I Am Cyrus: A Friendship that Changed the World
by Dr. Craig von Buseck
There have been friendships in history that literally changed the world. One such relationship made an impact just after the Jews of the world lost 6 million of their brothers and sisters during World War II.
In 1947, the British announced they were turning over the contentious question of Palestine to the United Nations. In November of that year, the U.N. voted to partition the land, giving roughly half of western Palestine to the Jews and half to the Arabs.
The Jews accepted the vote of the U.N. and prepared to become a nation after nearly 2,000 years of exile. The Arabs rejected the plan and vowed to destroy the infant Jewish nation at birth. The British threw up their hands and told the world they were laying down the Mandate and withdrawing from Palestine in the coming months.
U.S. President, Harry S. Truman, had to decide where America would stand on Jewish statehood in their ancient homeland.
Nearly all his advisors urged him not to recognize the fledgling Jewish State. Just two days before the end of the British Mandate, Secretary of State George C. Marshall—architect of “The Marshall Plan,” the man Truman called “the greatest man of World War II”—nearly resigned over his opposition. He argued that America faced a possible war with the Soviet Union and it needed to maintain good relations with the Arabs to maintain the flow of oil.
Truman was conflicted. As President he had to base his decisions on what was in the best interest of the United States. He was also greatly concerned about the 1.5 million Jews still in concentration camps who had survived Hitler’s Holocaust.
At the same time, Truman had been hounded by American Jews, Arabs, politicians, and lobbyists to the point where he closed the doors of the White House to anyone wanting to discuss the issue. The Zionist leaders were in a panic. No one knew what Truman’s decision would be and the British withdrawal was fast approaching. The Zionist’s knew they would need American support if their new nation was to survive.
In desperation, Zionist leaders called Truman’s former business partner and dear friend, Eddie Jacobson, who also happened to be Jewish. The Zionists asked Eddie to convince Truman to meet with the legendary Jewish leader, Chaim Weizmann—the man who convinced the British to promise a homeland to the Jews in the Balfour Declaration.
Eddie entered the White House unannounced—but the president refused to talk to him about the subject of Palestine. “I suddenly found myself thinking that my dear friend, the President of the United States, was at that moment as close to being an anti-Semite as a man could possibly be,” Eddie would later write.
Then Eddie noticed a model of a statue of Andrew Jackson on the president’s desk.
“Harry, all your life you have had a hero … Andrew Jackson. Well, I too have a hero, a man I never met, but who is, I think, the greatest Jew who ever lived. …I am talking about Chaim Weizmann … he travelled thousands of miles just to see you and plead the cause of my people. Now you refuse to see him because you were insulted by some of our American Jewish leaders, even though you know that Weizmann had absolutely nothing to do with these insults and would be the last man to be a party to them.”
“It doesn’t sound like you, Harry … I thought that you could take this stuff … I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t know that, if you will see him, you will be properly and accurately informed on the situation that exists in Palestine, and yet you refuse to see him.”
As he finished, Eddie noticed the President drumming on his desk with his fingers. Harry abruptly turned around in his swivel chair and gazed out the window. Eddie held his breath.
Suddenly Truman swiveled himself around again. “You win, you baldheaded so-and-so. I will see him.”
Truman met with Weizmann, a man he respected deeply. That meeting was the tipping point, confirming much of what Harry believed regarding the future of the State of Israel.
In May of 1948, as the British pulled out of Palestine and five Arab nations sat on the border, ready to invade, David Ben-Gurion, the leader of the Jews in Palestine, stood in Tel Aviv and declared the establishment of the State of Israel.
Eleven minutes after Israel officially became a nation that night at midnight on May 15, 1948, President Harry S. Truman directed the United States representative in the United Nations to give de facto recognition to the State of Israel. With this act, the U.S. became the first nation to recognize the new Jewish State.
The following year, Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Isaac Halevi Herzog, met with the president in the White House. He assured Truman that “he had been given the task once fulfilled by the mighty king of Persia, and that he too, like Cyrus, would occupy a place of honor in the annals of the Jewish people.”
Soon after leaving the White House in 1953, Truman was invited to speak at the Hebrew Theological Seminary in New York City. When he was introduced by his friend, Eddie Jacobson, as the leader who helped create the State of Israel, Truman snapped, “What do you mean ‘helped create’? I am Cyrus!”
Read the story of President Harry Truman and the Zionist Movement in I Am Cyrus: Harry S. Truman and the Rebirth of Israel, by Dr. Craig von Buseck.
Craig von Buseck is the Editor of Digital Content for Inspiration.org, the website of Inspiration Ministries in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is an author and a popular speaker. Find more from Craig at vonbuseck.com.
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