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Article: A Prophecy Fulfilled

דרך קיבוץ גלויות

A Prophecy Fulfilled

Zack Rothbart

In the early years of the State of Israel, many things were in short supply: peace, prosperity, food, economic stability, and housing, to name a few. National holidays, on the other hand, were plentiful. At the behest of David Ben-Gurion, new holidays were designed, declared, and commemorated in order to create a shared narrative and identity for the nascent Jewish state and its people. These were all intentionally imbued with deep symbolism — both timeless and timely.

The holidays largely centered around the army, which was then
responsible not only for defense but also for immigrant absorption, educating the masses, and instilling Zionist values. A month after establishing the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the first such holiday, “Swearing-in Day,” was celebrated. Then came “State Day,” commemorated on the anniversary of Theodor Herzl’s death, followed by “Settlement Day” during the festival of Sukkot, and then, during Hanukkah, “Ingathering of the Exiles Day,” for which the poster appearing here was created.

Designed by artist Yohanan Simon (1905–1976), the poster depicts the new army and the state as centers of gravity for Jews dispersed around the globe, featuring the words: “And they will be brought to us from East to West, a great army to help the nation.” Reverberating with biblical connotations, the line comes from Hebrew poet laureate Haim Nahman Bialik’s poem “For the Volunteers of the Nation,” a famous poem known for its allegorical references to the Maccabees. All of these elements shaped a message aimed at Israel’s citizens, imploring them to accept and honor the hundreds of thousands of new immigrants, many of them already soldiers, who had arrived within just a few short months.

While these early holidays may now be largely forgotten, they helped develop a national ethos upon which the young State of Israel could build despite all that was lacking.