We are all signatories to the Declaration of Independence - Opinion

When talking about Israel’s Declaration of Independence, people usually focus on its resounding opening sentences:

 YAAKOV HAGOEL speaks at the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, in August in Basel, Switzerland. (photo credit: WORLD ZIONIST ORGANIZATION)
YAAKOV HAGOEL speaks at the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, in August in Basel, Switzerland.

“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.”

The following paragraphs, which are also often brought up, talk about the natural and historical right to the land, the call for peace with all of its inhabitants and the partnership in the fight against Nazi evil.

All this is good and important. The Declaration of Independence is truly a work of thought and precise wording. Every word was examined and weighed by the heads of the Jewish population on the eve of the establishment of the State. 

However, no less important is the last part of the scroll dedicated to signatories.

Thirty-seven people were privileged to sign the founding document of the State, headed by David Ben-Gurion. The signatories also included Golda Meir, Moshe Sharret, Rabbi Yehuda Leib HaCohen, Fishman Maimon and many others. 

Every time I look at the signature section, I come across David Remez's signature.

Why specifically Remez's signature? Because it is the most prominent of them all. Most of the signatories used a pen brought specially for the event by the People's Administration, a choice that intended to achieve uniformity among the signatures. Remez brought his own pen with him, a special and thick pen, and to this day his name stands out.

For me, the story of David Ramez's signature - without forgetting that he also achieved many accomplishments in the early days of the Yishuv, and then as a Knesset member and cabinet minister - is not just a historical anecdote. The story conveys an important message, especially during these days. 

Recently the Declaration of Independence has become a symbol of the national controversy that is burning within us. "It is all mine," one side says, "It is all mine," echoes the other. Some maintain that the values they support represent the correct balance between the different levels of government, while others claim exactly the opposite.

But the truth is neither here nor there. The Declaration of Independence belongs to the entire Israeli public, and besides the thirty-seven actual signatures on it, the document bears the millions more invisible signatures of every citizen. Everyone has signed the scroll - each of us with his or her own special pen, values, stories and hopes. 

Over the years we learned to unite around the scroll, to add more and more signatures at the bottom, and today the Declaration of Independence is the place where all these signatures are gathered, and the basis of which the Israeli partnership grows.

The Declaration of Independence must not be read as if it supports only one side of the political map. Such an appropriation risks erasing from it the signatures of many Israelis. What we must do is the opposite: each and every one of us must take his special pen, re-sign the scroll, find our unique place within this founding text - and continue to write, together, the great Israeli story.

*The writer is the Chairman of the World Zionist Organization.