On this day: First ever election to the Knesset held in 1949

David Ben-Gurion won the elections and became Israel's first prime minister and Chaim Weizmann became Israel's first president.

 The Knesset building, home of Israel's legislature, in Jerusalem, on November 14, 2022 (Illustrative). (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Knesset building, home of Israel's legislature, in Jerusalem, on November 14, 2022 (Illustrative).
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

74 years ago on January 25, 1949, Israel held its very first elections for the Knesset.

The first elections consisted of a body known as the Constituent Assembly. The body was designated the house elect of Israel, according to the National Library of Israel. They were tasked with formulating a constitution.

Although Israel's Declaration of Independence states that: "We declare that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the British Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th of Iyar, 5708 (15th May 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly no later than the 1st October 1948," the elections weren't held until January 25th due to the ongoing war.

"I congratulate you on your first meeting. Remember that the eyes of the whole Jewish world are upon you and that the yearning and prayers of past generations accompany you."

Prof. Chaim Weizmann

Professor Chaim Weizmann, the President of the Provisional State Council spoke at the opening sitting of the Assembly where he was elected as Israel's first president.

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declares Israel an independent state in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948 (credit: ZOLTAN KLUGER)Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declares Israel an independent state in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948 (credit: ZOLTAN KLUGER)

"It is with a sense of honor and awe that I rise to open the Constituent Assembly of the State of Israel, the first Jewish assembly of our day, in Jerusalem, the eternal city," he said. "At this great moment in the history of our people, we give thanks and praise to the God of Israel, by whose grace we have been privileged to see redemption, after generations of suffering and misery...Knesset members, I congratulate you on your first meeting. Remember that the eyes of the whole Jewish world are upon you and that the yearning and prayers of past generations accompany you."

Poet Nathan Alterman wrote a poem in honor of the first sitting called "With the First Knesset," in which he described how he saw the future of the Knesset.

Following Weizmann's speech, Joseph Shprinzak was elected as Speaker of the Constituent Assembly, according to the Knesset site.

The Constituent Assembly became the Knesset

The Constituent Assembly had only met four times after the elections when the Assembly adopted the Transition Law and then was renamed to Knesset two days after the opening sitting, according to the Knesset's official site.

According to Israel's official site, "nearly 85% of all eligible voters cast their ballots," even though the War of Independence was still raging on.

David Ben-Gurion's party Mapai received the most votes with 35.7% of the vote. Mapam, the party that was known to have been pro-Soviet until Joseph Stalin's death, received 14.7% of the votes.

Today, Israel had just sworn in Benjamin Netanyahu, who was born the same year as the first election, and his newest government for Israel's 25th Knesset.

Eve Young contributed to this article.