Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jewish New Year Greeting Exchanges From Presidents Carter and Reagan and Israeli Prime Minister Begin

Rosh Hashana is already behind us, but it's not too late to recall some interesting New Year greetings held in the Archives. On the eve of the Jewish New Year (usually falling in September), leaders of countries friendly to Israel traditionally send a greeting to the President and Prime Minister of Israel and the leaders of Israel reply in kind.

Prime Minister Menahem Begin (1977-1983) served concurrently with President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) and President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) and received such greetings from them. Here we present the exchange of greetings for the coming of the Jewish year 5740 (September 1979) and 5743 (September 1982). These letters were sent as electronic telegrams to the American Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC, and then printed and sent to the recipients. Therefore they are not signed in pen.

The greeting of Carter to Begin on September 21, 1979 (file A-4348/6) was written a few months after the signing of the Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt (with Carter as a witness) on March 26. Begin answered Carter on September 25, 1979. He emphasized his hope to strengthen peace between Israel and the Arabs and friendship between Israel and the USA.
Carter and Begin conversing in the White House Garden, March 2, 1979.
Photographer: David Rubinger, National Photo Collection
On September 16, 1982 President Reagan sent a greeting to Begin (file A4348/12). It was sent after the outbreak of the Lebanon War (June 6, 1982) and after the "Reagan Plan" (August 31, 1982) which Begin had immediately rejected because it might weaken Israel's standing in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Begin answered Reagan on September 20, 1982. In a laconic letter he expressed his wish to attain peace, security and liberty in the world. The two first issues were Israel's interests while the last hinted at Reagan's preaching against the "Evil Empire" – the Soviet Union.
Reagan and Begin at the White House, September 9.
Photographer: Ya'acov Sa'ar, National Photo Collection
These documents were collected during preparation of a commemorative book about Menahem Begin which will be published by the Israel State Archives in 2013.

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