Jerry Klinger
Shaping the Future by Remembering the Past

The Wilfrid Israel Memorial… ‘Gaza’

Sam Philipe at the Wilfrid.
Sam Philipe at the Wilfrid.

The Wilfrid Israel Memorial was never intended to be an interpretive memorial for the Gaza War. Yet, for some, it has become just that, the first De-Facto Gaza Memorial in Israel.  The Gaza War – an unwanted, terrible war that necessitated Jews to rush into the fire to save Jews.  The World would not save Jews and did not…

The Wilfrid Israel Memorial, adjacent to the ancient Levite City of Tel Yokneam, was conceived and funded by the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation (JASHP). It is the creative work of noted Jerusalem artist Sam Philipe.

Yad Vashem has refused to honor Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.  It has long been a controversial, serious refusal.

JASHP has tirelessly worked to correct that refusal without success.  Knowing that Wilfred Israel’s story was passing into the dusky pages of forgotten memory, JASHP acted.  A small plaque was placed in London near where he lived by JASHP.  There was nothing in the U.K. previously.

A number of sites in Israel were approached that had a link to Wilfrid but none responded or expressed interest.  The Jewish Agency suggested Yokneam.  Mayor Simon Alfasi responded positively and enthusiastically.

Philipe designed the memorial.  JASHP insisted it be large, visible, and project a simple message.

“Jew Saves Jew.”

“If you can’t save the world, save a life.”

“ ~ If you save a life, you save a world”…

Who was Wilfrid?

He was a Holocaust Rescuer who saved tens of thousands of Jews.

“Wilfrid Berthold Jacob Israel
11 July 1899 – 1 June 1943

Wilfrid Berthold Jacob Israel was born into a liberal Jewish family of extreme wealth. His mother, Amy, the granddaughter of the Chief Rabbi of the U.K., Herman Adler, insisted he be born in London. Wilfrid, however, grew up in Berlin, Germany, where his father, Berthold, was the owner and manager of N. Israel, the largest department store in Germany.

Following WWI, traveling the world collecting Oriental/Indian art, Wilfrid was deeply affected by the economic and social human suffering he encountered. Associating with British Quakers, he joined with them to help. The associations he established with the British Quakers would prove critical to the rescue of Jews and his establishment of the Kindertransport.

When the Nazis took control of Germany in 1933, Wilfrid decided to use his fortune to try and get Jews to safety. By 1938, Wilfrid was running the “Hilfsverein,” the main German Jewish organization helping Jews get out of Germany. He had already saved thousands of Jews using his own funds when Kristallnacht occurred. Wilfrid recognized the changed danger and knew the West would not save Jews, but they might save children. Using his contacts with the British Quakers, working round the clock, building a network or support politically, and socially using his own fortune, the British establishment relented and agreed to take in 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish children to England. Wilfrid escaped Germany, returning to London in the summer 1939 only after he saw that the last Kindertransport was safely on its way.

For the next number of years, British intelligence relied upon Wilfrid for insights and connections into Germany. In 1943, Wilfrid flew to Spain with 1500 lifesaving visas to Palestine for trapped Jews. June 1, 1943, returning over the Bay of Biscay, his plane was shot down by Nazi fighters. His body was never located.

Much of Wilfrid’s rescue work, his support for Jews, Israel and humanity were never publicized. Only very recently is it becoming known. His friend, Jewish philosopher Martin Buber described him as “a man of great moral stature, dedicated to the service of others”. Albert Einstein, another friend, wrote about Wilfrid after he learned of his death, “Never in my life have I come in contact with a being so noble, so strong and as selfless as he was – in very truth a living work of art. In these times of mass-misfortune, which so few are able to stand up to – one feels the presence of this “chosen one” as a Liberator from despair for mankind.”

Wilfrid Israel, the philanthropist, the humanitarian, the socialist, and the supporter of Zionist enterprises, saved more Jews than any single person had during the Holocaust.

In deep respect – The Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.”

The Wilfrid Israel memorial has been completed except for some gardening Yokneam has promised to beautify the site. The horrible Gaza War continues.  Perhaps, after the War has ended, a proper dedication ceremony of honor for Wilfrid will be possible.

His story, his struggle, Jew saving Jew, has a much larger contemporary meaning than was ever envisioned when the Wilfrid was commissioned.

About the Author
Jerry is the president and founder of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, He is the son of Survivors of Buchenwald and Bergen Belsen. He is a former Yeshivah student and served with the IDF in the Sinai. He is the author of over 100 articles in publications ranging from the Jerusalem Post to the Prairie Connection to the San Diego Jewish World. Jerry is frequently interviewed on T.V. and on Radio about the American Jewish experience. The Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation has completed projects in 41 US. States and in 7 countries. Over 7,000,000 people annually benefit from one of JASHP's efforts. JASHP has completed 18 projects in and for Israel. November 29, 2022, Netanya: JASHP completed the first-ever historical memorial to the central birthing event for the modern state of Israel - the U.N. Partition Resolution. - -Jewish Agency Facebook Spot. -
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