Jerusalem's 9/11 Memorial sculpture
On November 12 (as reported in a news brief in last week's Week in Review section), the Jewish National Fund USA/Keren Kayemet L'Israel dedicated one of the first major international memorials to victims of the September 11 attacks.
The memorial, which spans four acres of land, is composed of sculpture and landscaped architecture and is the only site outside New York to recognize each name of the more than 2,000 victims who died in the attack
We could've built a much smaller memorial," said JNF CEO Russell Robinson. "But this is a place where ambassadors, presidents and prime ministers from 92 nations who lost people in 9/11 will come to."
Zevi Khanov, the ceremony's master of ceremonies, explained why a memorial of this magnitude was built in Israel for an attack that took place on American soil.
"If any nation on earth, if any city in the world, has endured similar horrors, and can share comparable pain, it is Israel." Khanov said Israel vowed to continue to be a partner with the U.S. in the war on terror.
Portraying the World Trade Center and the attacks on America's freedom, the 30-foot high bronze sculpture was designed by award-winning Israeli artist Eliezer Weishoff, who decided to build the sculpture after witnessing the attacks on television. Consisting of a waving American flag that transforms into a memorial flame, the sculpture rests on a gray-granite base, part of which is from the Twin Towers.
The soaring sculpture, which sits at Jerusalem's entrance in Arazim Park, is visible from nearby roads.
Edward Blank is a New York resident and donor of the American Flag sculpture. "My wife died just a few days before 9/11," said Blank. I was looking for a meritorious way to recognize the many feelings I was having, and this memorial was the perfect fit."
The sculpture is surrounded by a crater-like stone plaza depicting the crash of flight 93 into a Pennsylvania field. The name of each 9/11 victim is etched into steel plaques made from a World Trade Center beam. The plaques are set in the circular wall of the plaza behind the sculpture. The plaza wall depicts the Pentagon. The hills of Jerusalem serve as backdrop for the memorial, which has amphitheater-style seating.
The plaza was funded by the estate of Bronka Stavsky Rabin Weintraub, who was described by her nephew Carmi Schwartz "as a U.S. citizen and a sort of Israeli."
"Bronka, who died two months after 9/11, was just shattered by the events," said Schwartz.
All the bereaved families in the U.S. received an e-mail about the dedication. More than 100 Americans flew to Israel for the ceremony. Family members of victims had a picture of the person they lost pinned to their chest. Approximately 400 people from around the world, including dignitaries from the U.S., Israel and other countries that lost citizens in the attack, attended the dedication ceremony.
Miriam Avraham's eldest daughter, Alona, 30, was on the plane that hit the second tower.
"She was in the U.S. for two weeks on vacation," said Avraham. "Because she was on the plane that hit the second tower, we saw it live on the news. A place like this gives people a place to mourn and remember. It brings us together. For six years, I had nothing to mourn because they never found her. Finally they found a very small bone of Alona's. They sent it to me and we made her a burial place in our hometown of Ashdod."
U.S. Ambassador to Israel James Cunningham, who attended the ceremony said, "Societies that choose life and peace will surely triumph over hate and terror, so let us not forget the victims of some 92 countries and let us remain committed to defeating terror around the world."
Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem on 9/11. Olmert, who was instrumental in getting the 9/11 living memorial vision started soon after the attacks, spoke at the ceremony.
"I will never forget the site of Ground Zero, when I visited the site a few days after the terrible attack," said Olmert. "I am very proud that we chose this magnificent site that will from now on become part of Jerusalem and remind us of these wonderful people. This place will remind us of the sacrifices we had to make and it will be significant if we remember to fight terrorism wherever it will be."
Some attended the ceremony out of curiosity and patriotism.
"It's interesting that there's a memorial in Israel for something that happened in the U.S.," said Autumn Sheridan from Oregon, who is studying in Israel.
Sylvia Dvora Zippor's sister-in-law worked in a building across from the towers.
"When I heard about this I thought I just have to come," said Zippor, 72. A recent immigrant to Israel from Massachusetts, Zippor sent emails to all her friends and family in the U.S. telling them she was representing them at the dedication. Zippor sported a handmade bag of the American flag to the dedication.
"Whenever the day rolls around, I wear this bag and remind people, particularly the younger generation, about what happened," Zippor said.
IDF Brig. General (Ret.) Dov Shefi, who lost his 34-year-old son Chagay in the attacks, spoke on behalf of the victims' families.
Chagay's brother and sister-in-law, Yehudit Tamir, performed a musical number. Overcome by emotion toward the end of the song, Tamir was brought to tears. Other performances included songs by the girls choir of The American School together with members of the IDF. Firefighters and scouts from the Israeli rescue services marched around the plaza carrying flags of various countries who lost citizens in the attacks.
The violin and keyboard played the tune of Al Kol Aileh, as family members, accompanied by Young Judea and ministers from countries who lost citizens on 9/11, laid wreaths by the plaques of names.
Minister Benny Begin represented Israel. Other ambassadors and diplomats accompanying the wreath-layers hailed from Poland, Holland, Germany, Mexico and Canada. Israel Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger and Elias Chacour, archbishop of the Galilee, together laid a wreath for members of all faiths. Avraham and her family laid a wreath in memory of the five Israeli victims, including Alona. The Avraham family placed stickers by Alona's name on the plaque, so they would be able to easily locate her name the next time they visited the memorial.
A moving mourner's prayer was chanted by cantor Asher Hainowitz of Jerusalem's Yeshurun Synagogue. Symbolizing solidarity and unity, the Israeli and American flags were lowered side by side to half-mast, where they remained throughout the ceremony. Two huge shofars were sounded as white doves were released into the sky. The American and Israeli national anthems were sung at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Currently, Arazim Park is difficult to get to because of unpaved roads in the hills. The roads will be fixed and there are plans for walking and biking paths and picnic areas. Construction is set to begin immediately.
The JNF's Robinson hopes visitors to the memorial will take with them the shared values of life.
"This will be a place where you can hear children playing in the trees. Victory against terrorism is to have children laughing and playing."