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Abba Eban

Typewriter used by Abba Eban

Abba and Suzy Eban's Silver Platter I purchased


by Rhonda Spivak, April 29, 2012

I almost bought the typewriter used by famed former Israeli Ambassador ot the  U.N. and Foreign Minister Abba Eban who died in 2002 that was  being sold for a minimum bid of $25.00 in Israel last month. In fact the typewriter was sold for that  amount. (Don't ask me how I learned of this sale-I have an unusually reliable   source.)
Eban's wife Susy Eban died in September 2011, and some of the items from her estate, which his family did not choose to keep, were being sold.
The typewriter interested me since Eban, will forever be remembered as Israel's most articulate diplomat and produced so many famous quotations which have long been familiar to me. I thought about buying the typewriter with the idea that maybe if I had it, my writing  skills would magically improve, or at the very least I might be able to whip up a memorable quote or two. 
I also remember meeting Eban, when he was in Winnipeg as the guest speaker for a JNF Gala dinner honouring my late uncle Sidney Spivak.
When I realized Eban's typewriter was for sale, I began conjuring up his famous quotations, thinking about how many of them still resonate today. For example, it was South African born Abba Eban, who appeared at the United Nations following the Six Day war, and described the fragility of Israel’s 1949-1967 map as Israel’s “Auschwitz” lines.
“We have openly said that the map will never again be the same as on June 4, 1967.   For us, this is a matter of security and of principles. The June map is for us equivalent to insecurity and danger. I do not exaggerate when I say that it has for us something of a memory of Auschwitz. We shudder when we think of what would have awaited us in the circumstances of June, 1967, if we had been  defeated; with Syrians on the mountain and we in the valley, with the Jordanian army in sight of the sea, with the Egyptians who hold our throat in   their hands in Gaza. This is a situation which will never be repeated in history.”(
-  Abba Eban, in Der Spiegel, November 5, 1969, as cited in the   Jerusalem Post of August 18, 1995 by Jerusalem Post columnist Moshe Kohn)
Then there is this Eban quote "The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity," attributed to him after the Geneva Peace Conference with Arab countries (21  December 1973). It is often misquoted as "Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."
Ebban's humourous quote about the anti-Israel bias at the United Nations also arguably still resonates today: 

"If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions." (Comment about the United Nations General Assembly, as quoted in The Guardian (3 February 2004)


On the Six Day War, Eban wrote: "I think that this is the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender."   (Abba Eban "Israel's Dilemmas: An Opportunity Squandered" in Stephen J. Roth, ed. "The Impact of the Six-Day War: A Twenty-Year   Assessment")
"History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives."(Speech in London (16 December 1970); as quoted in The Times [London] (17 December 1970) and in Great Jewish Quotations (1996) by Alfred J. Kolatch, p. 115)
After re-acquainting myself with a few more Abba Eban great lines, I had easily convinced myself that it was worth $25.00 to buy his typewriter- if only to spark my children's interest in learning who he was. Then, of course, I realized that my children may not ever have even seen a typewriter.
All was fine and well, until my husband said, "And if you buy it what are we going to do with it." Grudgingly, I  acknowledged he had a good point. In fact, based on my own typing skills or lack thereof I should be the last person to buy a typewriter. The only course in typing I ever took was in grade nine at Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate   with Mrs. Stopchicki (I do remember having fun making fun of her name) and I dropped the course in the middle....Little did I realize I would  end up being a writer, a line of work where typing skills would have  been a benefit ! (In fact another one of Eban's quotes is "His ignorance is encyclopedic"-a quote that easily could be adjusted to speak of my typing skills).
After all of that, when it came time for me to try to buy Eban's typewriter--I missed the opportunity. It sold for $25.00 but not to me.
That's because I decided  to buy this silver platter of Abba Eban's that has engraved on it "Greetings to Abba Eban, Foreign Minister of Israel from Governor John A Wolpe, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Chairman National Governor Conference 1968."
I bought it because it's a piece of Israeli history and by the look of it the platter was used and used often.
It cost double the amount of the typewriter but at least when my husband asks me what we are going to do with it, I'll be able to answer him. Bring out the h'ors derves !

P.S. There was another silver platter of Abba Eban's that I did not even try to buy since it really  was in rotten shape, all stained and corroded. 

After buying the platter, I began googling Suzy Eban to learn that she was born in Egypt, and returned there with her husband in 1979 on Prime Minister Begin's first state visit to Egypt after the signing of the peace treaty.,,20073459,00.html

Suzy Eban also wrote a book I may order A Sense of Purpose, Recollections by Susy Ebban.

In other words, the silver platter is already working its magic. It prompted me to learn about Suzy Eban

Editor's note:  If you liked this article, stay tuned for my next article in this series "How I bought the Bowl that Paula Ben-Gurion gave to Abba and Suzy Eban."--and yes I can prove it’s from Paula Ben-Gurion. 

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.