On the 4th Iyar 5708 corresponding to 14th May 1948 at 4.30 pm at the then Tel Aviv Museum, the former home of Meir Dizengoff (the first Mayor of Tel Aviv), in Rehov Rothschild, Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion, then the head of the Jewish Agency, and thereafter the first Prime-Minister of the State of Israel, read the Declaration which created the State from 15 May 1948. He had to make the Declaration in Tel Aviv as the members of the Jewish Agency and other dignitaries could not get to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was then cut off by the Arab insurgents and by the Arab Legion of Trans-Jordan, the latter being ready to invade the territory of the State which with the other neighbouring Arab States it did the following day..
The first paragraph of the Declaration read,
“In the Land of Israel the Jewish people came into being. In this Land was shaped their spiritual, religious, and national character. Here they lived in sovereign independence. Here they created a culture of national and universal import, and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.”
It is remarkable that the Declaration was made just 51 years following the publication by Theodore Hertz of “Der Judenstaat.” Even more remarkable was the fact that the declaration was made just 30 years 6 months after a letter, known as the Balfour Declaration was sent by Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, to Lord Rothschild. In the letter the British Government, having no governmental or jurisdictional basis for sending it, save for the fact that Britain wished, for empirical reasons, to acquire Palestine, stated that the British Government favoured, “in Palestine the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people”. This pledge was confirmed and legitimised by the incorporation of the terms of the letter in the preamble to the Mandate granted to the British Government for the governance of Palestine, by the League of Nations, in 1923.
Some may find it miraculous that the State came about, bearing in mind that the British Government in the next 30 years, from 1917 retreated, again for empirical reasons, from the establishment of the Jewish Homeland, completely negating that policy, by the terms of the McDonald White Paper of February 1939. Then ultimately as a result of this failed British policy, the British Government surrendered the Mandate to the United Nations in February 1947, leaving the 600,000 or so Jewish occupants of Palestine, to the mercy of the surrounding hostile Arab States, as well as the Arab occupants of Palestine. Indeed the expectation of the British and others was that the partition of Palestine, proposed by resolution of the United Nations in November 1947, into Arab and Jewish territories with Jerusalem internationalised, would not survive, but would become an Arab controlled area, probably governed by Jordan.
Nevertheless the fledgling state did survive following a bitter War of Independence, and thereafter after many travails flourished; now having a population of more than seven million Jewish inhabitants.
This expansion has required the supreme sacrifice of its citizens, the country being defended, when it has to fight for its survival in major conflicts by predominantly a citizen army. Ordinary citizens, even to-day, live with the continuing threat of Arab terrorism, the Palestinian Arabs from childhood encouraged by propaganda seek the destruction of the State and to demonise Jews, even the one Palestinian Organisation, purporting to speak for the PLO, Fatah, that allegedly seeks a two-state solution, and now Hamas putting an addendum to its Constitution, purporting to agree initially a two state solution that would then become an Arab dominated State from the river to the sea.
The sacrifice of the fallen members of the IDF acknowledged in the calendar, just yesterday, by Yom Ha’Zichoron bears witness to the tragedy of those who no longer shall grow old and witness the rising of the sun as we do.
In 69 years Israel has had to fight 6 major wars, if one includes the War of Attrition between 1968 to 1970; three counter-terrorist wars and continues to be on permanent alert against terrorist incursion, to secure the state’s independent status and territorial integrity. It does so with a polity that is democratic; governing a society that is diverse, recognising the human rights of those that acknowledge and respect the state’s right to govern its citizen’s and internationally, seeks to live in peace with those states that reciprocate, and acknowledge its place in the comity of nations. Israel maintains, as Ben-Gurion pledged, complete equality of social and political rights for all its citizens. Its citizens include a large Arab minority which is represented in the Knesset and benefits from a society that confers, in most cases, a quality of life and freedoms that far exceeds any enjoyed by the Arab citizens of the Israel’s neighbours, engulfed in conflict or civil and internecine unrest, including in Syria and Iraq brutal Civil Wars that pose a threat to world peace.
Ben-Gurion, in the Declaration, made a number of pledges, amongst those: that Israel will be open to Jewish immigration and the ingathering of exiles; devote itself to developing the Land for the good of all its inhabitants; guaranteeing freedom of religion and conscience, of language, education and culture. It has indeed gathered in Jewish exiles, first those that survived Nazism in Europe, secondly those that were expelled from Arab states following the 1948, 56 and 67 wars and, thirdly those who have left countries around the world to make Aliyah.
It is now absorbing those Jews in countries at threat from Muslim extremism, and alarming and increasing anti-Semitism, whether it be from the right or the left, a phenomenon that continues, despite the worst crime in human history. The Holocaust, primarily promulgated against the Jewish people, with the intent that the Jewish people should be exterminated. Of course those that blame the existence of Israel as a result of the Holocaust and the cleansing of the world’s conscience, as many so-called anti-Zionists do, should concentrate first on why there was a Holocaust, something that seems to escape them, being endemic anti-Semitism, a hatred that in fact promoted Zionism (Jewish Nationalism) and actually gives reason for and justifies the existence of the State of Israel.
However Jews do not need to engage in that dialectic. The state is there in pursuance of faith that is at its soul. Jews have never turned their face from Zion since they became a Nation, as ‘the children of Israel’ and from the time of King David, Jerusalem has remained the centre of the Jewish world.
Since the foundation of the State, to date, the State in disproportion to its size and population has made massive contributions to the advancement of knowledge, in medicine, science and the arts, rarely acknowledged by the media. Much of IT software development is now centred in Israel which actually does have INTEL inside and for that matter, FACEBOOK for the Middle and Far East. Its medical and technological developments lead the world. It is a sophisticated society, no longer dependent upon agriculture, but is economically and technologically independent. It has engaged in advanced desalination and horticultural projects. Israel is now exporting natural gas and is becoming a major energy producing nation. It has an advanced social care and health system that even gives succour to the families of those that would seek the State’s destruction. It has a transparent judicial process and a free media. Its military is subject to political control. In short Israel operates under a legal, social and moral compass that is recognised by those who fairly judge AND observe its functioning as the equal of any modern western democracy.
Yet despite the development and world-leading innovation there are those who would still seek the state’s destruction and seek its isolation, by boycott of its produce, as well as its academic isolation, whilst happily however utilising the inventions that emanate from Israel. This perverse, hostile and ignorant behaviour typified by those who espouse academic freedom and the right to freedom of speech, in turn allowing them to defame Israel, vent distortions of history and hate, seeking to distinguish and separate Zion from Judaism, even more so when done by Jews, whether Orthodox or not, who turn their backs on the reality of their own history, that merely identifies the anti-Semite and leaves Jews who pursue that path in denial.
To us, and those Jews around the world, who celebrate this 69th anniversary of the State, we acknowledge the fact that the word of the Lord continues to emanate from Jerusalem, and that none have or will make Israel afraid. Israel can continue to hold its heads high. We celebrate Israel and its achievements, knowing that the Children of Israel not only live, but thrive. In that knowledge we are secure and give thanks praying that Israel will continue to thrive and may that be His will.