This week in Israeli history: Feb. 10-16

Feb. 11: Natan Sharansky has his wife, Avital, by his side after his arrival in Israel on Feb. 11, 1986. By Nati Harnik, Israeli Government Press Office


Feb. 10, 1913 — Air Force Builder Charles Winters Is Born

Charles Winters, who helps Israel build its first air force, is born in Brookline, Massachusetts. Winters, who is not Jewish, works as a government purchasing agent during World War II and runs an air transport service in the Caribbean after the war. Recruited to help obtain surplus U.S. military aircraft for secret shipment to Israel, Winters purchases and helps deliver three B-17s, Israel’s only heavy bombers in the War of Independence.

Feb. 11, 1986 — Sharansky Reaches Israel

After eight years in a Siberian labor camp, internationally known Jewish refusenik Anatoly Shcharansky is released to American custody in Berlin by the Soviet Union and flies to Israel, where he arrives under his newly adopted Hebrew name, Natan Sharansky. He first tried to make aliyah in 1973 and was arrested in 1977 on charges of treason and espionage. His wife, Avital, led a tireless campaign for his freedom.

Feb. 12, 1994 — Israel Has First Winter Olympian

The Winter Olympics open with an Israeli team for the first time, consisting entirely of figure skater Michael “Misha” Shmerkin, who competes in Lillehammer, Norway, on Feb. 17 and 19 and finishes 16th. Shmerkin, 24, is a native of the Soviet Union who immigrated to Israel with his family in 1991. When he arrived, Israel had only four ice skating rinks, none of which was the size of an Olympic rink.

Feb. 13, 1931 — British PM Rejects White Paper

British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald sends a letter to Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann in which MacDonald disavows the threats to Zionism posed by the Passfield White Paper. The policy proposal, issued in October 1930, raises the possibility of restrictions on Jewish immigration and land purchases in Palestine. MacDonald’s letter reassures Zionists and angers Palestinian Arabs. The British institute such restrictions in 1939.

Feb. 14, 1896 — Herzl Publishes ‘Jewish State’

Theodor Herzl’s “Der Judenstaat” (“The Jewish State”) is first published in Vienna with a print run of 500 copies. French and English translations soon follow. With the subtitle “An Attempt at a Modern Solution to the Jewish Question,” the pamphlet calls for Jews to organize themselves to gain their own territory, oversee immigration and settlement, and eventually form their own state. He organizes the First Zionist Congress in 1897.

Feb. 15, 1975 — Cairo Jewish Leader Salvator Cicurel Dies

A former leader of Cairo’s Jewish community, 1928 Olympic fencer Salvator Cicurel, dies. As a national sports figure and the head of a retail empire whose flagship store covered two city blocks in Cairo, Cicurel did not lose his position during Israel’s War of Independence, when the Egyptian government seized many Jewish-owned businesses. But he was forced to sell his store to Muslims after the 1956 Suez war and left for France in 1957.

Feb. 16, 1932 — Writer Aharon Appelfeld Is Born

Author Aharon Appelfeld is born near Czernowitz, then part of Romania and now part of Ukraine. Despite being assimilated into German culture, he and his father are sent to a Nazi concentration camp in 1941, and his mother and grandmother are killed. Appelfeld escapes at age 10 and survives on the run until joining the Soviet army as a kitchen boy in 1944. He makes aliyah in 1946. His works earn him the Bialik Prize in 1979 and the Israel Prize in 1983.

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