Michel M.J. Shore

Einstein for President -The Search for Absolute Truth (8)

Sitting on the park bench on the treed, green grounds of Princeton University, on a sunny afternoon in 1951, their white distinctive hair tossed in the wind, Ben-Gurion and Einstein, not only met but encountered each other in the same philosophical space and time, to affirm together, a Supreme Being, infinitely superior to all knowledge and conception, and from Whom flowed an Absolute Truth. Einstein concluded that there had to be an absolute truth; for without it, there would be no relative truth.

Ben-Gurion and Einstein admired each other in dialogue; their thoughts, although absorbed in different tasks, were directed to an absolute truth from which they sought guidance towards relative truth. At the end of 1952, a week after the State of Israel had risen from mourning Chaim Weizmann, its first President, Ben-Gurion telephoned Abba Eban, his ambassador to the United Nations and directed him to offer Einstein, the post of President of the State of Israel. Einstein; although deeply moved, he declined. Einstein wrote that he had ” Neither the natural ability, nor the experience necessary to deal with human beings and to carry out official functions.”

In concluding his November 18, 1952 letter of regret to Eban, Einstein expressed his personal distress with his decision ” because my relationship to the Jewish people has become my strongest human bond, ever since I became fully aware of our precarious situation among the nations of the world.”

On the same day that Einstein mailed his response, he received an impassioned plea to accept the post from the editor-in-chief of Maariv. Einstein replied  “your cable had a downright devastating effect upon me: but it arrived after the fact. Because of an indiscretion, I was prematurely compelled to announce my decision on the issue.” He continued, “never has humanity’s age-old dream of entrusting highest sovereignty to the thinker been put to the test.” Here, for the first time in known history, is the opportunity.

Although Einstein declined the presidency, his identification with the State of Israel and the Jewish people remained unconditional. A Jewish homeland was essential, he felt, to the survival of the Jewish people; only as an independent sovereign nation, could Israel fulfill its age-old purpose – of knowledge and morality fused in harmony.

In 1955, for Israel’s seventh Independence Day, Einstein began to prepare notes for a television address he was invited to give. Suddenly stricken, while writing his address, Einstein was admitted to hospital diagnosed with a terminal illness. Although he brought his notes with him, and kept them at his bedside, it was not given to him to continue. Only one page remains:

I speak to you today not as an American citizen and not as a Jew, but as a human being who seeks with the greatest seriousness to look at things objectively. What I seek to accomplish is simply to serve with my feeble capacity, truth and justice at the risk of pleasing no one.

In essence, the conflict that exists today is no more than an old-style struggle for power. Once again presented to mankind in semi-religious trappings. The difference is that this time, the development of atomic power has imbued the struggle with a ghostly character; for both parties know and admit that, should the quarrel deteriorate into actual war, mankind is doomed. Despite this knowledge, statesmen in responsible positions on both sides continue to employ the well-known technique of seeking to intimidate and demoralize the opponent by marshaling superior military strength. They do so even though such a policy entails the risk of war and doom. Not one statesman in a position of responsibility has dared to pursue the only course that holds out any promise of peace, the course of supranational security; since for a statesman to follow such a course would be tantamount to political suicide. Political passions, once they have been fanned, exact their victims.

The last sentence was never completed. Albert Einstein never delivered the address. It is reproduced as a tribute to his memory as his legacy to the reader. Einstein passed away four days after he had written the passage. Although unconcluded, his idea lives.

About the Author
Michel M.J. Shore is a retired judge of the Federal Court of Canada and recently made a home in Israel. He is the writer of several published books and poetry collections.
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