June 21, 1990
After a distinguished career in the service of Zionism and Israel, Eliahu Eilat passed away in Jerusalem at the age of 86. Eilat was born Eliahu Epstein in Ukraine in 1903. He became involved in Zionism while attending university in Kiev, and was once jailed by Soviet authorities for his Zionist activities. Shortly after his release from prison, Eilat escaped from the Soviet Union. He immigrated to Palestine in 1924. Following a period of work as an agriculture laborer, Eilat spent nearly ten years studying Middle Eastern languages and culture mostly at the American University in Beirut. He specialized in Bedouin tribal society and customs. During his time in Lebanon, he also worked as a journalist reporting on Middle East issues for Reuters and several Jewish newspapers in Palestine. In 1934 he directed the newly established Middle East Department of the Jewish Agency and in 1945 he became the head of the Jewish Agency’s Political Office in Washington DC. In May 1948, it was Eilat who sought and received President Truman’s recognition of Israel’s establishment as a state. Eilat served as Israel’s first Ambassador to the United States until 1950, when he became a diplomatic minister to the United Kingdom. He became Ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1952. From 1962-1968 he served as president of The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The photo shows Eliahu Eilat (left) presenting President Harry S. Truman with a Torah on October 26, 1949.