Jerusalem Rotary Club History, Page 2
During the Second World War, the Club continued to meet regularly and continued to include British, Jewish and Arab members. In 1944 Lars Lind of the Jerusalem Club was elected District Governor, the only member of a club in Palestine so honored during the British Mandate. The Club sustained a membership of nearly 60 Rotarians throughout the war years. Elie Eliashar, who was Club President in 1946-47, recalled this period:
"Jerusalem was geographically one City uniting Old and New, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims everywhere. The rule was British but political strife was ripe. The more sacred the interests, the more difficult it was to find common ground for meetings and understanding.
"Such a center was the Rotary Club which gathered round the President's Rotary Bell, Britishers in high government employ, members of the Consular Corps, Moslems and Christian Arabs and Jews. Disturbances and riots did not prevent Rotarians from meeting under most difficult conditions. Once around the tables at the King David Hotel or at the YMCA, all differences were set aside. Collaboration was intimate and friendly for the good of Jerusalem and in matters of social welfare, the club often serving as a moderator of public opinion."
In May 1948 the British Mandate ended; Israel proclaimed independence; the British went home; seven Arab armies invaded the new-born State and the Arab Rotarians no longer came to meetings. Hoping that armistice would be followed by peace and a rapid return to normality, the club kept its absent Arab members on the Membership Roll, listed them as “on leave” on the attendance lists and paid their dues to Rotary International. But it was not to be.
By 1950 it was clear that contact with other clubs in the 89th District (Egypt, Sudan, Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria) was impossible, so Rotary International granted autonomy to the three Israeli clubs in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv-Yafo.
Within two years, the membership of the club had increased to 72 and new clubs were being established elsewhere in Israel. In 1954 the Rotary Club of the Jerusalem celebrated its 25th Anniversary and a few months later joined in the world-wide celebration of Rotary International’s Jubilee.
The Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett
speaks at the Club 25th Jubilee dinner 1954
The club continued to meet every Wednesday. A new president and a new Board took over each July; committees were re-staffed; worthy causes were identified and taken up, mostly on behalf of the citizens of Jerusalem; in short, it was business as usual.
And then, it was June, 1967, and the Six Day War and Jerusalem was one city again. 19 years after the Jerusalem club was established, the city was divided, and two half cities led a gray and gloomy existence, separated by armed guards on both sides and baffle walls to protect the citizenry from hostile snipers.
And 19 more years elapsed and it came to pass that, in a few hours, the city was made whole again, and flourished and put forth flowers, and grew and became the most populated city in all Israel. And through all these changes and dangers and disasters, the seed of Rotary planted in the city in 1929, grew into a sapling, and then into a sturdy tree, whose leafy foliage shelters tolerance and understanding, and universal brotherhood.
Hosting Prince & Princess
Purachhatra of Thailand, 1964
When the Jerusalem club was established, its meetings were conducted in English; they still are. This is not only a nod to tradition. New members from abroad are drawn to the club partly because of their lack of proficiency in Hebrew. As a result, international civil servants, diplomats and representatives of different religions find a home at Wednesday lunch meetings at the "Y". Visiting Rotarians, visiting academics and conference participants also find their way to the club’s table, knowing that the guest speaker will also address the gathering in English.
The international make-up of the Jerusalem Rotary Club and its guests, enables the club to identify partners for joint ventures in much needed social projects. American Canadian, Dutch, German, French, Italian and Swedish Rotary Clubs have participated in a variety of such projects during the past decades, benefitting institutions that provide medical equipment to the needy, integrated education to the handicapped, and support for Israel-Arab understanding and cooperation.
Help to the community is a central theme in the activities of the Jerusalem club, and nothing illustrates this more effectively than the thirty years of non-stop scholarships for needy secondary school students in Jerusalem, provided through the club's Jerusalem Rotary Foundation.