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February 14: (Tu Bishvat 5709), the Constituent Assembly, which within two days becomes the first Knesset, holds its first meeting in the Jewish Agency building in Jerusalem. Opening ceremony.

February: Immigration to Israel keeps mounting, reaching 1,000 and more daily.

The Jewish Agency resolves that the quota for 1949 will be 250,000 new immigrants. The government approves the resolution.

The Jewish Agency opens offices in many countries. Candidates for immigration are registered, placed in different categories, their passage organized, and their baggage arranged for shipment. The representatives and emissaries of the Jewish Agency are dedicated in the face of dangerous risks at various clandestine operations in the effort to bring Jews to safety.

Israel makes efforts to open the gates for Jewish immigration from Eastern European countries. In May, a trade agreement is concluded with Poland. Two months after the agreement is signed, Polish Jews are allowed to leave. Israel and various Jewish philanthropic organizations, mainly in the U. S. pay large sums of money for the exit permits of Jews from Eastern Europe.

1949 sets a new record in annual immigration: 239,000. When new immigrants reach Israel, they are taken to a camp called "Sha'ar Haaliyah" (Gate of Immigration). The camp enables the authorities to carry out the formal process of immigration. The camp is meant to serve as a way-station for three days to a week, but as the number of arrivals grows, the stay is protracted. From here, the immigrants are taken to other camps where people sometimes remain for months.
Giora Josephtal, head of the Jewish Agency's Absorption Department, is responsible for the camps. He is devoted and competent and struggles every day with the accelerated immigration rate.
Only a few thousand immigrants are absorbed by the kibbutzim, just a few hundred establish new kibbutzim on their own. Only two out of ten immigrants settles in a farming community.The rest settles in cities and towns. They face great hardship too.

April: Hundreds of new immigrants force their way into the Jewish Agency building in Haifa, demanding work and housing. Giora Josephtal reports that the camps in his charge can hold 40,000 people "in more or less humane conditions", but in reality they house 56,000, half of them in tents. Yoseftal ascribes the slow rate and poor standard of construction to limited funds, a scarcity of building materials and labor, and also to the "dictatorship of the major construction companies."

July: Jewish Agency representative in Rabat (Morocco), Jack Gershuni, concludes a four-part agreement with the French governor of Morocco, providing for Jewish emigration to Marseille, to be carried our discreetly.

July 29: According to a public announcement of the Jewish Agency, "it is clear and self evident that the resting place of the creator of the idea of the Jewish state [Theodor Herzl] is in the capital of the state".

August 26: In response to a request of the Jewish Agency, the army agrees to position a military guard of honor at the site of Theodor Herzl's grave.

In summer, 1949, the Jewish Agency is in terrible financial straits. Levi Eshkol is appointed treasurer. His first resolution is to balance the budget. He adopts strict and unpopular measures: he cuts back on free food allocations to immigrants, postpones supply payments for three monthts and demands a reduction of the immigrant quota.

November: Ulpan Etzion opens in Jerusalem.

November 8: The first immigrant airlift becomes public knowledge: Operation Magic Carpet , which brings 40,000 Yemenite Jews from Aden to Israel in some 400 flights.

November 29: According to the agreement between the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Jewish Agency, the JNF will take care of the development of Mount Herzl, while the Jewish Agency will be in charge of placing a temporary gravestone.

In 1949, Amidar is founded, the National Housing Company. The Jewish Agency controls 25 percent of its shares.

Chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive: Berl Locker.

Chairman of the Executive of the World Zionist Organization - Jewish Agency, American Section: Nahum Goldmann .

Treasurer of the Jewish Agency: Dr. Israel Goldstein and Yitzhak Gruenbaum and Levi Eshkol.

Chairman Youth Aliyah Department: Moshe Kol.

Chairman Settlement Department: Levi Eshkol.

Chairman of the Immigration Department: Yitzhak Rafael.

Chairman Absorption Department: Yehuda Braginski and Zvi Herman.


January 19: The U. S. Export-Import Bank announces a decision to grant Israel a loan of 35 million Dollar and to earmark an additional 65 million for later use. The loan is used to finance projects to stimulate transportation, communications, industry, and construction.

January 25: Israel holds national elections for the First Knesset, with 434,684 votes cast. The Mapai wins 46 seats; Mapam 19 seats; Herut 14 seats; and the religious parties 16 seats. The four principles of Ben Gurion.

Following the elections, additional states, led by Britain, recognize Israel.

January 31: The U. S. recognizes Israel on de jure basis.

February 10: The last "illegal immigrants" detained in Cyprus are released and brought to Israel.

The Provisional State Council approves the symbol of the State of Israel - a seven-branched candelabrum surrounded by two olive branches with the word "Israel".

February 14: The Founding Assembly adopts the Transition Law establishing the body as the first Knesset.

February 16: The Knesset elects Dr. Chaim Weizmann as first President of Israel. Joseph Klausner, historian, literary critic, Zionist and ideologist of right-wing nationalism, is nominated by the Herut Party as their candidate for presidency in opposition to Weizmann.
The next day, Weizmann is sworn in in a Knesset ceremony.

February 24: President Chaim Weizmann calls upon Prime Minister David Ben Gurion to form the first regular government. The government will be presented on 8 March.

March 4: The Security Council of the UN votes to accept Israel as a member of the UN.

March 10: The government is installed, with David Ben Gurion as prime minister and minister of defense, and Moshe Sharett as minister of foreign affairs.

In March, Allan Burke, a former Royal Navy officer, is asked to bring the Canadian Navy frigate, Stradhadam, built in 1944, to Israel. Burke and the frigate arrive in April. He is made officer-in-command of the Israel Flotilla.

The "Ink Flag" is hoisted over Eilat.

April 15: Pope Pius XII issues a Second Encyclical on Palestine, which calls for the full territorial internationalization of Jerusalem.

April: Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetta'ot (Ghetto Fighters) is founded near Acre, primarily by Polish and Lithuanian Jews. They will establish Ghetto Fighters' House and Museum.

Arkia Airlines is established under the name "Eilata". The company is jointly owned by the Histadrut Trade Union and EL AL Airlines.

May 4: Israel celebrates its first Independence Day .

May 11: Israel is admitted as the 59th member of the UNO. Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett addresses the UN.

May: A food rationing system is introduced in Israel: every citizen is allowed about 2.500 calories per day.

May: The Palestine Conciliation Commission meets in Lausanne, with Israel and its Arab neighbors. They fail to reach any agreement. U. S. president Harry S. Truman expresses "deep disappointment" at Israel's failure to show flexibility on the Arab refugee problem. He warns that the U. S. might consider its attitude toward Israel.

June: The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is established. The change of name is a prelude to the annexation of West Bank Palestine, occupied by the Arab Legion during the War of Independence.

July: At the second Lausanne conference of the Palestine Conciliation Commission, Israel offers to repatriate 100.000 Arab refugees, provided it is linked to peace negotiations.

August 7: The rail line to Jerusalem resumes its journeys, as Jordan has conceded to Israel, in the armistice agreement, those parts of the railroad line which passed through its territory.

August 17: The remains of Theodor Herzl are brought to Israel from Vienna. Herzl is re-interred at Mount Herzl in a state ceremony.

August 31: The Knesset authorizes the first state budget: 40 million Israeli pounds.

September: The Palestine Conciliation Commission proposes a permanent international regime for Jerusalem. Israel and Jordan would protect holy places and supervise the stability of the demographic equilibrium. Israel and Jordan refuse to discuss the plan.

September 8: The Knesset enacts the Defense Service Law. Modeled after the Swiss army mobilization plan, it establishes a citizen army. All men age 18 - 29 and all unmarried women age 18 - 26 are to be drafted for two year's army service. All men up to 49 are to be trained in the reserves and then be called for one month's annual service.

September 12: The Compulsory Education Law is passed.

September 13: The office of the State Comptroller is established. The first State Comptroller is Dr. Siegfried Moses.

September 22: The Palestine Conciliation Commission reports about the Arab refugees.

September: The Israeli government establishes the Ulpan, an institution for teaching Hebrew to large numbers of immigrant adults.

November 2: The Weizmann Institute in Rehovot is formally opened.

November 9: A changing of the guard in the IDF command replaces chief of staff Ya'akov Dori with Yigael Yadin.

November 20: The Jewish population of Israel reaches 1 million.

December 5: Statement on Jerusalem by Prime Minister Ben Gurion in the Knesset.

December 8: The UN Genral Assembly establishes the UN Refugee Works Administration (UNRWA) to assist in employing refugees on relocation projects in Arab lands.

December 9: The UN General Assembly votes for the internationalization of Jerusalem.

December 13: David Ben Gurion announces in the Knesset that the UN decision regarding Jerusalem is impracticable. He also states that the Knesset will return to Jerusalem and that the government ministry offices will be transferred there as well.

December 28: Final report of the UN Economic Survey Commission.

France and Israel begin scientific contacts when the French learn that Dr. Israel Dostrovsky invents a process for producing heavy water.

Selig Brodetsky (1888-1954), British mathematician, succeeds Judah L. Magnes as president of the Hebrew University.

Max Brod writes "Unambo", a novel of Israel's War of Independence.

The Inbal Dance Theater of Israel is founded by Sara Levi-Tenai. Its dancers are drawn primarily from the Yemenite Jewish community and it specializes in the dances of that community.

The first volume of a general, Jewish and Israeli encyclopedia, "HaEnzyclopedia HaIvrit", is published.


The Soviet Union begins a consistent purge of Jews from party, military, and diplomatic positions as well as scientists, physicians, journalists, and other professionals. Those Jews who are active in public life are charged with "cosmopolitanism". They are accused of hating the Soviet people and of supporting Zionism

August: Anti-Jewish press attacks in Syria. The synagogue in the Jewish Quarter in Damascus is bombed.

December: The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, under pressure from the Soviet Union, purges all Jews in the office of the premier and in the ministries of foreign affairs, foreign trade, and information. Included are Milan Rejman, head of the office of the premier and Evzen Loebl, deputy minister of foreign trade.

A "million dollar trio" of chamber music is formed, including violinist Jascha Heifetz, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, and pianist Arthur Rubinstein.

Hollywood's first film dealing with the creation of Israel, "Sword in the Desert", stars Dana Andrews.

Arthur Miller writes "Death of a Salesman."

Arthur Koestler writes "Promise and Fulfillment: Palestine 1917 - 1949", a philosophical and psychological history of events from the Balfour Declaration to the establishment of Israel.

Jule Styne, U. S. composer, writes the music for "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", including the song "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend." His later musical hits include "Funny Girl".






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12 Nov 2007 / 2 Kislev 5768 0