The Real Israeli Thanksgiving: 17 Kislev (1947)

Chief Rabbis: Rav Herzog (right) & Rav Uziel (left)

17 Kislev 5708 is the Hebrew date of November 29th 1947, the day the UN voted to terminate the British Mandate and divide the Land of Israel between the Jews and the Arabs.

A unique document was brought to light by the Hebrew site “Kipah” which provides insight into the decision of the Chief Rabbanite of Israel “To establish 17 Kislev 5708 as a day of thanksgiving and celebration for generations.”

“At 4:00 AM the morning of the UN vote”, tells Rav Shmuel Katz, a Jerusalem school Rav and researcher of the history of the Chief Rabbinate. “The Chief Rabbi at the time, Chief Sephardic Rabbi Rav Uziel, came to the Jewish Agency courtyard in Jerusalem and declared to the celebrating masses, “The dawn of the redemption of Israel has arrived!”

In his words, “The Chief Rabbis sensed the greatness of the hour. They understood it was a historic and rare opportunity, to establish a country even with reduced borders and without Jerusalem, and to provide a home for hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors who were still in displaced person’s camps in Europe and detained in Cyprus.” Rav Uziel even prepared an obligatory festive meal (seudat mitzvah) and recited the “Shehechiyanu” blessing with Hashem’s name.

That very morning they called for a special meeting of the Chief Rabbinate Council during which Rav Herzog presented 3 options, “To declare a worldwide thanksgiving prayer which would include Hallel without a blessing and the prayer “Nishmat Kol Chai”, to declare 17 Kislev as a day of thanksgiving and celebration for generations, and to add to the Haftorah of Chanukah the portion of Zechariah 8:1-3.”

The members of the council immediately accepted the first option and following that, as is written in the document uncovered 70 years later by Rav Katz, also accepted “establishing 17 Kislev 5708 as a day of thanksgiving and celebration for generations.”

The Chief Rabbinate researcher tells us that also amongst the Chief Rabbis there was incredible suspense preceding the UN vote including the days leading up it. On 11 Kislev, they published a call for Rabbis and shul gabbayim, in Israel and the diaspora, to say with their congregations, every day until the day of the vote, at the conclusion of shacharit morning prayers Psalm 20 seven times “out loud and with strong conviction.”

The next day, he adds, “they called for all the young men in Israel to enlist in the army and for every Jew to donate to a fund for the security of the nation.” Close to the date of the vote Rav Herzog authored a special prayer for the day, “אבינו שבשמים, שמע תפילתנו, והאר פניך אל שארית ישראל. באו בנים עד משבר וכוח אין ללידה. פתח שערי שמים ללב עמך כל בית-ישראל בכל קצווי תבל הדופק בחוזקה ביום הנורא והנשגב הלזה, בחרדת הדורות ובצפיית הגאולה. אנא, תיראה לפניך את אש התמיד אשר תוקד על מזבח קידוש שמך מאז ומעולם”. – “Our Father in Heaven, hear our prayers, let your face shine upon the remnant of Israel. The babes have reached the birthstool, but the strength to give birth is lacking. Open the gates of heaven to the hearts of your nation, all of the House of Israel across the entire world, that is beating strongly on this awesome and sublime day, with the trepidation of generations and witnessing the redemption. Please, see before you the everlasting fire that is lit on the altar of the sanctification of your name from time immemorial.”

On the day of the vote thousands of Jerusalem residents stopped work to participate in the special prayers that were said in the city’s shuls. Finally, Saturday night at midnight the partition plan passed with 33 countries in favor, 13 against, 10 abstaining, and 1 absent. “The spontaneous joy,” notes Rav Katz, “spread across the masses, who went outside to celebrate and dance in the city streets. Also the Ultra-Orthodox community celebrated with dancing, including in the neighborhood of ‘Mea Shaarim’. Multitudes arrived at the home of Rav Herzog to express their thanks to him for his activities during those days.”

The Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi was asked to respond to the vote and on radio recordings he can be heard saying, “Today the words from the parsha which we ready today were fulfilled: שלחני כי עלה השחר” –  “Let me go, for dawn is breaking.” All of the House of Israel united with a strong hope and everlasting faith in The Rock of Israel [Hashem] and his redemption!”

That being said, it was very hard for Rav Herzog to come to terms with the fact that large portions of the Land of Israel, including the old city of Jerusalem, remained outside the country’s borders at its establishment and on this his said: “If you ask me what the hour requires of us, here is my answer: Personal and financial sacrifices, in support of our nation and land, every political party must sacrifice part of their independence, their pride and intellect, their selfishness and ambitions on the altar of temptations .. the present need is to – open blind eyes, and see and recognize the hand of Hashem. The special providence over the House of Israel. The present need is to establish the Jewish State in Zion our lifelong home on the foundations of the word of Hashem, the foundations of Torah. The Jewish State will be democratic. Built on justice and the laws of our Torah, the doctrines of justice and law, from which many great nations learned justice and laws of the righteous.”

Translated from the Hebrew “Kippa” article here:

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קבוצה בעברית:

The Chief Rabbinate Council protocol:

Chief Rabbinate Protocol. Photo Source: Rav Shmuel Katz
About the Author
Ezra hails from NJ and studied Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Philosophy at Rutgers University. He blogs from a small village (yishuv) in the Galilee.
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