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The Consecration of the Grand Lodge of Israel
A Personal Memory

Joseph E.A. Salem
SGC of Honor Ad-Vitam, Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite for the State of Israel
Reprinted from The Israeli Freemason

On 15th September 1953, I received a personal invitation from R.W.B. Max Silverstone, to attend the Consecration and establishment of the Grand Lodge of Israel, to be held on Tuesday, the 20th October 1953. For us, the Jews living abroad at the time, it was still difficult to grasp that the State of Israel had become a reality, a "home for the Jewish People", a millennial dream come true. Now, to crown it all, we would witness the establishment of our own Grand Lodge. Despite the many difficulties I was facing at that time, I decided that I must visit Israel for the first time, to be present at the Consecration ceremonies. I was the only Brother coming from Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe), representing my Constitution, the Grand East of the Netherlands in Rhodesia.

On Sunday 18th October, 1953, I arrived at Lod (Lydda) Airport, less than a tenth of its present size, teeming with visitors from all quarters of the world. Being alone, I joined the South African delegation, which arrived at the same time.

We were met by local Brethren, who extended to us a hearty welcome and took us by bus to the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. I was welcomed there by R.W.B. Max Silverstone and W.B. Asher Livitsky, whom I had met while serving in the British Army in Jerusalem during World War II.

The foyer of the hotel was like a railway station, crowded with people, but the visitors were made to feel at home by the generous efforts of the local Brethren. The Y.M.C.A. hall across the street was like a beehive, with workers rushing to complete the preparations before the meeting. When ready, the hall looked like an art gallery, with many beautiful carpets adorning the walls

The atmosphere was generally electrified, tense with excitement, awaiting the approaching event. The second delegation arrived from Scotland, headed by the Past Grand Master, M.W.B. the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, accompanied by his Grand Secretary, R.W.B. Dr. Alexander Buchan, and several distinguished Brethren from Glasgow, London, Leeds and other places in England, Wales Scotland and Ireland. Other delegations were arriving hourly, including my Grand Master, M.W.B. Cornelius Davidson, Grand East of the Netherlands. On the morning of Tuesday, the 20th October, a small number of visiting and local Brethren were received by the President of the State of Israel, Itshaq Ben-Zvi. M.W.B. the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine explained to the President the purpose of his visit.

The consecration meeting was scheduled for 3 pm. The Masonic Temple prepared in the Y.M.C.A. building was filled to capacity. Approximately 500 to 600 Brethren were seated, in full regalia. At 3 o'clock, R.W.B. Dr. Alexander Buchan, acting in his capacity as Consecrating Grand Director of Ceremonies, led the Consecrating Officers into the Temple. B. Alec, as he was affectionately known to many Scottish Masons, was tall, slim, and very dignified. He spoke with confidence and conviction, and his Scottish accent added color and emphasis to his words.

As the Consecrating Grand Master was escorted to his throne in the East, one had to use only a little imagination to picture the inauguration of the old Temple of King Solomon, built only a few hundred yards to the east of where we stood. The entire ceremony was most impressive and performed with utmost dignity and sincerity. The most moving part came when the consecrating Grand Master stood up to read the Proclamation. It was a solemn moment, the entire audience was hushed as the words were pronounced, proclaiming the Grand Lodge, with full powers, rights and privileges, and all Grand Lodges of the world in amity with the Grand Lodge of Scotland were entreated to grant full recognition to the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel and acknowledge it as such. "May the Blessings of the Most High rest upon and abide for ever with this Grand Lodge and sanctify all its labors", concluded the Conesecrating Grand Master. There was a moment of awed silence, and then a shiver ran through my spine, as the striking sound of the shofar (ram's horn), blown by the Consecrating Grand Chaplain, R.W.B. Jacob Caspi, brought tears to my eyes and those of many of the Brethren present. The Consecrating Grand Master, assisted by his Officers, then went on to Install M.W.B. Shabtay Levy (Mayor of Haifa) as the First Grand Master. Honorary Founder Members' jewels were presented to many visiting and distinguished Brethren, heads of delegations. Then, the Grand Lodge was closed in peace and harmony. Arab Brethren, members of Lodge Jordan, Scottish Constitution, meeting in East Jerusalem, were anxious to send a message of congratulations. However, the lack of communications between the two sections of the divided city forced them to send a telegram to Scotland, from where it was relayed to Israel. Their gesture was much appreciated and showed the strength of Masonic principles.

At 8 pm, the festive banquet was held at the King David Hotel, graced by the presence of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Moshe Sharett, the Mayor of Jerusalem, and other dignitaries. It was an outstanding festive occasion.

On Thursday, the 22nd October, I boarded my plane to return to Rhodesia, happy to have participated in this historic Masonic event and grateful to all the Brethren who labored diligently to make our visit pleasant and memorable. I would like particularly to record my gratitude to B. Max Silverstone, Asher Livitsky, and Jacob Caspi.