By Ben Tinsley
TJP Staff Reporter
DALLAS — Lillian Pinkus and George W. Bush made for a fascinating double feature during Monday’s Israel Bonds King David Award Dinner at the Omni Dallas Hotel.
The event spotlighted Pinkus, pro-Israel advocate and enthusiastic president-elect of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, for her service to Israel. Former President Bush, staunch supporter of the state of Israel, was there as featured speaker.
The event ultimately helped sell $60 million in bonds for Israel projects, programs and improvements.
It is believed to be the largest Bonds event since an inaugural event at Madison Square Garden in 1951 — attracting as many as 1,500 people — children, teenagers an adults.
The program began with powerful renditions of the national anthems of America and Israel by students of Booker T. Washington High School.
Texas Leadership Cabinet Chair Kenny Goldberg and National Board Member Jason Schwartz greeted the audience and officially began the event.
There also was a videotaped presentation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who delivered a tribute to Israel Bonds and commended the impact the bonds have on Israel’s economy.
Jaime Karakowsky, 26, from Monterrey, Mexico, spoke with the crowd about how he perceives Israel bonds as a way of promoting and strengthening the ability of the state of Israel to help the world Jewish community.
Karakowsky said the Monterrey Jewish community from which he comes is very close-knit — about 500 people. But in recent years people haven’t felt as secure there, so many have moved to Israel. Karakowsky said he developed his feelings for Israel as a result of this tight-knit community and because of time he spent at Camp Young Judaea, a Zionist summer camp in Wimberley, Texas.
There, Karakowsky met young people from around the world, which he said opened his eyes to the world of Judaism beyond his small community.
Bonds Chairman of the Board Richard Hirsch and President and CEO Izzy Tapoohi were on hand to present the King David Award to Pinkus.
Pinkus is the child of two Holocaust survivors and the first of several Dallas-Fort Worth residents to be named to the national board of AIPAC. She holds a B.A. from Brandeis and an M.Ed. from Harvard.
Desire for safe homeland
During her comments she spoke of family, unity, and the of keeping Israel a safe homeland.
“Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people,” she said. “It is a holy land for many great faiths.”
She said the Jewish people belong in Israel forever and their presence there is not “reparations for the Holocaust.”
Pinkus briefly touched on the subject of the current U.S. negotiations that could limit Iran nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of political and economic sanctions — a move some fear could lead to a Middle East nuclear standoff.
She said AIPAC will continue, unequivocally, to foster the relationship between the United States and Israel.
Pinkus will begin her term as AIPAC president in March 2016. Her voice, meanwhile, has reached a lot of people — many of whom have gone on to support the state of Israel by purchasing debt securities from its government.
As far as Israel bonds are concerned, Pinkus said investing in the security of Israel is an investment in a “country with a soul.”
President Bush was up-close, candid, warm and incredibly funny. Because of his administration’s close relationship with Israel, he was very warmly received at the event.
During his remarks, President Bush spoke about his first visit to Israel, referring to it as one of his most meaningful experiences.
The president (who served the country from 2001 to 2009), recalled a 1998 visit to Israel — while he was still governor of Texas — during which he took a helicopter ride with then-Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon.
Looking straight down at Israel from the helicopter, Bush was astonished at how small and vulnerable the country seemed to him.
And after the 9/11 terror attacks, Bush said, he completely understood what it was like for Israel to be attacked.
That understanding strengthened his resolve to remain an ally of Israel — and to take on a certain responsibility for the country’s survival, Bush told the audience of 1,500 Monday night.
“There is no doubt about the relationship between Israel and the United States,” Bush said.
The former president said when it comes to the foreign policies of the U.S. and Israel, “there is no daylight.”
President Bush’s presentation wasn’t as much a keynote address as it was simply a candid public conversation with an old friend. Houstonian Fred S. Zeidman, former national chair of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum — the person who actually helped recruit the former president to speak at Monday’s event — interviewed him onstage. Zeidman is Israel Bonds’ national chair.
Bush commended Pinkus for her service to Israel and added to her point about Iran — that he believes Iran remains a threat to the U.S. and the entire Middle East.