8 curious facts about the founding of Israel
On May 5, Israel will celebrate its 74th birthday and the passage of time and the solemn black and white photographs of the time give the impression that the historical events and the first steps of the nascent country occurred in an orderly manner and thought in advance but in In reality, things couldn’t be more different.
The very name of the country was the subject of heated debate, the Declaration of Independence was far from ready on time and it took a lot to decide on an official coat of arms.
In this article, ISRAEL21c in Spanish brings together the main curious and fascinating facts related to the founding of Israel.
Happy birthday, country!
1. The first time a government was declared was not in 1948
It is known that the State of Israel was born in 1948 but something that not many know is that some people tried to declare independence five years before.
In 1943, when World War II was still raging, veteran Zionist leaders called a large public meeting in Ramat Gan called “The People’s Congregation” in which a temporary Jewish government would be elected.
As the English-language blog “The Librarians” of the National Library of Israel recalls in detail, nothing of consequence came out of all those long speeches. Still, they tried.
2. The name of the country was not an obvious choice
Before choosing Israel, other options for calling the future state included Zion (discarded because it is a Biblical name for Jerusalem, and also to distinguish between the general Zionist movement and Israeli citizenship), Ever (after the Biblical figure Eber and similar to the Hebrew word for Hebrew, Ivrit) and Judea (rejected to differentiate between Jews and Israeli citizens).
Incidentally, Israel was the name suggested by the country’s first head of government, David Ben-Gurion.
3. The famous backdrop for Independence Hall was improvised. Israel’s independence was solemnly declared at the entrance to what was then the Tel Aviv Museum. The photos show long curtains, Israeli flags, a portrait of Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl and serious-looking men gathered on the spot with chairs in front of them. Apparently the curtains were hung to hide nude paintings on the walls.
The chairs were taken from the surrounding cafes and Herzl’s portrait and the flags were borrowed from the United Israel Appeal because the decoration budget was not enough to buy them.
It all took about 24 hours but the results ended up looking absolutely timeless.
4. The signatories of the Declaration did not sign it
In addition to being a canonical text, Israel’s Declaration of Independence is a beautiful work of careful calligraphy. It’s so thorough that it wasn’t completely ready in time for the signing ceremony.
As a result, its signers did not add their names to the end of the text but to a piece of parchment which was then sewn into the complete scroll by the wife of its designer.
Clarification: Ben Gurion read the text from a normal typed sheet of paper to which he added some handwritten notes.
5. The first flag of Israel in Jerusalem was colored with crayons.
Rebecca Affachiner was a true pioneer who became one of the leading Zionist figures of the early 20th century and dedicated her life to the Jewish community and the Zionist cause.
Among her notable achievements was the amusing fact that she flew the first Israeli flag in Jerusalem on May 14, 1948 after the announcement of the establishment of the state. Resourceful woman that she was, she sewed the flag herself and used simple blue crayons to color in the Star of David and stripes.
That is called ingenuity.
6. The Government invited the people to design shields that they later rejected by hundreds
Creating a state emblem is not an easy task and design, history and functionality must be taken into account. Shortly after Israel’s founding, the new government invited proposals from the public specifying that such an emblem should feature a seven-lamp candelabrum, seven stars, and the colors blue and white.
Artists from all over the territory sent 450 proposals and, finally, a design by Gavriel and Maxim Shamir of the Shamir Brothers studio was the one that remained.
The drawing included a modern-looking chandelier and stars alongside olive branches but was later changed to show the chandelier from the Arch of Titus in Rome and the word “Israel.”
The stars were left out and the result is what you see today on Israeli lapel pins and coins.
7. Tel Aviv’s first annual Independence Day parade couldn’t finish
In Israel’s first two decades, a military parade was held each year as part of the Independence Day celebrations. But in 1949, a year after the founding of the state, things did not go as planned.
The parade started off well but was soon prevented from going ahead by an overly enthusiastic crowd in the streets of Tel Aviv.
This was seen as highly embarrassing, leading a newspaper editor to wonder how the same army that had managed to defend the entire country just a year earlier could not cross a single street.
8. Israel’s first Knesset met in a movie theater
The Knesset, or the house of parliament, is a true landmark of Israel that stands out for its majestic architecture, sculptures and stained glass windows but the first home of the legislative assembly was none other than a large cinema in Tel Aviv called Kessem (magic, in Hebrew).
The huge building built in 1945 had more than 1,000 upholstered seats and enjoyed a fabulous location by the sea.
For most of 1949 it housed Israel’s first parliamentarians until they moved to Jerusalem.
In later years, the site was used by officials from the Israeli tax authority and opera house but was later torn down and rebuilt as a residential building with a fascinating history.