Here are three photographs, of three Israelis casting ballots in Israel’s first elections in January 1949.
To the left is Chaim Weizmann, the elder statesman of Zionism, who helped defeat the Uganda Plan in 1903, who secured the Balfour Declaration in 1917, and who won Truman’s recognition of Israel in 1948. As he casts his ballot, he is 74 years old, and he is the first president of Israel.
In the middle is David Ben-Gurion, a pioneer who settled in Palestine in 1906, who for forty years steeled the Jewish Yishuv in Palestine against Arab violence and British royal commissions, and who declared Israel’s independence and founded the Israel Defense Forces in 1948. As he casts his ballot, he is 62 years of age, and he is the first prime minister of Israel.
To the right is Menachem Begin, who had commanded the Irgun (or Etzel) underground following his arrival in Palestine in 1942. His most notable achievements (at this point): in 1946 and 1947, he planned attacks on British troops including the bombing of the King David Hotel and the retaliatory hanging of two British sergeants. As he casts his ballot, he is 35 years old, and in this first election, the party he leads will finish in fourth place.
Who among these three men deserves to be called a “founder of Israel”? One could be generous and include all three, satisfying everyone. But would that be historically accurate? If not, where should the line be drawn? I answered that question to my own satisfaction in a debate over at Mosaic. Last week I posted the text of my argument. Now, if you prefer, you can watch me make it below.