By Yaakov Hagoel, Chairman of the World Zionist Organization
When talking about the Declaration of Independence, one usually focuses on its resounding opening sentences:
“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books“, or in one of the following paragraphs, which talk about the natural and historical right to the land, the call for peace with all the inhabitants of the land and the partnership in the fight against Nazi evil.
All this is good and important. The Declaration of Independence is truly a work of thought of precise wording, every word of which was examined and weighed by the heads of the Jewish population on the eve of the establishment of the State. But no less is the last part of the scroll, dedicated to signatories.
Thirty-seven people were privileged to sign the founding document of the State, headed by David Ben-Gurion of course, and among them also Golda Meir, Moshe Sharret, Rabbi Yehuda Leib HaCohen Fishman Maimon and many others. Every time I look at the signature section, I come across David Remez‘s signature.
Why specifically Remez’s signature? Because it is the most prominent of them all. Most of the signatories used a pen brought especially for the event by the People’s Administration that intended uniformity for the signatures. Remez brought his own pen with him, a special and thick pen, and to this day his signature stands out as the most prominent name among the signatories.
For me, the story of David Ramez’s signature – he has many accomplishments to his credit since the early days of the Yishuv, as a Knesset member and cabinet minister – is not just a historical anecdote. There is an important message, especially during these days. Recently the Declaration of Independence has become a symbol of the national controversy that is burning within us. Some say it is all mine, and others say it is all mine. There are those who maintain that the values that they support are the correct balance between the different levels of government and the other side which says that these values are actually the opposite.
But the truth is neither here nor there. The Declaration of Independence belongs to the entire Israeli public, and besides the thirty-seven actual signatures on it, there are millions more transparent signatures of every citizen. Everyone signed the scroll – each of us with his own special pen, values, stories and hopes. Over the years we learned to unite around the scroll, to add more and more signatures at the bottom, and today the Declaration of Independence is the place where all these signatures are gathered, and on the basis of which the Israeli partnership grows.
The Declaration of Independence must not be read as if it supports only one side of the political map. Such an appropriation will erase from it many signatures of Israelis, partners on the way. What we must do is the opposite: take out each and every one of us his special pen, re-sign the scroll, find our unique place within this founding text – and then take all these pens and continue to write, together, the great Israeli story.
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