This week in Israeli history: Dec. 15-21

DEC. 17: Henry Kissinger, meeting with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in September 1975, later that year spoke of an Israel much smaller than the country that emerged from the 1967 war. Photo: Israeli Government Press Office

Center for Israel Education,

Dec. 15, 1999 — U.S. Fund Buys Stake in Israeli Water

San Francisco-based venture fund Aqua International Partners buys a 25% stake in Israeli bottled water company Mayanot Eden (Eden Springs) for $47.5 million, financing the company’s expansion into the European market. Eden Springs becomes Europe’s leading provider of water in the workplace. The company sells its Israeli and European operations to New York-based Rhone Capital for almost $95 million in 2013.

Dec. 16, 1922 — Hebrew Advocate Ben-Yehuda Dies

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, credited with advancing modern Hebrew, dies of tuberculosis at 64 in Jerusalem. His article “A Burning Question” in 1879 called for a spiritual center in the Land of Israel as the territorial anchor of Jewish nationalism. He and his wife made aliyah in 1881 and spoke only Hebrew to their children at home. He founded the Va’ad ha-Lashon, the forerunner of the Academy of Hebrew Language, and was working on a Hebrew dictionary when he died.

Dec. 17, 1975 — Kissinger Discusses Israel With Iraqi Envoy

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger meets with Iraqi Foreign Minister Saddun Hammadi in Paris and tells him that although the United States will not negotiate over Israel’s existence, it is willing to see Israel “reduce its size to historical proportions.” The vision of Israel as small and nonthreatening like Lebanon may have been U.S. policy, Kissinger’s view or simply an effort to tell Hammadi what he wanted to hear.

Dec. 18, 1911 — Health Care Fund Is Created

At the urging of Berl Katznelson, a special convention of Jewish agricultural workers in Ottoman Palestine approves a proposal to create Kupat Holim Clalit (General Sick Fund) to handle the health care needs of immigrants to the Land of Israel. The Histadrut labor federation takes over the fund in 1920. Its modern successor, Clalit Health Services, covers the health care for 60% of Israelis.


Dec. 19, 1903 — Nordau Survives Assassination Attempt

Max Nordau, who founded the World Zionist Organization with Theodor Herzl, escapes unharmed when two shots are fired at him at close range during a Chanukah party in Paris. The would-be assassin, Russian student Chaim Zelig Luban, 27, is angry at Nordau’s support for the Uganda Plan, which would establish a temporary Jewish homeland in East Africa. Luban is found to be mentally ill and is not prosecuted.

Dec. 20, 1936 — Toscanini Arrives in Palestine

New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra conductor Arturo Toscanini, considered one of the virtuoso conductors of the 20th century, arrives at the airport in Lod to conduct the opening performance of the Palestine Philharmonic six days later before a sold-out crowd of 3,000 people. Toscanini, a prominent critic of fascism and the Nazis, provides instant credibility for the orchestra and helps attract musicians.

Dec. 21, 1973 — Peace Conference Is Held in Geneva

A Middle East peace conference opens in Geneva under the auspices of the United States and the Soviet Union, although U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger keeps the Soviets in the dark about progress made by Israel and Egypt toward their 1974 Disengagement Agreement. Syria skips the conference because Israel refuses to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization as the Palestinians’ representative. The conference ends Dec. 29.

Items are provided by the Center for Israel Education (, where you can find more details.