Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion
Israel's first prime minister, David Ben GurionPhotograph: Fritz Cohen

People who arrived this morning (Saturday) at the beach in Tel Aviv discovered that the statue of David Ben-Gurion, which was placed there about seven years ago, had been set on fire and vandalized.

Footage from security cameras revealed that one person set fire to the statue during the early hours of the morning. The police arrested a suspect, a 34-year-old homeless man, who was transferred to the Lev Tel Aviv police station for questioning.

“I wasn't afraid of falling, so I didn't fall,' Ben-Gurion wrote to his daughter about managing to stand on his head. The well-known statue of Ben-Gurion, founder of Israel and its first prime minister, standing on his head, was set on fire tonight. I hope and wish that it will not turn out to be deliberate arson," said Eitan Donitz, CEO of the Ben Gurion Heritage Institute, in response.

"This statue tells the story of Ben-Gurion, the man, and also of Ben-Gurion, the leader – it is mainly thanks to Ben-Gurion that we are living in this country together today. Both because he learned to stand on his head as an adult and also because he always strived to look at things differently and find solutions to improve our lives. He was the one who dreamed of uniting us into one unit, far greater than the sum of its parts. He was the one who worked night and day for many decades to achieve an independent Jewish state to be established here that aspires to non-conformity with reality, to statehood and a model society."

Donitz continued: "Besides all this, let us remember that there are no saints in democratic countries, and Ben-Gurion was not a saint either. Debate and disagreement are cornerstones of democracy. At the same time, we call at this time to lower the flames and initiate a real debate within the rules of the democratic game. I will end with the blessing of the first prime minister to the people of Israel on the first Independence Day since its founding: "We will face the new year with increased faith in our power and ability. Israel is faithful to the goals established in the Declaration of Independence."