Signed, Sealed, Delivered? Daniel Auster

Our deep dive into Israel’s Declaration of Independence continues with the first Jew to be appointed Mayor of Jerusalem since Byzantine times.

Daniel Auster (Willem van de Poll)
Daniel Auster (Willem van de Poll)

Daniel Auster was born in Galicia in 1893 and earned a law degree from the University of Vienna before making aliyah in the spring of 1914. He arrived just before the outbreak of World War I and was, indeed, soon drafted into the Austrian army, serving as an officer in the Damascus headquarters of Djemal Pasha, the region’s Governor and Military Commander.

After the war, Auster settled in Jerusalem, married Julia Mani, the daughter of the Hebron-born justice Malkiel Mani, and opened a law practice. He was, according to the 1921 local phonebook, one of just seven practicing lawyers in town.

He was civically active – helped found the neighborhood of Rehavia, and served on the city council, as Deputy Mayor and then – amid endless drama and maneuvering between the city’s Jewish, Muslim and Christian politicians – as Acting Mayor. He was officially appointed to the city’s top job by the British High Commissioner in the summer of 1944 after the death of Mustafa al-Khaldi.

He was a member of the Zionim HaKlali’im, the General Zionists, a centrist political party that supported Chaim Weizmann, rather than Ben-Gurion, and that is today considered to be one of the ideological ancestors of the Likud party.

He unsuccessfully ran for the first Knesset on an independent list called ‘For Jerusalem,’ receiving a grand total of 842 votes nationwide. Humiliated, he continued to serve as Mayor of the new state’s capital till 1951.

For the rest of his life – till his death in 1963, at the age of 69 – he worked as a lawyer, and also, somewhat randomly, as Thailand’s honorary Consul General in Israel.

The end song is Ir HaElohim (lyrics and music – Shaanan Streett, Itai Peled, Omer Mor (Itzik Ptzatzati/Isaac DaBom), Moshe Asraf, Yair (Yaya) Cohen Harounoff, David Ariel (Dudush) Klemes, Shlomi Alon and Guy (Margalit) Mar), performed by Hadag Nahash (Licensed by Israel Story through Acum).

About Israel Story: Israel Story is the award-winning podcast that tells extraordinary tales about ordinary Israelis. Often called “the Israeli ‘This American Life,’” we bring you quirky, unpredictable, interesting and moving stories about a place we all think we know a lot about, but really don’t. Produced in partnership with The Times of Israel.

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