Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday convened the Cabinet for a festive meeting in honor of the 70th anniversary of the proclamation of the State of Israel by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
The meeting was held at Independence Hall in Tel Aviv.
Ministers were shown the original Declaration of Independence bearing the signatures of the members of the People's Council. The Declaration was specially brought from the State Archive, where it is stored under specialized conditions.
The Cabinet was briefed on Independence Hall and the upcoming operation to restore it and turn it into an active museum, where the original Declaration of Independence will be exhibited to the public for the first time as per a Cabinet decision from November 2017.
The Cabinet also decided to restore, refurbish and preserve seven heritage sites – at a cost of NIS 11 million ($3,117,070) – in honor of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State. The sites are: Ben-Gurion's house in Tel Aviv, the Irgun Museum at Shuni, Umm Rashrash in Eilat, the Weizmann house at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, the cable car museum in Jerusalem, the IDF Nahal Brigade and rural settlement heritage center in Pardes Chana, and the agricultural settlement heritage center in Nahal Oz.
The Cabinet was also briefed on the role of Tel Aviv in the establishment of the State.
"We are holding this festive Cabinet meeting today in the context of the marvelous celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel," Netanyahu said. "We have all participated in the moving events to mark 70 years of our independence, in which public joy was particularly prominent."
"The citizens of Israel are proud of our state. They love it and they know how to appreciate its achievements in every sphere. The joy and the pride are not ordered from on high – they spring from the heart.
"Several months ago we decided to restore and refurbish this building. It is fitting that the restored Independence Hall be a main heritage site in our country and so it will be.
"The 5th of Iyar 5708 is a unique date in our history. On it, in this room, the members of the People's Council gathered. They decided on the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. In so doing they restored to us political sovereignty in our land.
"David Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Independence. He summarized the occasion in short, incisive words: 'The State of Israel has arisen; the exile of Israel is over.' I add: And the Jewish People have been reborn. If the State had not been established, Heaven forbid, the Jewish People would have shriveled away in exile and perhaps taken awful blows again. It is doubtful whether we would have had another opportunity to establish our sovereignty.
"The establishment of the State created a national center for our people in which there is no assimilation and in which there has been constant growth. It has given us strength. It has infused us with spirit. It ensures our future."
Netanyahu also spoke about Israel's ability to defend itself from its enemies.
"Seventy years ago, the masses danced in the streets," he said. "But it was clear to Ben-Gurion that a difficult struggle would soon be upon us. The enemy sought to destroy us, but Ben-Gurion believed in us and in our determination. He said this when enemy planes bombed Sde Dov airfield in Tel Aviv: 'I went home slowly and then I saw – the people were not afraid! I saw the same faces that I saw in England during the Blitz. And I said in my heart – these people will endure!'"
"We also stand fast against those who would destroy us. We are certain of our ability to defend ourselves by ourselves – which is the essence of controlling our fate, the essence of independence. Here with us today are [pre-State] underground fighters and combat veterans whose heroism is an example to us.
"We hear the threats from Iran. The fighters of the IDF and the security services are prepared for any development. We will fight against whoever tries to harm us. We will not be deterred by the cost and we will exact a price from those who seek our lives. The IDF is up to the task, and the people will endure."
Thanking world leaders for their warm wishes, Netanyahu concluded, "I thank the world leaders who sent their greetings to the 70th Independence Day festivities, especially the president of our strong ally the United States, Donald Trump, and Russian President Vladimir Putin."
"These greetings reflect Israel's rising status among the nations. From the 70th anniversary celebrations we will go forth – and we climb yet higher peaks."