The Weiz­mann year

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - NATAN ARIDAN

GE­ORGE WEI­DEN­FELD once re­marked to me: “While a Zion­ist has a built-in pride of where he be­longs, he doesn’t mind if he doesn’t be­long else­where. A non-Zion­ist feels that doors are locked to him be­cause of his ori­gins.”

He was more than qual­i­fied to pro­nounce on the sub­ject. In 1949, he took a sab­bat­i­cal to work as Chaim Weiz­mann’s chief of cab­i­net.

Al­though he has said that, at the time, he was he was as­ton­ished to get the job, it is ev­i­dent that he took to the role like a duck to wa­ter.

It not only gave Wei­den­feld a closeup view of the birth of Is­rael, but helped him launch him­self as the ul­ti­mate net­worker: along­side Weiz­mann, he got in touch with Moshe Dayan, Abba Eban, Teddy Kol­leck, Chaim Her­zog and Shi­mon Peres. Not only did they be­come life­long friends and con­tacts, they en­abled Wei­den­feld to serve as a high-level me­di­a­tor be­tween the Jewish di­as­pora and the Is­raeli govern­ment through­out the rest of his life.

In ad­di­tion to serv­ing as Weiz­mann’s per­sonal sec­re­tary, in 1953, when Is­rael trans­ferred its Min­istry of For­eign Affairs from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he was ap­pointed “in charge of all pub­lic­ity on Jerusalem” at the Is­raeli Em­bassy in Lon­don.

Wei­den­feld’s pub­li­ca­tions on Is­rael were plen­ti­ful. In ad­di­tion to Prime Min­is­ter Harold Wil­son’s The Char­iot of Is­rael: Bri­tain, Amer­ica, and the State of Is­rael, he pub­lished the mem­oirs of Is­rael’s lead­ers, in­clud­ing David BenGu­rion, Shi­mon Peres, and Abba Eban.

In Golda Meir’s ne­go­ti­a­tions with Wei­den­feld over the pub­li­ca­tion of her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, My Life, she in­sisted that she would not write about her pri­vate life; would not set­tle political scores; and would not take ad­van­tage of the high of­fice she had left.

He made an in­deli­ble con­tri­bu­tion to Is­rael, to Is­raeli in­sti­tu­tions, and es­pe­cially to Ben-Gu­rion Univer­sity of the Negev, which he pro­moted to his high-pow­ered friends and col­leagues.

In es­tab­lish­ing the Wei­den­feld Fel­low­ships at the Middle East Cen­tre at St An­thony’s Col­lege, Ox­ford, he al­lowed Is­raeli schol­ars to col­lab­o­rate with academics who may oth­er­wise have re­mained out of reach. Upon their re­turn to Is­rael, a greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Bri­tish, and An­glo-Jewish, so­ci­ety was passed on to their stu­dents. Dr Natan Aridan is Editor of the Is­rael Stud­ies jour­nal at Ben-Gu­rion Re­search In­sti­tute for the Study of Is­rael and Zion­ism

With Weiz­mann in 1950

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