1.12.64

Dear Mrs. Gerald

I read your letter to Mr. Sharett, and I must confess I don’t agree with you.

I am terribly sorry I cannot find the drawing[1] you left with me in Hotel Sharon.[2]

Perhaps it is in Sdeh Boker;[3] I am returning there next week, and if I find it there, it will be immediately sent you with my thanks.

Yours,

D. Ben-Gurion

Mrs. Mark Gerald

<2>

[Envelope with typed address:] Mrs. Mark Gerald, / Mahane David, / Hacarmel, / HAIFA

Historical Background

In 1953, Belle Chernuskin Gerald began a drive to erect a Statue of Peace on Mount Carmel in Haifa as a gift from the American people to Israel, much as the Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French people to the United States. In 1958, an American Committee for Statue Shalom was incorporated as a nonprofit in California, and the campaign hoped to raise $100,000 for a 120-foot stainless steel statue by sculptor Meniamino Benvenuto Bufano (1890-1970) of “Rachel and her children,” the children to represent different races. The American Christian Palestine Committee also adopted Statue Shalom as a special project. Regional subcommittees organized in other areas, such as one in Florida in 1966.

In 1961, Senators Jacob Javits of New York, Philip A. Hart of Michigan, and Gale W. McGee of Wyoming announced that they would serve as co-chairs of a committee to raise $2 million for an illuminated pillar on a site to be donated by the City of Haifa. In the face of opposition by the Jewish Agency for Israel and other bodies, Haifa withdrew its promise. The Geralds then obtained a pledge of approximately 12 acres from a Druse village southeast of Haifa on Mount Carmel. A cornerstone-laying ceremony, scheduled for November 11, 1963, was canceled when the Druse elders withdrew their offer. The proposed statue, and the costs, had grown substantially. The plans were for a 300-foot bronze candle, designed as an abstract version of the word “Shalom” in Hebrew characters.[4] It would sit over a complex of buildings, including a concert hall, convention chamber, religious chapels, and a restaurant at a cost of $5 million.

A January 10, 1964, article in the Jewish Post of Indianapolis declared that Belle and Mark Gerald’s Statue Shalom project was “meeting everything but peace.” In the face of opposition in Israel, the Geralds “have vowed to devote the rest of their lives to bring about construction of the tower.” Critics, however, believed the monument was a luxury Israel could not afford when faced with costs of defense and the integration and education of immigrants.[5]

Belle Gerald was then living in Israel and contacting Israeli leaders like former Prime Ministers David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett (1894-1965). From 1961 to 1965, Sharett was also the chairman of the executive committee of the Jewish Agency for Israel, a position which Ben-Gurion had held from 1935 to 1948. 

On July 1, 1964, Ben-Gurion wrote to Gerald from Sdeh Boker, “I would not dare to diminish your enthusiasm and faith in Statue Shalom. You are expected to be here on...Wednesday afternoon.” It isn’t clear what particularly Ben-Gurion is disagreeing with in this letter.

The saga continued for a decade more. In 1971, Isadore Hamlin of the World Zionist Organization wrote to Irving Bernstein of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) regarding the fundraising drive, “This matter has a long and painful history. Mrs. Gerald and a few others tried some years back to stampede everybody in Israel and in the United States into launching this project. Mrs. Gerald has distinguished herself by her unpleasantness, obstreperousness and lack of any sense of reality… Of all priorities for Israel, this is by far one on the lowest rung.” He urged Bernstein and all UJA leaders “to avoid getting involved with her.”[6]

Gerald met with Jewish American novelist Meyer Levin in 1973 and told him that Haifa had withdrawn the site offer, and she was considering going to court. She had separated herself from her family and remained in Israel alone to fight for Statue Shalom. Levin’s encounter with Gerald made it into his autobiographical work, The Obsession (1974).

David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) was born in the Kingdom of Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, as David Grün, and he studied at the University of Warsaw. In 1906, he immigrated to Palestine, which was part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1912, he moved to Constantinople to study law and adopted the Hebrew name Ben-Gurion. He supported the Ottoman Empire in World War I, but was deported to Egypt and traveled to the United States, where he remained for three years. After the Balfour Declaration of 1917, he joined the Jewish Legion of the British Army. He returned to Palestine after the war and became a leader of the Zionist movement. As head of the Jewish Agency from 1935, Ben-Gurion was effectively the leader of the Jewish population before there was a nation. He accepted the 1947 partition plan as a compromise that would establish a Jewish state, and declared the independence of the state of Israel in May 1948. After leading Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Ben-Gurion won election as Prime Minister of Israel in 1948 as head of the Labour party in the Knesset. Except for nearly two years in the mid-1950s, Ben-Gurion served as Israeli Prime Minster until 1963. He served in the Knesset from 1949 until his retirement in May 1970.

Belle Chernuskin Gerald (1902-1987) was born in Russia and immigrated with her family in 1906, and lived in Chicago in 1910. She became a naturalized citizen in 1918. In 1920, her family lived in Chicago, where she was a typist in a department store. She became a schoolteacher and was active in Jewish affairs in southern California in the 1950s and 1960s before moving to Israel. She died in Los Angeles.

Moshe Sharett was Israeli prime minister from January 1954 to November 1955, interrupting David Ben-Gurion’s otherwise continuous holding of that office from 1948 to 1963.


[1] This drawing was likely an artist’s rendition of the proposed Statue Shalom.

[2] A hotel in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv.

[3] Sde Boker was a kibbutz in the Negev desert of southern Israel, where Ben-Gurion retired in 1953. Even after his return to politics, he continued to live in the kibbutz until his death.

[4] Daily Independent (Kannapolis, NC), February 21, 1967, 34:1-2.

[5] Carl Alpert, “Israeli Statue Shalom Project Meeting Everything but Peace,” National Jewish Post and Opinion (Indianapolis, IN), January 10, 1964, 11:1-3.

[6] Isadore Hamlin to Irving Bernstein, November 15, 1971, Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, OH.


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