This week in Israel’s history includes Israel’s first government; AT&T announces improved phone service between New York and Tel Aviv.
March 8, 1949: The First Government of Israel is Formed
Following the modern State of Israel’s first-ever elections on January 25, 1949, David Ben Gurion formed the nascent state’s first government.
Because the Israeli political system uses party-list proportional representation, it relies on the formation of coalitions to create a stable government. In 1949, David Ben Gurion’s party, Mapai, formed a coalition government along with the United Religious Front, the Progressive Party, the Sephardim and Oriental Communities and the Democratic List of Nazareth. There were 12 ministers in the government.
Mapai, an acronym for the Hebrew words for “Worker’s Party of the Land of Israel,” was a merger of two parties and, at the time, the dominant political faction in Zionist politics. Ben Gurion, as leader of Mapai, a left-wing, socialist party, became the de facto leader of the Jewish community in Palestine prior to the establishment of the modern Jewish State and Israel’s first official elections. Mapai, together with two smaller parties, established the Labor party in 1968.
March 9, 1950: Improved Phone Service Arrives in Israel
AT&T announced that it had created a new direct circuit between New York and Tel Aviv which would improve phone service between the major cities. This new service would allow people to make phone calls between Israel and the United States between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. The calls cost $12 for the first three minutes.
That amount in 1950 was the equivalent of approximately $120 today. Imagine paying $120 for a three-minute phone call! It would be another 30 years before private phone lines would become a regular feature in Israeli homes.
Today, Israel is considered to have one of the most advanced communications systems in the Middle East. As of 2010 there were approximately 3.3 million landlines and almost 10 million cell phones in use in Israel. While the cost of calling Israel from New York without a special phone plan today could be approximately $1 per minute, many phone companies in Israel offer free calls to the US as part of their calling packages, which could amount to as little as $12 per month.