Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day Three - Israel's Beginnings

The third day began bright and early.  For some it was their first exposure to a true Israeli breakfast.  Let’s just say even sampling a little here and a little there would keep one going until dinner … the next day.

Then we were off and running.  The first stop was Independence Hall.  For those of you not familiar, Independence Hall is not some grand location surrounded by gardens and kitchy tourist traps.  Instead it was the former home of Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor and one of the founders of Tel Aviv.  He dedicated his home to be an art museum, which it was for a period of time.  However given the hurried nature of the rush to Independence with Jerusalem under siege, his former home became the place where David Ben-Gurion declared independence on May 14, 1948 a mere eight hours before the end of the British Mandate.  The reason why it was declared at that time was because it was a Friday afternoon, and they did not want to declare an independent Jewish state on Shabbat, and they sure were not going to wait until Sunday to do it.

The view of Theodore Herzl in Independence Hall
The guide told several wonderful anecdotes to lengthy to mention in this blog, but if you have a chance, take the tour. 

We then went to Yaffo and visited the ancient port city.  The views were amazing.  Of course there was also shopping to be had.  And though Yaffo and Tel Aviv are now one municipality, with one mayor, they are still in many ways, worlds apart.

Our tour Guide Mike teaching us about Yaffo 
Napoleon was here
View of Tel Aviv from Yaffo
We continued on to Nachalat Binyamin and took in the sites and sounds of local artists who were holding their street fair.  Some of us left a little lighter in the wallet, and everyone enjoyed taking in all the arts and crafts our eyes could behold.

But in many ways the day, which is erev Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, was really dedicated to the founding of Israel.  We started with Independence Hall, but then moved onto the Ayalon Institute. 

Sign at the Entrance to Ayalon Institute 
The Munitions Factory Floor in the Basement of a Bakery
The Ayalon Institute was a munitions factory located near Rehovot.  What was particular fascinating about it was that it was built under a bakery during the British mandate when manufacturing munitions could be a capital offense.  The planning and chutzpah it took to run this factory is simply astounding.  What is even more remarkable is that this illegal factory was able to produce nearly 2.5 million bullets before the end of the mandate all while right under the watchful eye of both the British and the kibbutz residents who had no idea what was going on in the ground right beneath them.  These bullets were vital to the initial war effort, so much so, that the factory churned out another 2.5 million of them over the next year during the war for Independence.

Lastly we concluded our tour day with the recent Beit Hapalmach Museum in Tel Aviv.  This museum is dedicated to the 1,000 plus members of the strike arm of the Haganah (Israel’s early military) who died in defense of the burgeoning state.  The tour takes a page from the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles in that it is a self guided tour with video displays that captured our imaginations and really made us feel a part of the lives of those young men and women who gave so willingly of themselves.  It was a truly powerful experience to behold.


Waiting for the Tour of Beit HaPalmach
Then in the evening, we all stepped outside from dinner to go out into the beautiful air to hear the sirens at 8pm to commemorating those who have fallen in defense of Israel.  Almost all life stopped in Tel Aviv for that one minute.  It was both powerful and sublime.  I am so glad those with me had an opportunity to witness the awesome nature of Yom HaZikaron in Israel.

Tomorrow our journey continues ever onward as we are heading up north.

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