When I heard we would be spending a day walking around Tel Aviv I was more than excited, but considerably less so when I found out the subject of our tour would be the inception of the Israeli state. This apathy came from days of relatively unbiased readings about the inception of the Jewish state and confidence in what I had already known. But during the first stop on our tour, Israel’s Independence Hall, I gained much deeper insight into the Israeli perspective of the creation of the Israeli state.
The tour started with a short video giving a brief overview of why a relatively plain building in the center of Tel Aviv was chosen to be Israel’s Independence Hall. The narrator gave us the story of how the first mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff, built and lived in this house with his family until his wife died and the house was transformed into an museum celebrating Israeli art. This house would go on to be the location where the Jewish state of Israel was announced to the world.
The video paled in comparison to the truly heart wrenching tale a narrator at the museum told us. It was interesting to see how Israeli people taught the creation of Israel. The story starts by painting a very vivid picture of Jews after World War 2. The narrator said “The American soldiers went back to America; the German soldiers went back to Germany but where did the Jews return to?” Jews everywhere were weak from war and deserving of their own place to call home; claiming Israel was the perfect plot of empty land to do it. Israel was to be a “land without people, for a people without land”.
The problem with the narrative is this “land with no people” idea. Not only were there people on this land, but they were relatively well established, with lush green citrus orchards, and fully-functioning cities. This “land with no people” narrative was crafted to tell the story of Jews building something out of nothing but it isn’t an accurate portrayal of the story.
The truly interesting part of this was how this narrative fits in with the story Israel tells. It helps with the public perception of the Israeli people. They want to be the ideal Jews. In their version of history Jews are strong. They picked themselves up after the war and created a land from nothing. It is admirable story that garners respect from all that hears it but not accurate historically. It erases years’ worth of Arab achievements on this land.
While I was not impressed by the historical accuracy of the story, I can appreciate good story-telling when I hear it. It had suspense, drama and an emotional happy ending; all the great components of Disney movie. The narrator at Israel’s Independence Hall told a riveting tale that would galvanize any Jew, secular or otherwise.