Elizabeth Taylor, Supporter of Israel

elizabeth-taylor-cleopatraWith the passing of Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor’s passing a few days ago, her pro-Israel record has been revealed.

In the coming months, we will be launching the JTA Jewish News Archive — a treasure chest of nearly a century of reporting around the globe. We thought today would be an appropriate time to share some gems on Liz Taylor. My favorite so far:

Elizabeth Taylor Offered to Be Hostage, Dinitz Discloses
June 16, 1977
LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Movie actress Elizabeth Taylor offered herself as a hostage for the more than 100 Air France hijack victims held by terrorists at Entebbe Airport in Uganda during the tense days before the Israeli rescue raid last July 4. That disclosure was made here by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Simcha Dinitz, at a Jewish National Fund gala honoring Ms. Taylor and her husband, John W. Warner, for their devotion to the land reclamation work of the JNF and other humanitarian causes.

Dinitz, who presented the couple with a certificate for a forest to be planted in their names within the American National Bicentennial Park near Jerusalem, said that Ms. Taylor’s offer was “appreciated” and “the Jewish people will always remember it.”

More than 1200 friends and supporters of the JNF attended the event which was addressed by Moshe Rivlin, the JNF’s new world chairman who flew in from Jerusalem for the occasion. “We hate to destroy, we love to build, and it is the common desire of the people of Israel for peace no matter what party is in power,” Rivlin said.

Ms. Taylor said “The trees we planted with our own hands in Israel symbolize a new hope that the whole world, Christian, Jew and Arab, will live as one in harmony and under one God.”

Here’s a bunch. We’ll be updating as we find more:

* Over $1,000,000 in Israel Bonds Sold at Opening of West Coast Drive
Feb. 2, 1959
LOS ANGELES (JTA) — A total of SI. 250. 000 in State of Israel Bonds was fold here at a dinner last night opening the bond campaign in this area. Many Hollywood stars were present, among them actress Elizabeth Taylor, singer Eddie Fisher, and actors George Jessel, Eddie Cantor and Jack Benny. Miss Taylor purchased $100,000 worth of bonds, and Mr. Fisher bought $10,000 worth. A number of businessmen made up a “golden dais, ” each member of this group purchasing a minimum of $50,000 worth of bonds.

* Arabs Ban Eliza Beth Taylor Films; Irked over Her Buying Israel Bonds
March 18, 1959
WASHINGTON (JTA) — The State Department today received word that authorities of the United Arab Republic have officially banned all motion pictures featuring Hollywood cinema star Elizabeth Taylor. The U.A. R. took this action today because Miss Taylor recently purchased $100,000 worth of Israel Bonds, the report said.

* Actress Elizabeth Taylor Adopts Jewish Religion; Was a Protestant
March 3, 1959
HOLLYWOOD (JTA) — Actress Elizabeth Taylor, widow of the late Jewish producer Mike Todd, was converted to Reform Judaism, it was announced here this weekend by Temple Israel, of which Rabbi Max Nussbaum, a leading Zionist, is spiritual leader. The announcement was made at the request of Miss Taylor, who was a Protestant.

* Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher Sing Hebrew Duet at Moscow Concert
July 18, 1961
LONDON (JTA) — United States servicemen stationed in Moscow were treated yesterday to a performance by Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher in which the husband-and-wife film stars included a duet rendition of a Hebrew song. The film couple, who are in the Soviet capital for the Moscow Film Festival, dropped in at the American House to put on a show for the U.S. enlisted men.

* Elizabeth Taylor Barred from Egypt; is Blacklisted As Jewish
July 20, 1962
LONDON (JTA) — Elizabeth Taylor has been barred from entering Egypt and, as a result, the multimillion dollar film, “Cleopatra,” practically completed in Rome except for Egyptian location shots, may have to be finished in some other country, according to a Cairo dispatch received here today. Gen. Essam Elmasri, head of the Cairo regional bureau of the Israel Boycott Office, said in the Egyptian capital that Miss Taylor will not be allowed to come to Egypt because she has adopted the Jewish faith and “supports Israeli causes.” Miss Taylor is the wife of Eddie Fisher, the singer, who is Jewish. Officially, Miss Taylor’s movies have been on the Egyptian blacklist for a long time. However, some of her films are shown occasionally in Egypt, and receive enthusiastic support from Egyptian audiences. Gen. Elmasri said the actress is being barred in accordance with the Arab League’s ban on all persons aiding Israel.

* Egypt Removes Name of Elizabeth Taylor from Arab Blacklist
Jan. 23, 1964
LONDON (JTA) — The name of film star Elizabeth Taylor has been removed from Egypt’s blacklist of pro-Zionist personalities after Egyptian officials saw a private run of her new film, “Cleopatra,” it was reported here today from Cairo. The officials decided the film was good publicity for Egypt which is mentioned 122 times in the movie. The film will be shown in Cairo in a few days, according to government reports.

* Jewish and Non-Jewish Actors Raise $840,000 in London for Israel
June 12, 1967
LONDON (JTA) –More than 600 Jews and non-Jews of the entertainment world packed the Cafe Royal here and in 15 minutes raised a total of 300,000 pounds sterling ($840,000). Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton promised a gift of 200 pounds. Another rally, held in East London, brought 100 pounds in gifts that included wedding rings and candy allowances from Jewish day school pupils.

* Elizabeth Taylor Cancels Visit to Moscow Because of Soviet Anti-Israel Stand
June 28, 1967
NEW YORK (JTA) — A spokesman for Elizabeth Taylor and her husband Richard Burton confirmed yesterday reports that they had cancelled plans to attend the July Moscow Film Festival because of opposition to the Soviet diplomatic offensive against Israel. Tony Curtis, another film star, also dropped plans to attend the July 9-20 festival for the same reason. Miss Taylor is a convert to Judaism and Mr. Curtis is Jewish. Several years ago Miss Taylor’s films were barred from Arab countries because of her work for the sale of Israel bonds. (The Algerian Government blacklisted yesterday several American films and film performers for supporting Israel. Among those blacklisted were Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Juliette Greco, Sophia Loren, Yves Montand and Paul Newman. Blacklisted films included “The Ten Commandments,” “Ben Hur,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” and “Cleopatra.”)

Taylor and Burton Due in Israel
Aug. 27, 1974
JERUSALEM (JTA) —  A lighter touch to the tense and intensive negotiations conducted by Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger is the “great expectation” to the grand arrival of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton who are expected here tomorrow. According to several reports, Miss Taylor and Burton will try to get married in Israel though it will have to be a civil marriage, since no rabbi will conduct the ceremony because Burton is not Jewish. Miss Taylor, however, converted to Judaism many years ago.
Nevertheless, the expected arrival of the famous pair caused some restlessness among security men here, since Burton and Miss Taylor will most probably stay at the King David Hotel where Kissinger and his entourage are staying. Meanwhile, it was confirmed from the Jerusalem Theater that Burton has agreed to give one special performance at the theater on Saturday night. He will read some chapter from the Bible and probably poetry and monologues from some of Shakespeare’s plays.
One Journalist said jokingly that it will be difficult to cover the hectic events at the King David. What should come first, the prospects of another diplomatic agreement or another marital accord, he asked.

* 60 Prominent Women Condemn UN Anti-Zionist Resolution
Nov. 12, 1975
NEW YORK (JTA) — Sixty prominent women today sent a telegram to UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, General Assembly President Gaston Thorn and Assistant Secretary General Helvi Sipila condemning the anti-Zionist resolution.
“As women committed to the worldwide struggle for human rights and equality,” it is “our unanimous conviction that all human rights are indivisible. We are appalled at the ‘racist’ label applied solely to the national self-determination movement of the Jewish people. We decry this implicit denial of Israeli statehood and this incitement to world wide anti-Semitism.” The resolution, they continued, is the “first and only time an authentic movement for national and ethnic survival would be condemned as racist. This resolution endangers the moral principles of the United Nations Charter by abandoning them to cynical political expediency.”
Signers of the statement included: Rep, Bella Abzug (D,NY); Dr. Phyllis Chesler, psychologist, author; Joan Ganz Cooney, president, Children’s Television Workshop; Karen De Crow, president, National Organization of Women: Joan Davidson, chairwoman, N.Y. State Council on the Arts; Helen Gahagan Douglas, former Congresswoman Nora Ephron, author; Rep. Millicent Fenwick (R.NJ); and Geraldine Fitzgerald, actress. … Also, Lee Novick, vice-chairwoman, National Women’s Political Caucus; Grace Paley, author; Beverly Sills, opera star; Althea T.L. Simmons, national director for education programs, NAACP; Gloria Steinem, editor, MS, Magazine; Anna Strasberg, actress; Elizabeth Taylor, actress; Sister Rose Thering, educator, Seton Hall University; Barbara Tuchman, historian; Dr. Jacqueline Wexler, president, Hunter College, CUNY; and Shelley Winters, actress.

* Taylor Meets with Begin
Jan. 5, 1983
By David Landau
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Movie superstar Elizabeth Taylor, dogged by accident and ill-health during her visit to Israel, met briefly today with Prime Minister Menachem Begin at his office in Jerusalem. The session was part of Ms. Taylor’s one-woman peace effort: she plans to fly to Beirut tomorrow to see president Amin Gemayel and Israeli officials say she may be in Kiryat Shmona Thursday when the Israeli and Lebanese negotiators resume their sessions there. Ms. Taylor is still suffering the after-effects of a road accident Saturday in which she injured both ankles and sustained other knocks and bruises. She plainly found it difficult to walk today and one hand was bandaged. The car taking her to visit Defense Minister Ariel Sharon crashed into the car ahead of it, belonging to Sharon’s spokesman Uri Dan, on a wet Negev road. She also has a sore throat, a condition she has been unable to shake off throughout her week-long stay in Israel. Begin told her how pleased he was to have her here — and how sorry to hear of her accident. After 15 minutes of conversation, Ms. Taylor departed, bearing a large bouquet of flowers from the Premier’s staff.

* Lilith Launches Campaign for Nudel
July 3, 1987
NEW YORK (JTA) — Lilith, the Jewish feminist magazine, has launched an appeal to free Soviet Jewish refusenik Ida Nudel. The magazine’s most recent issue includes a petition in the form of a letter to Raissa Gorbachev, wife of the Soviet leader, to be signed by individual women. So far, Lilith has received hundreds of responses from women in all walks of life, among them Elizabeth Taylor, Liv Ullmann, Mary Travers, Gloria Steinem, Pat Schroeder (D. Colo.), Judith Crist, Judy Blume, Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan.

* Jewish Groups Protest U.S. Pamphlet Advising Troops on ‘Sensitive Subjects’
Oct. 26, 1990
By Howard Rosenberg
WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Defense Department is disregarding democratic values by barring U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia from making pro-Israel or anti-Arab remarks, Jewish groups are charging. The American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote letters Thursday to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, in response to a report in the November issue of Harper’s magazine. Harper’s” reprinted a chapter from “Customs and Culture,” a troop-information pamphlet distributed by the U.S. Central Command to all U.S. armed forces in Saudi Arabia. A Pentagon spokesman confirmed the pamphlet’s existence, but had no immediate response to objections from Jewish circles. First among the “sensitive subjects” listed that “should be avoided or handled carefully” are “articles and stories showing U.S.-Israeli ties and friendship.” Other taboo subjects are “anti-Arab demonstrations or sentiments in the United States,” “the Jewish lobby” and “U.S. intelligence given to Israel.” U.S. personnel are also instructed to not show “films or news clips featuring pro-Zionist actors and actresses (e.g. Barbra Streisand, Liz Taylor).”…

I couldn’t find any recent pro-Israel statements or acts on the part of Taylor, but she doesn’t seem to have “regretted” her support, as did Marlon Brando, for example.

Update: More on her connection to Judaism here:

Some gave Taylor a hard time about her decision to convert, but she stood by the choice, Ivry wrote, adding, “Biographer Kitty Kelley quotes Taylor as saying: ‘I felt terribly sorry for the suffering of the Jews during the war. I was attracted to their heritage. I guess I identified with them as underdogs.’”

Last August, The Jewish Journal in southern California published a blog post by Danielle Berrin about Taylor and her Jewish identity. The piece was written soon after the publication of “Furious Love,” which chronicled the actress’s volatile relationship with Richard Burton.

The blog post recounted a scene in the book in which the couple went at it over “who was more ‘Jewish,’” Berrin wrote.

Burton had referred to the Welsh as “the Jews of Britain”, a comment on their self-identity as the outsiders of the United Kingdom. [Note: Burton was Welsh]

“You’re not Jewish at all,” he told Elizabeth in one of their very public fights, “If there’s any Jew in this family, it’s me!”

“I am Jewish,” she answered, “and you can f–k off!”

Update: Footage from her visits to Israel.



David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media