Sources & Philosophy

Azriel Carlebach

7000 Jews Say "Shehecheyanu"

speaks about November 29 in the United States

Seven thousand Jews crowded into the Nicolaus Hall one hour after the historic declaration. Ten thousand more blocked the subway tunnels, and countless thousands filled the streets around the assembly hall. The morning papers had announced that Weizmann and Shertok would give an address. Ladders were leaned up against the outside walls of the hall and people climbed up to peer through the windows. There were circles of people dancing the hora on Broadway. Every Israeli was surrounded and serenaded, like royal performers before a king, then lifted onto cars to deliver a speech to the audience. The police arrived to maintain order, but eventually conceded their loudspeakers to the revelers. 

Inside the hall, Schlossberg – senior leader of the Histadrut Movement – covered his head. His eyes were moist with tears as he requested a precursor to the official opening of the meeting: "Let’s all join in saying Shehecheyanu." Seven thousand Jews in that hall and tens of thousands beyond pronounced the blessing in perfect unison: "Shehecheyanu Vekiyemanu Vehigiyanu Lazman Hazeh."
 
I remember – a memory that will be etched in the annals of history until the end of days – those final moments in Lake Success, each lasting what felt like a thousand years. The moment of truth. I remember the huge hall, the tension and the stuffiness, with the suspense at its peak, and everyone holding their breath, and hearts beating right out of chests…  And in the space between the people and the high ceiling floated every soul from every generation of Israel, and carried the echo of every fathers’ prayer and every son in battle, and the echo of yearning and longing and wandering of millions upon millions of saints. 

I remember, above the stage, above the President and Secretary, and the fifty-seven delegations and hundreds of spectators and listeners, on the high wall opposite, dominating everything and casting its shadow on all below – was a giant plastic map of the world. A map without borders or country names, but huge yellow clumps of continents rising up above a blue background of the seven seas. And I remember how we sat facing this map, and all eyes wandered over its expanses searching for the location of our country, of our tiny little slice of land that had been even further divided.

And every eye searched but could not find even against the background of such an enlarged map, the tiny space that we had been allotted. Negligible. A pinprick. So miniscule – one thousandth the size of its counterparts – that it was swallowed up by the infinity of all those kingdoms. And yet, this microscopic point meant the world to us; it was our lifeblood and eternal desire. For us, this constituted the navel of all the Earth and equal to all those vast expanses.
 
Carlebach was a journalist and publicist during the Yishuv and early days of the State. He was the first editor of Yediot Ahronot, and later – the founder and first editor of Ma'ariv.

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