The cornerstone was laid for the Cyndi and Max Mintzberg Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism Building and the Cyndi and Max Mintzberg Ben-Gurion Archives Building on a brilliant and blustery day recently. With clouds scudding high above, a sharp wind and sunshine peeking through just at the right moment, history was made.
The new building will house both the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism and the Ben-Gurion Archives in state-of-the-art conditions. The architectural firm was also chosen that same day to design the building.
Dr. Paula Kabalo, the Institute's director, set the scene.
“It was in Sede Boqer, where [David] Ben-Gurion moved in 1954, that he also began his tradition of taking daily hikes. We tend to explain this habit as part of his strict maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. Today I would like to share my interpretation of those hikes — hikes that he took from his “hut" on the kibbutz, over there, to the edge of the Zin Cliff, over there," as she pointed behind and in front of her.
“It doesn't take a well-developed imagination to picture him marching vigorously down the trail—passing the Valley of Zin, which lies between us and the kibbutz, and stopping right here, where we're standing today, to gaze at the wilderness. What did Ben-Gurion think about when he stood here? Let's let him answer:
“[The] most important thing that … I learned from living this life – I want to be in a place which I know that my friends and myself – we did it ourselves."
“Thanks to you, Cyndi and Max, we now have the opportunity to continue in Ben-Gurion's footsteps and establish a home here, a hostel that will serve as a bridge between his home on the kibbutz and the tomb where he lies in eternal rest. A place of hospitality that will serve anyone who wishes to investigate the phenomenon that is Israel and probe the persona and worldview of the founding father," she declared.
Dr. Adi Portughies, Director of the Ben-Gurion Archives and Head of the Infrastructure Information System, reflected on Ben-Gurion's vision for the Negev and his determination.
“Massive buildings do not arise by their own efforts. They need people of faith and people of action. David Ben-Gurion was the kind of person who combined both. He was a person of faith and of action.
“Action, however, cannot happen without scientific research. Ben-Gurion saw in science the instrument that could convert faith into action—the key to transforming an audacious but abstract idea into a viable action plan. For this purpose, he always took the initiative in relocating research to the Negev. On January 13, 1956, Ben-Gurion wrote the following to the Chief of the IDF General Staff:
“There's been a proposal to establish a town of science and research people in the Negev—one that would accommodate some 600 families (including technicians). A suitable officer shall be appointed […] to determine the most appropriate place for this purpose in terms of security, climate, and transport. It has to be east or south of Beersheva, in an area where there is soil and air for planting, not far from transport routes."
“If you look around now, you'll see with your own eyes how the piece of paper that the “Old Man" sent the Chief of Staff turned into a town of scientists and researchers in the Negev, in an appropriate location south of Beer-Sheva, that's verging right now on Ben-Gurion's target of 600 families," he said.
Turning to the Mintzbergs, he said, “So here we are at this never-to-recur event, laying the cornerstone for the Ben-Gurion Archives building, an event that captures the gist of the man's vision. Cyndi and Max, people of faith and action, have come as pioneers to put up a building that will showcase the founding father's legacy—a legacy in which the grand edifices of research and science, of Zionism and pioneering, will arise by the merit of people of faith and action."
BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi added, “As Cyndi said, I think we chose the architectural plans David Ben-Gurion would have chosen himself. And he would say [about the location]: This is where I want it. Next to the solar energy building and the water institute."