The Jewish past and the ‘birth’ of the Israeli nation state: the case of Ben-Gurion’s Independence Day speeches

Adi Sherzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The article focuses on David Ben-Gurion’s past image using a series of programmatic and widely distributed speeches he made during Israel’s first Independence Days (1948-1958). The article argues that while the founding of the state was defined as a turning point it was certainly not portrayed as a ‘beginning’, and that both the ancient sovereign and the exilic Jewish experience had a central place in Ben-Gurion’s relevant past. At the centre of discussion stand five main characteristics of the speeches: the continuation between the state and the Jewish ancient past; the central place of a secularized messianism as a bridge between the exilic past and the sovereign present; the attempt to portray a widely accepted shared past using consensus-based terminology; the simplification of the Zionist rebellion against the exile; and the fundamental differentiation between the Jewish symbolic past and the realistic Israeli present. These five elements are analysed against the background of other texts by Ben-Gurion and his image in the research. Finally, this case study is placed within a wider context which demonstrates the Israeli quest for a Jewish framework of meaning that would authenticate the new national myths and charge them with meaning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-326
Number of pages17
JournalMiddle Eastern Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • David Ben-Gurion
  • Independence Day
  • exile
  • messianism
  • relevant past
  • state of the nation speech

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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