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David Ben-Gurion: Select Quotations

On Jerusalem

If the Land of Israel is the heart of the Jewish nation, then Jerusalem is its heart of hearts.

On Fighting the Nazis & the British

"We must assist the British in the war as if there were no White Paper and we must resist the White Paper as if there were no war."   - September 1939"

On the Fate of European Jewry

"Anyone who does not see what Jewry is facing is blind and is neither a Jew nor a human being. First of all, the Jews are not in their place. After the war, every last Jewish collective in every country will have been displaced. American Jewry is settled where it is, but we are only speaking of European Jewry, the Jews in the countries under Hitler. True, this has also happened to other peoples, to a small extent. Poles and Czechs have been displaced, and so now have the French. But it has not happened to them to the same extent. [The Nazis] have not displaced the entire French people. However, it is possible to displace the Jewish people; all of French Jewry, all of Dutch and Romanian Jewry can be displaced. They can also murder them all. I do not know if Jews will survive after Hitler. But if the world war ends, [members of other peoples] will return to their places and towns, and the Jews will have nowhere to return. Not a memory will remain of their homes, shops, and property."  - October 1942

On World Silence During the Holocaust

"What have you done to us, you freedom-loving peoples, guardians of justice, defenders of the high principles of democracy and of the brotherhood of man? What have you allowed to be perpetrated against a defenseless people while you stood aside and let it bleed to death, without offering help or succour, without calling on the fiends to stop, in the language of retribution which alone they would understand. Why do you profane our pain and wrath with empty expressions of sympathy which ring like a mockery in the ears of millions of the damned in the torture house of Nazi Europe? Why have you not even supplied arms to our ghetto rebels, as you have done for the partisans and underground fighters of other nations? Why did you not help us establish contacts with them, as you have done in the case of the partisans in Greece and Yugoslavia and the underground movements elsewhere? If, instead of Jews, thousands of English, American or Russian women, children and aged had been tortured every day, burnt to death, asphyxiated in gas chambers-would you have acted in the same way?"  - September 1944

On Victory in the War of Israeli Independence

"Let us not be intoxicated with victory. To many people and not only among ourselves, it would appear to be a miracle: a small nation of 700,000 persons (at the outset of the campaign there were only 640,000) stood up against six nations numbering 30 million. However, none of us knows whether the trial by bloodshed has yet ended. The enemy forces in the neighbouring countries and in the world at large have not yet despaired of their scheme to annihilate Israel in its own land or at least to pare away its borders, and we do not yet know whether the recent war, which we fought in the Negev and which ended in victory for the IDF, is the last battle or not, and as long as we cannot be confident that we have won the last battle, let us not glory."  - January 1949

On Israel’s Military Commanders

“May every Jewish mother know that she has put her son under the care of commanders who are up to the task.”

On the Negev

“It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneer vigor of Israel shall be tested.”

“The Negev is one of the Jewish nation's safehavens.”

“Wisdom goes with South. It is written: ‘Whoever seeks wisdom, south shall he go.’”

On Belief in the Jewish Bible

“Since I invoke Torah so often, let me state that I don't personally believe in the God it postulates ... I am not religious, nor were the majority of the early builders of Israel believers. Yet their passion for this land stemmed from the Book of Books ... [The Bible is] the single most important book in my life.”

On a Jewish Future

“Our future depends not on what the gentiles will say, but on what the Jews will do!” - 1955 Independence Day Parade Speech

On Religion and State

“The argument between us and them is, as I see it: if the rabbis will rule or rather the people… rule of halacha or rule of the law… We said no to the rule of rabbis and asserted this in the Declaration of Independence, we set it in all the guidelines – no religious coercion. What is religious coercion – the rule of the rabbis. This was the argument, this is why people resigned. I am not overjoyed that they left, but I am still not willing to accept the rabbis’ rule.”  
- July 1958 in Netanel Fisher and Avi Shilon, “Integrating non-Jewish immigrants and the formation of Israel’s ethnic–civic nationhood: from Ben Gurion to the present,” Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 53, No. 2, (2016), p. 172.

On the Future of American Jewry

“Never was such a great Jewish community in such danger of gentle extinction as American Jewry today. If this great historic miracle had not taken place in our time and the State of Israel had not risen, the great majority of the Jews of the United States would have been left without any bond to Judaism.”
- “U.S. Jewry Will Not Survive Without Link with Israel, Ben Gurion Says,” JTA, (June 13, 1958).

On the Zionist Movement in America

“It is a movement that does not know what to say to the younger generation.” 
- “U.S. Jewry Will Not Survive Without Link with Israel, Ben Gurion Says,” JTA, (June 13, 1958).