This week in Israeli history: Aug.12-18

AUG. 17: Theodor Herzl’s casket is in place for his state funeral at what is now Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on Aug. 17, 1949. Photo by David Eldan, National Photo Collection of Israel


August 12, 1991 — Nasser Friend Yeruham Cohen Dies

Yeruham Cohen, known for befriending Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, dies at 75. Born into a Yemeni family in Tel Aviv, Cohen was fluent in Arabic. He was an intelligence aide to Gen. Yigal Allon, and when Allon negotiated a truce with a surrounded Egyptian army in the Negev in 1948, Cohen became friendly with Nasser, an aide to the Egyptian commander. They supposedly kept in contact for years.

August 13, 1942 — Composer Nurit Hirsch Is Born

Nurit Hirsch, a musician and composer, is born in Tel Aviv. From a young age, she plays piano at a theater, a ballet studio and a quartet club. She begins to compose after her military service. Her songs are first recorded in 1965 by the Sarid Trio and Gesher ha-Yarkon Trio. With Ehud Manor’s lyrics, she writes Israel’s first Eurovision-winning song, “A-Ba-Ni-Bi,” performed by Izhar Cohen and the Alphabeta in 1978.

August 14, 1910 — Writer Nathan Alterman Is Born

Nathan Alterman, a poet, journalist, translator, author and playwright, is born in Warsaw. He moves to Tel Aviv with his family in 1925. He publishes his first book of poetry, “Stars Outside,” in 1938. His second book, “The Joy of the Poor” in 1941, is considered his masterpiece. One of his poems, “The Silver Platter,” is a standard for reading on Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day.

August 15, 1096 — First Crusaders Set Out for Holy Land

The armies of the First Crusade officially embark from Western Europe on their quest to capture the Holy Land, especially Jerusalem, from Muslims. Pope Urban II called for the crusade Nov. 27, 1095. The resulting religious fervor spawns pogroms in Europe, and peasants slaughter Jews across the Rhineland. The crusaders capture and pillage Jerusalem on July 15, 1099, massacring Muslims and compelling Jewish allegiance.

August 16, 2015 — Physicist Jacob Bekenstein Dies

Physicist Jacob Bekenstein, who advanced efforts to create a theory of quantum gravity, dies of a heart attack at age 68 in Helsinki, Finland. Born in Mexico and educated in the United States, he joined the faculty of Ben-Gurion University in 1974. He theorized that black holes emit radiation, a finding Stephen Hawking rejected, then confirmed. That radiation is known as Bekenstein-Hawking radiation.

August 17, 1949 — Herzl’s Body Is Reburied in Israel

The body of Theodor Herzl, buried in Vienna in 1904, is reburied with those of his wife and parents on the Jerusalem hill that now bears his name. Herzl, who organized the First Zionist Congress in 1897, asked in his will to be reinterred in the Land of Israel once the Jewish people had control there. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion calls the state funeral “the triumph of a vision that became a reality.”

August 18, 1994 — Intellectual Yeshayahu Leibowitz Dies

Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a controversial Jewish thinker and Israeli public intellectual, dies in his sleep at age 91 in Jerusalem. A native of Latvia, he taught biochemistry, neurophysiology and philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for almost six decades. He advocated the separation of religion and state, arguing that the state corrupted religion, and he denied that Zionism had a religious element.

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