As a teenager, Ottawa philanthropist Sara Vered served as a radio operator in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. In this article, Ariel Vered offers a tribute to her grandmother’s actions then, and to her lifetime of support for the Jewish state.
Every culture has its raconteurs, the individuals entrusted with communicating the history of a people. Sara Vered considers it her responsibility to tell the story of the establishment of the State of Israel; it has been a thread that has been woven throughout her life’s story.
The history of the founding of the State of Israel is, essentially, Sara’s story. She was 12 when she joined Gadna, the pre-Haganah training organization. Four years later, at the age of 16, she joined the Haganah and was chosen as one of 10 students to be trained as a wireless communications operator. This was a time when being found with a radio apparatus was punishable with jail time.
This experience demonstrated Sara’s commitment to an ideal, a view that Sara would go on to carry with her throughout her life. The circumstances may have been perilous, but the greater good of establishing and protecting a home for the Jewish people was what counted.
Sara is first and foremost a Sabra. Born in Tel Aviv, she spent most of her youth in Jerusalem, where her father built a macaroni factory. She remained in Jerusalem to perform her communication duties during the siege while her family left for Tel Aviv. This was only a fraction of the remarkable experiences she had in the formative years of the State of Israel. Later, she served in the communications office of the headquarters of the Negev. Shortly after marrying Zeev Vered in 1950, the couple came to Canada.
They made their mark instantly as the first Israeli students at McGill University. Sara and Zeev eventually moved to Ottawa and built Ron Engineering, Arnon Development and Gilad Parking, all of which have helped shape the building landscape of the city today. More meaningful to them than building a successful construction group, of course, Sara and Zeev’s 58-year marriage produced three sons, three daughters-in-law and 11 grandchildren.
Perhaps it is because she played a part in shaping history that Sara has always felt a need to educate. Always ready to help her grandchildren with their homework and projects, Sara is a born teacher, eager to speak to classrooms and school groups about her experiences. Sara has brought to the Ottawa Jewish community the wisdom and courage of her childhood and adolescence and has enriched so many lives with her wealth of knowledge.
Sara has touched many lives. A few years ago, she addressed a group of Torah High students and their thoughts on the experience were compiled in a booklet for her. Their comments speak to Sara’s ability to communicate her experiences in a meaningful dialogue.
“The most important lesson I took from Mrs. Vered’s courage is that youth is the driving force in change,” said Michael Rogov, “and that if we try hard enough we can do whatever we like.”
Ben Silverman said, “Hearing her stories and experiences really touched me. It made me realize how truly special Israel is and it also made me see what sort of things people can do when fighting for something they believe in.”
Educating and giving back have been important values that Sara and Zeev promoted in their family and in the community. Sara has served on boards of the Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation, the National Gallery of Canada, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and the Royal Ontario Museum. She was the second chair of the Women’s Division of United Jewish Appeal. She was honoured by the Jewish National Fund Negev Dinner in 2010 and as one of 15 recipients of the inaugural Order of Ottawa in 2012. She became of Member of the Order of Canada in 2014.
As Israel celebrates 70 years of independence, Sara feels that it is important that young people today should learn the history of the State of Israel and remember the people of the generation of 1948 who made it possible for the Jewish people to have a state of our own.