During Passover 1918, Chaim Weizmann, the future first president of Israel, visited Palestine. This week, 60 years after Weizmann's death, a rare clip documenting the visit was uploaded to YouTube by director and cinema scholar Yaakov Gross.
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The clip features members of the Zionist Commission – a group of Zionist leaders – welcomed by Jews in Palestine in the early days of the British Mandate. The delegation, headed by Weizmann, visited Tel Aviv, the Western Wall and Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. Gross believes the clip is part of the first Hebrew film, "Judea Freed" ("Yehuda HaMeshuchreret") directed by Yaakov Ben Dov. Gross is still trying to locate the original film, which was lost along with numerous other films from the period.
"Many tend to forget that Weizmann was the central figure in the Zionist Movement for more than 30 years," says Gross, who explained he felt compelled to upload the video documenting Israel's "first steps". "Weizmann was the man who realized Theodor Herzl's vision, and his visit during Passover 1918 as the head of a Zionist delegation, brought the beginning of a new era in the history of the Jews worldwide."
Weizmann's visit took place following the end of World War I and the Balfour Declaration.
"The residents, who only then began to breathe freely, were happy to greet the Zionist Commission," wrote Professor David Assaf, who shared the clip in the weblog "Oneg Shabat." Assaf added a postcard showing Tel Aviv residents greeting Weizmann.
Weizmann's first visit to Palestine was in 1907, a decade before the Balfour Declaration.
"This morning I returned from a tour of the Hebrew colonies in Judea," Weizmann wrote to his wife, Vera. "Seeing all that was created by Jewish hands, watching the blooming gardens now after twenty years of hard work, seeing them replace the sands and the swamps, seeing Jewish farmers – that feeling is worth living for."
The publication of the clip is yet another event among many commemorating 60 years since Weizmann's death. Earlier this month the Ben Gurion University held a convention organized by the Chaim Weizmann Heritage organization, which included lectures and anecdotes about Weizmann's life and achievements.