Just off the entrance to Jerusalem’s King David Hotel is a spacious room for reading and relaxation. Guests availing themselves of the opportunity to unwind in the legendary hotel may not notice a small, yet highly significant plaque affixed to the wall. It reads in part: “In this hall on September 3, 1950, a conference convened by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion . . . made the historic decision to establish the worldwide Israel Bonds program.” Thus, unbeknownst to most visitors, this seemingly innocuous room is, in actuality, a site of momentous significance in the annals of modern Israel.
It was there that Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion revealed a sweeping proposal: the establishment of a mechanism by which bonds issued by the state would be purchased by Diaspora Jewry, making them dedicated partners in building and developing the reborn Jewish nation.
Following two days of intense deliberations and fact-finding trips to the new country’s most strategic regions, delegates agreed on a closing statement, which included this far-reaching declaration: “The full magnitude of the tasks of absorbing hundreds of thousands of new immigrants in Israel, and consolidating its economy on a sound basis, is far beyond any conception which the Jews of America have had.” The statement concluded with a call for “a new approach to the scope of cooperation between the Jews of the United States and the people of Israel.” And with that, the course of Israel’s destiny was inexorably changed.
Eight months later, on May 10, 1951—almost three years to the day after proclaiming Israel’s independence—Ben-Gurion stood before a crowd of thousands packed into New York’s Madison Square Garden to announce the launch of his far-reaching “new approach.” Israel Bonds, a fledgling endeavor that would ultimately become a $45 billion global success story, was officially underway.
Although the King David conference was where the need for Israel Bonds crystalized, the roots of the organization date back much further, and the events, individuals and circumstances leading to the creation and ultimate realization of Ben-Gurion’s vision are on exhibit in the recently launched Online Museum of Israel Bonds.
The museum, conceived by Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds President & CEO Israel Maimon, engages visitors with defining moments that have been an integral part of the Bonds story, beginning with the First Zionist Congress in 1897 and progressing to the present day. In between are points in time that, taken as a whole, represent the foundation upon which the Bonds legacy was built.
The museum’s extensive photo galleries explore the transformative arc of Israel Bonds: its groundbreaking early days; steady expansion throughout the world; and, in particular, decades of diverse and high-profile events. Even long-time Israel Bonds advocates will undoubtedly be surprised and impressed by the luminaries who showed their support at these engagements. They include icons of Israel like Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan, who passionately shared their appreciation for Bonds. Internationally respected figures such as Harry Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein were proud supporters. Famed celebrities, ranging from Elizabeth Taylor to Frank Sinatra to Tony Bennett, appeared on Bonds’ behalf.
Beyond the legends and larger-than-life personalities are the thousands of devoted men and women across three continents who, throughout the decades, demonstrated the depth of their commitment to the Israel Bonds mission. This aspect of the museum emphatically underscores the fact that from the onset, these individuals—many of whom were members of successive generations—underpinned what is now nearly seven decades of Israel Bonds accomplishment. Despite their diversity, each one shared a singular characteristic – a heartfelt desire to make a personal difference for Israel.
Although visible throughout the museum, that remarkable commonality is perhaps most movingly on display in the ‘Journeys’ section. Here, visitors will find photos of Bonds delegations to Israel going back to the organization’s earliest days, each of which captures the excitement and emotion of participants as they travel throughout the land that was such an important part of their lives.
For those who want to be a part of Israel Bonds history, there is also a feature enabling the submission of personal artifacts for possible inclusion in the museum.
Like Israel itself, the immersive Online Museum of Israel Bonds is constantly evolving. As Israel Bonds approaches its 70th anniversary, the museum represents not a culmination, but rather an ongoing promise of greater things to come.