This week in Israeli history: Nov. 10-16

Nov. 15: A military DC-4 is repainted as the first El Al commercial aircraft to transport Chaim Weizmann from Geneva to Israel in September 1948. Photo: El Al Archives


Nov. 10, 2004 — ‘Hatikvah’ Is Officially Declared National Anthem

The Knesset officially adopts the Zionist song “Hatikvah” (“The Hope”) as Israel’s national anthem more than half a century after the founding of the state. Although the song, based on a poem by Naftali Herz Imber, has been popularly used as the anthem since the birth of modern Israel, its official adoption has been delayed because of concerns that non-Jewish Israelis feel excluded by the same Zionist lyrics that appeal to Jewish citizens.

Nov. 11, 1902 — Air Force Founder Yisrael Amir Is Born

Yisrael Amir, the first commander in chief of the Israeli Air Force, is born in Vilna in the Russian Empire. He makes aliyah in 1923 and soon rises through the ranks of the Haganah while studying agriculture. Despite Amir’s lack of aviation experience, David Ben-Gurion names him the air force commander in May 1948. Within two months Amir expands the force from eight light planes to 60 aircraft, including heavy bombers.

Nov. 12, 2000 — Leah Rabin Dies

Leah Rabin, a peace activist since the assassination of her husband, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, five years earlier, dies at age 72 a few days after a mild heart attack. Born in 1928 in Konigsberg, Germany (now Kaliningrad, Russia), she made aliyah with her family in 1933 and married Rabin in 1948. She was at the heart of a scandal involving a U.S. bank account that led to her husband not seeking re-election as prime minister in 1977.

Nov. 13, 1893 — Artist Reuven Rubin Is Born

Acclaimed Israeli painter Reuven Rubin is born Rubin Zelicovici into a poor, religious family in Galatz, Romania. He gains attention with his drawings in his teenage years, then sells his bicycle in 1912 to afford to travel to Jerusalem and enroll in the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts. He also studies in Paris and travels around Europe and to the United States before settling in Tel Aviv in 1922.


Nov. 14, 2012 — Airstrike Launches Operation Pillar of Defense

Ahmed Jabbari, the Hamas military chief, is killed in an IDF airstrike on Gaza that marks the start of Operation Pillar of Defense, which aims to destroy rocket launchers that have persistently fired on southern Israel. The operation lasts until Hamas and Israel reach a cease-fire Nov. 21. Jabbari is considered the mastermind behind almost every Hamas attack from Gaza for years, including the abduction of Gilad Shalit in 2006.

Nov. 15, 1948 — El Al Is Founded

El Al, whose name comes from a Book of Hosea phrase meaning “to the skies,” is formally established as Israel’s national airline. A military plane had first flown under the El Al name at the end of September to bring President Chaim Weizmann and his wife home from Switzerland, where he had an eye operation. The first regular commercial service begins in July 1949 with weekly flights between Lod and Paris.

Nov. 16, 1947 — Kadima Reaches Haifa

The Kadima, a ship carrying 781 refugees trying to reach the Land of Israel despite a British ban, arrives in Haifa under escort by a British destroyer after being intercepted en route from Palestrina, an island south of Venice. The would-be Jewish immigrants, including 70 from the immigrant ship Exodus, are arrested and locked up in a camp in Cyprus. Israel uses the Kadima as a merchant ship from independence until 1951.

Items are provided by the Center for Israel Education (, where you can find more details.