David Ben-Gurion

Israel's First Prime Minister

Ben Gurion (1886-1973) was born in Plonsk, Poland. He went on to become Israel's first prime minster. Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (1884-1963) was born in Poltava, Ukraine and was the county's second president.

On November 2, 1917, the day on which the Balfour Declaration was promulgated, I was in American exile with my friend Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. In 1915 we had been expelled “forever” from the Ottoman Empire, which included the Land of Israel, by order of Turkish dictator Kemel Pasha…

A few days after the publication of the Balfour Declaration, which made an enormous impression on the Jews of America, I published an article on the Declaration in Der Yiddische Kempfer, the Labor Zionist weekly in the United States. The article, which appeared on November 14, 1917, stated inter alia: “England has not given us back the Land of Israel. It is at this very moment, when we feel joy at the great victory, that we must make it very clear: England cannot give us back the Land of Israel. This is not because the country is not or not yet, under her control. Even after England exercises sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, it will not become ours simply because that is her desire, not even if all the other countries of the world agree as well. A land can be won by a people only through their own efforts and creativity, their building and settlement.

England has done a great deal: she has recognized our existence as a political entity and our right to the country. The Jewish people must now transform this recognition into a living reality, by investing their strength, spirit, energy, and capital in building a National Home and achieving full national salvation.

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