When Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii passed away at the age of 88, Israel lost one of her best friends in the US Senate. According to the Forward, “Senator Inouye, a liberal Democrat, was […] the second-longest serving senator in the history of the chamber and its president pro-tempore, making him third in line to the presidency. He was also chairman of the powerful Appropriations committee, and for many years had been the chairman or top Democrat on the foreign operations and defense subcommittees, where he played a pivotal role in advancing U.S.-Israel relations.”

According to Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, “The Iron Dome system that recently intercepted hundreds of terrorist rockets aimed at our homes stands as enduring proof of his commitment to the defense of the Jewish State. A hero of World War II, Senator Inouye devoted his life to serving not only the people of Hawaii, but the entire United States. When he was still a soldier, recovering from the loss of an arm in combat, Senator Inouye learned about the Holocaust and began a lifelong attachment to the Jewish people and, later, to Israel. His dedication to Israel’s security was unswerving.”

Following his death, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu declared, “On behalf of the people of Israel, I wish to express my deepest condolences on the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye. I was proud to call Senator Inouye a friend. He was a humble man with a towering spirit, whose exemplary bravery on the battlefield during World War II was followed by an exemplary life dedicated to serving his country and defending its most cherished values. […] His friendship to the Jewish people knew no bounds, and he worked tirelessly throughout his public life to safeguard the one and only Jewish state. The people of Israel will forever owe him a profound debt of gratitude.”

Senator Inouye was indeed dedicated to helping Israel early on in his career. He won the Medal of Honor for his bravery in fighting against the Nazis in Italy. Senator Inouye helped earn his way through college by selling Israel Bonds and once even considered converting to Judaism. He evidently joked that he didn’t convert because being Japanese and having only one arm, he didn’t possess “enough tzoris.” The real reason, however, was family opposition.

Senator Inouye had visited Israel as recently as last January, where he met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres, and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Benny Gantz. He was nicknamed Trumpeldor, after the one-armed early Zionist hero. During this visit,President Shimon Peres praised the Hawaii senator, telling him that “you stood by our side in the most demanding and difficult moments.” Senator Inouye was a lead sponsor of legislation in the mid-1990s that recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and actively worked to ensure U.S. defense assistance to Israel.

Yet aside from his dedication to Israel, Senator Inouye broke racial barriers in the United States by being the first Japanese American to serve in the US Congress. Yedioth Achronot also reported, “Senator Inouye was considered a brave and stalwart fighter of corruption.” His death is mourned by Israelis and Americans alike. According to a public statement by AIPAC, “He will be missed by all who appreciated his many decades of leadership in strengthening the ties between America and Israel.”

By Rachel Avraham