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September 26, 2003 - Image 39

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-09-26

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This Week

now to make sure you
receive your free copy
of the 2003-2004

Ex-Israeli Diplomat
Simcha Dinitz Dies


Jewish Telegraphic Agency

New York
imcha Dinitz, Israel's ambassa-
dor top the United States dur-
ing the Yom Kippur War in
1973, died Sept. 23, 2003. He
was 74.
U.S. Secretary of State Henry
Kissinger says that Dinitz's efforts during
that time have yet to be sufficiently rec-
ognized. "He was a superb representative
of his country, whose role in saving his
country in the 1973 war has never been
adequately appreciated," Kissinger said.
Dinitz died of a heart attack at his
Jerusalem home. His death
sparked an outpouring of grief
from friends and former col-
leagues, who paid tribute to
the Zionist leader from the
generation of Golda Meir and
Yitzhak Rabin.
Dinitz was "Mr. Diplomat,"
said longtime aide and friend
Zvi Rafiah. "I believe he was
the best ambassador Israel ever
Dinitz's career of nearly 40
years in public service grew
out of classical Labor Zionist roots. He
was born in 1929 in Tel Aviv and
attended the Herzliya Hebrew
Gymnasium Secondary School before
joining the Jewish underground militia,
the Haganah, which gave birth to the
Israel Defense Forces.
He fought with the fledgling IDF in
Israel's 1948 War of Independence, then
studied political science at the University
of Cincinnati. He went on to earn a
master's degree in international law from
Georgetown University in 1957.
Dinitz got his start at the information
department in Jerusalem of the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs before heading the
office of the ministry's director-general.
In 1966, Dinitz was named Israeli
envoy to Rome, and in 1968 he became
information minister at the Israeli
' in Washington.
In March 1973, Dinitz was named
Israel's top envoy to Washington.
During this era, Congress began approv-
ing major annual foreign aid packages to
Israel, which since have reached $3 bil-
lion a year.
Upon returning to Israel, Dinitz


became vice president of Hebrew
University, and in 1984 he was elected
to the Knesset from the Labor Party.
In 1988, Dinitz was elected to head
the Jewish Agency for Israel and the
World Zionist Organization. After the
Soviet Union crumbled and Jews could
leave, it fell to the Jewish Agency to
work out the massive plan of getting
them to Israel, which became known as
Operation Exodus.
By 1990, a "massive flow" of immi-
gration from the FSU had begun, one
that would bring more than 1 million
Jews to Israel over the next decade.
Bernice Tannenbaum, who chaired the
World Zionist Organization's American
section at the time and is a
former president of
Hadassah, credited Dinitz
with motivating the agency
to embark on the major FSU
"He involved people to a
greater extent in the work-
ings of the agency, and they
worked toward a goal," she
In another major change,
Dinitz shifted the way immi-
grants were absorbed into
Israel, moving them directly
into housing rather than placing them
in absorption centers.
Dinitz also headed Operation
Solomon, which airlifted 14,000
Ethiopian Jews to Israel in a single day
in May 1991.
But Dinitz's distinguished public
career came to an abrupt end in 1994,
when he was charged with credit card
fraud while heading the Jewish Agency.
A 1996 conviction was overturned in
1998 by Israel's Supreme Court, but the
incident left a permanent mark on
Dinitz, who remained troubled about
the affair.
"He carried out his mission with intel-
ligence, indefatigable energy and con-
stant good humor," Kissinger said. "I
trusted him even when we had occasion-
al disagreements, and I considered him a
close, personal friend."
Dinitz leaves his wife, Vivian; their
children Michael, Na'ama and Tamar;
and eight grandchildren. He lay in state
on Wednesday in Jerusalem and was
buried on Mount Herzl in an area set
aside for Israel's leaders. ❑


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