Tag Archives: Histadrut

Jew of the Week: David Ben-Gurion

David Ben-Gurion

David Ben-Gurion

David Grün (1886-1973) was born in Poland and at just 14, already started a Zionist youth club with friends to promote immigration to Israel and study of Hebrew. While a student at the University of Warsaw in 1905, he was arrested twice as a member of the socialist Poalei Tzion party. The following year he made his way to the Holy Land and settled there. Just 20 years old, he became the chairman of Poalei Tzion in Yafo. Due to various disputes, Grün left politics and focused on farming in Petah-Tikva and the Galilee. He joined an armed defence group in 1908 to protect Jewish settlements increasingly under attack. In 1912 he temporarily relocated to Istanbul to study law, and it was there that he Hebraized his name to Ben-Gurion (and would convince countless others to do the same over the course of his life, wanting them to drop their old “diaspora” names for a fresh start in a newly resurrected Jewish Homeland). He returned to Jerusalem, only to be deported to Egypt due to World War I, then made his way to the U.S. where he toured for 3 years raising support for the Jewish cause. In 1918 he enlisted in the Jewish Legion of the British Army. After the war, Ben-Gurion resettled in Israel and established the Histadrut, Israel’s first labour union (which is 650,000 members strong today). By 1935, he became the chairman of the Jewish Agency – the largest Jewish non-profit organization in the world – overseeing the immigration and settlement of Jews in Israel. He served in this role until 1948, when he became the new State of Israel’s first Prime Minister. One of his first acts in the ensuing War of Independence was the fusion of all militias into one unified army: the IDF. After the war, he worked tirelessly to establish the state and its institutions, overseeing massive construction projects and mass immigration of Jews from around the world, not to mention an international hunt for Nazi war criminals. Although he worked to create a free, modern, non-theocratic state of Israel, he ensured that the Jewish essence would remain, setting Shabbat as an official rest day, kosher food in all state institutions, and autonomy in religious education. He also focused on Israel’s military might, ordering the creation of special operations units while pushing heavily for attaining nuclear capability. He would serve as prime minister in two stints lasting nearly 14 years, in addition to being minister of defence. After retiring in 1970, he wrote an 11-volume history of Israel’s beginnings, adding to two previous tomes he had written. He passed away shortly after, and is commemorated as the central founder of the modern State of Israel.

Words of the Week

Oil, which saturates everything it comes in contact with, represents innerness. Wine, which causes the heart to spill out its deepest secrets, represents outwardness. Chanukah is oil, Purim is wine.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe

Jew of the Week: Golda Meir

Golda Meir

Golda Meir

Golda Mabovitch (1898-1978) was born in Ukraine and moved with her family to Milwaukee when she was 7 years old. A leader from her youth, she raised funds to pay for her classmates’ textbooks while in elementary school, and ran her parents’ grocery store in their absence. At 14, Golda rebelled against her mother’s wishes to abandon her studies and get married. Instead, she fled to Denver to live with her older sister. There she was first exposed to Zionism, and met her husband Morris Meyerson, from whom she took the last name, later shortening it to Golda Meir. She only married him with the promise that they would move to Israel. After working as a teacher for a few years, Meir finally made aliyah in 1921, joining a kibbutz where she worked on farms and chicken coops. Recognizing her leadership, the kibbutz appointed her their representative to the Histadrut (Federation of Labour). Meir rose through the ranks, eventually becoming head of the Jewish Agency and chief negotiator with the British Mandate. In 1948, she single-handedly raised $50 million for Israel to purchase arms in the wake of war. Ben-Gurion famously said that this was the money that “made the State possible”. She was one of 24 signatories of the Declaration of Independence, and the first person to carry an Israeli passport. Meir served as Labour Minister, and then Foreign Minister, until retiring in 1966 due to lymphoma. But she came back three years later, aged 72, to become Israel’s Prime Minister. She was Israel’s “iron lady” during the Yom Kippur War, maneuvering a victory against all odds. Nonetheless, she took the blame for the war and resigned. She succumbed to lymphoma shortly after. A winner of the Israel Prize, and voted to the list of greatest Israelis, her maxims are often quoted. Meir once said: “Pessimism is a luxury that a Jew can never allow himself.”

Words of the Week

Ten measures of speech were given to the world, and nine of them were granted to women.
– Talmud, Kiddushin 49b