Saturday, June 5, 2021

Ben Gurion hut and airport

The airport began as an airstrip of two unpaved runways on the outskirts of the town of Lydda (now Lod), near the Templer colony of Wilhelma. It was built in 1934, during the British Mandate for Palestine. The first passenger service at the new airport was the Misr Airwork route Cairo—Lydda—Nicosia, inaugurated on 3 August 1935.  By 1937,  Lydda Airport boasted four fully operational concrete runways. In 1943, the airport was renamed "RAF Station Lydda". During World War II it served as a major airfield for military air transport and aircraft ferry operations between military bases in Europe, Africa, the Middle East (mainly Iraq and Persia) and South/Southeast Asia.  The first civilian transatlantic route, New York City to Lydda Airport, was inaugurated by TWA in 1946. The British gave up the airport at the end of April 1948. 

The Negev   is a desert in the  region of southern Israel. The region's largest city and administrative capital is Beersheba, in the north. At its southern end is the Gulf of Aqaba and the resort city of Eilat.  Although historically part of a separate region (known in Roman times as Arabia Petraea), the Negev was added to the proposed area of Mandatory Palestine, of which large parts later became Israel, on 10 July 1922, having been conceded by British representative St John Philby "in Trans-Jordan's name". Despite this, the region remained exclusively Arab until 1946;  the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine allotted the area to the Jewish State, later Israel.  The Negev contains the oldest discovered surface on Earth, with an approximate age of 1.8 million years.  It covers more than half of Israel, over some 13,000 km2 (4,700 sq mi) or at least 55% of the country's land area.  

On 14 May 1948, on the last day of the British Mandate, Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the state of Israel. In the Israeli declaration of independence, he stated that the new nation would "uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race".  In his War Diaries in February 1948, Ben-Gurion wrote: "The war shall give us the land. The concepts of 'ours' and 'not ours' are peace concepts only, and they lose their meaning during war."  Also later he confirmed this by stating that, "In the Negev we shall not buy the land. We shall conquer it.   

After leading Israel during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Ben-Gurion was elected Prime Minister of Israel when his Mapai (Labour) party won the largest number of Knesset seats in the first national election, held on 14 February 1949. He remained in that post until 1963, except for a period of nearly two years between 1954 and 1955. As prime minister, he oversaw the establishment of the state's institutions. He presided over various national projects aimed at the rapid development of the country and its population: Operation Magic Carpet, the airlift of Jews from Arab countries, the construction of the National Water Carrier, rural development projects and the establishment of new towns and cities. In particular, he called for pioneering settlement in outlying areas, especially in the Negev. Ben-Gurion saw the struggle to make the Negev desert bloom as an area where the Jewish people could make a major contribution to humanity as a whole.  

David Ben-Gurion  (1886 – 1973)  was the primary national founder of the State of Israel and the first Prime Minister of Israel. Adopting the name of Ben-Gurion in 1909, he rose to become the preeminent leader of the Jewish community in British-ruled Mandatory Palestine from 1935 until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, which he led until 1963 with a short break in 1954–55. 

In 1954 he resigned as prime minister and minister of defense but remained a member of the Knesset. He returned as minister of defense in 1955 after the Lavon Affair and the resignation of Pinhas Lavon. Later that year he became prime minister again, following the 1955 elections. Under his leadership, Israel responded aggressively to Arab guerrilla attacks, and in 1956, invaded Egypt along with British and French forces after Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal during what became known as the Suez Crisis. He stepped down from office in 1963, and retired from political life in 1970. He then moved to Sde Boker, a kibbutz in the Negev desert, where he lived until his death.  

Ben-Gurion's hut was the retirement home of Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and his wife Paula (Pola) from 1953 until Ben-Gurion's death in 1973. The "hut", located on Kibbutz Sde Boker, was preserved exactly as it was left by Ben-Gurion and now serves as a museum with a visitor's center operated by the Ben-Gurion Heritage Institute.  In 1952, on a tour of Southern Israel, Ben-Gurion passed by a small community with only a hut and a few tents – Sde Boker. He stopped to greet the founders of the community, who he believed were doing a great service to the newly-founded State by reclaiming the desert. Later, he sent a letter to the community wishing them luck and confiding in them his "jealousy" of their humble lifestyle.

In 1953, Ben-Gurion and his wife joined the kibbutz and moved into the hut. His move can be attributed to Ben-Gurion's wish to settle the Negev desert and lead by personal example. Additionally, he wished to disconnect from the pressures of his job and move to a remote part of the desert.  In 1955, Ben-Gurion was re-elected Prime Minister. Throughout his term which lasted until 1963, Ben-Gurion resided in his home in Sde Boker, and he continued living there until his death in 1973. Per Ben-Gurion's request in his will, the hut and everything inside remained intact and open to the public.  A museum documenting the life and writings of Ben-Gurion was built at the site of the hut and attracts many tourists each year.

The name of central airport of Israel described in the first para   was changed from Lod to Ben Gurion International Airport in 1973 to honour Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, who died that year.  Ben Gurion Airport is located on the northern outskirts of the city of Lod, about 45 km (28 mi) northwest of Jerusalem and 20 km (12 mi) southeast of Tel Aviv.  The airport serves as a hub for El Al, Israir Airlines, Arkia, and Sun D'Or and is operated by the Israel Airports Authority – a government-owned corporation that manages all public airports and border crossings in Israel.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
5th June 2021. 

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