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The Ben Gurion Years
Ben Gurion Centenary 1886-1986

Major Simulations (2048 Crisis: Israel & the UN - A Resolution of Support )

About the Declaration of Independence


There are two extant translations of the Declaration of Independence: one is the official Gazette version, which is available online and in facsimile form; the other is from the Jewish Encyclopedia and "Ben Gurion's Israel, a Personal History". The second is much closer to the Hebrew original, particularly in the last two paragraphs, as you can see from the Source Documents.

With the group, using the guidelines given to the inner Cabinet for writing their own statement, analyze both texts if you also have the facsimile of the scroll, paying particular attention to the following:

  • Which Jewish leaders are mentioned and why?
  • How does the Declaration relate to the Diaspora, if at all, and to the legacy of 2000 years in the Diaspora?
  • How does it relate to Jewish tradition and Jewish sources?
  • List the reasons and justifications given for the right to statehood (what is your opinion of this approach? Are there any others you would have mentioned?)
  • On what is the State based, according to this Declaration?
  • Were there any other issues that came up in our Cabinet decision?
  • What was the conclusion about the issue of G-d?

How can one reconcile this view with the concept of religion and state being connected (British model and Israel model), or separate (American, French models), and with the wish to preserve and gather in the Jewish people?

Did you know that every session of the American Congress opens with a religious ceremony conducted by a priest and a swearing in on the Bible? How would this be seen in Israel - in our "Cabinet," for example?

For your information:

The Hebrew, "Tzur Yisrael" (Rock of Israel) appears in the Declaration.
The Biblical sources for this all refer to G-d, e.g.,


  • "Hashem tzuri vego'ali" - G-d is my rock and my saviour - Psalms XIX, 15;
  • "Tzur veyish'i" - my rock and my salvation - Shmuel II, XXII, 47;
  • "G-d of Israel - Rock of Israel" - Shmuel II, XXIII, 3.
  • "Tzur Yisrael vego'alo" - from modern prayer for the State of Israel.



On March 19, 1948, it was announced that the U.S. government would propose an international trusteeship over Palestine. This suggestion was categorically rejected by David Ben Gurion, then the chairman of the Zionist Executive. At the beginning of April, the Zionist Executive General Council and the Va'ad Leumi decided to establish a 13-member National Administration and the National Council of 37 members, which would, upon the departure of the British mandate forces, become the provisional government and legislature of the Jewish State.

On May 12 Moshe Shertok (Sharett) returned from the U.S. and reported to the National Administration that Secretary of State George Marshall had revived the trusteeship proposal, though President Truman and public opinion still favored a Jewish State. Shertok proposed the formation of a government rather than the establishment of a state, while Felix Rosenbluth (Pinhas Rosen) proposed the proclamation of a state within the framework of the U.N. decision. Ben Gurion insisted that the proclamation should be only "on the basis" of the U.N. decision and opposed the demand of Rosenbluth and Bekhor Shitrit that the frontiers of the state be specified, pointing out that the U.S. had not designated its own frontiers when declaring independence. If the Jews succeeded in repulsing the Arab attack, they would occupy Western Galilee and the Jerusalem Corridor, which would thus become part of the Jewish State.

By a 5 to 4 majority it was decided not to specify frontiers. A committee of five, composed of David Remez, Felix Rosenbluth, Moshe Shapiro, Moshe Shertok (Sharett), and Aharon Zisling, was appointed to draft the Declaration of Independence. The draft submitted by the committee on May 13 consisted of 22 articles, twelve of which began with "Inasmuch as..." It was criticized as too long and flowery and the final wording was entrusted to Ben Gurion, Rabbi Y.L. Fishman (Maimon), A. Zisling, and M. Shertok. During the same evening Ben Gurion prepared a final draft, which was approved by his colleagues on the committee.

The National Council met at 10 a.m. the next day. The Communist leader Meir Wilner proposed the addition of articles denouncing the British Mandate and opposing British military bases, but Shertok argued that such items were out of place in the Declaration. David Zevi Pinkas of the Mizrachi proposed that the Declaration should begin: "The Land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people in the Torah and by the Prophets." Zisling objected to the term "Tzur Israel", a version of the name God (literally "Rock of Israel") in the final paragraph. Mapai's Meir Grabovski (Argov) proposed the addition of the word "language" to the clause guaranteeing freedom of religion, conscience, education and culture, to ensure that Arabic would have equal rights with Hebrew. Ben Gurion agreed to Grabovski's proposal, but not to his reasoning. The language of the State must be Hebrew but the Arabs would be free to use their language in all aspects of Israeli life. As to Zisling's objection, he said, everyone from right to left believed in then "Rock of Israel" in his own way. On a first vote, sixteen voted for the draft, eight abstained. The chairman reported that the members of the council who had been unable to leave Jerusalem, because of the battles, had met that morning and had approved the draft. He requested that the Declaration be adopted unanimously in a second vote, whatever objection members might have to a particular item or aspect, and this was done.

The council also approved a proposal submitted by Felix Rosenbluth, that the Provisional Council of State, as the National Council was to be called after independence, be the legislative authority, with the right to delegate its powers to the government for the purpose of urgent legislation. The White Paper of 1939 and the relevant Mandate ordinances were to be repealed, but all other laws in existence on May 14, 1948, would remain in force in the State of Israel.

At four thirty p.m. of the same day, Iyar 5, 5708, the National Council met in the Tel Aviv Museum Hall. Among those present were representatives of the Jewish Agency, the Zionist Organization, the Va'ad Leumi, the Zionist funds, leaders of political parties, personalities in the various cultural fields, the Chief Rabbis, the Tel Aviv Town Council, the Chief of Staff of the Hagana and his colleagues, and pioneers of Jewish settlement.

Ben Gurion, who presided, announced: "I shall read you the Foundation Scroll of the State of Israel, which has been approved in the first reading by the National Council." As he concluded with the appeal "Let us accept the Foundation Scroll of the Jewish State by rising," the entire audience rose. The chairman stated that any member who so desired would be able to make a statement at the next session. Rabbi Fishman thereupon pronounced the traditional blessing: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive and preserved us and enabled us to reach this season." The chairman then read the resolution annulling the White Paper, which was unanimously adopted. He then signed the Declaration of Independence, and the secretary, Ze'ev Schaerf (Sharef) read out the names of the council members in Hebrew alphabetical order. Amid enthusiastic applause, each member went up to the dais and signed, space being left for those still in Jerusalem to sign later. Ben Gurion announced: "The State of Israel has arisen. This session is closed."


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