Earlier this month, Sen. John McCain was laid to rest after losing his battle with cancer. It was the last struggle McCain faced in a life marked by unwavering courage.
A few days later on Sept. 6, in the blistering summer heat of Israel an ocean away, New York businessman Ed Blank lamented the US’s loss of a true patriot as he stood beside the 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza.
At the center of the two-hectare open space in the Judean Hills’ Arazim Valley west of Jerusalem stands the statue symbolizing a waving American flag.
Made of granite, bronze and aluminum, the shiny metallic finish has faded since artist Eliezer Weishoff’s sculpture was erected nine years ago but its purpose remains stronger than ever: Honoring the memory and courage of those who perished in those events.
“As I look at the memorial today, I think of John McCain, who aspired to a morality in government,” Blank told The Jerusalem Post.
“And I look at Americans symbolizing the eternal flame of liberty, freedom for all mankind. I see this memorial as a tribute to what happened in the past and also we cannot allow the destruction of democracy. I’m as moved today as I was on the day of its inauguration and I know that many visitors are emotionally affected when they visit the site. Everybody who comes here really has an emotional reaction regardless if they had a personal connection to 9/11 and the victims. They all come away reflective.”
The memorial was made possible by Jewish National Fund-USA and Blank, who provided the financial support needed for the project.
Last Thursday, Jewish National Fund, the US Embassy and Keren Kayemet LeIsrael held its annual ceremony at the site where firefighters, United Airlines officials and police officers heard remarks from JNF Chief Israel Officer, Eric Michaelson, KKL-JNF chair Daniel Atar and MK Nachman Shai.
“In this beautiful plaza, at this inspiring location, we remind the families of those lost and we confirm to people everywhere, that we stand together – Americans and Israelis – and that together we continue to heal and to build, in a spirit of solidarity and commitment to the future,” US Ambassador Daniel Friedman remarked at the ceremony.
“My original reason [behind backing the project] was to memorialize the victims of terror and demonstrating that society must be vigilant against extremism. It’s a sanctuary for shared loss and a call for peace among nations,” Blank, who dedicated the memorial to his late wife, mother and children, explained.
Blank credits them for his success and making the memorial possible.
“My mother gave me the support to become the person I am. My late wife, Sharon, gave me the support I needed to create a leading telemarketing company.”
To date, it is the only 9/11 memorial outside the United States that lists every single one of the 2,977 victims, five of whom were Israelis.
For Blank, It is no coincidence that such a cenotaph is in Israel.
“Both Israel and America have – since each country’s inception – aspired to freedom, liberty for all,” he said.
As such, the space has become a teaching tool of sorts for Israelis and Americans alike. From Birthright participants, to tourists and a busload of some 40 Israeli women – who this reporter saw visiting the site before Blank’s visit – have come to bear witness to not only what the US has lost, but the shared values between the two countries.
It is also appropriate that the memorial is right outside of Jerusalem.
“It’s very fitting that the 9/11 living memorial is in the outskirts of Jerusalem, a city that’s the center of the three major religions. What can be more fitting than to have it here where we honor all races and religions that died in that horrific event?,” Blank asked rhetorically.
“Terrorism recognizes no borders, no race, no religion, this memorial stands as a reminder to us and future generations that we must stand united in our fight against terror and safeguard our freedom and democratic principles and values,” he added.
This article was written in cooperation with JNF-USA.