Portraits and Statements

David Ben Gurion Gives Chanukah Menorah to President Truman

David Ben Gurion -- the first Prime Minister of Israel, known as the Founding Father of the State -- gives a Chanukah  Menorah to President Truman. Ben Gurion was the leader of the Jewish community in Palestine before the State was declared. He was one of the writers and the first to sign and publicly read the Declaration of  Independence on May 14, 1948. Ben Gurion was in politics until  1963, most of the time as  Prime Minister.  His dream was to be an ordinary kibbutz member, farming the Land.  He retired to Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev, where he is buried next to his wife Paula. In this photo, Abba Eban, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States is  next to Ben Gurion.

Golda Meir - Iron Lady of Politics

Golda Meir was a Zionist leader who was the 4th Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to  1974. She was known for her tough matter-of-fact approach as well as her kind heart. On May 10, 1948, four days before the official establishment of the state, Meir traveled to Amman disguised as an Arab woman for a secret meeting with King Abdullah of Transjordan at which she urged him not to join the other Arab countries in attacking the Jews. Abdullah asked her not to hurry to proclaim a state. Meir replied: "We've been waiting for 2,000 years. Is that hurrying?" 

Golda was one of the people chosen to sign the Declaration of Independence. She wrote about that moment, "The State of Israel! My eyes filled with tears and my hands shook. We had done it. We had brought the Jewish State into existence – and  I, Golda Mabovitch Meyerson, had lived to see  the day….The long exile was over.
All I recall about the actual signing of the proclamation is that I was crying openly, not able even to wipe the tears from my face, and I  remember that, a man called Davi Zvi Pincus  who  belonged  to  the religious Mizrahi Party came over to try to calm me. ‘Why do you weep so much, Golda?’ he asked me. ‘Because it breaks my heart to think of all those who should have  been here today and are  not (those killed in the Holocaust and battles in Palestine),’ I replied, but I  still couldn’t stop crying. (My Life, Golda Meir)

Moshe Dayan Meets with Abdullah el Tell

On November 30, 1948, Colonel Moshe Dayan started a series of meetings with Military Governor of the Old City of Jerusalem Abdullah el Tell regarding armistice lines between Jordan and Israel.  As part of these discussions, Dayan drew a line on a map with a green pen. This line (more or less) became the armistice border between Jordan and Israel from 1948 until 1967. It is still used today to refer to the areas  in the  West Bank  as being "over the green line." El Tell had reached a high position in the Arab Legion (Jordan's Army) through his attacks on Gush Etzion and the Old City of Jerusalem in May 1948.

United States Army Colonel David Stone - known as Mickey Marcus - First General of Israel Defense Forces

In 1947, David Ben-Gurion asked David Daniel Marcus to recruit an American officer to serve as military advisor to the nascent Jewish army, the Haganah. He could not recruit anyone appropriate, so Marcus volunteered himself. In 1948, the United States War Department informally allowed him to do  so, as long as he disguised his name and rank to avoid problems with the British authorities of Mandate Palestine. Under the name "Michael Stone", he arrived in Palestine in January 1948. Marcus was appointed as Commander of the Jerusalem front on May 28, 1948, and given the rank of Aluf, the first general in the nation's army. Marcus was famous for the "Burma Road" which provided an alternate  way to reach besieged Jerusalem. Marcus' story is  dramatically told in 1966 movie, Cast a Giant Shadow starring  Kirk Douglas as Mickey Marcus (See Resources/Video). Marcus was sadly killed by friendly fire on June 10, 1948. He is buried in West Point Cemetery at the United States Military Academy, the only one buried there who was an American killed fighting under the flag of another country.

 

Yitzchak Ben Tzvi, 2nd President of Israel

Yitzchak Ben Tzvi and his wife Rachel were leading zionists, very modest people, and were interested in researching Jewish history and heritage. When Ben Tzvi  was president, from 1952-1963, he had an office on a rooftop on Mt. Zion which was the closest place Jews could get to the Western Wall during the 19 years when the Old City was in Jordanian hands. Among many projects, Ben Tzvi was involved with retrieving pages  of the "Aleppo Codex," the oldest Hebrew Bible in book form, written in the 10th century in Tiberius. This book has the punctuation which is used as the  basis of Hebrew Bibles today.  Prior to the writing of this book, Hebrew Bibles were written without the punctuation and pronunciation markings which were part of the ancient oral tradition, but were not written down. This book was stolen by the crusaders and given for ransom money to the Jewish community in Egypt. It later made it's way to Aleppo Syria where it stayed until the Syrian Jewish community came under attack (with the founding of the State of Israel) and pieces of the Bible  were distributed  among the community members for safe keeping. Today, the Aleppo Codex can be seen in the in the Israel Musuem in the same building as the Isaiah Scroll, the 2,000  year old Hebrew Biblical Scroll, the  oldest Hebrew Bible in scroll form.

The Balfour Declaration

The Balfour Declaration (dated 2 November 1917) was a letter from the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Rothschild (Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild), a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.

"His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."