Rare Recording Of Menachem Begin Announcing State of Israel Unearthed

Then Menachem son of Gadi set out from Tirtza and came to Shomron; he attacked Shalum son of Jabesh in Shomron and killed him, and he succeeded him as king. II Kings 15:14 (The Israel Bible™)

A speech by Menachem Begin recorded just after the establishment of the State of Israel had been archived and hidden away but is now being offered for sale. Kedem Auction House announced the magnetic reel and the rights to the recording are going on auction in Jerusalem next month with an opening bid of $300,000. It is estimated the recording will demand a price of $500,000-800,000.

The speech was first broadcast on Saturday night, May 14, 1948; one day after the establishment of the State of Israel. Begin delivered the speech on the underground radio station of the Irgun, “Kol Tzion HaLochemet” (“Voice of Fighting Zion.”)

In this speech, which constitutes a kind of alternative “Declaration of Independence” instead of the one delivered by Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion, Begin addresses the dismantling of the paramilitary groups, the need for a strong and well-trained army, the essential foreign policy with the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., repatriation of Jews, and more. In fact, in this speech he lay down the ideological foundations of the Herut Party he was about to form.

Begin made this speech while in hiding from both the British and the nascent Jewish government. The Irgun headed by Begin was a Zionist paramilitary organization that operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948 and was the political predecessor to the Likud Party. Ben Gurion fiercely opposed the Irgun and the conflict even led to the shedding of Jewish blood in the Altalena Affair. Their relationship eventually improved and after Begin visited him at Sde Boker on the eve of the 1967 Six-Day War, Ben Gurion said, “ “If I had known Begin as I know him today, history would have been different.”

Begin became prime minister of Israel in 1977, ending three decades of Labor Party dominance. He had a reputation for being a brilliant and fiery public-speaker. Perhaps his greatest achievement was the signing of a peace agreement with Egypt in 1979 that still holds today. He died in March 1992.

Ben Gurion requested to review the text of Begin’s speech two days before the broadcast in order to coordinate between the state proclamation speeches of the two leaders. At first, Begin agreed to the request, but following the opposition of his colleagues in the Irgun command, he was obliged to reject it. The speech was archived immediately after its broadcast but the Irgun published the original text which differs from the recording.

“The State of Israel has been founded, and it has been founded ‘only thus’ [‘Only Thus’ was the slogan of the Irgun]: with blood and fire, with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with suffering and sacrifice,” Begin says in the recording. “The Hebrew army can and must be one of the best-trained and excellent armies in the world… what is the spirit of our fighters? This was shown by all of the Hebrew youth, the youth of the Haganah, of Lehi and of the Irgun… the likes of which no generation in the generations of Israel, from Bar-Kokhba to the Bilu’im, had ever seen;” and of the dismantling of the Irgun: ‘The National Military Organization’ [Irgun] now leaves behind its underground existence in the boundaries of the independent Jewish state… in the State of Israel we shall be soldiers and builders. We shall observe its laws, since they are our laws. We shall respect its government, since it is our government. Only beware of the Hebrew government… lest it itself create… a new underground movement.”

“Heroic daughter of Israel, who shall tell of your heroism. For we have known your tears in the night… Hannah and her seven sons is no longer a legend, you are Hannah, thousands of Hannahs…”, Begin continues. “This mighty event has transpired after seventy generations, seventy generations of dispersion, disarmament, enslavement, of endless wandering and persecution…”

Subscribe to our mailing list