The Davids of Israel—A 3,000 Year Journey to Statehood

Boom! Boom! Boom! Bullets whiz straight towards the Haganah troops. “Man down!” Sticky-hot blood splatters everywhere. David Ben-Gurion signals over the radio, “Send troops to all borders! Were being invaded on all five sides!” It’s May 15th, 1948. The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon have invaded the one-day old State of Israel. Within twenty-four hours of the declaration of the State of Israel, a full-scale war has erupted that will last nine months. The newly elected Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, will lead the small country of 8,000 square miles to independence.

The Attacks of Five Arab Armies on Israel in the 1948 War of Independence

Judaism is the oldest of the three monotheistic-Abrahamic religions. The Jewish calendar, which is on a lunar cycle, started 5,777 years ago with Adam and Eve. The Jews received their direction from G-d 3,300 years ago on Mount Sinai when Moses was presented with the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments created a covenant between G-d and the Jewish people, and are G-d’s guidance of how to live an ethical life. The Ten Commandments are the first ten rules of the six-hundred and thirteen commandments of the Torah.

In the Torah, G-d instructed the people of Israel to build a Tabernacle, or place of worship. King Solomon built the exquisite temple in Jerusalem in 957 BCE. The first temple stood for four-hundred years before it was destroyed in 586 BCE by the Babylonians. The destruction of the first temple marks the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora, meaning dispersion or scattering. After the destruction of the temple, the Jews were exiled by the conquering Babylonians. There are then three major communities of Hebrews, or Jews, living in Babylonia, Judea, and Egypt. Over the next 2,000 years, the Jews will be exiled over one-hundred more times from their respective communities. Each time they are exiled, they will disperse into different regions of the world, bringing Jewish life to every corner of the earth.

Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish man, was a captain in the French army in the late eighteen-hundreds. In 1894 he was falsely convicted of espionage and treason against France. At this point, anti-semitism, hatred of the Jews, was running rampant through the French army. Dreyfus was publicly embarrassed and stripped of his army rankings. He spent twelve years in prison.

Simultaneously, Theodor Herzl, a Jewish-Hungarian native was working in France as a journalist. He came face-to-face with the heinous Dreyfus Affair. He witnessed riots in the streets and mobs of people, people he knew, yelling, “Death to the Jews.” He was mortified by what he saw. He came to the conclusion that Jews could no longer live safely scattered throughout the world. This sparked his revolutionary idea of Zionism, the belief in a homeland for the Jewish people. Three years after the Dreyfus Affair in 1897, Herzl organized the world’s first Zionist Congress. At this meeting in Basel, Switzerland, there were more than two-hundred representatives from seventeen countries present. The congress elected Herzl as the first president of the World Zionist Organization. Herzl was a poised leader and appealed his cause to Great Britain, who was willing to give Uganda as a safe haven to the Jews. That idea was rejected by religious Jews who believed in a Jewish homeland in the land of Eretz Yisrael. Herzl died in 1904, over forty years before the state of Israel was established. Although he never saw his dream come to life, he is recognized as the uniting force of global Jewry and the catalyst for the State of Israel.

Since the formation of the religion of Islam in the seventh-century, Judaism and Islam have always had their differences. Both religions are are monotheistic-Abrahamic religions and have extremely similar beliefs and traditions. Since 1917, there has been bloody-chaotic conflict between the Jews and Arabs in the land of Palestine. In 1918 the Ottoman Empire fell and control of Palestine went to the conquering British. After twenty years of relentless work with no success of peace, in November of 1947, the British stated that they cannot bring peace between the two groups, thus turning control of Palestine over to the United Nations. From December 1947 to May 1948, a brutal civil war raged between Arabs and Jews in the land. Vicious attack after attack, people were being murdered on both sides, fighting for land they rightfully thought was theirs.

On the morning of May 14th, 1948, invitations to a secret meeting were sent out to two-hundred and fifty recipients by messenger. The invitation stated to arrive to the Tel Aviv museum, a quaint building with hardly any windows, at 3:30 pm that day and to keep the meeting secret. When David Ben-Gurion, the leader of the Zionist Party, arrived at 4:00 pm that day to museum, the streets were packed with half of the city of Tel Aviv. People were cheering and in awe of the monumental occasion they hoped would occur.

Bang! Ben-Gurion opens up the meeting by banging his gavel on the table signaling the guests to stand up for the Hatikvah, the soon-to-be nation’s new anthem. Ben-Gurion takes a deep breathe, and the next sixteen minutes of speaking forever changes the world. In his raspy voice he reads the Israeli Declaration of Independance. He states, “The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.” Thirty-seven signatures later, the State of Israel had been declared. After two-thousand years of Diaspora, the Jewish people now have a place to call home.

David Ben-Gurion reading the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. Above him is a photo of Theodor Herzl — the founder of Zionism.
May 14th, 1948 Outside Independence Hall, Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv

David Ben-Gurion, the nation’s first Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, was born in Poland in 1886. He was born into a Zionist family, meaning they strongly believed in the formation of a Jewish homeland in the land of Israel. At the age of three he started to speak Hebrew. As a young man he taught Hebrew school and was a charismatic leader of the Jewish community in Poland. He was arrested twice during the Russian Revolution for his religious beliefs. At the age of 20, Ben-Gurion immigrated to the land of Israel, thus changing the future of the Jewish people forever. As a young man he worked on a Kibbutz, a socialist commune where everyone is treated equally. Life on the Kibbutz was both physically and mentally hard.

When World War 1 began in 1914, the Ottoman Empire deported David Ben-Gurion to America. In America he met his wife, a fellow Zionist. In 1917 the British army drove the Turks out of Palestine. The British then took over Palestine and released the Balfour Declaration stating they supported a Jewish homeland of the historic Jewish homeland of Palestine, Eretz Yisrael. David Ben-Gurion was motivated by this unprecedented support from Britain that he and his wife moved back to Palestine to help lead the formation of the Jewish state.

The name “David” comes from the Hebrew “דוד,” meaning “beloved.” It is derived from legacy of the second king of Israel, King David. King David ruled during the 10th century BCE and is best remembered for his glorified battle against Goliath. As an inexperienced boy, King David was confronted by Goliath, a nine-foot tall beastly Philistine. David had no previous fighting experience, and was armed with a few mere stick and stones. What David lacked in physical strength and weapons, he made up for with his intelligence. David transformed his sticks and stones into a slingshot and conquered the infamous beast Goliath, much like Israel 3,000 years later in the 1948 War of Independence. What the small army of 60,000 lacked in strength and size, they made up for with their tactical intelligence organized by David Ben-Gurion. In a matter of nine months, the modest army was able to secure its borders and defend itself against the attacking armies of five, much stronger and developed nations!

Not only did these courageous David’s defeat their enemies, they transformed their countries into thriving civilizations. King David built one of the most beautiful and technologically advanced cities for his time. Archaeologists today are still awe inspired by his extensive running water system. While David Ben-Gurion paved the way for the Israel we see today; a beautifully Democratic country that is eco-friendly, technologically advanced and smack in the middle of the chaos of the Middle East.

From small inexperienced boys, both King David and David Ben-Gurion were underdogs in their battles. King David, an innocent boy at the time, went up against the gigantic, undefeated Goliath. King David went on to be the King of the people of Israel and built a thriving city. David Ben-Gurion led a ragtag army towards independence through hectic, endless attacks. Rationally, neither leader should have persevered. Against all odds, both men transformed into strong, charismatic leaders who led their people to victory and brought to life their vision of a Jewish homeland to life. Three-thousand years apart they both developed advanced nations, and above all they created a homeland for the Jewish people.

Works Cited

“Ancient Jewish History: The Diaspora.” The Diaspora | Jewish Virtual Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2016.

“Anti-Semitism: Alfred Dreyfus & “The Affair”.” Alfred Dreyfus & “The Affair” | Jewish Virtual Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2016.

Campbell, Mike. “Meaning, Origin and History of the Name David.” Behind the Name. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

“David Ben-Gurion Biography.” A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

“King David.” Home. Jewish Virtual Library, n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

Peres, Shimon, and David Landau. Ben-Gurion: A Political Life. New York: Nextbook/Schocken, 2011. Print.

“Proclamation of Independence.” N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

“Timeline: Israel War of Independence.” Timeline (Chronology) of Israel War of Independence. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

“Theodor Herzl.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2016.

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