Shabbat and the First Yom Ha'Atzmaut

May 2, 2014

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, May 2, 2014.

Shabbat and the First Yom Ha’Atzmaut

This Tuesday, in Milwaukee, we will be celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. The very first Yom Ha’Atzmaut was celebrated on Erev Shabbat, Friday afternoon 66 years ago. The last paragraph of the Israeli Declaration of Independence states:

Placing our trust in “Tzur Yisrael” (the Rock of Israel), 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 Shabbat Eve, the 5th day of Iyar, 5708 (May 14th May, 1948).

Of course there’s a story: that meeting of the provisional council was a stormy one.  The council was a coalition of Zionist leaders both religious and secular. The religious Zionists saw the creation of the State of Israel as nothing short of God’s miracle. The secular Zionists, on the other hand, believed that the creation of the state had nothing to do with God – it was entirely the result of the hard fought struggle of the Jewish People, not God.

Most of 13 paragraphs of the declaration of Independence were not controversial. However, the above final paragraph was hotly debated. The religious wouldn’t consider concluding the document without a reference to God. The secular absolutely refused to consider including God in what they saw as a secular document. They were pressed to finish the document – the sun was setting. They wanted to proclaim the creation of the state before Shabbat. They wanted to broadcast it to the world immediately. At the last minute, they came to a compromise. By referring to “The Rock of Israel,” the religious interpreted this as a traditional reference to God. The Secular interpreted “The Rock of Israel” as the Jewish people. The public declaration took place on that day in May just before the sun set and the Sabbath began.

Ben Gurion and the provisional council announce the creation of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948

Shabbat Shalom