May 2014: From TBS President Bryan H. Pines
We will be celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut on the evening of Monday, May 5th, corresponding with the Hebrew date of the 5th of Iyar. In Israel, the joyous festivities will begin immediately after sunset following Israel Memorial Day. Twelve torches will be lit individually representing the twelve Tribes of Israel. The celebration continues throughout the next day. People are encouraged to spend the day outside by going on hikes and having barbecues. Historically, Israel Independence Day began on May 14, 1948 and centered on David Ben-Gurion reading the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel. This carefully crafted seven part document has as much relevance now as it did sixty-six years ago during the reaffirmation of our Jewish homeland.
The declaration had several drafts which were written by a committee, including Moshe Sharett, future Foreign Minister, and David Ben-Gurion, future Prime Minister. The ruling council’s (People’s Administration) decision to declare independence rather than accept an American truce proposal narrowly met a 6-4 majority vote. Discussions regarding the final revisions of the draft centered on issues related to accepting the UN Resolution borders, the inclusion of religious references, and the actual name of the country.
Ben-Gurion opposed limitations on the State’s frontiers. He felt that the American Declaration of Independence should be an example in that “it contains no mention of territorial limits. The Arabs are making war with us. If we beat them, the western part of the Galilee and the territory on both sides of the road to Jerusalem will become part of the State.”
The argument about the document’s inclusion of G-d in the establishment of the State lasted for hours. Ben-Gurion was able to satisfy all parties by inserting the phrase: Rock of Israel. Religious members of the committee felt that this referenced G-d, as the Rock and Redeemer, while the atheist interpreted it as the land itself.
One of the last decisions was to choose a name for the soon-to- be independent country. Names such as Judea or Zion were initially considered but it was felt that they could raise confusion since they also reference specific geographical locations within the new state. Ben-Gurion’s suggestion of Israel was approved with a 6-3 majority vote.
Following the signing of the document by the council members, Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel publicly at the Tel Aviv Museum while it was broadcast over the radio. Leonard Bernstein conducted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in the performance of Ha’Tikva.
The importance of re-establishing a Jewish homeland after two thousand years of exile is momentous. Our identity has strengthened while enduring expulsions and religious persecution.
At Mount Herzl, this year’s torch lighting ceremony will be conducted solely by women from various areas of Israeli life. These twelve individuals are being recognized and admired for their contributions to their communities and the State of Israel. This year brings a special emphasis on the achievements and struggles of women in their pursuit of gender equality. The State of Israel recognizes the importance of all its citizen’s desires for freedom and liberty. The land and its people have grown and matured over the past sixty-six years. Celebrate Israel Independence Day by proudly expressing your staunch support of Eretz Israel.
Bryan H. Pines