This week in Jewish history | State of Israel declared an independent sovereign state - World Jewish Congress

This week in Jewish history | State of Israel declared an independent sovereign state

This week in Jewish history | State of Israel declared an independent sovereign state

David Ben Gurion announces Israel's declaration of independence on May 14 1948

On 14 May 1948, Jewish Agency Chairman David Ben-Gurion declared the State of Israel an independent, sovereign state. The ceremony, which was held hours before the start of Shabbat, came on the same day as the British Mandate over Palestine was officially terminated, in accordance with UN Resolution 181, which called for the division of the land into a Jewish state and an Arab one.   

Standing in what would become known as Independence Hall in Tel-Aviv, Ben-Gurion read Israel’s Declaration of Independence, promising equal protection under the law for “all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed, or sex,” the “guarantee [of] full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture,” and the safeguarding of religious sites. The declaration also said, "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.”  

The last sentence of the declaration refers to "the rock of Israel" (tsur Yisrael), a synonym for God in the Torah. The wording has long been viewed as representing a compromise between the religious party and the leftist Mapam as to whether the declaration would incorporate any reference to God. This formula made it possible to approve the declaration and publish it before Shabbat and before the British left the country.

Eleven minutes after Israel declared statehood, the United States became the first country to recognize the provisional Jewish government as the de facto authority of the Jewish State. Despite the euphoria surrounding the declaration of its statehood, Israel’s survival appeared to be in peril when Arab nations who rejected the establishment of a Jewish state attempted to invade Israel. 

Over the course of 1949, Israel signed a series of armistice agreements with Egypt (February), Lebanon (March), Jordan (April), and Syria (July). While Iraq did not sign an armistice agreement with Israel, Iraqi forces withdrew from the region in March 1949. In the agreements, Egypt retain control of the Gaza Strip and Jordan retained control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

The armistice lines held until 1967, when the Six-Day War broke out and Israel emerged victorious, having withstood the invasion of several Arab armies, and in so doing, increased its territory by about 5,000 km2. More importantly, the existence of the State of Israel was now an irreversible fact.