P. 167

The National Institutions Building in Rehavia was cleaned up in preparation for this important gathering, the first since the war. Shlomo Eisenberg, General Secretary of the Jewish Agency, worked days and nights to restore the building back to its prominent position yet did not conceal his disappointment that only some of the Zionist General Council's meetings were set to take place in Jerusalem, and the remainder in Tel Aviv, since the unstable security situation was detrimental to the gathering in Jerusalem. It is enough to mention that in the explanation page each representative received, stated that on King George Street, which connects downtown Jerusalem to the National Institutions Building, it is recommended to walk only on the left side, covered by the stone wall, for fear of Jordanian sharpshooters stationed on the walls of the Old City.
The representatives of the Zionist General Council, who made their way to Jerusalem via the "Burma Road" and saw that skeletons of the burned trucks in Sha'ar HaGai, a monument to the fierce battles that took place there only four or five months before, and the houses of Jerusalem that were ruined in the bombardments, learned to recognize the scars left by the war, that had not yet ended in fact. Yet none of this detracted from the festive atmosphere that opened the gathering in Jerusalem, in the National Institutions Building. The speeches of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Moshe Sharett and of the Speaker of the Provisional State Council Yosef Sprinzak contributed greatly to the festiveness of the event.
The representatives that came to Jerusalem, enjoyed improved conditions. The hotels in which they guested had received increased portions of food and water – necessities that most Jerusalemites could only receive frugally. On their first night in Jerusalem, the representatives could hear fierce dueling gunfire that took place in the northern part of the city between the Jordanian Arab Legion soldiers and the IDF soldiers. That week, the army of the young state was barely three months old.
Over the following days, the heads of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization gave speeches, including the American Abba Hillel Silver and Eliyahu Dobkin of the Jewish Agency from Jerusalem. The main topic of the discussions was the status of the various Zionist institutions – World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency, KKL-JNF and Keren Hayesod – in the State of Israel. Ben-Gurion believed that upon the establishment of the state, their role was at an end. A majority of the representatives, including his colleagues in the Israeli leadership, did not think so. In a summary of the discussions in Jerusalem, and later in Tel Aviv, the duties and tasks were distributed: Aliya, absorption and settlement matters would remain in the hands of the Zionist institutions and the handling of all other matters was transferred to the state.
At the end of the year 5708-1948 – the great year of achieving independence and the difficult war – an interim summary could be prepared. "The nascent government for the nascent state," which operated for many years in the National Institutions Building in Jerusalem, paved the way for an actual state and government.
The building in Rehavia and its residents still had quite a few tasks ahead.

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