BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – The Israeli Declaration of Independence is, perhaps, the most important modern document in existence to Jewish people the world over. Now, through Aug. 1, a rare early copy of the document – inscribed by Israel’s first leader and hero David Ben-Gurion – is on display at Heritage Auction Galleries at 9478 West Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills.
This historic document is almost as recognizable in Israel as the American Declaration of Independence is in the United States. It is an eloquent text in Hebrew, which begins with a discussion of Jewish history, cites the United Nations resolution of Nov. 29, 1947 calling for the establishment of a Jewish state in the former British territory of Palestine and asserts the right of the Jews to have their own sovereign state. It ends with an appeal to Jews worldwide to rally around the Jews in Israel, and to assist in immigration and the building of the new nation state.
Much political maneuvering and compromise had been required to produce a consensus, which was reached none too soon. The proclamation was approved by the Jewish National Council on May 14, 1948, just hours before the British mandate in Palestine would expire, creating a power vacuum in the territory. David Ben-Gurion, who would lead the new nation of Israel, gave an emotional first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv that day.
The present copy is undated, but is clearly vintage: the paper is evenly toned, and somewhat fragile. There is roughness at the margins, likely a result of age. Inasmuch as it is inscribed and signed from Ben-Gurion to Baruch Zuckerman, an important player in Jewish affairs in the years leading up to Independence, it seems reasonable to assume that this is a very early copy, perhaps sent to Zuckerman shortly after it was adopted.
Bernard Zuckerman was an important figure in Jewish affairs in America. A prominent intellectual and activist, his Poale-Zion Movement figured significantly in the founding of the “People’s Relief Committee” during and after World War I. He aided in the setting up of the American Jewish Congress and was a representative to the Executive of the World Jewish Congress. He may well have been on a shortlist of individuals who could not be present on the occasion of Israel’s independence, but whom Ben-Gurion felt deserved to be honored with a copy of the Declaration.
This copy measures 12.75 inches by 38 inches. Elegantly matted and framed, with a strong display presence, and is a highly significant signed document for the serious collector of historical Judaica.
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