Photo: David Ben-Gurion declaring Israeli independence, with a photo of Theodor Herzl above him.
Israel’s Declaration of Independence read out by David Ben Gurion, Tel Aviv, 14 May 1948
The Jewish people came into being in Eretz Israel [the Land of Israel]. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first achieved statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance, and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.
After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people remained faithful to it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, immigrants coming to the Land of Israel despite restrictive legislation, and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.
In the year 5657 , answering the call of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodor Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.
This right was recognised in the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917, and reaffirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.
The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people – the massacre of millions of Jewish people in Europe – was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing the Jewish State in Eretz Israel. This would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations.
Survivors of the Nazi Holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.
In the Second World War, the Jewish community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom – and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi evil and, by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples which founded the United Nations.
On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz Israel to take such steps as were necessary for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.
This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate in their own sovereign State, like all other nations.
Accordingly 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.
We declare that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate tonight, the evening of Sabbath, 6 Iyar 5708 [15 May 1948], until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than 1 October 1948, the People’s Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People’s Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called “Israel”.
The State of Israel will be open to Jewish immigration and the ingathering of the Exiles; will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions, and will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
The State of Israel is prepared to co-operate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of 29 November 1947, and will take steps to bring about economic union of the whole of Eretz Israel.
We appeal to the United Nations to assist the Jewish population in building up its State and to receive the State of Israel into the comity of nations.
We appeal – in the very midst of the attack being conducted against us for months now – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in building up the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.
We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of co-operation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.
We appeal to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz Israel in the tasks of immigration and up-building, and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realisation of the age-old dream – the redemption of Israel.
Placing our trust in the Rock of Israel [God], 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 [14 May 1948].
Note: One of the documents, with a facsimile of the original speech, translation and reprinted in The Story of Israel
Read More: The Story of Israel
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