Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Revealed and the Concealed: A Joint Exhibition with the Foreign Ministry

Today the Israeli Association for Diplomacy will award this year's Prize for Israeli Diplomacy to Mr. Shimon Peres, Israel's former president. To mark the occasion, the Israel State Archives is taking part in a joint exhibition called "The Revealed and the Concealed". The aim is to show the diplomatic activity "behind the scenes" of some of the big moments in Zionist and Israeli history. It starts with Theodore Herzl, who founded the Zionist movement but was an unsuccessful diplomat, and ends with more recent achievements of the Foreign Ministry, such as Israel's association with the OECD in 2010. It includes a selection of historical documents, mostly from our holdings, together with photographs, caricatures and other  visual material.

Today is also the anniversary of the dramatic vote on 29 November 1947, when the UN General Assembly decided to partition Palestine and to set up a Jewish and an Arab state.  The vote was close, and the representatives of the Jewish Agency  made tremendous efforts to mobilize every possible friend to influence the wavering UN member states. Here we present two documents on this subject which didn't make it into the exhibition.

Below Chaim Weizmann, who was ousted from the presidency of the World Zionist Organization in 1946 but still enjoyed great  prestige in the US, appeals to President Harry Truman to intervene 
personally to influence countries which planned to abstain. 
Telegram courtesy of Yad Chaim Weizmann, the Weizmann Archives, Rehovot

Among the countries mentioned was Ethiopia, whose emperor, Haile Selassie, had lived in Jerusalem after being
deposed by the Italians. Here we show a cable to Haile Selaissie from Lorna Wingate, the widow of Major Orde Wingate, a great friend of the Zionist movement, appealing in the name of her husband for Ethiopia's support. Wingate, a brilliant and innovative leader of special forces, led the Gideon Force of British, Sudanese and Ethiopian troops, including some members of the Haganah who had served with him in Palestine. Wingate helped to restore the Emperor to his throne in 1941, but was later killed in Burma. The cable is in File MFA 2206/9. 

.Orde Wingate (right) with Hailie Selassie and another officer in Ethiopia. Wikimedia

Lorna Wingate's appeal went unanswered and Ethiopia abstained in the vote on 29 November. But a majority of 33 nations voted in favour of the partition resolution, with 13 against and 10 abstentions. In December 1947, Moshe Shertok, the head of the Political Department of the Agency who had led the struggle at the UN, gave warm praise to the members of his team, who had worked together in harmony and with total devotion to the cause. "I saw many delegations of states [at Lake Success]" said Shertok, "large states and small, large delegations of large states which included several important members, experienced statesmen with a whole staff of advisers, with huge offices……I am sure not only that our delegation was not inferior to theirs, but that no other people had such a group of workers. "

The decision on 29 November paved the way for the establishment of the state of Israel on 15 May 1948. Shertok became the foreign minister and changed his name to Sharett, and many of his staff became the nucleus of Israel's Foreign Ministry. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Jubilee of the Israel Museum, 1965-2015

This week, the Israel State Archives and the Israel Museum released a joint publication (in Hebrew) on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the museum, which was opened on May 11, 1965. The museum is Israel's national museum and holds one of the largest collections of art and archaeology in the world.

The publication includes 39 documents (three in English--4, 18, 26; one in French--18; the rest in Hebrew), and tells the story of the building of the museum with assistance from the U.S. government. (This was why it was called "the Israel Museum" rather than "the Jerusalem museum"; the U.S. opposed Israel's extension of its rule to Jerusalem.) The publication also describes the decision to build in the Neve Sha'anan neighborhood in Jerusalem, the process of building, and the inauguration of the museum.

In the first year after opening, the museum saw more than 570,000 visitors, out of a population of 2.5 million, in 1965.

The publication includes photographs, architectural plans, a model of the building built by architects Alfred Mansfeld and Dora Gad, and movie clips.

Here are some photographs from the opening of the museum, courtesy of the government press office's national photo collection:
P.M. Levy Eshkol speaking at the opening ceremony of the Israel National Museum in Jerusalem (David Ben Gurion can be seen seated in the center, on the right side of Eshkol) / Moshe Pridan 

Chairman of the acting board of governors of the Israel Museum Mr. Teddy Kollek speaking at the opening ceremony of the museum in Jerusalem / Moshe Pridan 
Mrs. Rachel Shazar, President Shazar's wife, cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony of the Israel National Museum in Jerusalem. To her right, Mr. Teddy Kollek and Mr. Propes. / Moshe Pridan
Baron and Baroness (R) Edmond de Rothschild looking at a 5,000-year-old ornamental copper object from the Chaleolitic period found during the excavations of the Bar Kochba caves in the Judean desert / Moshe Pridan
Deputy Defense Minister Peres and his wife visiting the Israel National Museum after the opening ceremony / Moshe Pridan 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The 40th Anniversary of the UN Resolution Equating Zionism with Racism

Today, November 10, 2015, is the 40th anniversary of one of the United Nations' lowest points: United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, equating Zionism with racism. The resolution was one of the many efforts (and one of the successful ones) of the Arab world and the Eastern bloc to isolate Israel and have her expelled from international organizations such as the United Nations.

The resolution is also remembered for the powerful speech after the vote by Chaim Herzog (the Israeli Ambassador to the UN and later Israel's 6th president), equating it with the Kristallnacht pogrom – exactly 37 years before – and his famous act of tearing up the resolution.

Here a short movie clip on Herzog's speech:
And here is the text of the speech.

Three years ago, we published a post on the resolution, Israel's efforts to block it, and the country's reaction after it was passed.

In 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 4686 "revoking" resolution 3379 and virtually annulling it.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Yitzhak Navon, Israel's Fifth President 1921-2015

Yitzhak Navon, who was president of Israel between 1978 and 1983, passed away on Saturday and was buried in Jerusalem today. He had a long and varied career, starting as a junior diplomat in Montevideo, in Israel's first representation in Latin America, and later in Argentina. He served as the secretary of Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett, and then as the secretary of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
Yitzhak Navon with Israel's minister to Uruguay, Yaacov Zur,  and Mrs. Zur in Montevideo, October 1948.Photograph:  Hugo Mendelsohn, Goverment Press Office 

Yitzhak Navon and David Ben-Gurion reading the Bible, April 1956.
Photograph: Government Press Office

In 1963 Navon, then head of the Culture Unit in the Ministry of Education, headed the campaign to eradicate adult illiteracy in Israel, about which we wrote here.

Afterwards he followed Ben-Gurion into the Rafi party which later merged with the Labour Alignment. He became a Knesset member in 1965 and later served as deputy speaker of the Knesset. During his term as president the peace treaty with Egypt was signed, and he made an official visit to Egypt. During his stay, President Navon visited among other places, Sadat's birthplace at the village of Mit Abul Kum. In Cairo, at his request he addressed the members of the ruling National Democratic Party, as President Sadat had addressed the Knesset in Jerusalem.

President Navon and President Sadat in Mit Abul Kom, 29/10/1980
Photograph:Yaacov Saar, Government Press Office, 

 In his speech he expressed disappointment at the pace of the normalization process. "In times of war, we need a Supreme Command for War . In times of peace, we need a Supreme Command for Peace", to be made up of writers, teachers, scientists and psychologists to deepen and implant the hold of peace among the peoples of the two nations. President Navon  also spoke of the shared roots and aspirations of Jews and Muslims and of his grandfather who left Morocco for the Holy Land after a dream of the prophet Elijah, 

Navon ,who grew up in a distinguished Sepahrdi family in Jerusalem, spoke fluent Arabic which he had learned from his neighbours. He also wrote two popular musical plays in Ladino. He refused to serve a second term as president and returned to politics, serving as minister of education between 1984 and 1990.

Letter from a Jewish child in Australia to President Navon
Israel State Archives