'The Jewish People Reached Their Peak:' Ben-Gurion’s Postcard Day After Israel's Founding

Writing to his lifelong friend, Shlomo Lavi, Israel's first prime minister describes the malaria swamps he found upon arrival: 'Although our sons are fighting on the frontlines, our heart is happy at the sight of great progress'

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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FILE Photo: David Ben-Gurion reads the Declaration of Independence of the state of Israel, 1948.
FILE Photo: David Ben-Gurion reads the Declaration of Independence of the state of Israel, 1948. Credit: Zoltan Kluger/GPO
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

“When we immigrated to the country, you as Levkovich and I as Grun, with a labor flag in our hands, we found malaria, swamps and corruption in the Ottoman regime. Now, although the roar of the artillery has not ceased, and our sons are fighting on the frontlines, our heart is happy at the sight of great progress,” wrote David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, in a postcard in Hebrew to his friend Shlomo Lavi, who lived in Kibbutz Ein Harod,

The postcard was sent a day after the declaration of the state on May 15, 1948, the Hebrew date of the 6th of Iyar 5708. This postcard will be auctioned off next week at Jerusalem’s Kedem Auction House. “The postcard that fell into our hands is particularly moving and very important historically,” said Meiron Eren, one of Kedem’s owners. “It conveys more than anything the scent of those days, the renewal, a state in the making, and the tremendous joy of a generation that had experienced nothing like it.

>> Read more: In bed with Israel's first prime minister: Historian exposes David Ben-Gurion as you never knew him

Ben-Gurion compares in the letter the Land of Israel he saw and experienced upon his arrival in 1906 and the country at the founding of the state. “The Jewish people have reached the peak of their existence – the State of Israel has been born,” he added. “He signed the postcard, “In friendship, David Ben-Gurion.”

The recipient of the card, Shlomo Lavi (Levkovich), was a childhood friend of Ben-Gurion. He was also born in Plonsk (then part of Russia, now located in Poland), and was also a member of the religous-Zionist Ezra youth movement, which Ben-Gurion cofounded with Shlomo Zemach. Lavi emigrated to Israel in 1905, a year before Ben-Gurion. He worked as a laborer in the orchards of Petah Tikva and Sejera, in an oil factory belonging to the Atid company and in the Kinneret Farms. He was also one of the founders of Hashomer, a paramilitary organization that predated the Israel Defense Forces. Lavi is also considered one of the founding fathers of the kibbutz movements and in 1921, helped set up Kibbutz Ein Harod.

The postcard Ben-Gurion sent Lavi one day after the declaration of the state of Israel. Credit: Kedem Auction House

During World War II, Lavi volunteered as a driver for the British army. After loosing both his sons, Yerubaal and Hillel, during the War of Independence, Lavi went on to serve as a member of the Knesset between 1949 and 1955. Throughout his life, he maintained his close friendship with Ben-Gurion.

In 1963 Lavi died, about a decade before Ben-Gurion, who called him “the most wonderful man of the Second Aliyah,” referring to the second wave of Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel between 1904 and 1914.

The opening asking price for the letter is $1,200 (4,300 shekels) and the auction will take place on May 15.

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