Friday, May 14, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Re-birth of Israel

On this day in 1948 the British Mandate for Palestine expired, at which time the provisional government declared the State of Israel; the day is now celebrated by some in Israel as Yom Ha'atzmaut.

PhotobucketShortly after 4 PM, David Ben-Gurion (shown, at left) called the meeting to order beneath a portrait of Theodor Herzl; with the banging of his gavel the crowd of 250 broke into a spontaneous rendition of the Hatikvah. Ben-Gurion then read the document aloud, which took 16 minutes, following which Rabbi Yehuda Leib Maimon offered the Shehecheyanu blessing.

The first person to sign the document was Ben-Gurion himself, who was leader of the Yishuv; although all 37 members of the Moetzet HaAm were intended to affix their signatures that day, 12 were trapped by the Siege of Jerusalem and one was overseas. The 24 who did sign made sure to leave spaces so that the rest could be filled in, which they were in due time. Among those who signed that day were Eliyahu Dobkin, Meir Vilner, Zerach Warhaftig, Herzl Vardi, Meir Argov, Peretz Bernstein, Avraham Granot, Avraham Nissan, Moshe Kol, Golda Meir, Pinchas Rosen, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, David Remez, Eliyahu Berligne, and Saadia Kobashi. After the last signatory, Moshe Shertok, did his duty the assembled crowd rose and once again sang the Hatikvah. Eleven minutes later the United States became the first to recognize the new country, followed later that day by Iran, Guatemala, Iceland, Nicaragua, Romania and Uruguay.

The proclamation was made in secret at Tel Aviv Museum (now known as Independence Hall), although it was broadcast over the radio station Kol Yisrael; already there were fears that the fledgling nation would be the object of militaristic anti-Semitism. They were right. Almost immediately the Arab-Israeli War broke out; principally motivated by Syria, and utilizing troops from Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon, fighting continued on and off until... Well, any day now hopefully, although that specific war was ended in July 1949.

The scroll on which the text of the declaration of independence appears is now housed in the National Archives of Israel.
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