9-5-2011 Israel : Independence day.......and history

In honor of Israel’s birthday, fun facts about the Jewish homeland that will make you “kvell.”

by Marnie Winston-Macauley

We, members of the People's council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist movement, are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British mandate over Eretz-Israel and, by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the state of Israel.

Placing our trust in the almighty, we affix our signatures to this proclamation at this session of the provisional council of state, on the soil of the homeland, in the city of Tel-Aviv, on this Sabbath Eve, the 5th day of Iyar, 5708 [14th may,1948].

”In Israel, in order to be a realist, one must believe in miracles” — David Ben Gurion

There was dancing in the streets of Israel when, at 4 P.M., David Ben-Gurion read: “We hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine to be called Israel.” He wrote in his diary: "The fate of the country lies in the hands of the armed forces." That night states of the Arab League invaded the tiny country. Ben Gurion knew that many who danced would never return home.

In honor of Israeli Independence Day, I give you facts, anecdotes, and achievements of this tiny land.


Resolution 181

As the roll call began on November 29, 1947, thousands upon thousands of Jews kept count in front of radios . . .

Afghanistan, no; Argentina, abstain, Australia, yes . . . Then Belgium, Belorussia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada – yes. On it continued . . . Syria, no; Turkey, no; Ukraine, yes, Union of South Africa, yes; USSR, United Kingdom, abstain; United States, yes . . .

When it was over, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, calling for the partition of the British-ruled Palestine Mandate into a Jewish state and an Arab state was approved. The vote was 33 in favor, 13 against, 10 abstentions, and 1 absent.

American Jewry Responds

We American Jews have been divided on many issues. But when it came to supporting the creation of the modern Jewish State, aid was there and wallets were open. The Haunted Smile reports a meeting with Golda Meyerson (later, Meir) at Eddie Cantor’s house in 1948 to raise funds for Israel. Jack Benny sent a signed blank check with instructions to “fill in whatever you need.” Cantor did, for $25, 000, the least he knew Benny would have contributed.

Fascinating Facts

The Israeli Flag

The Israeli flag adopted on Oct. 28, 1948, is based on the flag of Zionist movement. In the middle is the Star of David, which, according to tradition, appeared on Kind David’s shield. The blue stripes on the top and the bottom are based upon the on the blue fringes of Jewish prayer shawls.

Hatikva: The Hope

On the eve of Simchat Torah, during the first year of Nazi occupation in 1940, the bells of the Catholic Cathedral in Antwerp rang out the melody of Hatikvah, meaning, “The Hope.” Hatikva became the national anthem of Israel. Its lyrics were written in 1886 by Naphtali Herz Imber, a poet originally from Galicia. The melody was written by Samuel Cohen, who based the melody on a musical theme from Bedrich Smetana’s "Moldau." The mournful piece, written in minor key, is actually uplifting. In rough translation, the lyrics are:

So long as within our breasts
The Jewish heart beats true
So long as still toward the east
To Zion looks the Jew
Our hopes are not yet lost
Two thousand years we cherished them
To live as a free people in our land
Land of Zion and Jerusalem

Hebrew: A Re-Birth

Hebrew, the language of study, religion, formal and literary works, ceased being a spoken language around 250 B.C.E. It took an early Zionist, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (1858-1922), to realize that a common language would be required for those returning to their homeland. Upon landing in Jaffa in 1881 (from Lithuania), he established the first only Hebrew-speaking household, worked tirelessly on modernizing Hebrew and began work on the first modern dictionary, completed by his wife and a son after his death. All 16 volumes were finally published in 1959.

"Dear God ..."

Hundreds of people a year write prayers and difficulties and mail them to, you guessed it -- God. The address? "God, Jerusalem, Israel." So where does the mail go? Does God get them? Let us hope. But it's a trip. First they go to the Israeli Post Office's Dead Letters Department, then each letter, collected in a velvet bag, is posted into a crack in the Western Wall. Perhaps more importantly, does God answer all the letters? Of course. (But a self-addressed stamped envelope wouldn’t hurt!)

Israeli Diet?

According to author Tim Boxer, when Shimon Peres visited Vice President George Bush, Bush told Peres about the benefits of his tennis game, inquiring how the Prime Minister stayed so fit. It wasn’t a terrific secret. “I run the Israeli cabinet,” replied Peres.

United States Presidents on Israel

Lincoln: Shortly after delivering the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln met a Canadian Christian Zionist, Henry Wentworth Monk, who expressed hope that Jews who were being oppressed in Russia and Turkey be emancipated "by restoring them to their national home in Palestine." Lincoln replied that this was "a noble dream and one shared by many Americans."

Truman: “I had faith in Israel before it was established, so I have faith in it now.”

President Harry Truman to Chaim Weizmann, granting de facto recognition of the new Jewish State—eleven minutes after Israel's proclamation of independence.

Eisenhower: “I believe[Israel] has a glorious future before it—not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.” --Dwight D. Eisenhower with David Ben-Gurion, May 26, 1952

Lyndon Johnson: When Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin asked Lyndon Johnson why the United States supports Israel when there are 80 million Arabs and only three million Israelis, the President replied simply: "Because it is right."

Nixon: “I may not worry as much as Prime Minister Eshkol does about Israel, but I worry as deeply.” – President Richard M. Nixon in a Memorandum of Conversation with Israeli Ambassador Harman, February 7, 1968).

Reagan: “The survival of Israel is not just a political issue, it is a moral imperative. That is my deeply held belief and it is the belief shared by the vast majority of the American people. A strong secure Israel is not just in Israel's interest. It's in the interest of the United States and in the interest of the entire free world.”

Clinton: “The United States admires Israel for all that it has overcome and for all that it has accomplished. We are proud of the strong bond we have forged with Israel, based on our shared values and ideals. That unique relationship will endure just as Israel has endured.”


Israel accounts for less than 1/1000th of the world's population, and is the 100thsmallest country, yet is a world leader in many areas.

Humanism, Politics, and Culture. Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East where Muslims, Christians, and Jews may vote in free and fair representative parliamentary elections. It also has the highest average living standards in the Middle East. Israel's $100 billion economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined.

Related Video: Israel: Defying the Odds

*Relative to its population, Israel accepts more immigrants per capita than any other nation.

*When Golda Meir was elected Prime Minister in 1969, she became only second elected female world leader in modern times.

*Israel has the third highest rate of entrepreneurship - and the highest rate among women and those over 55 - in the world.

*Israel has the highest percentage of home computers per capita.

*Israel has more museums per capita than any other country.

*Israel is the only country to enter the twenty-first century with a net gain in number of trees.

*In 1984 and 1991, Israel airlifted 22,000 Ethiopian Jews to safety.

*When an earthquake struck Western India in January 2001, Israel sent an entire field hospital, including medical staff and equipment, to help treat injured civilians.

TechnologyIsrael leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce, with 145 per 10,000, as opposed to 85 per 10,000 in the U.S. More, it has the highest ratio of university degrees to its population, the highest per capita ratio of scientific publications and patents filed, and proportionally, it has the largest number of startup companies in the world.

*Israelis designed the most impenetrable flight security, and advises the U.S. re: airborne security threats.

*Israeli scientists developed the first fully developed no-radiation, diagnostic instrumentation for breast cancer treatment.

*The cell phone was developed in Haifa by Motorola-Israel.

*Windows NT software was developed by Microsoft-Israel.

*The Pentium MMX Chip technology was designed in Israel at Intel.

*Voice mail technology was developed in Israel.

*AOL's instant message program was designed by an Israeli software company.

*Both Microsoft and Cisco built their only R&D facilities outside the U.S. in Israel.