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The Declaration of Independence

2,000 years of collective Jewish yearning came to an end with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Israel’s beginning marked the end of the thirty-year British Mandate in Palestine, and signaled a new start for the Jewish people. Your tour of Israel is full of meaningful opportunities to connect with Israel’s national heritage.

Pre-State Development

Israel’s modern development was the ultimate flowering of the Zionist movement that developed in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was largely a secular movement with strong nationalist influences, and was first founded by Theodore Herzl, a Jewish Hungarian journalist. Herzl organized the first Zionist conference in Basel in 1897, when he proposed the establishment of a Jewish state. Jews began immigrating to Palestine in the late nineteenth century, forming the early settlements of the Yishuv period. In 1917, the Balfour Declaration provided more legitimacy for the Zionist movement, as the British government officially gave its support to the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the land of Israel. The rise of Nazism and the havoc and destruction of World War Two brought a new urgency to the dream of establishing a homeland for a people devastated by the Holocaust and the loss of millions of Jewish lives. In 1947, frustrated by Israeli and Arab insurgence, the British government decided to leave Palestine and end the mandate. United Nations Resolution #181 called for the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, creating the potential for nationhood.

Israel Declares Independence

History was made on May 14, 1948, just before the official end of the British mandate at midnight. Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, read the declaration in front of 300 invitees, including members of the Jewish National Council of Palestine at Dizengoff House in Tel Aviv. The declaration told the stirring tale of Jewish history: The yearning for Zion, the recent tragic events of World War Two; the efforts by Jews living in Palestine during the war; and the United Nations recognition of the Jewish people’s right to establish a homeland in the historic land of Israel. The declaration was signed by local leaders of the new state along with National Council members, who stood and sang Israel’s new national anthem, 'Hatikva', at the close of the momentous night.

The Aftermath

The euphoria of May 14 was followed by the cold reality of Arab hostility and their rejection of the UN Partition Plan. Israel was attacked by the united forces of the Arab League -- Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria -- with backing and support by Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The armistice agreement that was eventually signed in 1949 quieted the hostilities but the damages of the war and the effect of the newly drawn borders would continue to reverberate well into the next century. True peace between Israel and its neighbors would remain elusive.

Related Links

* Israel Tours
* Bar / Bat Mitzvah Tours
* Jewish Heritage Tours

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