Knesset Declares National Independence Day, 1949
This document is an official statement from the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) that the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar will be a national independence day. The document was published in 1949 and distributed in the streets of Israel before the first anniversary.
The document starts by detailing the challenges facing Israel and the country’s achievements in its first year of existence: the struggle for freedom, military victory, the creation of the IDF, the parliament, and a government, global recognition, and many immigrants.
The document declares that the newly legislated Independence Day will be a day for celebration and rest as well as a day of memorial for the men and women who died in the country’s defence. (Later, in 1951, David Ben-Gurion was to declare a separate memorial day in response to a request from bereaved families.) Independence Day should be a holiday and a day when people spend time together to remember and appreciate Israel’s new beginnings and the freedom of the Jews to live in their own land.
The document also calls on Jews from around the world to continue their support for the Jewish State.
The emblem of the State of Israel can be seen at the top of the document. The blue and white emblem shows a menorah surrounded by olive branches and the Hebrew word “Yisrael” underneath. The Menorah was used in the Temple, and according to the illustration on the Arch of Titus, after the exile of the Jews in 70 CE, the Romans looted the Temple and took the Menorah and other ritual objects to Rome. The olive branches symbolize an important tree common in Israel and the hope for peace. The colours blue and white, as on the flag of Israel, represent the colours of the tallit.
This document can be used by Jewish History teachers when examining the early days of the State of Israel. The document states both the challenges faced by Israel and its achievements, which can trigger a discussion about the progress in Israel since then and the continuing challenges facing the country.
Politics or Civics teachers can use this document to explain the beginnings of the Israeli system of government.
This resource can also be used in Jewish Studies lessons when discussing the symbols of the State of Israel. Teachers can integrate this document into a unit on Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Hazikaron.
What is this?
What is a proclamation?
Who printed it?
When was it printed?
Who was the intended audience?
What is it proclaiming?
What is the emblem at the top of the page?
What is the significance of the date at the bottom of the page?
Reading Between the Lines
What were the main challenges facing Israel in 1949?
What were Israel’s achievements in its first year of existence?
How does the document commemorate the soldiers who died defending Israel?
According to the document, what are Israel’s aspirations regarding the new immigrants and Israeli society?
What is the proclamation’s message regarding the Jews of the Diaspora?
This document declared the establishment of Independence Day, Yom Ha’Atzmaut, as the anniversary of the founding of the Jewish State.
Research the history of the Declaration of the State of Israel.
What preceded it?
Who were for and who against the declaration of the State of Israel?
What was the international viewpoint?
The document states: “On this day, work will cease in the field and in the workshop, in the studio and in the factory, in the shops and the offices. This is a festival for Israel. The nation’s families and settlements will congregate, in joy and happiness, in memory and thanksgiving, in unity and elation.”
Why do you think the government document was so specific as to what should and should not happen on this day?
Yom Ha’Atzmaut has evolved over time.
How is this day celebrated in Israel? Find out more here.
Which events would you like to participate in?
How do you, your school, or your community celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut ?
Is there a nationally recognized independence day where you live?
If so, how is it similar to the celebration of Yom Ha’Atzmaut? How is it different?
Research the meaning of the emblem of Israel, and then create your own symbol that represents modern Israel either using art or digital resources.
Use Google Earth to look at the Knesset building today.
Compare it to your country’s government building. How is it similar or different?
Today we mark a year since the yolk of the foreigner was lifted from our land and the hope of generations to revive the State of Israel in our homeland was fulfilled. A year ago, Israel declared its national independence, and the period of our enslavement ended.
It has been a year of blood and costly sacrifices. A year of heroism of a people who were thirsty for life and freedom and who leaped towards the crucial battle for redemption. It has also been a year of wonderful victories which have changed our historic destiny for eternity. This year all of our invaders were defeated. This year the Israel Defense Forces was established and fortified. This year a parliament and a government were elected. This year Israel was recognized by the nations of the world. This year saw the beginning of the longed-for period of the mass ingathering of the exiles to our freed homeland.
The Knesset of the State has decided to declare this day, the anniversary of our new revival, a holiday [chag].
Today Israel will remember with pride and honour its sons and daughters, the heroes of the nation, who lost their lives in the battles of Israel, and in their sweet young lives, the pure and brave bequeathed freedom to their people. Israel will sanctify their memory, bless the radiance of their bravery, comfort the mourners who saw their sacrifice, and forever carry the aspirations of their lives and their deaths. Today, Israel will praise the spirit of the fighters of the Israel Defense Forces who ensure the peace and freedom of our established State.
Today, Israel will bless the hundreds and thousands of its sons who have flocked to the country from scattered nations and are still making efforts to be integrated into their homeland. The nation will be unified, all the echelons of society and all the different aliyot, in welcoming their immigrant brothers and will adopt a life that is suitable for a nation that is ingathering its exiles with happiness.
And the nation of Israel from the Diaspora, whose heart faces Zion and freedom, should know that their efforts have matured. The people of Israel can ready themselves for building, renewal, and aliya, for there is reward for your work and their sons will return to their own borders.
On this day, work will cease in the field and in the workshop, in the studio and in the factory, in the shops and the offices. This is a festival for Israel. The nation’s families and settlements will congregate in joy and happiness, memory and thanksgiving, unity and elation.
For this day Israel will celebrate its new festival of freedom.
The Government of Israel