Declaring the ‘Realization of the Age-Old Dream’
ERETZ ISRAEL [the Land of Israel] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.
So begins the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, better known as Israel’s Declaration of Independence, proclaimed and signed at the Tel Aviv Museum—today, Independence Hall—on May 14, 1948. But how well do you know modern Israel’s most foundational text?
- Reading from a typewritten copy, it took David Ben-Gurion approximately 16 minutes to deliver the Declaration before the several hundred guests at the museum and the thousands listening to the live transmission on the nascent radio station, Kol Yisrael.
- Rabbi Yehuda Leib Fishman, a signer of the Declaration, recited the Shehecheyanu blessing after Ben-Gurion concluded with the final lines: “Placing our trust in the rock of Israel, we affix our signatures to this proclamation at this session of the Provisional Council of State, on the soil of the homeland, in the city of Tel Aviv, on this Sabbath eve, the 5th day of Iyar, 5708. The 14th of May, 1948.”
- Thirty-seven people signed the Declaration, beginning with Ben-Gurion, who was then the executive head of the World Zionist Organization and chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. The other signatories—including two women—were leading members of the Yishuv and the Provisional Council of the State of Israel.
- Rachel Cohen Kagan, chairwoman of the Women’s International Zionist Organization, early champion of women’s rights in Israel and future member of Knesset, signed before her female colleague Golda Meir.
- Three of the signers served as prime ministers: Ben-Gurion (1948-1954, 1955-1963), Moshe Shertok (1954-1955) and Golda Meir (1969-1974). Yitzhak Ben-Zvi served as the second president of Israel (1925-1963).
- The selection of “Israel” as the name for the modern state was officially acknowledged in the Declaration, ending speculation over other potential names, among them, Eretz Israel, Ziona, Palestine, Herzliya and Ever.
Missed our webinar? Watch the recording here.
- By June 1948, graphic designer and calligrapher Otte Wallish had completed his work on the Declaration Scroll, which is today in the collection of the Israel State Archives. Wallish transcribed the text in Ktav Stam, a traditional Jewish writing style used for most holy scrolls.
- The scroll consists of three sections of parchment stitched together: The first two, which are paper treated to resemble parchment made of animal skin, contain the text of the Declaration; the third, made of actual animal skin, features the signatures.
Israel Wasn’t Intended to Be a Liberal Democracy
Libby Barnea is the deputy editor of Hadassah Magazine.