For the first time, the World Zionist Organization stages an all-out re-creation of November 29, 1947, when Israel became a sovereign nation.
On November 29, 1947, Tamara Cohney was in Port Sudan on her way to Palestine. "We were so excited that Saturday night when we heard on the radio that the UN vote had been positive to partition Palestine between the Jews and the Arabs," said Cohney, who now lives in Melbourne.
Israelis and tourists who didn’t get to witness the street celebrations as the General Assembly of the United Nations passed a resolution establishing the State of Israel on November 29, 1947 – like the Cohneys and like the myriad youngsters who weren’t yet born on that historic day – had the chance to see a reenactment of the joyous occasion exactly 64 years later.
The World Zionist Organization staged a faithful reconstruction of the events in the plaza of the National Institutions Building on King George Street in Jerusalem, which used to house the first Parliament, the Knesset.
Cohney and her husband, Dr. Benjamin Cohney, who served as a military surgeon for the Northern Command during the Yom Kippur War, were among the jubilant spectators at the festivities on a sunny Tuesday afternoon.
Dancing in the plaza
Actors played the roles of former Prime Minister Golda Meir and the chief rabbis of that era, speaking the same words the real leaders had spoken from the balcony of the building, along with street musicians, dancers and old-fashioned "paper boys" handing out the hot-off-the-press news. There were even several actors dressed in the khaki shorts and red berets of the British Mandate-era armed forces, and photographers taking pictures with authentic 1940s cameras.
Israel Scouts and other youth groups were on hand to cheer and dance as two vintage Citroen sedans rolled up to the historic building bearing "Golda" and the "rabbis."
The balcony was shared by modern Israeli leaders bringing greetings to the crowd, including Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and World Likud Chairman Danny Danon. Then attention turned to a stage set up in the plaza for a medley of traditional Israeli tunes by Einat Sarouf.
"British soldiers" (note the shorts) dance onstage to music by Israeli singer Einat Sarouf
This was the first time the event has ever been reenacted. "We decided to create an accurate reconstruction of the historical scene of the crowds dancing in the streets, in order to enable all Israelis to feel some of the joy that enveloped the nascent state on that historic day and to raise public consciousness of this day," said Yaakov Hagoel, head of the Department for Israel Activities and the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism.
He said that the World Zionist Organization intends to transform the 29th of November into Zionism Day in Israel. "The general public already celebrates Yom Ha’atzmaut – Independence Day – but we would like to emphasize the importance of this day as well," Hagoel explained.
"I’m living active history," marveled Tom Weiss, vice president of AIBC-TV and a recent immigrant to Israel. "People who didn’t have the experience of being here in 1947, being able to see with their own eyes the place where Ben-Gurion stood on high, can feel the energy and amazement as the UN allowed an opportunity for a 33-13-10 vote in favor of the Partition Plan. I’m watching people from other countries waving Israeli flags because they want to be a part of it, and they want to give a message back to their family and friends in their home countries."