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May 28, 1976 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1976-05-28

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2 May 28, 1976


Purely Commentary

Recapitulation of General Smuts' Dedicated Labors for Zionism
Which Earned for Him the Naming of Johannesburg Airport and
the Ramat Yohanan Settlement in Eretz Israel in 1935

By Philip

A Chapter in South African Zionist History: The Jan Smuts Story

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, at the Jan Smuts In:
ternational Airport — Arrival here with the Pan-Am study
mission commences with an opportunity to reconstruct an
important chapter in Zionist history. This airport was
named in tribute to Jan Christian Smuts, a one-time Boer
leader who later became South African Premier, who was
an architect of the Balfour Declaration and one of the ear-
liers Christian supporters of Zionism and a most consistent
defender of the Jewish libertarian ideal.
A personal reminiscence deserves a spot in this recapi-
tulation of a chapter in world Jewish history relating to
Field Marshal Smuts. He was a leader among the demo-
cratic forces who were re-
sponsible for the formation of
the United Nations. At the
historic conference in San
Francisco in May of 1946. The
great hope for peace was then
centered in what was origi-
nally referred to as UNO —
United Nations Organization.
General Smuts addressed one
of the sessions attended by
this reporter. A group of us
were deeply concerned with
the status of the Jewish Na-
tional Home, with what was
then Palestine, with the Zion-
ist hopes. We confronted him
with a question regarding the
status of our movement. He
wore his traditional red cap
and carried the short cane for
which he became famous. He
then replied abruptly. He
would not commit himself but followed the same line as
Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg and the British and French
leaders. The gist of his curt reply was that we must abide
by time.
Certainly, he could not speak for the UNO and for the
Western European and American leaders. Among the latter
were many, like Edward Stettinius, who did not even hide
their antagonism to Zionism and the Jewish hopes for na-
tional redemption. Nevertheless, he remained a strong sup-
porter of the Zionist ideal.
The Smuts saga began a long time ago, before Balfour,
and it retained its honor during the peace conference after
World War I, through the years of trials and tribulations
and on the eve of Israel's rebirth as a sovereign Jewish state.
Let it be noted at the outset that the Jewish pioneers
knew how to honor his name. When a settlement was about
to be established in 1935, his name was chosen for it. Ra-
mat Yohanan remains the imperishable Jewish tribute to
Jan Christian Smuts.
The establishment of Ramat Yohanan in the Emek Ze-
bulun area in May of 1935, and the naming of the new set-
tlement in tribute to the South African leader was an occa-
sion for special ceremonies in Pretoria on July 8, 1935. At
the Palace of Justice in Pretoria, L. Braudo, a one-time,
president of the South African Zionist Federation, made
the presentation to General Smuts of the Scroll of Dedica-
tion of Ramat Yohanan Smuts. The scroll was signed at the
inauguration ceremony on May 15, 1935, in the presence of
the then president of the World Zionist Organization, the
late Nahum Sokolow.

Mr. Braudo, presenting the scroll which was in Hebrew
and English, stated in part:

The new settlement is situated in that historic
region of Kfar Usha where in former years the
Jewish Sanhedrin enjoyed autonomous powers. On

this area of 2,500 dunams which have been as-
signed for this purpose by the Jewish National
Fund, forty families are already in occupation.
They are still housed in barracks; but from the
funds supplied by the contributions of South Afri-
can Jews to the Keren Hayesod in the campaign of
last year which you, together with Mr. Sokolow,
the President of our organization, personally inau-
gurated, we hope that, within the next six or nine
months, these and many further families of settlers
will be housed in more adequate buildings, and
will develop as the other settlers in the neighbor-
hood have done.
I should like, in conclusion, to quote to you a
few words of our veteran leader, Mr. Ussishkin,
the head of the Jewish National Fund, in the
course of his speech at the dedication ceremony:
`We are glad to have in Palestine the beautiful
and lasting monuments of the fathers of the Bal-
four Declaration — Lord Balfour, Mr. Lloyd
George, and General the Right Hon. Jan Smuts.'
Ramat Yohanan, which developed into one of the very
important kibutzim in Israel, has a special interest for De-
troiters. Meyer Harrison and several other Detroiters were
among its pioneer settlers. For General Smuts the recogni-
tion given him by the use of his name for a developing Pales-
tinian settlement was among the highlights in his career as
a statesman.
From 1919 — and even earlier — through his entire
career, General Smuts propagated Zionism and defended
the ideal against all odds.
Example: On Nov. 1, 1941, he delivered a powerful ad-
dress glorifying the Balfour Declaration. He gave this em-
phasis to the Declaration's importance in that widely
quoted speech:
The Balfour Declaration was not a mere acci-
dent, a mere eccentricity of the Great War, but in
its large historic setting and in its solemn legal
form is one of the greatest acts of history. To the
oppressed Jews it opened up the fulfillment of the
visions which their poets had embodies in immor-
tal language. Think of that poignant Psalm of ex-
ile: "If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, may my right
hand forget her cunning." Think of that still more
moving Psalm of return: "When the Lord turned
again to the captivity of Zion, we were like them
that dream."
The promise of a National Home — the Pales-
tine Mandate — seemed to be the answer to the
prayers and the tears of a people who had suffered
as no other, who for long ages had become the
scapegoat of history.

In November of 1942, Smuts addressed both houses of
Parliament in London and again it was occasion for him to
reiterate his support of the Zionist principles. It was an oc-
casion to review his deep interest in the Bible and in Old
Testament teachings. A writer in a London paper then
quoted his views, thus:
"The older I get," he said, "the more of a He-
braist I become. They knew God, those old Jews.
They understood the needs of the soul. There is no
literature like the Psalms. Then comes Isaiah. I
put the Bible above Shakespeare, who has to me
the deficiency of being without religion."

His constant admonitions to the Jewish people were:
"Do not despair" and "Stick to your course," and his consist-
ent adherence to the Balfour Declaration pledge. In April of
1946 he made this statement to the Anglo-American Com-
mittee of Inquiry on Palestine which was formed by the
United Nations to study the Palestinian problem. The in-

Israel Showing Concern Over Her Ecology


(Copyright 1976, JTA, Inc.)

NEW YORK — For the
first 25 years of the exist-
ence of Israel its leaders
were busy with the develop-
ment of the Jewish state
and gave no thought to the
problems of the environ-
ment. As a result, according
to Yosef Tamir, a Likud
member of the Knesset, all
of Israel's rivers are filled
with sewage and air pollu-
tion has begun to appear in
some cities.
Tamir, who is chairman
of the Knesset Committee
on State Control and its
subcommittee on the envi-
ronment, said Israel does
not have the money to clean

up its polluted areas. But he
said it is determined to pre-
vent any further pollution
from occuring. The Israeli
legislator has been in the
United States along with his
wife, Naomi, for a month on
behalf of the Jewish Na-
tional Fund.
Tamir said he first be-
came involved with the JNF
when officials of Keren
Kayemet testified before his
subcommittee on environ-
ment two years ago. He said
the KK is the one organiza-
tion that has been doing the
most to help improve Is-
rael's environment through
its reforestration program
and its developing recrea-
tional areas throughout Is-

He has long been inter-
ested in the environment
and founded the Commit-
tee for the Beautification
of Israel. He noted that
Israel's older leaders
know nothing about ecol-
ogy and that former Pre-
mier Goda Meir had once
called him in to explain the
meaning of the concept.
This resulted in the im-
proper planning of the cities
with sewage being spilled
into the rivers and the Medi-
terranean, Tamir noted. But
he said there is awareness
now by the government and
the people that a better en-
vironment is needed to im-
prove the quality of Israeli

life. He said there are many
pressure groups being
formed to promote a better
One pollution problem is
international, that of the
Mediterranean. Any tourist
who swims along Israel's
beaches often finds his feet
covered with tar. Tamir said
this is caused by the some
400 oil tankers that cross
the sea.
Recently Tamir was a
delegate to a conference of
Mediterranean countries
which was called to help
protect the sea. He said at
this conference the Arabs
were willing to work with
Israel on a common prob-

quiry was one of the steps that led to the partition and the
eventual rebirth of the state of Israel. In that statement he
Now I am quite clear that the Declaration was
meant to be a statement of long-range policy for
the future. Of course, all human policies are sub-
ject to change of circumstances, and to revision in
the light of such change. But there is no doubt in
my mind that the Declaration was meant to affect
permanently the future course of events in Pales-
tine, and was so conceived by those who took part
in its formulation. It was no mere temperary expe-
dient in view of some pressing and passing problem
of the time. It was a policy for the future intended
to shape that future. In that sense I have always
understood the Declaration and repeatedly de-
• Glared it to be the expression of a permanent policy
to be carried out through the course of the yea

In a statement to a deputation of South African Jews,
in March of 1943, also in Pretoria, relating to the British
White Paper which stymied Jewish immigration to Pales-
tine, General Smuts strongly assailed the detrimental Bri-
tish-Palestine policy. In the course of his statement he
The Jews must have a national home of their
own where they could live out their own life with-
out interference from anyone. This did not mean
that the whole of Jewry would live in Palestine.
There would always be a dispersal since the Jews
were a universal people. Every people must have
its focal point as its homeland.
The Jewish problem was a world problem.
The Jewish problem must be solved not only for the
sake of the Jews, but for our own sakes.

General Smuts had a moment of doubt. On the occasion
of Dr. Chaim Weizmann's 70th birthday the South African
leader despaired a bit. He then stated in his message to Dr.
The greatest Jewish leader before him failed to
enter the Promised Land and died on the moun-
tains of Vision and Disappointment. This is a hard
world, hardest for its greatest sons. But whether
he sees the fulfillment of his vision or not, he him-
self has been a vision and a revelation to all those
who have known him intimately.
He was worthy to be the leader of a great and
just cause, and his figure will not be less, even if
like Moses he does not himself see the full ripe fruit
of his immense labors. His mark is made on time
and will not be washed out. May this anniversary
celebration be a refreshment to him in a very thir-
sty time. All my warm good wishes to a true friend
and a great man.

His faith was soon restored and his Zionist fervor was
re-affirmed in constant advocacy of the Jewish national

This story merits narrating in the process of anticipat-
ing some studies of the South African Jewish conditions.
South African Jewry, numbering some 120,000, is among
the most interesting of world Jewish communities. Jewish
settlement in that land commenced at the beginning of the
century. It was a Lithuanian Jewish migration and it is tra-
ditionally asserted that the South African Jews are Lit-
yaks. Their interest in Israel is immense. Many of the Is-
raeli leaders are South African Jews.
Their future, in view of Apartheid threats, may be
somewhat precarious. Therefore the interest in that com-
munity grows in scope and is especially challenging on a
visit to that fascinating land.

Tots Fill JNF Blue Boxe

Little children, 3-4 years
old, attending United He-
brew School nursery classes
at Temple Emanu-El are
following the tradition of
their parents and grandpar-
Every Friday before the
blessing of the candles, the
children put coins into the
Jewish National Fund Blue
Boxes, following a custom
begun 75 years ago when
the Blue Boxes were insti-
tuted and became the univ-
ersal symbol of land re-
Twice a year the tots par-
ticipate in the clearing of
the Blue Boxes. On Tu
b'Shevat, the nursery school
pupils are bused to the JNF
office to turn in the coins

they have saved and ge
tificates attesting to their
planting of trees through
JNF in Israel.


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