The Most Crowded Hours in History
At 4:00 pm on Friday, Iyar 5th, 5708 (May 15th, 1948), David Ben Gurion
(who would be the first Prime Minister of the new state) stood in the Tel Aviv Museum (today known as Independence Hall) and opened the ceremony to which about 250 guests were in attendance – by invitation only. The group spontaneously sang Hatikvah – which soon became Israel’s national anthem. Behind Ben Gurion hung a large picture of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, flanked by Israeli flags – which were soon adopted as official.
Please take the time to click on the above link and listen to the very historic proceedings. (Hebrew students can follow Ben Gurion as he reads the Hebrew text of the Declaration .) First, Ben Gurion announced to the crowd, “I shall now read to you the scroll of the Establishment of the State…”. The full reading took about 16 minutes and ends with the words, PLACING OUR TRUST IN THE “ROCK OF ISRAEL”, WE AFFIX OUR SIGNATURES TO THIS PROCLAMATION. Ben Gurion concluded by saying, “Let us accept the Foundation Scroll of the Jewish State by rising” and calling on Rabbi Fishman to recite the Shehecheyanu blessing which is traditionally recited at special occasions or when one does something for the first time (like establishing a nation!) After the last of the signatories of the Declaration had signed, the audience again stood and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra played Hatikvah, ( הַתִּקְוָה ) which literally means ‘the Hope’. Ben-Gurion concluded the event with the words “The State of Israel is established! This meeting is adjourned!”
Etymology of Yom HaAtzma’ut
Israeli Independence Day is called Yom HaAtzma’ut ( יום העצמאות ). First, we have the word יום (yom) which of course is ‘day’. The 2nd word, הַעַצְמַאוֻת (HaAtzma’ut) means ‘independence’. So Yom HaAtzma’ut is literally ‘Independence Day’. The root of the Hebrew word, העצמאות, is עצמ and means: “bone, substance, matter, essence or core of something or someone.” The word (עצמאות) means ‘independence’ and is derived from עצמי (atsmi) which means one’s own personal being and bones.
Perhaps this gives new meaning to the Ezekiel 37 passage on ‘the valley of dry bones’ which was written about the rebirth of Israel since the Hebrew root etsem is part of both the word ‘bone’ and the word for ‘independence’!
The prophet Ezekiel prophesied the rebirth of Israel in chapter 37:1-5
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
When I Think of Israel …
I think of the HERITAGE of the Jewish people. They have the most ancient ties to the land of Israel – going back over 3,500 years (the Exodus from Egypt occurred approximately in 1,400 B.C.) God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people as their eternal inheritance and He said so MANY time in the Bible! (See Gen. 12:5-7; Gen. 13:14-16; Gen. 15:7; 18-21; Gen. 17:8)
I also think of the HOPE of the Jewish people. The national anthem of Israel, Hatikvah (הַתִּקְוָה ) means ‘The Hope’. All during the diaspora, for almost 2,000 years, the Jewish people had the hope that God would eventually return them to their land as the prophets had written in the T’nakh. Every year the Passover seder concludes, “Next Year in Jerusalem” – a vivid expression of this hope.
I also think of HARD FOUGHT! The nation of Israel has been in 7 major wars in the past 69 years. They did not start any of them, but they sure finished all of them. Israel is the last place of freedom for the Jewish people. Golda Meir, who was the Prime Minister of Israel from 1969-1974, said, “We have always said that in our war with the Arabs we had a secret weapon – no alternative. The Egyptians could run to Egypt, the Syrians into Syria. The only place we could run was into the sea, and before we did that we might as well fight.” [LIFE magazine, 3 Oct. 1969, p. 32]
Finally, I think of HOME. Israel is the eternal Home of the Jewish people. During the years of the Diaspora, the land lay desolate. Mark Twain described it in his book, “Innocents Abroad” (1869) as, “… A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds … a silent mournful expanse….”. The land of Israel would only yield her increase and become fruitful again when the original owners returned. And now, as the Isaiah prophesied long ago, the desert certainly does bloom with flowers: “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” (Is. 35:1)
The Rebirth of Hebrew and Rebirth of Israel
The prophet Zephaniah wrote, “For then will I turn to the people a
pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.” (Zeph 3:9) Eliezer Ben-Yehuda is known as the “Father of Modern Hebrew”. He regarded Hebrew and Zionism as symbiotic saying, “The Hebrew language can live only if we revive the nation and return it to the fatherland.” An upcoming Nugget will be devoted to this topic.
May is Jewish American Heritage Month
The American Jewish population was estimated at 5.7 million (as of 2015) – the largest in the world outside of Israel. By Presidential proclamation in 2006, May became Jewish American Heritage Month – a time to reflect on the many contributions to American society by Jewish Americans. Listen to the full news clip on the Museum of the Bible’s soundcloud.