A bronze bust of wartime British prime minister Winston Churchill was unveiled in Jerusalem on Sunday at a ceremony marking the 95th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which he supported, and the 91st anniversary of his first visit to the city.
The ceremony was attended by the World War II leader’s grandson, Randolph Churchill, British Ambassador Matthew Gould and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
Barkat praised Churchill for his support of the establishment of a Jewish state and said that Israel’s ethos was captured in a quote by Churchill himself: “If you have enemies, good; it means that you have stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
“It means a huge amount to our family,” Randolph Churchill said at the ceremony, in the Mishkenot Sha’ananim neighborhood opposite the walls of the Old City.
Churchill visited Jerusalem in 1921 in his capacity as colonial secretary.
The larger-than-life monument, commissioned by the Jerusalem Foundation, is cast from an original mold by Oscar Nemon, whose Churchill statues are world-renowned.
“These times call for a leader who can be as tough and as bold as Winston Churchill and who can deal with the threats from the East,” said MK Isaac Herzog (Labor), who was also present at the ceremony.
Gould said he hoped the bust would “correct a small historic injustice.”
“My feeling is that in Israel he’s not honored enough; his story is not told enough,” the ambassador said.
Churchill’s relationship with the Jews during the early part of the 20th century is generally regarded as immensely positive, though aspects of it are debated to this day. While vehemently supporting the establishment of a Jewish state and leading the Allied effort to defeat the Nazis, Churchill has been criticized for not ordering the bombing of concentration camps in an attempt to save lives.
His biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert, wrote in his 2007 book “Churchill and the Jews” that, “While never an uncritical supporter of Zionism, he was one of its most persistent friends and advocates. In a world where Jews were often the objects of scorn, dislike, distrust and hostility, Churchill held them in high esteem, and wanted them to have their rightful place in the world. At a time when he was criticizing Jewish terrorist acts against the British in Palestine, he told a Jewish friend who was uneasy about his criticisms: ‘The Jewish people know well enough that I am their friend.'”