This week in Israel history

Photo by Amos Ben Gershom, Israeli Government Press OfficePresident Shimon Peres, who in 1996 was the target of protests over the dumping of Ethiopian Israeli blood, visits the Reshit school in Jerusalem in January 2012 in response to more episodes of discrimination toward Ethiopian Jews.

Center for Israel Education (

Jan. 28, 1996 — Dumping of Ethiopian Blood Sparks Riots

About 10,000 Ethiopian Jews demonstrate outside Prime Minister Shimon Peres’ office to protest the government’s decision to accept blood donations from thousands of Ethiopian Israelis, only to throw away the blood for fear of the AIDS virus. The disposal builds on feelings of humiliation and discrimination. When police deploy water cannons and tear gas, the protest turns into a riot, injuring several officers and damaging cars.

Jan. 29, 2005 — Writer Ephraim Kishon Dies

Israeli writer, playwright and filmmaker Ephraim Kishon dies at age 80 in Switzerland. His satirical works often focus on the daily struggles of regular Israelis. His films include “Sallah Shabati” (1964) and “The Policeman” (1971), both of which won the Golden Globe for foreign film, and his books sell more than 40 million copies. A native of Budapest, he escaped from a Sobibor-bound train during World War II and reached Israel in 1949.

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Jan. 30, 1958 — U.S. Commits to Baghdad Pact

During a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles says the United States is committed to the defense of the Baghdad Pact nations: the Muslim-majority states of Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey, plus the United Kingdom. Dulles’ statement is seen as an extension of the Eisenhower Doctrine, under which any Middle Eastern country threatened by a Communist regime can seek U.S. economic aid.

Jan. 31, 1922 — Hebrew ‘Dybbuk’ Opens in Moscow

The Hebrew version of “The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds” begins its successful stage run at Moscow’s Habimah Theater. Written in Russian and then Yiddish by S. Ansky and translated into Hebrew by Hayim Nachman Bialik, the play tells the story of a young woman (played by Hanna Rovina) who is possessed by the malicious spirit of a man who loved her but died upon hearing of her engagement to another.

Feb. 1, 1885 — Novelist Peretz Smolenskin Dies

Novelist and Hebrew editor Peretz Smolenskin dies of tuberculosis at age 43. Born in Russia in 1842, he began his writing career while teaching Hebrew in Odessa at age 22, then moved to Vienna to lead the Hebrew department of a large press and founded the journal HaShachar (The Dawn). He rejected assimilation and became a strong advocate for Jewish immigration to Palestine after the wave of Russian pogroms in the early 1880s. 

Feb. 2, 1915 — Diplomat Abba Eban Born

Israeli politician, diplomat and historian Abba Eban is born Aubrey Eban in South Africa. After moving to England as an infant, he makes aliyah in 1944 and, as part of the Jewish Agency’s delegation to the United Nations, plays a crucial role in the U.N. passage of its partition plan for Palestine. He serves as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations and the United States, a member of the Knesset, and the foreign minister.

Feb. 3, 1980 — Actress Hanna Rovina Dies

Hanna Rovina, eulogized as “the high priestess of the Hebrew theater,” dies in Ra’anana at age 91. Born near Minsk in 1888, she gave up teaching Hebrew in Warsaw so she could made her stage debut in Moscow in 1918 with a new Hebrew company that became Israel’s national theater, Habimah. She starred as Leah in the premiere of “The Dybbuk” in 1922 and returned to the role for every Habimah revival of the play until 1957.

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