Commemoration of Stephen Theodore Norman

Commemoration of Stephen Theodore Norman

Washington, DC 12-03-07 / 23 Kislev 5768

Mr. Ambassador, Rabbi Wohlberg, distinguished Rabbis, Cantors, Jewish educators, invited guests, fellow Zionists, ladies and gentlemen, Shalom. I am Bill Hess, President of the American Zionist Movement, representing the World Zionist Organization in the United States. I bring greetings from Mr. Ze’ev Bielsky, Chair of the Zionist Executive and the Jewish Agency Executive and Mr. Chagai Meirom Treasurer of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency for Israel on this most moving and auspicious day for the Zionist movement.

The Ingathering of the Exiles is a expressed desire for Israel and the Jewish people as old as the formulation of the thrice daily repeated Amidah prayer which states in explicit terms: “Blessed is the One who gathers in the dispersed of the People Israel.”

Today we honor Theodor Herzl’s only grandchild and his only descendent to have visited Palestine and embrace the Zionist movement. As were my own grandparents when they visited Palestine from America in the late 1930’s, Stephen Norman was stunned at the contrast between the Jews he saw there, tanned, in charge of their lives and seemingly their destinies, and the beleaguered Jewish communities he knew in Europe.

“I want to sleep with my family, with my people, in my own land, a land who wants me.” Those are words attributed to Stephen Theodore Norman.

Aliyah, ascending to Israel and Jerusalem, is the highest ideal of the Zionist movement.

Stephen Theodore Norman, the Zionist movement is calling you to the shelter of your homeland today according to your stated wishes. We are bringing you back home; we now call it Israel and we are 60 years into our enterprise in statehood. Your people are no longer homeless. We live freely in own country and settle own affairs according to our own laws and statues. Today, the majority of the Jewish people has settled in and on the land. Most Israelis speak Hebrew, the language the Zionists revived after millennia of limited use.
In this year, 5767, 2007 we celebrate 110 years of the Zionist movement founded by your grandfather, 60 years of statehood for Israel and 40 years since Jerusalem was united as our capital. Yes it has been difficult. No, the world does not necessarily want us there; but we intend to remain there with you, your illustrious grandfather and the rest of your family forever.

Stephen, you would probably not recognize the place where your remains are now bound. Many of the dreams of your Grandfather, Theodor Binyamin Ze’ev Herzl have been fulfilled. The Zionist Movement, with the support and assistance from Jews around the world through the Jewish Agency for Israel, continues to dream dreams for the future of Israel and Israel continues to outpace our most daring dreams. Around Tel Aviv, the first “Jewish city” is the center of international “high tech” industrial development. Israel is revolutionizing water usage. The Dead Sea has yielded chemical riches beyond our imaginations. There are more Yeshivot and students learning in them than ever were in pre-war Europe or in the Oriental countries. Indeed, in this season of miracles, a miracle has been wrought in the traditional homeland of the Jewish people. Although a total miracle given our history, it is not a complete miracle, not yet. Today, as you begin your journey home we are one small step closer to completing it.

Hundreds already visit your Grandfather’s resting place atop Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem each month; more will come visit you too. The visitors are treated to a most impressive media presentation of the life and obstacles faced by Theodor Herzl in the museum on Mt Herzl. In this and many other ways, the Zionist movement keeps alive the extraordinary vision of its founder.

The Zionist movement owes a special vote of thanks to Jerry Klinger for his patience, persistence, insistence and vision in realizing this repatriation. Kol ha Kavod to you. We re-commit ourselves today with this ceremony to the highest values of the Zionist movement whose every action echoes the dreams and retells the accomplishments of Theodor Herzl and the grandson who so proudly adopted his name and his movement.

Giving voice to those who cannot speak for themselves is another fundamental Zionist belief. As we engage in an act of mercy and chesed, and as we stand in a sacred moment and space, may our actions here today remind the world again of the Zionist spirit that makes Israel possible and of our insistence on the repatriation of Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev and all IDF Soldiers, as soon as possible. As Zionists we must not be silent.

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