P. 24

The investigation into the entry of the American Consulate's Arab driver into the premises of the Institutions revealed a serious of failures in the contacts of the Shai (the intelligence and counter-espionage arm of the "Haganah"). He was considered a Shai operative but was in fact a double agent and his first loyalty was to the Arab side. Following the disaster, steps were taken to secure the building, but this of course was done too late.
Drama, or actually a series of happier dramas, occurred in the National Institutions Building in early 1949. The Constituent Assembly convened in this building, which had been elected in the first general election held in Israel when it was less than a year old. The Constituent Assembly declared itself as the First Knesset, the legislative institution of the state, and elected Dr. Chaim Weizmann as President of the State of Israel. Two events that occurred within two days, which caused a great deal of excitement in the young State of Israel. All eyes were upon the National Institutions Building at the time.
With the establishment of the State of Israel, the building's importance significantly declined, since a large share of the Jewish Agency's powers and all the Jewish National Council's powers were transferred to the Government of Israel. Nevertheless, the Agency continued to hold power over the areas of Aliya, absorption, settlement and more. Important decisions, pertaining to life in the Land of Israel and to the lives of Jews throughout the world, were made in the various wings of the building. KKL-JNF and Keren Hayesod each continued to help the State of Israel in their own way, and operated in dozens of countries in the world – by strengthening ties with Israel, collecting funds for the state and creating conditions for educational-cultural work among the Jewish communities.
The highest duty fulfilled by the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization was the continuous struggle for Soviet Jews, who were practically trapped and repressed for decades. The call to "Let my people go!" went out repeatedly from the National Institutions Building in Jerusalem. Year after year, their efforts seemed to yield no results, since the Soviet authorities continued to lock their gates and did not permit Jewish and Zionist activity. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early Nineties brought about a huge wave of Aliya the likes of which Israel had not known since its first years. The people responsible for Aliya and Absorption in the Jewish Agency were once again fully employed.
There was a great deal of activity not only in the offices and halls of the Institutions Building, but also in the large square at its front. The square was originally intended for mass gatherings for solidarity and joyous events and conversely – funerals of key figures. Since the Thirties, and even more so in the Forties, the courtyard was used as a place of gathering for thousands and even tens of thousands (who crowded the nearby streets as well). That is what happened after World War II ended in May 1945, and two and half years later, with the news of UN resolution of November 29, 1947 to adopt the Partition Plan, which paved the way for the establishment of the State of Israel. Even though Jerusalem was not part of the Jewish State under this plan, but rather was supposed to be included in the Corpus Separatum under the UN's auspices, tens of thousands of

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