Descendants reenact Declaration of Independence signing
Decades before they were born, their grandparents and great-grandparents made history by when they signed Israel's Declaration of Independence; descendants of 37 signatories reenact ceremony at the Knesset; 'It's very exciting,' says Moshe Sharett's 15-year-old grandson. 'I also want to be a politician when I grow up.'
"We hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel." The words comprise but one line in the Israeli Declaration of Independence, but have become a symbol of that momentous occasion, which took place Friday, May 14, 1948. Now, almost 70 years later, some 60 descendants of 37 of the original declaration's signatories gathered in the Knesset Sunday to recreate the historic moment.
Sons and daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren all thought back to that fateful day, and to the document that became the cornerstone of the state.
"We were offered to come to the Knesset and were greatly moved by the offer," said Tal Sharett, the granddaughter of Moshe Sharett (Shertok), who attended the event with her son, the former prime minister's great-grandson.
Sharett's great-grandson Uri, a ninth grader in the northern region kibbutz of Lehavot HaBashan, is an avid history buff. "I really want to learn about everything my great-grandfather did. I know a lot of the details of his biography, for instance that he was fluent in Arabic, and that he helped his own father."
Uri admitted most of his classmates were unfamiliar with the late former prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. "It's a little disappointing to think not one of them has heard of Moshe Sharett until I told them about him. Truth be told, I want to be a politician myself when I grow up. I want to bring back the Sharett legacy," he stated.
His mother said the family's members intended to not only mark 70 years since the signing of the declaration, but to also throw a going away bash for the old twenty shekel bills emblazoned with Sharett's visage.
The ceremony was also attended by Sarit and Michal, the granddaughters of former Yedioth Ahronoth editor-in-chief Dr. Herzl Rosenblum (Vardi), his great-grandchildren, and Yael, his daughter-in-law and widow of his son Moshe Vardi, who also served as Yedioth editor-in-chief.
His granddaughter Sarit, the paper's health reporter, said, "We're all excited to recreate the historic event, which my late grandfather participated in. I'm sure if he were here with us in the Knesset and could see the immense progress the country has enjoyed, he'd be bursting with pride."
"However, as a public figure, we believe he would be disheartened to see the goings on in Israeli politics and public life nowadays," Sarit said.
Another participant is Noa Geffen, the granddaughter of Eliyahu Dobkin, who was a leading figure in the Labor Zionism movement, headed the Jewish Agency's immigration department and was one of the founders of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Noa herself sits on the Council to Preserve Heritage Sites, so the historic event is doubly exciting for her. "Our heritage and history are so important to me, and this is an excellent opportunity to shine a light on the works of past generations," she said.
"I was very young when my grandfather passed, only seven. His persona, both personal and public, accompanied me and my family through the years since. My grandfather was in charge of bringing thousands of Jews to Israel from all across the globe," she said.
Geffen then claimed the younger generation was not in tune enough with local history. "The younger generation and teenagers should be told, taught and brought closer to events that took place here not so long ago, only seventy years ago," she opined.
Nitzan Kahana, the granddaughter of the youngest original signatory, Rabbi Kalman Kahana—who was only 36 at the time—was also among the descendants who took part in the ceremony.
"I keep discovering new aspects of my grandfather's story and personality, and it only makes me be more and more proud of him," she said.
"My father is the Knesset's first child. He was born while my grandfather was speaking in the plenum. During his speech, he received a note that his son had been born," Kahana went on to say.
Other descendants who attended the special ceremony include the grandchildren, great-grandchildren and the window of Israel's first Minister of Police Bechor-Shalom Sheetrit; the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of former minister Zerach Warhaftig; the granddaughters of Eliyahu Dobkin, who was one of the leaders of the Labor Zionism movement; the great-granddaughter of Rabbi Wolf Gold, one of the leaders of the Mizrachi movement; the son of Mordechai Shatner, who was a member of the Provisional State Council; the great-grandson of Israel's first Minister of Religious Affairs, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Maimon; the granddaughters of former Knesset Speaker Nahum Nir; the son, granddaughter and great-grandson of Saadia Kobashi, one of the leaders of the Yemenite Jewish community in Israel; the great-granddaughter of Meir David Loewenstein, one of the leaders of Agudat Yisrael; and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of religious-Zionist leader and former minister Haim-Moshe Shapira.
The reenactment of the declaration signing is a preliminary event, in anticipation of the First Israeli Congress on Judaism and Democracy founded by Haim Tayeb and Joseph Jaruszewski to be inaugurated in a month at Jerusalem's International Convention Center.
The Congress will be attended by President Reuven Rivlin, US Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman and others. It will debate the meanings of Israel's definition as a Jewish and democratic state and seeks to encourage discourse on the manner in which the country can preserve the aforementioned values and start a process of reconciliation between its disparate communities and sectors.