Knesset Speaker Shevach Weiss:
Members of the Knesset, distinguished guests, we have decided to designate the first part of the Knesset sitting today to the mark the 44th birthday of the Knesset, and the heart of our discussion will be dedicated to Jerusalem. This year, as you all know, is the year of Jerusalem, and we thought it would be appropriate to dedicate our discussion to the capital of Israel.
Those Knesset members who will take part in the discussion will most probably include the topic of Jerusalem in their short talks, and maybe here and there will also want to say something about the Knesset.
I would like to welcome on your behalf, Mr. Prime Minister, members of the Government and members of the Knesset, our friends, former Knesset members, who are always welcome in this house, all year round, and most certainly on holidays, and those who represent the face of the city and the state, our guests today in the visitors’ gallery, the leadership of Jerusalem, the mayor, honorary citizens, Rabbis, religious ministers, IDF personnel, justices, and civil servants.
With your permission, I would like to give a special welcome to our honorable guests today, a group of Righteous Among the Nations, who are so dear to us and we look up to their actions in that difficult time for our people, the Second World War. We thought it would be an honor of this house to have them here.
Members of the Knesset, the first sitting of the Constituent Assembly was held in Jerusalem on February 14th 1949. The first speaker was the President of the Provisional State Council, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who would become the first President of the State of Israel. I would like to bring a portion of his speech in this short opening statement of mine. Chaim Weizmann said: "It is with a sense of honor and awe that I rise to open the Constituent Assembly of the State of Israel, the first Jewish assembly of our day, in Jerusalem, the eternal city." And he continued: "The best among us, the unknown and nameless leaders of that generation, arose to fulfill the age-old dream of the return to Zion and the revival of national existence."
Weizmann said: Today we are standing at the threshold of a new era. We have exited the corridor of a temporary administration and are entering the foyer of our permanent, organized democratic regime. This Knesset was elected by the entire populace of Israel by all of the citizens of Israel. The will of the nation received full and free expression in these elections" – he was speaking of the first elections that took place in the shadow of the War of Independence - "Our nation once gave the entire world the spiritual message which became the foundation of human society. The world is watching and waiting now to see what path we choose for ourselves in arranging our lives, and what the character of our state will be. It is listening intently to hear whether a new message will go forth from Zion, and what this message will contain."
"A message of hope and encouragement goes forth today from this House, and from this holy city, to all the oppressed and persecuted peoples of the world who are struggling for freedom and equality."
Later, when David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime and Defense Minister, brought his thoughts to the Knesset, which sat then in Tel Aviv - the first sitting was here, in Jerusalem, in the Jewish Agency building; as you may know and remember, the Knesset moved to conduct its regular work in Tel Aviv, for obvious reasons at the time. David Ben Gurion said, among other things: "The care for Jerusalem’s defensive and economic safety was in the center of our concerns since the establishment of the Provisional Government. In the midst of war, when Jerusalem was under siege, we had to create our government’s place of sitting in the Kirya, near Tel Aviv. But the State of Israel had and will always have a single capital, eternal Jerusalem. It had been so 3,000 years ago and it will remain as such, we believe, to all eternity."
And while we look back on such sayings, I will conclude this greeting with two lines from Yehuda Amichai’s poem "Jerusalem": "A lovers’ song in Jerusalem. We are included in most prophecies of fury and in almost all of the good messages."
This material is an unofficial translation of
the "Divrei Haknesset" minutes.