Extra signature on Declaration of Independence stumps experts

Independence Hall’s Itzik Dror points to the mystery signature. (Yehoshua Yosef)

By SHLOMO CESANA (Israel Hayom)

“We hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel,” David Ben-Gurion famously said in a thundering voice on May 14, 1948. Following his speech, 37 members of the People’s Council signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

But there is an unsolved riddle attached to this historic event. In fact, there are 38 signatures at the bottom of the declaration of independence, and no one knows the identity of the thirty-eighth person. Aside from Ben-Gurion, 24 people signed the declaration on that day. Twelve additional members of the People’s Council (11 of whom were under siege in Jerusalem and one of whom was in the US at the time) signed the document retroactively.

For years experts believed that the indistinct signature, which appears beneath the name of Saadia Kobashi, a leader of the Yemenite community, was in fact part of his signature. They believed that Kobashi had added the word “Hacohen” (the cohen, or member of the priestly caste) beneath his name. But when Itzik Dror, the coordinator of educational programming at Independence Hall, contacted Kobashi’s family, he discovered that this was not the case. All efforts to solve the riddle of the additional name have since proved fruitless.

Management at Independence Hall is now asking the public for any leads that might shed light on the mystery.

The original Declaration of Independence is stored in a government archive. For years it was on display at the Knesset, but when its parchment began to deteriorate, it was moved into storage. Two facsimiles of the document are on display at the Knesset and at Independence Hall at 16 Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, where statehood was declared and the parchment was signed 63 years ago.

Independence Hall is slated to undergo renovations that will turn it into a full-fledged museum. This renovation was chosen as the flagship project for the government’s program to refurbish Jewish and Zionist heritage sites throughout the country. The significance of this particular site is twofold: First, it is the place where 66 families gathered in April 1909 to participate in a lottery for plots of land held by Meir Dizengoff. The plots were to become Ahuzat Bayit, a new Jewish neighborhood outside Jaffa, that later became Tel Aviv.

Dizengoff and his wife won lot No. 43, where they built their home. The site became an art museum after their deaths in the 1930s and later became the site where Ben-Gurion declared statehood in 1948.