Alon Ben-Gurion informed and entertained about 80 people gathered to honor Martin H. Belsky for his commitment to Israel Bonds Sept. 15 at Akron’s Shaw Jewish Community Center.
Ben-Gurion mixed personal recollections with historical accounts of the role his grandfather, David Ben-Gurion, played in the founding and building of Israel.
He spoke of how, when Israel’s first prime minister arrived in New York in 1951 to launch Israel Bonds, The New York Times printed a speech written by Abba Eban rather than Ben-Gurion’s remarks. The newspaper, Alon Ben-Gurion said, apologized.
He told of his grandfather’s 30-minute monologue to him, when he was 12 years old, about why Hannibal was a great military leader.
He spoke of the founding of Israel and of how David Ben-Gurion signed a blank page on the night when Israel was declared a state.
“It was very important for him that there be consensus,” Alon Ben-Gurion said of his grandfather. At the time, there was disagreement among a secularist and a rabbi about whether the word G-d should be in the declaration. Ultimately, the wording, “The rock of Israel and its redeemer,” was adopted as a compromise.
“Ben-Gurion did not have a sense of humor so much,” said his grandson, who worked in the hospitality business in Israel, the U.S. and Europe in his career.
He spoke, too, of Ben-Gurion’s spontaneous decision in 1954 to retire to the Negev.
“He was so excited he was going, he didn’t (take) time to tell the Knesset,” Alon Ben-Gurion said. Months later, Ben-Gurion returned to office and continued to serve until 1963.
“Ben-Gurion does not belong to the Ben-Gurion family,” Alon Ben-Gurion said. “Ben-Gurion belongs to the Jewish people.”
He said his grandfather liked to read books in the language they were written, and learned Spanish to read “Don Quixote.”
“How many people learn a language to read a book?” he asked. “He had a phenomenal memory.”
The speaker, who lives in New York and Tel Aviv, spoke of the ties to the land of Israel in the Torah. Jerusalem, he said, is mentioned 632 times.
“Israel,” he said, “belongs to you as much as it belongs to me.”
Thomas Lockshin, executive director of Ohio and Kentucky for Development Corporation of Israel/Israel Bonds, congratulated the honoree.
“Marty Belsky to me is a humble man,” Lockshin said. “He didn’t seek out honor or recognition. He agreed to be honored because he believes in supporting Israel through Israel Bonds.”
“If we really want to honor Marty,” he said, “what we’re looking for is your investment in Israel Bonds.”
He also screened a video that showed how Israel Bonds contribute to the State of Israel.
“Not only is he brilliant but he’s so involved in the legal community, the Jewish community and the greater community that he doesn’t have time to talk slowly,” said Julie Katz, who was an honorary chair of the event. “Marty lives by the statement in the Torah, ‘Justice, justice shall you pursue.’”
She presented him with a plaque with the inscription that read in part, “For devoted leadership in the spirit of David Ben-Gurion…”
Belsky said he first learned of Israel Bonds from Edward G. Robinson, who gave a talk about the importance of investment that Belsky recalled from 1953.
“His comment was, ‘One day Israel will survive independent of money from the United States, independent of assistance from American Jews, but Israel investment should continue no matter what.’ And that’s why we’re here. We are investing in Israel’s future. We are investing in the infrastructure of Israel. Whatever your politics, and I’ve had many discussions with many of you about politics, whatever your politics, you’re not investing in a partisan cause. You’re investing in the success of the State of Israel, the survival of the economic entity, its ability to help do things for others.”
Belsky, a law professor and former dean at the University of Akron and a member of the 2016 class of the CJN's 18 Difference Makers, said he’s committed to remaining in Akron, where he relocated just four years ago.
“My kids are here now,” Belsky said.