August 25, 1918 — Composer/Conductor Leonard Bernstein is Born

Leonard Bernstein conducts the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Beersheba in November 1948. By Hugo Mendelson, National Photo Collection of Israel.

Leonard Bernstein, one of America’s most prolific composers and conductors, is born in Lawrence, Massachusetts. His music is deeply influenced by his Boston synagogue, where he is introduced to Zionism. He makes the first of several trips to Israel to conduct what becomes the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1947. His appearances include the famous Mount Scopus concert after the June 1967 war.

August 26, 1955 — Dulles Outlines U.S. Plan for Middle East

Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (right) meets with President Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower Presidential Library.

During a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles reveals President Dwight Eisenhower’s plan to launch covert discussions between Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Dulles says the United States will help guarantee the borders of Israel and the Arab states, and he says a loan to Israel could support reparations for Arab refugees.

August 27, 1892 — Jaffa-Jerusalem Rail Line Opens

The first train from Jaffa arrives in Jerusalem on Aug. 27, 1892.

The first passenger train arrives in Jerusalem from Jaffa as part of the first railroad project in the Ottoman-controlled Levant, the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway. The 53-mile rail route reduces travel time from the Mediterranean port to Jerusalem from two days to four hours, contributing to economic and social development in Palestine. The difficult construction relies on Belgian rails and English coal.

August 28, 1965 — Physicist Giulio Racah Dies

The Racah Institute of Physics is on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Physicist Giulio Racah, a winner of the Israel Prize, dies at 56 during a visit to the city of his birth, Florence, Italy. Racah studied under Enrico Fermi, the creator of the first nuclear reactor in the United States. He left Italy for Palestine in 1939 to escape Fascist Italy’s anti-Jewish laws. His work on atomic spectroscopy earned himself and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem international recognition.

August 29, 1897 —First Zionist Congress Starts

Theodor Herzl addresses the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland.

Spearheaded by “The Jewish State” author Theodor Herzl, the First Zionist Congress opens in Basel, Switzerland, for three days of meetings with roughly 200 attendees. Herzl invites Jews and non-Jews who support the cause. The congress unanimously adopts the Basel Program, which declares that “Zionism aims at establishing for the Jewish people a publicly and legally assured home in the Land of Israel.”

August 30, 1987 — Cabinet Halts Lavi Production

Israel Aerospace Industries built five Lavi prototypes before the program was halted.

On a 12-11 vote, Israel’s Cabinet decides to end production of the Lavi fighter jet, a program that began in 1980 and first flew a prototype in 1986. The delta-wing Lavi (“Young Lion”), similar to the American F-16, was meant to be a homegrown mainstay of the Israeli Air Force but was doomed by high costs and an agreement not to sell the aircraft to other countries. As many as 6,000 people lose their jobs.

August 31, 2004 — Bus Bombings in Beersheba Kill 16 Israelis

Sculptor Jacob Cohen’s memorial to the victims stands near the site of the Aug. 31, 2004, dual bus bombings in Beersheba. Courtesy of Jacob Cohen.

Bombs explode on a pair of buses 100 yards apart along Beersheba’s main street, Ranger Boulevard, shortly after they leave the central bus station. Sixteen Israelis, including a 3-year-old, are killed, and 100 others are injured. The death toll of the Second Intifada attack might have been worse, but the driver of the second bus gets most of the passengers out before its explosion after the blast on the first bus.

Items are provided by the Center for Israel Education (, where you can find more details.