On May 14, 1948 – the Sabbath – at 4 p.m., David Ben-Gurion walked to the front of the biggest room in a small white building, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Outside at 16 Rothschild Boulevard, the streets were full of people anxiously awaiting Ben-Gurion’s speech. Inside, the room was packed with invited guests.
Israel’s soon-to-be first prime minister stepped onto the hastily constructed platform, walked a few steps to the podium and stood in front of a borrowed microphone.
The visionary “father of the Jewish state” – Theodore Herzl – did not live to witness this speech, but Ben Gurion stood under Herzl’s large photo, a backdrop flanked by two long Israeli flags.
The unpretentious ceremony proceeded with Ben-Gurion’s words, calmly delivered, announcing the nation’s modern birth and the name on the birth certificate, Israel. He declared one of the most miraculous events in world history; the only ancient nation with Hebrew, its ancient language, reborn after 2,000 years of prayers and longing to return to the land promised by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Reading the Declaration of Independence, 32 minutes later it was official. Crowds in the street broke out in singing, dancing and hugs.
“We hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called ISRAEL. We offer peace and unity to all the neighboring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. Our call goes out to the Jewish people all over the world to rally to our side in the task of immigration and development and to stand by us in the great struggle for the fulfillment of the dream of generations – the redemption of Israel.
Ben-Gurion closed, pronouncing, "The State of Israel is established. This meeting is adjourned." Eleven minutes later President Harry Truman was the first world leader to recognize the Jewish state.
While historians focus on the secular history, politics, War of Independence, and every facet of Israel’s rebirth, a less recognized event took place six months earlier on Nov. 29, 1947. An eternal and profound “divine convergence” emblazoned God’s imprimatur, His stamp of approval on Israel’s modern statehood.
It began in Qumran’s caves when Bedouins discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946/1947. The scrolls – written circa 740-680 B.C. through the hand of the brilliant prophet/scholar Isaiah – included the scriptural evidence of God’s plans about a nation born in a day.
Isaiah 66:7-9 “Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God.’”
Shifting from Qumran in the Judean desert to the United States, months later Nov. 29, 1947 found the United Nations embroiled in heated and dramatic debates about the Partition Plan, Resolution 181. The UN's final vote accepted the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) resolution. Thirty-three states voted yes, 13 voted no, and 10 states abstained. It designated the complicated Arab and Jewish geographies in the small Middle Eastern space on the principle of two states for two people. The Arab rejection blemished the future for its people. The Jewish acceptance created opportunities for its people in the diaspora to return to their ancestral homeland.
Nov. 29 also found Hebrew University professor and archaeologist Eleazer Sukenik sitting quietly in his Jerusalem study 7,000 miles away. He was intently bent over fragile scroll fragments. An extraordinary convergence was taking place. God reaffirmed His plans for His people.
The scrolls discovered by Bedouin shepherds in Qumran near the Dead Sea had come on the open market for sale. Prof. Sukenik was the first expert to determine their authenticity. He later wrote in his journal, “I read a few sentences. It was written in beautiful biblical Hebrew. The language was like that of the Psalms… I suddenly had the feeling that I was privileged by destiny to gaze upon a Hebrew Scroll which had not been read for more than two thousand years.”
His hands were already shaking when his son Yigal ran into his study shouting the news on the radio. “The vote on the Jewish State passed!” Sukenik later said, “This amazing discovery shows us that the Biblical texts were passed down with extraordinary accuracy. The scrolls were a thousand years older than any text we had … yet the book of Isaiah you have in your Bible is the same as the one found in that ancient jar in Qumran, with only a few letters changed.”
Author Shelley Neese in her book, The Copper Scroll Project, framed the Dead Sea awe-inspiring Isaiah discovery saying, “The Dead Sea Scrolls made for a symbolic birthday gift for the state still struggling to survive out of utero. The texts are celebrated icons of Israel’s heritage … These ancient scrolls symbolize the people of Israel and their great contribution to the world: The Oracles of God.”
As far as I can tell, it is unknown whether Prime Minister Ben-Gurion knew about the timing of the simultaneous happenings 7,000 miles apart on Nov. 29. I like to think he knew.
American attorney Saul Jay Singer offers insight into Ben-Gurion in his March 10 article in the Jewish Press entitled, “The Theology of David Ben-Gurion.” He mentions Ben-Gurion’s brilliance, scripture knowledge and his “Prime Minister’s Bible Study Circle” held weekly in his home surrounded by his 20,000-volume library.
Singer quotes, “The role of Judaism and the Bible in Ben-Gurion’s life may perhaps be best summarized by his famous statement: “Since I invoke Torah so often, let me state that I don’t personally believe in the G-d it postulates…I am not religious, nor were the majority of the early builders of Israel believers. Yet, their passion for this land stemmed from the Book of Books… [and the Bible is] the single most important book in my life.’”
He goes on to mention a famous moment when Ben-Gurion spoke at the Peel Commission in 1937. The Commission, led by British Lord Robert Peel, was already working on partitioning “British Mandate Palestine.” The commission challenged Ben-Gurion to show them a Jewish deed to the land to prove their ownership. Holding up a Bible he shouted, “Here is your land deed!”
Ben-Gurion was exactly right and later commented, “Ours is a country built more on people than on territory. The Jews will come from everywhere: from France, from Russia, from America, from Yemen ... Their faith is their passport.”
Nov. 29, 1947, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bonded the Jews with their most ancient scriptures on the very night that the UN voted on the Partition Plan. Just a half-year later, on May 14, 1948, the ancestral homeland became a modern Jewish country. Isaiah 66:8 came alive under God’s plans to restore Israel as He promised. “Can a country be born in a day, or a nation be brought forth in a moment?” The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
Six hundred million of us pro-Israel Evangelicals worldwide join in with a resounding, “Happy modern 73rd birthday Israel!”
Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After nine years she retired and later worked part-time with International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and writes a weekly column at CBN ISRAEL. She has often traveled to Israel, including being invited three times by Israel’s Government Press Office to their annual Christian Media Summit. Read more of her articles on her CBN Israel blog.