In May 1948 prime minister David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the re-establishment of the Jewish state in Tel Aviv.
In the interim 1,878 years, Jews prayed three times a day for the re-establishment of the state and tried to survive the anti-Semitic nature of life in exile.
The modern Zionism movement changed from purely religious.. to religious and political. In 1896, Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl published an important political pamphlet called The Jewish State, which argued that the establishment of a Jewish state was the only way of protecting Jews in exile. Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in Basel (in neutral Switzerland) in 1897. Ottoman-controlled Palestine, the old Jewish homeland, was the natural location where a re-established Jewish state would want to be. Alas for Herzl and the millions of Jews in central and Eastern Europe, they petitioned the Ottoman government for a charter without success.
After the pogroms in Russia at the turn of the century, tens of thousands of Russian Jews began to immigrate to Palestine, speaking Hebrew as the national language and Yiddish/Russian at home. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire during WWI, Britain took over Palestine, issuing the 1917 Balfour Declaration about establishing a Jewish home-land in Palestine. This was authorised by the League of Nations in 1922. Britain, unable to find a practical solution to the hostility between Arabs and Jews, referred the problem to the United Nations, which in November 1947 voted to partition Palestine.
Nathan Jeffay, Australian Jewish News (2/5/2014), was very helpful. At 4 PM on the 14th May 1948, in the presence of the leaders of the country, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the new state. After the Declaration was signed, the entire Jewish world sang the Hatikvah. The words of the national anthem could not have been more apt: “Then our 2000 year old hope will not be lost. To be a free people in our land”.
On the same remarkable day, the British mandate in Palestine officially ended at midnight and David Ben-Gurion became Israel's first prime minister. Despite the British army withdrawal, a blackout in Tel Aviv and an imminent Arab invasion, Jews joyously celebrated the birth of their new nation. Egypt launched an air assault against Israel that evening. The next day, forces from Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded.
David Ben Gurion stood underneath the photo of Theodor Herzl
in Dizengoff House, Tel Aviv
and declared the establishment of the Jewish state
14th May 1948
the same room in Independence Hall Museum today
Meir Dizengoff and his wife Zina had received a plot of land in the sand dunes in 1909, before Tel Aviv was established. It was here he built his first small house and it was here he went on to become Tel Aviv’s first mayor. Dizengoff House, which was located in Rothschild Bld, gained a second storey according to the design of architect David Hershkovich. and looked like the rest of the Bauhaus-inspired city. This home provided the site for the signing of Israel's Declaration of Independence!
In 1930, after the death of his wife, Dizengoff donated his beloved house to the city and requested that it be turned into a museum. From 1932-1971 the house was used by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, with Dizengoff still living inside until his death in 1933. Most of the pictures that were part of the Tel-Aviv Museum’s collection have remained on the walls, among them the works some of my favourite artists - Ury Lesser, Marc Chagall and Boris Schatz.
Then in the 1970s Dizengoff House became Independence Hall, a museum celebrating the achieving of statehood. Nathan Jeffay recommends visitors look at the huge portrait of Theodor Herzl flanked by two Israeli flags, documents, invitations, recording equipment and memos. The names of the important public figures who attended the ceremony are still recorded on the dignitaries’ stage and on the chairs.
Importantly, Independence Hall now houses exhibits on the history of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. And there is a film describing the history of Dizengoff’s home.
Dizengoff House, now Independence Hall in Tel Aviv.
Crowds waiting to hear the news in May 1948.
Independence Hall today