Herzl’s Interment in Jerusalem, 1949
Official Communication of the Government of Israel on the Occasion of the Interment of Herzl in Jerusalem
Words of Prime Minister D. Ben-Gurion
With the establishment of the vision of the Jewish state, the nation brings the bones of the visionary from the Diaspora to the eternal capital of Israel.
Only two Jews in the entire history of the Jews, both of them sons of Jacob, had the honour of their freed people bringing their bones to Israel. A gap of three thousand and three hundred years separates these two events, from time of the exodus from Egypt when the bones of Joseph son of Jacob were brought to Israel until this very day.
The bones of the great visionary of our times have lain for forty-five years in the foreign land where he, Herzl, envisioned the Jewish State, created the tools to establish the State, and died when he was only forty-four years old from the breaking of his loving and aching heart.
“I don’t know when I will die” he wrote in 1895, six years before his death, “but Zionism will not die. Since the days of Basel, the Jewish People have once again had representatives from the people and the Jewish State will be established in its homeland.”
And his prophesy was fulfilled. When Herzl wrote his book The Jewish State in 1895, he felt as if he heard a flutter above his head. He was not wrong; it was the flutter of the soul of Israel that had not left him even after his death, because Herzl, the mortal man, had left, since he was flesh and blood like any other man, but the national visionary and creator will be eternal and, according to providence, immortal in Jewish history.
We are privileged to bring the bones of the visionary to the redeemed Land of Israel and to bring him to rest in our eternal capital. Near the tombs of kings and prophets a stone tomb will be erected for the bones of Herzl, for his mortal remains. However Herzl the immortal, his memorial monument is the State of Israel that will be built and beautified with the love of its builder-sons.
The funeral of Herzl’s bones in Jerusalem will be not a mourning procession but a victory procession, the victory of a vision that has become a reality.
In this official communique from the government of Israel, Ben-Gurion describes Herzl as a creator and revolutionary and compares him to the biblical character Joseph, who died in the Diaspora but whose bones were also reburied in the Land of Israel.
Ben-Gurion talks of Herzl, who died at an early age in the Diaspora, and his vision for a Jewish State that was realised with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. While Herzl, Ben-Gurion states, was mortal, his vision will be “immortal in Jewish history,” and the Jewish People are privileged to be able to bring Herzl to rest in “our eternal capital.” He sees the new, flourishing State of Israel as a monument to Herzl’s memory.
Ben-Gurion finishes his moving statement with the words: “The funeral of Herzl’s bones in Jerusalem will be not a mourning procession but a victory procession, the victory of a vision that has become a reality.”
This official proclamation contains lengthy quotations from Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s speech at a special Knesset session on 21 Av, 5749. This session was dedicated to the topic of bringing Herzl’s remains from Vienna for reburial at Har Herzl in Jerusalem. Herzl’s interment was attended by thousands, and the plane carrying his body was greeted off the coast of Israel by an honour guard of fighter planes and ships.
Jewish History teachers can use this resource to discuss the origins of Zionism and Herzl’s dedication to the goal of establishing a Jewish state.
In Jewish Studies classes teachers can use this resource to discuss Israeli society in the early years of the State and the connections made by Israeli leaders such as Ben-Gurion to both Jewish tradition and scriptures and modern Jewish history. This source can also be used to introduce biblical leaders such as Joseph and to compare them to Zionist leaders such as Theodor Herzl.
What is this document?
Who gave the speech printed in this document? When, where, and for what occasion?
Which biblical figure is mentioned in the translated sections of this speech?
How is this biblical figure connected to Herzl in the speech?
Where was Herzl buried before he was interred in Jerusalem?
How does Ben-Gurion describe Herzl and his actions?
What, according to Ben-Gurion, can be seen as a memorial to Herzl?
How does Ben-Gurion think Herzl’s funeral in Jerusalem should be regarded?
Reading Between the Lines
Who was Theodor Herzl?
What were his achievements that caused David Ben-Gurion to claim that his visions and actions would be eternal and immortal?
Why was Herzl’s body moved to Israel?
Why was this burial so significant for the State of Israel?
What is the ongoing importance of Theodor Herzl’s dream?
Would your life have been different if Herzl had not founded the Zionist movement? In what way?
What is significant about being buried in Israel?
Do you know of any other people who were reburied in Israel?
David Ben-Gurion was not a religious person, however, his speech contains many biblical quotations and comparisons.
What, in your opinion, is the importance of the Bible to the Jewish people and the State of Israel?
Write a eulogy that could have been read at Herzl’s interment in Jerusalem.