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Alexander (Evserov) Ezer (1894-1973) was the first secretary of tourism of Israel. He is also known for helping manage the Middle Eastern section of the 1939 New York World's Fair and for helping manage the world famous Levant Industrial Fairs. He also built the Binyanei Ha'uma conference center. He was an active Zionist who published many books about industry and agriculture. In the 1930's he was named one of the 2,000 most influential men in the world. His lifelong dream was to see the deserts of Israel bloom.
Alexander was born as Alexander Evserov on 1894 in modern day Ukraine. He studied law in St. Petersburg. In college, Yevserov established a student Zionist organization called “The Friend”. He also founded one of the first Jewish Newspapers in Russia. In 1915 he moved to Siberia. While living in Siberia, the Russian Revolution broke out, and Alexander helped Jewish political prisoners escape from the country. When the Bolsheviks enforced policies that required that all Jews assimilate into Russian culture, Yevserov escaped from Siberia and journeyed for seventeen days on camelback through the Gobi Desert. He finally reached Shanghai where he was surprised to find a thriving community of Jewish refugees. He immediately became the leader of the Zionist movement in China, and he founded a sort of “underground railroad” to help Russian refugees in China get certificates to allow them to immigrate to the Land of Israel (which was under the British mandate at the time).
In 1921, after spending a year in China, he finally decided to see the Jewish Homeland that he had dreamed of for so long. He took a 40 day trip on a cargo ship to Port Said, Egypt and then took another ship into Jaffaa Port, Israel. A well-off boy straight from law school, Alexander set to work on the laborious task of making roads under the British mandate. After a long day of labor and when all the other laborers were entirely worn out, Alexander would march around the encampment reciting Russian writing.
In 1923, Alexander developed a vision of making Israel an industrial powerhouse. He began to organize exhibitions of local industries. By 1929, Alexander had expanded his exhibitions to an international scale. These industrial exhibitions were called the “Levant Fairs” (or “Eastern Fairs”) and were represented by the famous symbol of the flying camel. These fairs grew rapidly: in the Levant Fair of 1934, 820 international companies were represented and 600,000 people from around the world came to see the public exhibitions. At the time, Tel Aviv was only populated by about 35,000 people. To accommodate the fair, Alexander with some other investors purchased a piece of land north of Tel Aviv to develop the fair grounds. Unfortunately, an Arab upheaval erupted in 1939, which made Tel Aviv a dangerous place for an international fair to be held. As a result, the Levant Fair merged with the World Fair. The 1939 World Fair was held in New York City, and Alexander was in charge of organizing the Middle-Eastern section of the fair.
Origin of the Name Ezer
After Israel fought and won its War of Independence, Alexander Yevserov and his good friend Moshe Shertok wanted new names to go along with their new country. They decided to make their new names synonyms of each other. Shertok changed his name to Sharet, which means “to serve” in Hebrew. Yevserov changed his name to Ezer, which means “to help” in Hebrew. Sharet eventually became the first Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs and the second Prime Minister of Israel after the first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion resigned.
Ezer’s next vision was to make Jerusalem, the new capital, a center for commerce and industry. In 1950, he built the National Conference Center of Jerusalem (“Binyaney Ha’ooma” in Hebrew). He helped in the publication of the first Israeli Encyclopedia, and he founded the International Club of Hebrew Literature. He thought that the best way to help the economy of the young state was to establish a strong tourism industry. He founded the Ministry of Tourism and became the first Government Advisor of Tourism. Additionally, he wrote many books and newspaper articles about the history of the Zionist movement. For all of his hard work, the mayor of Jerusalem gave him the honorary Medallion of the City. He started a radio broadcast for Russian Jews who under the communist regime were not allowed any communications with the outside world. His radio provided the Russian Jews with accurate information about Israel in contradiction to official Russian propaganda. His radio pseudonym was Asaf-Tal-Or, a combination of the names of his three grandsons.