Saturday, March 21, 2015

The birth of Israel

Although i didn't start my posts on Israel with this, i strongly feel that one should ideally start their trip to Israel with Yad Vashem - the Holocaust History Museum - in Jerusalem.

Visiting this landmark early on in your trip will help you see Israel from the point of view of the Israelis and that is when you will be able to completely understand the significance of all that they have achieved. The time you will spend here will also reveal to you why and how the idea of Israel was born and their struggle towards independence. 
The Declaration in progress
But because you will land in Tel Aviv, a more practical thing to do would be to stay in the city, in which case i recommend beginning your journey with the Independence Hall.

Independence Hall 
It is located in the posh Rothschild Boulevard where all the action happens. This is one of the most expensive streets in the city with a wide, tree-lined strip running through the centre of the road with dedicated pedestrian and bike lanes. Very picturesque.
Rothschild Boulevard as it looks now
The Independence Hall tells the story of how Israel was born. You start with a black and white picture of a biggish group of people standing close in the middle of some desert. This location, you will soon learn, is where you are standing! And all this in just 100 years.
Meeting of the Jewish families
The story goes that 66 Jewish families from different geographies gathered at this spot on April 11, 1909 to build a Jewish neighborhood, which they did. This particular plot on which the Independence Hall rests was owned by a Zina and Meir Dizengoff, who at one point was the city's Mayor as well.

In 1910, the residents, decided to name their neighborhood Tel Aviv, which was inspired by Theodor Herzl's Altneuland (translated to Old-New Land).

So why is this particular building important? Because it is also the place where Israel's Declaration of Independence was signed in 1948 - a year after we received ours. And thus was born a separate country of Israel.

What you will see here
Once you have admired the above-mentioned black-and-white, you will be ushered into a small room where they will play a short docu explaining the above, who Herzl was, and how the signing ceremony took place.

(On an aside: You will note that almost every historically-significant place you visit in Israel, which you will, will start by showing you a short movie that will explain everything. As a country with a whole lot of history ourselves, we should take a cue from Israel.)

Anyway, here comes the interesting part. You will then walk into the main hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1948. You will have a guide who will explain not just the how but also the why - i.e. the political situation as it was then and as it stands now. 

Our guide was excellent and it looked like he poured his heart and soul into narrating the history and the geo-politics of Israel. He seemed genuinely interested in what he had to say and show equal enthusiasm when we had our questions - Why didn't India vote 'yes' for Israel to become a separate country, who are Israel's friendly neighbours, what is the current situation as it stands today, from what parts does it have to protect itself, the questions were endless.   

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