Selling history: A rare letter penned by Ben-Gurion to be sold online

"We must not lose out history in sales like these," said Yaakov Hagoel, vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization.

By IRIS GEORLETTE, JERUSALEM POST STAFF
August 1, 2018 16:26
1 minute read.
David Ben-Gurion meeting with Albert Einstein at Princeton University, in 1951

David Ben-Gurion meeting with Albert Einstein at Princeton University, in 1951. (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST ARCHIVE)

A previously unknown letter penned by David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founder, in 1923 has been placed for auction online at the website Bidspirit at an asking price of 3,000 USD.

Vice Chairman of the World Zionist Organization Yaakov Hagoel condemned the sale of the important historical document.

"We must not lose our history," he said. "Documents such as these belong in museums and archives, not in the pockets of history buffs or politicos."

While placed on Bidspirit, the letter is sold by Winner's Auction House. "Many items now placed in Museums belonged to private people who donated these things," Winner's stated in a response to the Jerusalem Post, "many of these people buy such items in public auctions like this one, so eventually the public is being served as well."

Written while Ben-Gurion was in Moscow, the letter allows the reader a glimpse into the projects he was occupied with at the time. He suggested that Bank Hapoalim open a branch in the capital of the USSR, and wondered if Albert Einstein could appeal to the Soviets to deliver the library left by the Russian-Jewish nobleman and scholar David Günzburg.

The library, which is one of the largest and finest private collections devoted to Jewish topics, was purchased by Jewish donors with the purpose of it being moved to Jerusalem in 1917, after Günzburg passed away in 1910.

The entire collection was sold at the time for half a million rubles and packed to be shipped to the Hebrew University, but then the First World War and the Communist Revolution broke out and the valuable collection was nationalized by the new regime. The Russian state to this day refuses to deliver the books, despite concessions made by the State of Israel regarding Russian-claimed assets in Jerusalem.

"Despite the 101 years that have passed since the sale, the collection remains in Moscow," said noted historian of Russian-Jewish relations Shimon Briman.

"The time Ben-Gurion spent in the Soviet Union in the 1920s shaped the experience of the future prime minister," he said.

The Polish-born Jewish leader was not supportive of Russian Jews who attempted to fight against the Soviet regime, pointing out that because of their efforts the new Russian leadership might harm Zionist Jews.


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