'I’ve never seen such a document, and probably won't again'

Only copy of US recognition of Israel signed by Truman up for sale

The unique document endorsed by president Harry Truman has only been displayed in public four times

A photo of the 1964 declaration recognizing Israel's independence, signed by former president Harry Truman. (Courtesy Raab Collection)
A photo of the 1964 declaration recognizing Israel's independence, signed by former president Harry Truman. (Courtesy Raab Collection)

For an estimated $300,000, somebody can now own a piece of American and Israeli history. The only known copy of the press release signed by president Harry Truman in which the US recognized Israel is being put up for sale by the Raab Collection, a Philadelphia-based company that buys and sells historic documents.

“I’ve never carried anything in recent history like this,” Nathan Raab, a principal of the company, told The Times of Israel on Tuesday. “Anything related to the founding of Israel is very uncommon and extremely desirable among collectors. I’ve seen letters of Churchill that reference the founding of Israel and they tend to sell very high. But I’ve never seen a document like this – and I probably never will again.”

To be clear, the press release for sale is not the original document from May 14, 1948, which Truman issued just hours after the Provisional Government of Israel declared a Jewish state. That artifact is in the Harry Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri.

But the original release doesn’t bear Truman’s signature, as the president signed only an earlier draft, not the final statement.

Nathan Raab. (Courtesy)

Fast forward 16 years to the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. Zecharia Sitchin, an author, Jewish activist, and chairman of the American-Israel Pavilion of the fair, had an idea. Realizing that the only instrument of recognition that existed was an unsigned White House press statement from 1948, he asked Truman for a signed copy. The former president agreed, instructed that a photocopy be made, and signed it for Sitchin to display at the World’s Fair.

A copy of the declaration recognizing Israel’s independence, photocopied and signed in 1964 by former president Harry Truman. (Courtesy Raab Collection)

Since then, the document has remained in the hands of the Sitchin family and has been displayed for the public three more times: during the 1986 Statue of Liberty centennial celebration in New York City; the 1988 celebration of Israel’s 40th anniversary at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC; and the 1988 Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) convention in Jerusalem on the group’s 90th anniversary.

Raab is an active member of the Philadelphia Jewish community and has visited Israel. He says he’s sold many fascinating historical items over the years – Lincoln’s order to blockade the Confederacy, a letter by George Washington following passage of the Constitution, documents from Einstein, Churchill, Amelia Earhart and others – but this sale has personal meaning for him.

“By coincidence, my father and future father-in-law were both at that World’s Fair when this document was first created and displayed. I don’t know if they saw it, but I’d like to think that they did,” he says.

“As an American Jew, I would hope and expect that the document’s new owners will put this treasure on display for the public,” says Raab.

Harry Truman receives a gift from Israeli Prime Minister and Israeli Ambassador to the US Abba Eban at the White House in 1951. (photo credit: Courtesy GPO)

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