The Mother of Israel─from pogroms to state of her people

Golda Meyerson, later Meir, was born in 1898 in Kiev, Russian Empire, present-day Ukraine. Golda wrote in her autobiography that her earliest memories include her father boarding up the front door of their home in response to rumors of an imminent pogrom (large-scale, targeted anti-Jewish riots that began in the late 1800s). She had two living sisters and siblings who died in childhood. In 1905, Golda’s father came to the US to look for work and found employment in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  A year later he had saved enough to bring his family to Milwaukee.

Those who do not know how to weep with their whole heart, do not know how to laugh either. ─ Golda Meir

From early school years on, Golda succeeded in her studies and was given responsibilities in her father’s grocery store. As a teenager, she moved to live with her sister in Colorado where she was exposed to debates on Zionism, literature, trade unionism and women’s right movement.

Those years in Colorado shaped her future, and in 1917, Golda left the US with her husband Morris Meyerson to join a Jordan Valley kibbutz in Palestine a few years later.

We Jews have a secret weapon in our struggle with the Arabs; we have no place to go. ─ Golda Meir

In the coming kibbutz years, her leadership abilities were recognized and she was chosen as a representative of the General Federation of Labor (Histadrut). Golda went on with Israel’s leftist movement as the secretary of the Working Women’s Council and moved with her two children to the US for two years. In 1948, when Israel needed to purchase arms to defend the anticipated Jewish State, Golda was back in the US and raised over 50 million dollars, mainly from the Jewish communities. Israeli diplomats could not believe in such success.

The Egyptians could run to Egypt, the Syrians into Syria. The only place we could run was into the sea, and before we did that, we might as well fight. ─ Golda Meir

As the head of the Jewish Agency Political Department, Golda was one of the 24 signatories of the Israeli declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. On the following day, Israel was attacked by the armies of neighboring countries in what became the 1948 First Arab─Israeli War. In the coming decades, Golda served as Labor Minister and as Foreign Minister under Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. In her Knesset positions, Golda helped the development of the National Insurance Act and ties with newly established states in Africa.

Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil! ─ Golda Meir

I used these “Golda” 10 Shekel notes in 1980─1990. ─ Hannele

After Levi Eshkol’s sudden death in 1969, Gold Meir was elected as his successor, serving as Prime Minister until 1974. As the premier, Golda met with world leaders to promote her vision of peace in the Middle East. In 1970, Golda accepted a US peace initiative that called for an end to the War of Attrition and an Israeli pledge to withdraw to “secure and recognized boundaries” in the framework of a comprehensive peace settlement. Henry Kissinger was the US diplomat who forced Golda to his “security versus sovereignty” proposal. In the wake of the Munich Massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, Golda appealed to the world to “save our citizens and condemn the unspeakable criminal acts committed.” Eleven of Israeli athletes were murdered by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. Outraged by lack of global action, Golda ordered Israel to hunt down and assassinate suspected leaders and operatives of the group. (See movie “Munich” by Steven Spielberg from 2005).

We do not rejoice in victories. We rejoice when a new kind of cotton is grown and when strawberries bloom in Israel. ─ Golda Meir

 In the days leading up to the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Israeli intelligence could not conclusively determine that an Arab attack was imminent. Golda felt that a full-scale call-up was needed, but fearing US reaction, did not initiate a preemptive strike. Henry Kissinger came to the play again by stating that if Israel had launched the strike, Israel would not have received “so much as a nail” of foreign aid!

After the Yom Kippur War, Golda and the government were accused of Israel’s lack of preparedness. Soon after that, Golda Meir resigned.  (On-line resources).