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Declaring Israel’s Independence

Over 70 years after Israel’s birth, its creation seems all the more improbable. Only 600,000 Jews established a state in the face of armed Arab invasion and an international embargo. Yet in the midst of the uncertainties and pressures of battle, Israel’s leaders had the clarity of mind to craft a declaration of independence that expressed religious and political arguments—old and new—for the reestablishment of the Jewish State in the birthplace of the Jewish people. The declaration of independence that David Ben-Gurion read on May 14, 1948 resonates to this day as the constituting document of the State of Israel.

In this online course, distinguished historian Martin Kramer will revisit the political debates of May 1948, leading to the decision to declare independence; the successive drafts of the declaration and the ideas that inspired them; the statesmanship necessary to assemble the coalition of Zionists, Socialists, and religious Jewish patriots that stood behind the document; the historic events of the day itself; and the subsequent seventy years of reinterpretation in response to changing Israeli realities. In interrogating the declaration, he will revisit the justifications for the existence of a Jewish state, the tension between religious and secular visions of Israel’s purpose, and the state’s relations with the Arabs and the world.

Following a twenty-five year career teaching at Tel-Aviv University, where he directed the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle eastern and African Studies, Martin Kramer was the founding president of Shalem College in Jerusalem, Israel’s first liberal arts college, where he continues to teach the modern history of the Middle East. Professor Kramer is also the Koret visiting fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The author of many essays and articles in Commentary, Mosaic, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, and elsewhere, Professor Kramer is the author of ten books, most recently, The War on Error: Israel, Islam, and the Middle East.

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