The Hope: The Rebirth of Israel (2015) Movie Script

Narrator: By the rivers of
Babylon we sat down and wept as
we remembered Zion. For those
who carried us away captive
asked of us a song, saying,
"sing us one of the songs of
Zion!" how shall we sing the
lord's song in a foreign land?
But now, thus says the lord;
"Fear not, for I have redeemed
you; I have called you by your
name; You are mine. For I am the
lord your god, the holy one of
Israel. I have loved you;
therefore I will give men for
you, and people for your life.
I will bring your descendants
from the east, and gather you
from the west; I will say to the
north, 'give them up!' And to
the south, 'do not keep them
back!" Bring my sons from afar,
and my daughters from the ends
of the earth."
Gordon: In 1893, a viennese
journalist wrote, when I think
of my son's future, I ask myself
whether I have the right to make
life so difficult for him as it
has become for me. That is why
we must baptize Jewish children
while they can still feel
nothing, either for it or
against it. We Jews must
submerge in the people.
priest: In nomine patris, et
filii, et spiritus sancti.
Gordon: It's not something you'd
expect to hear from the man
known as the "father of
zionism", but those words were
written by Theodor herzl, who
spent his life trying to solve
what he called the "Jewish
question." Herzl was born in
Budapest in 1860. At the time,
the city was known as "judapest
because of its large Jewish
population. As a boy, he
attended a Christian high school
that was open to Jews. And on
his 13th birthday, his parents
held a confirmation ceremony,
instead of a bar mitzvah.
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda: Theodor
herzl was an assimilated Jew who
came from an assimilated family.
He was not educated in the
Jewish sphere at all. He was
very, very far from judaism.
Gordon: His family later moved
to Vienna, where herzl earned a
law degree. But his real passion
was writing, so he divided his
time between writing plays,
working as a reporter, and
looking for a way to
end anti-semitism.
Prof Gil Troy: You know, herzl
is the one who sort of pulls it
together, but there are many:
There are Christian ministers,
there are rabbis, there are all
kinds of - there are presidents.
There are all kinds of people
who are saying, "what a minute.
We've got this problem.
Gordon: At one point, herzl even
largest cathedral. He believed
that if Jews adopted Christian
culture, they would finally be
accepted by European society.
But Theodor herzl was about to
get an assignment that would
change his mind.
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda: It was as a
journalist for the top newspaper
in Vienna that he was sent to
Paris to write about the
wonderful French experience.
Herzl, who was a bon vivant, you
know, and was living in Paris
and enjoying himself and going
to the theater three times a
week, and all of a sudden he saw
the ugly face of anti-semitism.
Gordon: Herzl was assigned to
cover the famous "Dreyfus
affair in which a French Jewish
captain was falsely convicted to
spying for the Germans. Herzl
watched as Alfred Dreyfus was
stripped of his medals, and
publically degraded at the
military school in Paris.
Crowds filled the streets,
shouting "death to the Jews."
Prof Gil Troy: People are
inflamed and they're shouting,
not "down with Dreyfus, not
"down with the individual; They
shout "down with the Jews." And
Theodor herzl has his "aha"
Gordon: Herzl realized that the
only solution to anti-semitism
was for the Jews to have their
own state.
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda: Wonderful
idea. How do you go about doing
it? This is where the writer of
plays came in, you know? He was
going to set the stage.
Gordon: Herzl shut himself in
his apartment and wrote his
ideas down for five straight
days. When a friend of his
visited, he was alarmed by
herzl's disheveled appearance
and wild ideas. He suggested
they get some fresh air. And as
they walked, he told herzl to
get some medical help before
someone hauled him off to a
madhouse. Herzl paid no
attention and the following year
he published his most famous
work, the Jewish state.
Prof Gil Troy: Theodor herzl in
his book the Jewish state
dreams. And he talks about this
new nation-state being a beacon
to humanity. He talks about it
being a model democracy.
Gordon: Not everyone was
thrilled with herzl's ideas.
Religious Jews thought it was
blasphemy to reestablish the
nation of Israel without the
Messiah. Nevertheless, herzl
worked tirelessly to realize his
vision. He even tried to
buy the land of Palestine.
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda: He tried to
create a situation where he will
be introduced to the sultan of
Turkey, and he will buy the land
of Israel from him. Boy, that's
going to cost a lot of money.
How is he going to pay for it?
Well, he had a dream; He had an
idea. He says, I'm going to
take half of the riches of all
the rich Jews." Well, of course,
there was absolutely no chance
that any of these people would
do that. They did not want to
see zionism succeed, in fact.
But he was convinced that that's
the way to do it.
Gordon: In 1897, herzl gathered
Jewish delegates from around the
world for the first world
zionist congress. For this
historic meeting he chose the
city of basel in Switzerland.
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda: By the way,
do you know why it was in basel?
It was supposed to be in Munich.
And in Munich there were Jews
who called themselves Germans of
the faith of Moses. And they
said to him, "we don't want this
Jewish riffraff coming from all
over the world coming to
Gordon: In August, more than 200
delegates from 17 countries
arrived in basel. It was the
first representative Jewish
assembly in nearly 2000 years,
and the atmosphere was electric.
Behind the podium hung a white
flag with two blue stripes and a
star of David, a version of the
design that would be adopted by
the state of Israel 50 years
later. Among the delegates was a
man herzl introduced as "the
first Christian zionist." The
reverend William hechler was the
British embassy chaplain in
Vienna. He was deeply interested
in the return of the Jews to
Israel, so he helped herzl make
some important political
connections, and the two became
lifelong friends. As herzl
walked to the podium, people
cheered and stomped their feet.
He opened the congress by
announcing, "we are here to lay
the foundation stone of the
house which is to shelter the
Jewish nation. the applause was
deafening. One english delegate
described the excitement of the
crowd. "By the rivers of
Babylon, we sat down and wept as
we remembered Zion. By the
rivers of basel, we sat down and
resolved to weep no more."
Prof Gil Troy: The beautiful
thing about Theodor herzl and
the beautiful thing about
zionism, is that it doesn't just
stop with the negative. There is
anti-semitism and there is
negativity, and there's a
certain rejection on the part of
Europe. But what they also do
is, I call it the "Jew jitsu"
move where you take the negative
and you turn it into something
Gordon: A few days later herzl
made a bold statement
in his diary.
Theodor herzl: "At basel, I
founded the Jewish state. If I
said this out loud today, I
would be answered by universal
laughter. Perhaps in five years,
and certainly in 50, everyone
will know it."
Gordon: Herzl's statement turned
out to be prophetic. Fifty years
later the united nations
approved the plan to divide
Palestine into Jewish and arab
states, and nine months later
the state of Israel was born.
After the congress, herzl, who
had never been religious,
started observing some Jewish
traditions. That winter, instead
of having a Christmas tree, the
herzl family celebrated their
first hanukah.
Despite growing health
problems, herzl traveled
the globe, trying to get backers
for the new state. He went first
to constantinople, then on to
Jerusalem in hopes of asking the
ottoman sultan for land. Then,
in the spring of 1903, the need
for a Jewish state became more
urgent than ever, as the world
turned its focus on a
small town in Russia.
Gordon: On easter Sunday, a
group of Russian orthodox men
entered the Jewish quarter of
the village of kishinev. Led by
their priests, they shouted
"death to the Jews!" The same
cry herzl had heard in Paris
during the Dreyfus affair almost
ten years earlier. Eyewitnesses
described the bloody massacre
that followed. "Wives, along
with their husbands were shot
A synagogue worker was
killed protecting the torah with
his body, children had their
brains dashed out against the
walls, and even babes were
snatched from the arms of
pleading mothers and hurled
through windows.
At sunset, the
streets were piled with
corpses. after three days, more
than 40 Jews were killed, 92
were injured, and more than 700
homes were looted and destroyed.
Gordon: Four months later the
Jewish congress convened under
the shadow of the massacre, but
that was just the beginning.
Herzl had good news and bad news
for the crowd. The good news was
that Great Britain wanted to
help the Jewish people - the bad
news was how they wanted to
help. After the kishinev pogrom,
herzl had an emergency meeting
with British politicians. He
Which were under British
control. The plan was to rescue
the Jews from Russia, and still
be close to Palestine. The
British refused, and offered
them land in British east
Africa, now Uganda. With no
other choice, herzl accepted the
offer and the British drew up a
plan for a colony they called
"new Palestine. in 1903, herzl
presented the idea to the
zionist congress, with
disastrous results.
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda: Zionism
refers to Zion. And the plan was
eventually to have Zion as the
homeland... nobody was giving
this up. But for now, we're
going to get ourselves a place
to hide.
Gordon: It was the delegates
from Russia, whom herzl was
trying to protect, who took the
news the hardest. They stormed
out of the concert hall in
protest. Among them was a young
man who would become the first
President of the new state of
Israel - Chaim weizmann.
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda: The zionists
from Russia hated the idea. So
they basically mounted a
revolution against him and broke
his heart, and he had been dealt
such a tremendous shock that
everybody doesn't take his word
for the gospel truth.
Gordon: Herzl closed the 6th
zionist congress by raising his
right hand and reciting
a verse from the psalms.
Gordon: These were the last
words he would ever speak at the
podium in basel. Only his close
friends and family knew that he
was suffering from heart
failure, and over the next year
his health declined rapidly.
On July 3rd he told his old
friend reverend hechler, "greet
Palestine for me. I gave my
heart's blood for my people.
He died the next day. And at his
funeral in Vienna, more than
6,000 people gathered to honor
the man they had called
"king of the Jews."
Gordon: In 1949, the new
government of Israel honored
herzl's dying request. They
brought his remains from Vienna
and reburied them here, on a
hill overlooking Jerusalem.
During his lifetime, herzl was
called everything from a hero to
a dreamer to a heretic. But his
influence on the Jewish people
is undeniable. In the last
decade of his life he gave them
something they hadn't had in
nearly 2,000 years: The hope of
going home.
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda: He was an
amazing man. He deserves a lot
of credit. He had a dream and it
was a good dream. But you know,
there's a distance between
dreaming and between bringing
something to fruition. It took
pioneers; It took men of action,
men of work. Herzl was, in the
words of that wonderful song,
the wind beneath their wings.
Gordon: Even before herzl's
death, his dream was becoming a
reality. Thousands of Jews were
returning to Israel to carry out
At the fifth zionist
congress in 1901,
Theodor herzl directed the
creation of a Jewish national
fund, or jnf, dedicated to
buying land in Palestine. The
Jewish people, he said, will be
not only the donors, but also
the owners.
Yossi katz: The purpose of the
Jewish national fund was to
purchase land in eretz Israel,
and to transfer the lands into
the hands of the Jewish people.
This means that the jnf will be
the sole owner of the lands,
Gordon: The first step was
raising money. The jnf launched
a worldwide fundraising
campaign. Donation cans known as
"blue boxes" were placed in
Jewish schools, synagogues,
businesses, and homes.
Yossi katz: Jews all over the
world were very enthusiastic.
They were excited about the idea
that the Jewish people would
have a property which belongs to
them in the land of Israel.
Gordon: The Jews often paid as
much as ten times the normal
rate for land the arabs
considered unusable.
Dr. arie Ben: As much as they
ask, we pay because we need it.
It gave us in the future, the
map of the future state of
Israel. And every piece of land
that we buy, we develop.
Yossi katz: They dried the
swamps and exploded the rocks
and stones; Later on they built
drainage basins in order to
drain the water, making possible
for agricultural settlements to
Gordon: By 1914, there were
nearly 100,000 Jews living in
Palestine. They had started 50
agricultural villages, and
farmed roughly 100,000 acres of
land. As the population grew,
the jnf began to draw a map for
the future state of Israel.
Yossi katz: In the beginning,
the purchases of lands were done
according to what was available
for sale. But later on, in the
1930s, it became clear that
sooner or later there would be a
partition of the area into a
Jewish state and an arab state,
and the jnf concentrated the
purchases of lands on the edges
of Palestine, in order to
broaden the borders of the
future Jewish state.
Dr. arie Ben: I can say that
without the jnf, we have not a
state of Israel.
Gordon: Almost 50 years before
the jnf started buying land,
wealthy Jewish businessmen from
Europe were privately funding
settlements in Palestine. One of
the first was here in Jerusalem
Gordon: In the mid-19th century,
Jerusalem was a city marked by
disease, poverty, and despair.
The entire city was confined
within these walls, with more
than 25,000 people crowded into
one square kilometer. In 1857,
American author Herman melville
toured the city, which he
described as a "pile of arid
rocks where "the emigrant Jews
are like flies who have taken up
their abode in a skull.
eliezer Ben-Yehuda: It was a
desolate land. And the Jews, as
well as the arabs, whether they
were christians or moslems, were
living in absolute poverty.
Gordon: The old city was filled
with religious Jews who lived on
charity. Sir Moses montefiore, a
wealthy British banker, was
appalled by their living
conditions and decided to help.
In 1855, he had made the first
Jewish land purchase in
Palestine... 25 acres of
orange groves in Jaffa, where
Jewish settlers could be trained
as farmers. Now five years
later, he turned his attention
to Jerusalem. From the city's
governor, he bought a piece of
land outside the walls. Herman
melville described the
transaction saying: "They
fleeced him sadly, charging
enormous prices for everything
he bought.
eliezer Ben Yehuda: It's not
that it was all built up; There
was a lot of empty land, but
they weren't selling to Jews.
Even then they weren't selling
to Jews. So montefiore came in
and he bought land outside the
wall, and he started building
outside the wall. And he
convinced the Jews
to go and live there.
Gordon: There he built a
community called mishkenot
sha'ananim, which means
"peaceful dwellings" in Hebrew.
He took the name from the words
of the prophet Isaiah: "My
people will dwell in a peaceful
habitation, in secure dwellings,
and in quiet resting places. it
was the first Jewish settlement
in Palestine. Jews from the old
city reluctantly moved in, but
sneaked back inside the city
walls to sleep every night,
because they were afraid of arab
marauders. Montefiore donated
large sums of money to promote
education among the religious
Jews, and to create jobs so they
could support themselves. He
also built a windmill to
increase their food supply.
Eliezer Ben Yehuda: There wasn't
one bakery in all of Jerusalem.
If you wanted bread, you had to
make it at home. Where are you
going to get the flour from?
There were no stores that sold
flour. And there was no mill to
make flour, so he built a mill.
Gordon: Today, montefiore's
windmill still stands. And the
village he built is now one of
Jerusalem's most desirable
neighborhoods: Yemin Moshe,
which means "the right hand of
Moses. about 20 years after
montefiore's work in Jerusalem,
another European banker helped
build a community of Jewish
farmers, this time on the shores
of the mediterranean.
Gordon: In 1882, 17 families
from eastern Europe founded a
village on the western coast of
Palestine. They called it rishon
Verse in the book of Isaiah: "I
was the first to tell Zion,
'look! Help is on the way! and
indeed, rishon was a city of
firsts. In 1883, a young writer
there wrote a poem called
"hatikva or "the hope." Sixty-
five years later it would become
the national anthem of the new
state of Israel. The design for
the first Israeli flag was
created there in 1885, and in
1889, the first all-Hebrew
school in Palestine was built.
But while culture thrived,
agriculture was a challenge. The
settlers looked to Europe for
help, and they found it in the
French baron,
Edmond de rothschild.
Eliezer Ben Yehuda: They
discovered that they can't grow
anything there, because it was
sand dunes. Now, you can't grow
apple trees, and you can't grow
wheat in sand. And if you
planted something, even if you
took a little root, you know,
the first sandstorm would kill
the new plants. So eventually,
rothschild said, "they're not
going to succeed like that."
Gordon: Baron rothschild helped
the settlers start a thriving
citrus grove where Jews and
arabs worked side by side. Then
he gave them grapevines from his
vineyard in France, the renowned
chateau lafite. He also sent his
own experts to supervise the
growth of the new carmel winery.
Eliezer Ben Yehuda: Grapevines
do very, very well in sand. And
so they started growing
grapevines, and they started
making wine. And the amazing
thing was that the wine was
rothschild wine from rothschild
vines and it became very, very
good wine. You see, so all of a
sudden they had
their first success.
Gordon: Just 18 years after the
first vine took root, carmel
wine won a gold medal at the
Paris world's fair. Today,
rishon lezion is the 4th largest
city in Israel, and carmel wine
is sold in more than 40
countries around the world.
Baron rothschild once said of
the project, "without me, the
zionists could have done
nothing. But without the
zionists, my work would have
been dead." Just north of rishon
lezion, another city was rising
on the dunes of the
mediterranean. It would later
become the center for Israeli
innovation, and the first modern
city of the new Jewish state.
Gordon: In 1906, Jewish settlers
purchased 60 plots of land on
the mediterranean coast, just
north of the arab city of Jaffa.
Three years later, in 1909, 66
Jewish families gathered on a
sand dune to divide the land,
using a lottery of seashells.
Family names and plot numbers
were written on the shells, and
drawn randomly from a box. This
gathering was the official birth
of the city of Tel Aviv. The
city took its name from the
Hebrew title of Theodor herzl's
book, old new land. The spot
where the settlers stood would
later be the site of the tel
aviv museum, where almost 50
years later the Jewish people
would declare their
Yossi katz: The jnf gave the
largest loan to the founders of
Tel Aviv. After that, the tel
aviv founders were able to
purchase land and build houses.
The jnf was one of the most
important institutions in
building and preparing the
nation for the founding of the
state. A state does not just
rise in one day, it needs much
preparation beforehand.
Gordon: Whether the land of
Israel was purchased by wealthy
patrons, or bought with small
donations from around the world,
many Jewish people believe their
ownership of the land is secured
by a deed written
thousands of years ago.
Yossi katz: Our Bible is our
deed for our ownership of this
land. And the idea of the jnf,
it came from the Bible, the land
of Israel belongs to the god.
Zionism was the Jewish national
movement. The Jewish national
movement, without strong roots
to the Bible, can't exist.
Gordon: By the time world war I
broke out, that Jewish national
movement was thriving and world
events were shifting quickly.
The entire middle east was about
to change hands and the Jewish
people were about to get
something for which they had
waited nearly 2,000 years... the
promise of a home in the land of
Israel, secured by one of the
most powerful nations on earth.
Gordon: At the height of world
war I, Great Britain faced a
critical shortage of acetone,
the chemical needed to create
the explosive in artillery
cartridges. American shipments
were cut off by German u-boats,
and without acetone, British
troops couldn't fire their guns,
a big problem in the middle of a
war. A young man named Winston
Churchill was in charge of the
British Navy, and he had heard
about a chemist in Manchester
Weizmann: "Mr. Churchill, then a
much younger man, was brisk,
fascinating, charming and
energetic. Among his first words
were, "well doctor, we need
30,000 tons of acetone. Can you
make it?' I was so terrified by
this lordly request that I
almost turned tail.
Gordon: Instead, the chemist
went to work. He had already
invented a way to create acetone
by fermenting grains, potatoes,
and even chestnuts. So he worked
day and night to reproduce it in
mass quantities. And soon, the
British were producing 90,000
gallons a year in breweries and
distilleries commandeered by the
Gordon: The chemist who saved
the British army was a Jewish
man named Chaim weizmann, a
zionist leader who would one day
become the first president of
the state of Israel. Weizmann
was born in 1874 in the Russian
village of motol. He was one of
15 children from an orthodox
Jewish family, and one of nine
who made it all the way through
Dr. golan! I: In Russia, the Jews
couldnt go to universities, so
high education for Jews, it was
something that's impossible. So
if you want to remain Jew, but
in a better condition, you have
one direction: West. Like Chaim
weizmann, he went to Germany to
learn science.
Gordon: In addition to studying
chemistry, weizmann developed a
deep interest in zionism. Every
year he came to basel to attend
the zionist congress. He was
here in 1903 when his hero,
Theodor herzl, dropped a
bombshell on the crowd.
Chaim weizmann: Il remember one
deeply significant detail of the
stage setting. It had always
been the custom to hang on the
wall a map of Palestine. This
had been replaced by a rough map
of the Uganda protectorate, and
the symbolic action filled us
with foreboding.
Gordon: Then Theodor herzl took
the stage and presented the
British government's offer to
resettle the Jewish people in
Uganda, instead of Palestine.
Weizmann was appalled and joined
the Russian delegation in a
walkout. The so-called Uganda
plan was a disaster, but in it,
weizmann saw a small
ray of hope.
Dr. golani: On the other side,
he said: Well, something very
interesting happened here. Who's
behind this proposal? For the
first time, a power, one of the
most important powers of the
time - or the most important one
britain thinks we are serious,
speaking with us as a national
collective. This is something
that never happened before.
Gordon: After that, weizmann
believed the British might be
the Jews' best chance for a
state, so in 1904, he took a
position at the university of
Manchester, his home
for the next 30 years.
Dr. golani: For someone like
Chaim weizmann to go to england
during the Uganda crisis, it's
something very uh - what can I
say - stupid. If you want to be
a leading zionist, you know,
leader, so please, stay in
Paris, or in Vienna, or Berlin,
or Geneva. But to go to
Manchester? You know, it's - who
heard about Manchester? It's
like you exile yourself.
Especially someone like
weizmann, who wanted to be a
zionist leader. This is what he
wanted to be. He didn't want to
be a, you know, a big scientist.
He wanted to be herzl's
successor, that's what
he wanted to do.
Gordon: As it turned out,
Manchester was the place where
weizmann would make one of his
most important friendships: The
former British prime minister,
lord Arthur balfour. In 1906,
lord balfour was campaigning in
Manchester, and a friend
introduced him to Chaim
weizmann. The two talked for
more than an hour, and almost
immediately the conversation
turned to Uganda.
Lord balfour: But the Russian
Jews need a safe haven
immediately. Why not British
east Africa?
Weizmann: The survival of
zionism is based on a spiritual
conviction. And that conviction
is based on Palestine, and on
Palestine alone. If Moses had
been here when they had proposed
Uganda, he would surely have
- broken the tablets once again.
- Lord balfour:
Weizmann: Mr. balfour, supposing
I were to offer you Paris
instead of London.
Would you take it?
Lord balfour: But Dr. weizmann,
we have London.
Weizmann: That is true. And we
had Jerusalem when London was
nothing more than a marsh.
Lord balfour: Are there many
Jews who think like you?
Weizmann: I believe I speak the
mind of millions of Jews who
cannot speak for themselves.
Lord balfour: If that is so, Dr.
Weizmann, then you will one day
be a force.
Gordon: Lord balfour had gone
into the meeting hoping to
change weizmann's mind, but
instead, he became the convert,
and the Jewish people gained an
ally in one of the most powerful
men in england. In 1910,
weizmann became a British
citizen, and would remain one
until he became the president of
Israel in 1948. When world war I
broke out, zionist leaders in
Europe were divided over which
side to take, since many of them
were German. But weizmann
convinced them that there was
only one clear choice.
Dr. golani: You could find
prominent zionist leaders in the
German army and in the French
army and in the British army,
shooting each other. We don't
take any side. Weizmann said,
no, no, no. It's a huge
historical mistake. We have to
take side and it's the British
one." And to say it in 1915 and
in "16, it was crazy because who
knew that the British are going
to take all of the middle east.
I mean, it was a war. I mean,
nobody knew how it will finish.
Gordon: Weizmann's
groundbreaking production of
acetone had been invaluable to
the British war effort, and
David Lloyd George, the minister
of munitions, offered him a
reward. Weizmann answered,
"nothing for me, but I would
like you to do something for my
people. Lloyd George later
wrote in his memoirs, "that was
the origin of the famous balfour
declaration the letter written
by weizmann's old friend, lord
balfour, now an ardent zionist.
Lord balfour: "His majesty's
government view with favour the
establishment in Palestine of a
national home for the Jewish
people, and will use their best
endeavours to facilitate the
achievement of this object.
Dr. golani: Weizmann's "miracle"
is the fact that he convinced
Arthur James balfour that to
promise a national home for the
Jews in Palestine, it's not a
Jewish interest, it's not a
zionist interest, it's a British
one. All the rest is history.
Gordon: With a Jewish homeland
now on the horizon, weizmann met
with emir faisal, the leader of
the arab national movement. The
two signed an agreement that the
arabs would encourage the Jewish
national home in Palestine,
while the Jews would help the
arabs develop their natural
resources. After signing the
agreement, faisal made the
following statement:
But that sentiment only
lasted a few months. Since the
British refused to Grant the
arabs immediate independence,
faisal reneged on the deal.
Danny ayalon: This is very
unfortunate because the
recognition that the land
belongs to the Jews would have
not only created a peaceful
relationship, but it would have
made the entire region
successful, prosperous, stable,
and certainly would have saved a
lot, a lot of blood.
Gordon: In April of 1920,
weizmann traveled to the Italian
town of San remo where allied
leaders met to divide the land
they had conquered in world war
I. The final San remo resolution
also included the balfour
declaration of 1917. The San
remo conference was a turning
point for the zionists. What was
once a dream was now
international law. They would
finally have a state, and the
British would be responsible for
helping them create it.
Britain's foreign minister later
referred to the resolution as
"the magna carta of the Jewish
people. Palestine was now in
the hands of the British, and
the 1920s and "30s saw
unprecedented growth in the
Jewish community. Much of it was
spearheaded by weizmann. He
helped develop a plant to mine
phosphates at the dead sea, and
a hydroelectric power plant on
the Jordan river. And in 1921,
he and follow scientist Albert
Einstein raised money for what
would later become the technion
institute in haifa. By the end
of the 1930s the shadow of war
loomed over Europe and the
British were more worried about
fighting Hitler than creating a
Jewish state... but that didn't
stop weizmann from asking.
Throughout the war, he pushed
for the creation of a Jewish
brigade, which didn't happen
until the end of the war. He
also lobbied britain to let
thousands of European Jews into
Palestine, which didn't happen
at all. After the war, he
renewed his calls for a state.
By now, there was a new American
president in the white house,
and it was weizmann's job to win
him over.
Gil Troy: Harry Truman comes
into the white house
overwhelmed. He says, "I felt
like the sun and the moon and
the stars had fallen on me."
Truman has to get his own
bearings in office. It's just a
very, very complicated job. And
all of a sudden, on top of this,
comes this Palestine file. And
the Palestine file is triply
complicated. On the one hand,
you have Jewish leaders and
Jewish advisers, and millions of
non-Jews saying, "the right
thing to do is to give the
Jewish people a homeland in
Palestine. you have the arab
dimension, where arabs with oil
money and with tens of millions
hundreds of millions of people
are saying, "no way. We don't
want a Jewish state in here.
Gordon: In 1947, the British
announced that they were
withdrawing from Palestine, and
in November, the united nations
voted to partition the land into
two states, one arab, and one
Jewish. President Truman
supported the move at first, but
four months later, he wavered
under pressure from his state
department. Weizmann and other
Jewish leaders were in a state
of near-panic. They needed
American support, but Truman's
door had been slammed shut.
Gil Troy: He also doesn't like
to be pushed around. And as the
lobbying gets more intense, he
shuts down. I've had enough!
but what do you do? History is
knocking on the door. Things are
changing. There's a date now,
may 15th, 1948, when Israel's
going to become a state when the
British are going to leave.
What's going to happen? What do
you do?
Gordon: Weizmann confided his
fears to American zionist Dewey
stone, who then told his friend
frank Goldman. The two were
attending a dinner for a Jewish
organization in Boston.
Dewey stone: I just spent the
day with Chaim weizmann. He
thinks that he can convince
Truman to turn around on
partition, but he can't get into
the white house. Truman is
shutting everyone out.
Frank Goldman: I think I can
Gordon: Goldman had just met
Harry Truman's old friend and
business partner Eddie Jacobson,
one of the few people with an
open door to the oval office.
They decided to telephone
Jacobson in Missouri right away.
But neither of them had any
coins, so they had to go from
guest to guest until they had
scraped up enough change to make
the long-distance call.
Frank Goldman: "Eddie, it's
frank Goldman. I have a favor to
ask you."
Gordon: Jacobson came east on
the next train and called Truman
immediately. Truman agreed to
see him on one condition: There
would be no talk of Palestine.
Harry Truman: Eddie, you son of
a gun, you promised you wouldn't
say a word...
Jacobson: Mr. president, I
didn't say a word. But I think
of all those homeless Jews,
homeless for thousands of years,
and then I think of Dr.
Weizmann. I can't help it. He's
spent his entire life working
for a homeland for the Jews, and
now he's old and he's sick. He
just wants to see you.
Harry Truman: Eddie, that's
enough. Now, that's the last
Harry Truman: That's all we want
to talk about him. We talked
about this and that, but every
once in a while a big tear would
To have you thrown right out of
here. You knew perfectly well
that I couldn't stand
to see you cry.
Jacobson: Mr. president,
thank you.
Harry Truman: After he was gone
I picked up the phone and called
the state department. I told
them I was going to see
weizmann. And well, you should
have heard the carrying on.
Gil Troy: And what we also have
to remember is that there are
very powerful forces saying
"don't do it." And especially in
the state department, but also
at this time in the department
of defense, the leaders and also
the main bureaucrats are saying,
"don't do it. and Harry Truman,
to his credit, despite
tremendous pressure from both
sides, makes the decision based
on what Harry Truman believes.
Gordon: The clock was ticking,
and Chaim weizmann had just once
chance to change Truman's mind.
Dr. golani: He was great in a
face-to-face talk. He could say
the right thing at the right
time. He could tell you really
what you want to hear. The basic
things is that weizmann looked
him in the eyes and said, "well,
historically, nobody will
remember you if you reject the
zionists - or the state for the
Jews. If you support it, you
will be remembered. this is
Chaim weizmann.
Gordon: Chaim weizmann spent
more than four decades working
to gain international support
for the Jewish state. While at
the same time, another man was
in Palestine building that state
from the ground up. To his
friends and colleagues, he was
known simply as the old man.
to the rest of the world, he's
remembered as the founder and
father of the state of Israel.
Gordon: Born David gruen in
1886, David Ben-gurion was one
of 11 children. When he was just
three years old, his grandfather
taught him how to speak Hebrew.
He also read him the stories of
the Bible, the book that would
shape Ben-gurion's views
throughout his life.
Alon: For him, the Bible is the
essence of our life. It's the
story of the Jewish people. He
loved the prophets. He loved the
prophets of the Bible. He loved
the language of the Bible. For
him, the Bible was the essence
of the Jewish people. And it's
not only that he knew the Bible
from front to back, he knew it,
he lived it. In many times when
I saw him talking to people and
talking to rabbis, he knew the
Bible better than they knew it.
And it was fascinating.
Gordon: During his life, Ben-
gurion would learn several
languages. But for him, there
was only one language and one
land for the Jewish people.
Alon: The Hebrew is the language
of the Bible. He wanted to go
back to the language. He wanted
that we would go back, that the
nation would go back to Hebrew.
Gordon: As a teenager, he
started his own zionist group
called "the Ezra society named
after the israelite scribe who
led the Jews back to Jerusalem
after the babylonian exile.
Their goal was to promote
the study of Hebrew.
Alon: That was his dream, as
many people as possible to teach
them, especially the young ones,
let's teach Hebrew, that's our
Gordon: The group also promoted
the idea of Aliyah, moving to
Palestine to build a Jewish
homeland. That idea didn't go
over well with the local
orthodox Jews.
Alon: For them it's, "god took,
god will give. the almighty is
the one who's responsible for
the destruction of Israel 2000
years ago. So it's the almighty
that will give the state of
Israel. Nobody else.
Gordon: In 1903, zionist leader
Theodor herzl proposed the
creation of a Jewish homeland in
Uganda, a response to the
violent pogroms in Russia.
Herzl's followers around the
world were outraged by the idea,
including Ben-gurion and his
friends in the Ezra society.
They wrote a letter of protest
to the world zionist
Young Ben-gurion: "We have
reached the conclusion that the
only way to fight ugandaism is
to make Aliyah."
Gordon: For young Ben-gurion,
Aliyah was more than just an
idea, it was a mission. And at
the age of 19, he boarded a ship
bound for the holy land.
Alon: 1906, the day that he
lands in Jaffa, happiest day of
his life.
Gordon: That happiness was soon
tempered by reality. In 1906,
the villages of Palestine were
dominated by arabs, and the
founding of the first kibbutz
was still three years away. The
only places for Jewish
immigrants to go were a few
settlements started by baron
Alon: He's had a problem with
these 13 settlements. The work
was not done by the Jews, the
work was done by the arabs. In
order to own the land, you've
got to work the land. If you
work the land, you own it. If
someone else works it, he owns
it. That's his belief; He has a
conviction about it.
Gordon: And he put that
conviction to the test. Work was
scarce, so Ben-gurion took jobs
wherever he could find them:
Carrying manure in the orange
groves, stomping grapes in the
vineyards, or hauling boulders
and plowing fields
in the galilee.
Alon: It was very hard for him.
Physical labor was very, very,
healthiest person, and the most
athletic person as a kid, etc.,
but he survived. He had the
belief, he had the will, and he
worked through it. When I grew
up and I started to learn about
it, and to hear about it, I
always looked at him and I said,
"my god, if he could do it, what
about us? you know?
Young Ben-gurion: "I wandered
from settlement to settlement,
my clothes in tatters, my body
on the edge of breakdown from
famine. I quickly succumbed to
malaria. A doctor said I would
never shake the disease, and
that for me, staying in
Palestine meant death. But I
wrote to my father: There is no
going back to the old life.
Gordon: After four years of
physical labor, Ben-gurion moved
to Jerusalem to help publish a
Hebrew newspaper. It was at this
time that he and his friends
decided to change their names,
and gruen became "Ben-gurion"
which means "son of
the lion" in Hebrew.
Alon: It's a systematic way of
thinking. Language: Hebrew.
Work: Hebrew. The next thing is
Hebrew names. You'll ask me, who
was Joseph Ben-gurion? Joseph
Ben-gurion was the minister of
defense of Jerusalem, when
Jerusalem fell to the hands of
the romans. And he insisted
afterwards, when the state of
Israel was built, if your name
was manischewitz or was
something like this, he would
come to you and say, "why have
you got this manischewitz? Don't
you have a Hebrew name for
that? in the Israeli army, when
it was developed, anybody who
went from a major to a higher
rank, had to change his name to
a Hebrew name. That's him. This
is the old, and this is the new.
And he was creating the new.
Gordon: In Jerusalem, Ben-gurion
soon realized that the Jews had
no hope of a state without a
Alon: Once I asked him, I said,
"what is it? You woke one day
and..." I said to him, "you woke
one day and decided you want to
build a country? I said, "if
anybody would tell me that on
the street, I would say that
he's a lunatic. he says, "alon,
when I had questions, and nobody
could give me the answers,
that's when I decided I've got
to give the answers."
Gordon: At the time, Palestine
was part of the ottoman empire.
So Ben-gurion spent three months
learning turkish. Then he went
to law school in Istanbul, with
plans to represent Jewish
Palestine in the ottoman
government. But his plans were
interrupted by the outbreak of
world war I. The turks entered
the war on the German side, and
in Palestine, they singled out
the Jews, whom they accused of
siding with the British. Ben-
gurion was one of several Jewish
leaders who were rounded up and
expelled. He sailed for new
York, where he met his wife, a
young nurse named Paula. They
would be married until her
death, 50 years later.
Alon: She was the boss. Paula
had a very, very, very tough
life. A very, very tough life.
She dedicated her life to him,
to take care of him. The
economic situation was not very,
very strong in the house, so
Paula, for example, as a mother,
she used to save money, buying
food only for the kids, and she
did not eat. So there was some
time that she as malnutrition as
a mother. And you hear it, that
this is the wife that later
became the wife of the prime
minister, how can that be? Well,
that's how it was. You know, he
knew where his government is, he
knew where his army is, but he
didn't know where his slippers
are. She knew where it is. He
knew that there was going to be
pajamas on the bed, but he
didn't know where they were
coming from. So, he was building
a country, she built a family.
Gordon: After the war, Ben-
gurion moved back to Palestine,
now under the British mandate.
For the next three decades, he
devoted his life to preparing
for statehood, and soon, he
became the undisputed leader of
the Jewish national movement. He
helped organize a new labor
union called the "histadrut
which functioned as pre-state
Jewish government. The union
supervised massive waves of
immigration, plus the creation
of hospitals, schools,
sanitation, and public works.
But more Jewish immigrants meant
more trouble with the arabs. In
1920, widespread arab riots
rocked Palestine, and the
British did little or nothing to
stop them. So the Jewish leaders
created their own underground
army to protect their people. It
was called the "haganah which
means "defense" in Hebrew. This
paramilitary group would later
form the core of the Israeli
defense forces. Over time, the
violence between arabs and Jews
escalated. And in 1936, the
British sent a committee to
investigate the so-called
"Palestine problem." Several
arab and Jewish leaders were
called to testify before the
peel commission, and Ben-gurion
was among them.
Lord peel: Mr. Ben-gurion, may I
ask you a question? Where were
you born?
Ben-gurion: "In plonsk.
Lord peel: "Where is plonsk?
Ben-gurion: "Poland.
Lord peel: "Hmm, very strange
indeed. All the arab leaders who
have appeared before us were
born in Palestine. Most of the
Jewish leaders who have appeared
before us were born in eastern
The arab people have an ottoman
land deed entitling them to this
land. Do you have a document
saying Palestine belongs to you?
Ben-gurion: This is my document.
It is a most highly respected
book, and I believe that you
British respect it also. Our
right in Palestine is not
derived from the mandate or the
balfour declaration. It is prior
to that. The Bible - the Bible
which was written by us, in our
own language, in this very
country, is our mandate. Our
right in Palestine is as old as
the Jewish people. We must have
this land.
Alon: For us, we don't have to
get a piece of paper from the
British mandate, or the ottoman
mandate, or from the romans or
from the greeks. The land is
ours. In the Bible it says, this
he gave to the Jews. God gave
this to the Jews. We are
celebrating today - what is it?
5775. This is our new year. Now
let's talk about all the rest of
history. When was england born?
When was Iraq born? When was
Egypt born? The Bible tells us
exactly: This is our country. We
own it.
Gordon: In 1937, the peel
commission published their
recommendations. They called for
a partition of Palestine. The
arabs would get the larger
portion, to be added to
transjordan to form one large
arab state, while the Jews got
just one-third of Palestine.
Jerusalem would remain under
British control, with a corridor
to the coast. The arabs rejected
the proposal outright. Most of
the Jewish leaders opposed it as
well, feeling that they had
already given up enough of the
land that had been promised to
them. But ultimately Ben-gurion
accepted the terms, a decision
that sent shockwaves throughout
Jewish Palestine.
Alon: Everybody was against it.
Why are you agreeing on that?
This is not the state of Israel
this is not Israel. The issue
is "today, I've got nothing. So
that is more than what I have
now. And that is not the end
story; That is the beginning
story. he already sees the
clouds of the second world war.
He read the book of mein kampf
that Hitler wrote; He already
knew it. And that's one of the
reasons that he's talking about.
Gordon: Ben-gurion's decision
also sparked controversy in his
own family.
Alon: One of the people who did
not agree to it, was his son, my
father. And he writes him a
letter. And in his letter, he
says, "father, how did you agree
to the peel recommendation? and
then Ben-gurion writes to him a
letter. When you read what Ben-
gurion writes, every word
counts. And I think that the
letter, it draws a great picture
of Israel and his dream
of the state of Israel.
Older Ben-gurion: Of course, the
partition of the country gives
me no pleasure. The question is:
Would we obtain more without
partition? My assumption is that
a Jewish state on only part of
the land is not the end, but the
beginning. We shall admit into
the state all the Jews we can.
We shall build a multi-faceted
Jewish economy - agricultural,
industrial, and maritime. We
shall organize an advanced
defense force, a superior army,
which I have no doubt will be
one of the best armies in the
world. A Jewish state must be
established immediately, even if
it is only in part of the
country. The rest will follow in
the course of time. A
Jewish state will come.
Gordon: Despite Ben-gurion's
support, the peel plan was
scrapped after the arabs
rejected it. But just two years
later, the British came up with
another plan that nearly
shattered the Jewish
dream of statehood.
Gordon: In 1939, the British
government issued a document
known as the "white paper.
among its main points: Jewish
immigration to Palestine would
be drastically reduced, then end
all together after five years.
In addition, the purchase of
land by Jews in Palestine would
be severely restricted.
Ayalon: The arabs put such
pressure on the British
government here that they sealed
the borders, which actually
condemned millions of Jews to
the death camps in Europe
because they were knocking on
the doors, wanting to come back
to their own homeland, but they
couldn't because of the British
decision, which was a result of
the arab pressure and terrorism.
Gordon: The British had another
big reason to appease the arabs.
On the Eve of world war il, they
needed to keep control of a
crucial oil pipeline that ran
from Iraq to haifa. As war drew
closer, the Jews of Palestine
faced a dilemma. They obviously
couldn't side with the Nazis,
but they also felt the British
had become their enemies as
well. They looked to Ben-gurion
for direction and his response
became their motto throughout
the war.
Ben gurion: This blow will not
subdue the Jewish people. The
historic bond between the Jewish
people and the land of Israel
cannot be broken. We shall fight
the war against Hitler as if
there were no white paper, and
we shall fight the white paper
as if there were no war.
Gordon: As world war il raged in
Europe, Ben-gurion faced a war
of his own in Palestine...
Between different factions of
the Jewish resistance. Fifteen
years earlier, several haganah
members had formed a splinter
group called the irgun. Their
goal was to avenge arab attacks
on Jews, and terrorize the
British out of Palestine. Their
most infamous act was the
bombing of the British
headquarters at the king David
hotel, which killed 91 people.
Ben-gurion and other Jewish
leaders branded the irgun as a
terrorist group and condemned
their actions. In 1944, he
launched what became known as
the "hunting season"... the
roundup and arrest of irgun
members. But by 1947, both the
arab riots and Jewish terrorism
proved too much for the British,
who were still recovering
from world war il.
Ernest bevin: "His majesty's
government have determined to
base their policy on the
assumption that they must lay
down the mandate."
Gordon: In November, the united
nations voted to divide
Palestine into two states: One
arab, and one Jewish.
Un member 1: "United Kingdom?
Abstain. United States: Yes."
Un member 2: "The resolution of
the ad hoc committee for
Palestine was adopted by 33
votes; 13 against, 10
Gordon: Once again, Jewish
leaders accepted the offer of
partition. And once again, the
arabs refused. The British
mandate would officially end on
may 15, 1948. For Ben-gurion, it
was the right moment to declare
a Jewish state. Others around
him weren't so sure.
Alon: Once he declares the state
of Israel, it will not be only
the local arabs that will fight
against us, but all the arab
countries around us. They're all
going to come after us. George
Marshall, who was the secretary
of state, and forrestal, who was
the minister of defense, for
reasons known to them - we know
what it is, mainly oil - warned
the Israelis "tell Ben-gurion
not to declare the state of
Israel because the Americans
will not support you. so, what
have you got? You've got -
inside the country you've got
division of opinions. You've got
a war before you've got a state,
and you've got America, the
biggest allies, size-wise,
saying to you, "don't declare
the state of Israel. so
everything's against you.
Gordon: Facing opposition on all
sides, Ben-gurion took one last
shot at diplomacy. Israel's only
chance for peace with the arabs
now rested on a former
schoolteacher from Wisconsin, a
woman Ben-gurion would later
call the best man in his
Meron medzini: Certainly she was
one of the founders of Israel,
one of the makers of Israel. In
many respects she one of Ben-
gurion's chief lieutenants. An
amazing woman in many respects.
A woman of enormous
contradictions. She could be
wonderful. She could be
charming. She could be
charismatic. She could be very
friendly and very solicitous.
She could be, on the other hand,
rigid, inflexible, difficult,
opinionated, combative,
argumentative. I supposed this
is what makes a great leader.
Gordon: Golda mabowitz was born
in Kiev in 1898. When she was
eight years old, her family
moved to America to escape the
massacres that ripped through
the Russian empire. They settled
in Milwaukee, a city with a
thriving Jewish community. But
even in America
life wasn't easy.
Meron medzini: She did not have
a good childhood. She grew up in
a house with women. There was no
man. Her father went to America
a few years before they joined
him. And there was enormous
amount of bickering and
arguments and shouting and
yelling. And this taught golda,
first of all, a lot of Patience.
It also taught her something
else. If you can arrange things
quietly, do so.
Gordon: Even at 11, golda had a
gift for politics. When she
found out there were children in
her school who were too poor to
buy textbooks, she decided to
Letting her use the hall for
free. And one night, she and her
friends held a fundraiser, where
golda pleaded with the audience
to help. That night, they raised
enough money to buy textbooks
for every student at the school.
Meron medzini: She was very
effective because she spoke from
the heart, because she knew how
to relate to the people. And it
turned out she was a fabulous
fundraiser. Incidentally
all her life.
Gordon: Young golda was both
ambitions and adventurous,
traits that didn't sit
well with her parents.
Meron medzini: There was a big
argument in the family. She
wanted to go to high school and
the family said, "no, what for?
Why do you need high school?
Find yourself a job. Until the
time comes, you'll find the
right man to marry and raise a
Gordon: At just 15 years old,
golda took matters into her own
hands. She ran away from home
and went to live with her sister
in Denver. There she learned
about zionism for the first
time. And soon the idea of
living in the land of Israel
consumed her. It was also in
Denver that she met
her future husband.
Meron medzini: In Denver she met
Morris meyerson, who I remember
was a very decent man. And they
fell in love. He opened to her
the world of literature and
music and theater, things that
she'd never had at home.
Gordon: After two years, golda
returned home to Milwaukee where
she finished school. Then she
went to work as a teacher. She
also agreed to marry Morris
meyerson, whose name she would
later change to the more Hebrew-
sounding "meir."
Meron medzini: Tragedy was that
she conditioned the marriage on
two things: We're going to
immigrate to Israel; We're going
to live in a kibbutz. He hated
both ideas. He was not a
zionist. And she dragged him,
basically, to Israel.
Gordon: In 1921, the couple
settled here at kibbutz merhavia
in the jezreel valley. Life was
hard, but golda thrived on the
physical labor. She picked
almonds, planted trees, and
became an expert in raising
chickens. She also
revolutionized the community's
kitchen, where the other women
refused to work. They felt
kitchen work was beneath them,
and demanded the same jobs the
men were doing.
Golda: I couldn't understand for
the life of me what all the fuss
was about. Why is it so much
better to work in the barn and
feed the cows, rather than in
the kitchen feeding your
comrades? No one ever answered
this question convincingly, so I
remained more concerned with the
quality of our diet than with
the feminine emancipation.
Gordon: Her husband, Morris,
however, didn't share her love
for life on the kibbutz. He
contracted malaria, so golda
agreed to move with him to
Jerusalem. To help pay the
bills, she took a job in the
Jewish labor union and Rose
quickly through the ranks. But
while her career flourished, her
marriage fell apart.
Meron medzini: They never
divorced. They separated, they
lived apart. They tried to
revive the marriage by having
children. That did not exactly
work. But they remained very
good friends and he was involved
in raising the children. And she
became involved in politics
since around 1922-1923, and she
was in politics in Israel for 50
years, in the trade union
movement and the Jewish agency,
the government of Israel, the
labor party, one of the founders
of the labor party.
Gordon: By the mid-1930s, golda
was part of the inner circle of
David Ben-gurion, who would
become Israel's first
prime minister.
Meron medzini: He saw her as one
of his trusted lieutenants. They
disagreed once over the issue of
partition in 1937. The British
offered some sort of partition;
He said "take it. Take what
you're offered. There's a chance
to save Jews in Germany." She
and others said "no, we were
promised the whole of the
country, let's stick to it."
Years later, she had the decency
to say, "we were wrong,
and he was right.
Gordon: After world war il, one
of the Jewish agency's biggest
priorities was helping holocaust
survivors get into Palestine - a
goal that was blocked by the
British at every turn.
Gordon: By the end of 1947, more
than 40,000 Jewish refugees were
being detained in British camps
in Cyprus. Hundreds of infants
were not expected to survive the
coming winter, or the outbreaks
of typhus. So meir went to
Cyprus to negotiate their
Golda: The camps were more
depressing than I had expected.
At one camp, a few tiny little
Been given a great many bouquets
of flowers since then, but I
have never been as moved as I
was by those flowers presented
to me in Cyprus, by children who
had probably forgotten - if they
ever knew - what real
flowers look like.
Gordon: Golda also requested
that in addition to the babies,
the camp's older orphans be
released as well. At first, the
British officer in charge
hesitated, then suddenly changed
his mind and agreed.
Golda: I couldn't understand why
he had surrendered so quickly,
but later I learned that he had
received a telegram from his
superior in Jerusalem. "Beware
of Mrs. meyerson. She is a
formidable person.
Gordon: Shortly after meir's
visit, the united nations voted
to divide Palestine into two
states: An arab one, and a
Jewish one. From that moment,
the countdown was on. Within six
months the British would leave,
the Jews would declare a state,
and the arabs would declare war.
Ben-gurion called a meeting with
his top military leaders.
Alon Ben-gurion: He said to
them, "we are going to declare
the state of Israel; I need from
you the list of what weapons you
will need, because we're going
to have a war. and he gave them
a couple of hours to come back,
and they came with the list. And
they give him a piece of paper,
and on the piece of paper there
was rifles, machine guns,
pistols, grenades. Searched the
piece of paper, threw it back to
them and says, "gentlemen, we're
going to war. I need a list of
how many tanks you need, how
many battleships you need, how
many planes you need, how many
cannons you need. they all
looked at each other, they got
up, you know, like the head -
the teacher just smacked the
students there, and they went
out and they said, when they got
in the corridor, they all say,
Ben-gurion histhtager - "Ben-
gurion went crazy!" Crazy. We
are talking about pistols, he's
talking about battleships. We're
talking about bullets, he's
talking about cannons. But he
knew what he's talking about.
Golda: We were, of course,
totally unprepared for war. We
needed weapons urgently, if we
could find anyone willing to
sell them to us. But before we
could buy anything, we needed
money, millions of dollars. And
there was only one group of
people in the whole world that
we had any chance of getting
these dollars from:
The Jews of America.
Gordon: Most of the council
members thought Ben-gurion
should go to the U.S. to raise
funds. But golda had a different
Golda: "Il will go. I'm fluent in
english, and I know how to speak
to Americans. And we can't spare
Ben-gurion right now; He's
needed here. I can do it. Fine.
Meron medzini: She knew exactly
what would, I hate to use the
term, "turn them on. but
somebody said she appeared to us
like Deborah the prophetess,
"fighting Israel." And she was
very good in the two languages
they understood, yiddish and
Gordon: The Jewish agency's
treasurer was convinced that
they wouldn't be able to raise
more than seven or eight
million. But after just six
weeks, golda returned from the
states with $50 million.
Meron medfzini: That's 1948
dollars. Today it would be, I
don't know, billions of dollars.
And that paid for weapons that
Israel bought from
czechoslovakia, which helped win
the 1948 war. Her fundraising
accounted, I imagine, for about
one-third of the cost of the '48
war. Now few Israelis remember
that. Now, the one who did
remember was Ben-gurion and he
cited this on a
number of occasions.
Gordon: Ben-gurion soon had
another job for golda: A
diplomatic visit to king
Abdullah of Jordan. She had
already had one secret meeting
with Abdullah seven months
earlier. At the time, he had
promised her that he would not
go to war against the Jews.
Golda meir: There were reports
that despite his promise to me,
Abdullah was about to join the
arab league. Was this indeed so?
I asked him in a message. The
reply from Amman was swift and
negative. He asked me to
remember three things: That he
was a bedouin, and therefore a
man of honor. That he was a
king, and therefore doubly an
honorable man. And finally, that
he would never break a promise
made to a woman. But we
all knew differently.
Meron medzini: The British
informed us that it would be a
good idea if somebody goes and
talks to Abdullah because he's
had a change of heart.
Gordon: Golda requested another
meeting. This time, Abdullah
insisted that she go to Amman,
adding that he would take no
responsibility for her safety.
Meron medzini: She was dressed
up as an arab woman; Among those
who dressed her up was my
mother. Went to haifa and drove
with one man to Jordan. Changed
cars near the border in the car
driven one of the retainers of
the king, and they went to
Amman. This is four days before
independence. She was a very
brave woman in this respect.
Abdullah was very upset. He
didn't like the idea of the Jews
sending a woman. And later on he
argued she didn't understand.
She understood very well.
Golda meir: Your majesty.
King Abdullah: Mrs. meyerson.
Please sit down.
Golda meir: Thank you. Your
majesty, have you broken your
promise to me after all?
King Abdullah: When I made that
promise, I thought I was in
control of my own destiny. Now I
am only one of five nations. Why
are you in such a hurry to
proclaim your state? What is the
Golda: Well, your majesty, we
have waited 2,000 years for a
state. I hardly think that can
be described as a hurry. Don't
you understand that we are your
only allies in the region?
King Abdullah: What can I do?
It's not up to me.
Golda: Well, you must know that
if war is forced upon us, we
will fight. And we will win.
King Abdullah: Why don't you
wait a few years? Drop your
demands for statehood. I will
take over the whole region, and
you will be represented in my
parliament. I will treat you
very well, and there
will be no war.
Golda: You know how hard
we've worked. Do you think we
did all that just for a seat in
a foreign parliament? Your
majesty, if you can offer us
nothing more than that, then
there will be war,
and we will win it.
King Abdullah: Then perhaps we
can meet again ...After the war.
Golda: Shalom.
King Abdullah: Salaam alekoum.
Golda: I never saw Abdullah
again. There was no doubt left
in my mind that he would wage
war on us. My heart sank at the
thought of the news I would have
to bring back to Tel Aviv.
Golda: The next morning there
was a meeting, and I knew that
Ben-gurion would be there. When
I entered the room, he lifted
his head and looked at me. I sat
down and scribbled a note.
"It didn't work, I wrote.
"There will be war."
Within two days, the
final decision had to be
made. Ben-gurion called in two
haganah leaders for a final
military assessment. Their
answers were virtually
identical... and terrifying.
Ben-gurion: What is the current
strength of the haganah?
Yisrael galili: We have 35,000
trained fighters, but less than
20,000 of them are fully armed.
And, as of right now, the tanks
and planes we purchased have
still not arrived.
Ben-gurion: And the arabs?
Yigal yadin: If Abdullah added
his army, there could be
Ben-gurion: And all of them
armed and trained by the
British. Your assessment?
Yisrael galili: We can only be
sure of two things: On may 15,
the British will pull out, and
the arabs will invade.
Ben-gurion: And then?
Yigal yadin: The best thing I
can tell you is we have a 50/50
chance. We are as likely
to win, as to lose.
Golda meir: On that bright note,
it was decided by a vote of 6 to
4 - on Friday, may 14, 1948, the
Jewish state would be declared.
Israel would be born with five
arab armies surrounding it,
poised for attack.
Gordon: The decision to declare
statehood was not an easy one,
and it came after an 11-hour
debate among Israel's leaders.
They knew that independence also
meant instant war. But for a
brief moment in may of 1948,
they put aside their battle
plans, and focused on announcing
to the world that the nation of
Israel had been reborn.
Gordon: With five different
armies surrounding Palestine,
the Jewish national council had
just 24 hours to prepare for a
day that had been 2,000 years in
the making. Council members
placed a telephone call to
zionist leader Chaim weizmann,
who was in New York, rounding up
united nations support for the
new state. When he heard they
had voted for statehood, he
exclaimed in yiddish, "what are
they waiting for, the idiots?"
That same day, golda meir was
ordered to fly to Jerusalem to
meet with outgoing British
leaders. She wanted to stay in
Tel Aviv and attend the
proclamation, but Ben-gurion was
adamant. So golda boarded a
small Piper cub. But as her
plane flew over the judean
hills, the engine malfunctioned,
and the pilot was forced to turn
back to Tel Aviv. So golda got
her wish, a front-row seat at
the proclamation ceremony. 350
invitations were sent out to
Jewish leaders, rabbis and
members of the haganah. Dark,
festive attire was requested.
And the invitations stipulated
that the time and place of the
ceremony was to be kept secret.
The council decided to hold the
ceremony in the Tel Aviv art
museum. It was a modest
building, small enough to be
easily guarded, and partly below
ground level, in case
of an air raid.
Gordon: The council met for the
last time to go over the wording
of the declaration, which had
been written by a group of
lawyers. Religious members
refused to sign the document
unless it contained a mention of
god, while others refused to
sign anything that did mention
god. David Ben-gurion came up
with a compromise. To the final
line of the declaration he
added, "with trust in the rock
of Israel, a phrase that
satisfied both sides. The night
before the ceremony, Ben-gurion
still wasn't happy with the
language of the proclamation. So
that evening in his home, he
rewrote the entire speech, while
less than two miles away, the
Tel Aviv art museum was being
prepared for the ceremony.
Two carpenters worked
through the night to build a
small stage. The entire budget
for the event was just $200, so
organizers borrowed hundreds of
chairs from nearby cafes and
local stores lent them
microphones and carpets, a
borrowed portrait of Theodor
herzl was placed at the front of
the room, and two blue-and-white
flags were hung on either side
of his portrait. The flags bore
the same design that had been
introduced at herzl's first
zionist congress 50 years
earlier. At Ben-gurion's
request, the paintings in the
main hall were replaced with the
work of Jewish artists like Marc
chagall and Samuel hirschenberg.
The stage was set.
On the afternoon of may 14th,
the national council met
to approve the final
draft of the declaration. The
text was approved unanimously,
but just hours before it would
be read, the new state still
didn't have a name. Historical
names like Zion and judea were
proposed and rejected. It was
Ben-gurion who decided that the
name would be simply "medinat
yisrael - the state of Israel.
One hour before the ceremony,
council members rushed
home to change their clothes,
while a secretary quickly typed
out the declaration.
With just minutes to
spare, zev sharef, the man
carrying the final copy,
couldnt get a taxi, so he
hitched a ride to the museum.
His car got pulled over for
speeding, and a policeman
started to write him a ticket.
Sharef argued that the ticket
wouldn't be legal because the
British had left and there was
no longer any government to
enforce it. "Plus," he added,
if you keep us any longer,
there won't be a new government,
because I'm the one holding the
declaration of independence.
The policeman waved them on, and
just one minute before the
ceremony, sharef handed
Ben-gurion his speech.
Despite the instructions
for secrecy, the news had leaked
out and a large crowd gathered
outside the museum. Jewish
leaders were now racing the
sunset to finish the ceremony
before the sabbath
began at 5 o'clock.
Gordon: At 4 pm, David Ben-
gurion called the meeting to
order. The crowd
Rose and sang hatikva.
Then Ben-gurion read
the declaration aloud.
Ben gurion: The land of Israel
was the birthplace of the Jewish
people. Here they first attained
to statehood, created cultural
values of national and universal
significance, and gave to the
world the eternal book of books.
Thus, we hereby declare the
establishment of a Jewish state
in eretz-yisrael, to be known as
the state of Israel. We appeal
to the arab inhabitants of the
state of Israel, to preserve
peace and participate in the up-
building of the state on the
basis of full and equal
citizenship. We appeal to the
Jewish people throughout the
diaspora to rally around the
Jews of eretz-yisrael, and to
stand by them in the great
struggle for the realization of
the age-old dream, the
redemption of Israel. Placing
our trust in the rock of Israel,
we affix our signatures to the
proclamation, on the soil of the
homeland, in the city of tel
aviv, on this shabbat Eve,
the 14th of may, 1948.
Gordon: After each member of the
new government had signed the
proclamation, the orchestra
played hatikva once again. As
the music died down, Ben-gurion
declared: "The state of Israel
is established. This meeting is
adjourned. it had taken just 32
minutes to bring independence to
a people who had been without a
country for 2,000 years. Outside
the museum, hundreds of people
danced, while others wept. That
night, Ben-gurion wrote a simple
entry in his diary:
Ben-gurion: Throughout the
country, profound joy and
jubilation. And once again, as
on 29 November, I feel like the
bereaved among the rejoicers.
Alon: Everybody was cheering in
the streets; It was a big thing,
dancing in the streets and all
this. And he was standing in the
back there. And he
was asked, "this is
a great day. This is your dream
come true. 2,000 years we were
in diaspora. You didn't like the
diaspora. You want Hebrew, you
want a state, you want this -
you've got it. "He says," while
the people are dancing here,
what they don't know is tomorrow
we go to war. and he said,
"there's going to be a big
Gordon: It wasn't long before
Ben-gurion was proven right. In
the declaration of independence,
he had offered the arabs an
equal place in the new state,
but that night his olive branch
was answered by the roar of
Egyptian warplanes. At one
minute past midnight, they
bombed the city of Tel Aviv, and
at dawn, tanks from five arab
armies rolled into the new state
of Israel. Jewish diplomat abba
eban later recalled that Israel
knew the taste of birth and the
fear of death in
the same moment."
Gordon: A year later, in 1949,
all sides had grown weary of
fighting. Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan
and Syria signed armistice
agreements with Israel. The
Jewish state had survived the
first of many challenges
to her existence.
Golda: "The story of modern
Israel is essentially the story
of the return to the ancestral
homeland of exiles from
persecution, insecurity and fear
in quest of freedom, human
dignity, independence
and peace."
Dr. medzini: She used to tell us
very often, I never realized
what John hancock meant until I
signed golda meir on that
declaration of independence.
Me, little golda meir,
signing the declaration
of independence.
Gordon: Two days after Israel
declared independence, golda
meir was sent back to America to
raise more funds for the new
Israeli army. For this trip, she
received the first Israeli
passport ever issued. One month
later, she became Israel's first
ambassador to the Soviet union.
She later served as the minister
of labor and as foreign
minister. In the early 1960s,
meir was diagnosed with lymphoma
and briefly retired. But after
the sudden death of prime
minister Levi eshkol in 1969,
she was chosen to replace him.
Meir held the office until 1974
when she resigned amid
controversy over Israel's
handling of the yom kippur war.
She died of lymphoma four years
later, at the age of 80.
Gordon: Two days after
independence, Chaim weizmann was
chosen to be the first president
of the new state of Israel, a
position he held until his
death. In his first official
act, he met with president
Truman to ask for funds to build
the new country. From that
meeting, he secured an export-
import loan of $100 million.
Chaim weizmann: I take the
first opportunity to express my
heartfelt thanks to the
President of the United States,
and to the government of this
country, for all they have done
in making out of
Israel a reality."
Gordon: The weizmann institute,
founded in 1934, became a world
leader in scientific and medical
research. In 1952, weizmann died
at the age of 77, leaving behind
a legacy as Israel's first great
President Truman: Dr. weizmann's
first name was c-h-a-i-m, and I
didn't know how to pronounced
it, so I called him, "cham." I
called him that to his face, and
he liked it. He was a wonderful
man, one of the wisest people I
think I've ever met. We had a
long, long conversation, and he
explained the situation from his
viewpoint, and I listened to him
very carefully, and at the same
time, I sent for Eddie Jacobson,
and they both sat down and
talked to me for a long, long
time. When we were through, I
said, all right - you two Jews
have put it over on me,
and I'm glad you have."
Gordon: After talking with
weizmann, president Truman
instructed the state department
to support the un's plan for
partition in Palestine, which
they did reluctantly. Then on
may 14th, 1948, president Truman
recognized the new state of
Israel, just eleven minutes
after the British mandate
officially ended.
Warren Austin: "The united
states recognizes the
provisional government as the de
facto authority of
the new state of Israel.
Gordon: Ten days later, Chaim
weizmann visited the white house
and gave the president a torah
scroll as a symbol of Israel's
gratitude. Truman's response?
"Well, thanks, cham. I've always
wanted one of these. regarding
his support for Israel, Truman
would later say, I am Cyrus."
Gil Troy: When Harry Truman, in
retirement, is honored for
having recognized the state of
Israel, the words that come out
of his mouth are "I am Cyrus."
He was the one who helped the
Jews return to the homeland
thousands of years later. And he
was the one who helped the Jews
rebuild the 3rd Jewish
commonwealth. And he was the one
who history was fortunate enough
to have in the right place at
the right time. History was
fortunate, the American people
were fortunate, the Jewish
people were fortunate. He was a
true hero.
Ben-gurion: I bring to the
American people the warm
greetings of the people of
Israel, and our gratitude for
the unfailing sympathy of
America with our efforts for
independence and regeneration.
Gordon: David Ben-gurion became
the first prime minister of
Israel, and the first minister
of defense, offices he held for
14 years. He was later named one
of time magazine's "100 most
important people of
the 20th century."
Ben-gurion: In our revival, we
have been inspired by the
message of our Bible, and by the
traditions of our ancient
history, which elevate the
dignity of man and the principle
of justice and which command
us to love our neighbor."
Gordon: When Ben-gurion retired
from political life, he moved to
a kibbutz in the negev desert
where he spent his final years
writing a history of Israel. In
November of 1973, Ben-gurion
suffered a cerebral hemorrhage
that would take his life two
weeks later. At the same time,
his grandson alon was a patient
in a different hospital. He had
fought as a paratrooper in the
yom kippur war, and was still
recovering from serious
Alon: I knew about him that he's
in the hospital, he didn't know
about me. When he asked,
"where's alon?" They said, "ah,
he's in the field, he's fine."
Someone brought me a small TV,
I'll never forget it, and we saw
the funeral through the
television, black and white.
Some of the doctors came, and
they sat with me. The doctors
said, "it's the end of an era.
Gordon: Since its rebirth,
Israel has survived wars, terror
attacks, and political
opposition to its very
existence. At the time of
independence in 1948, there were
just 650,000 Jews living in
Israel. Today, that number has
grown to more than six million.
And every year, thousands more
from around the world
are coming home.