Great Leaders of our People
One of the most famous statements of this great woman was
the following: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but not for
making our sons killers.” That is a classic Jewish response; better, a
classic Jewish mother’s response, to war.
Golda Meier was born in Kiev in 1898. Her family immigrated to the United
States in 1906, settling in Milwaukee. While in high school, she joined a
Zionist youth group called “Poalei Zion,” Workers for Zion. Together with
her husband, Morris Myerson, she “made Aliyah” in 1921. Moving up the
ladder of leadership of the Zionist Movement in Israel, she was in a
position to replace Moshe Sharett as head of the Jewish Agency’s political
department when the British arrested a large percentage of the Jewish
leadership in the country.
During the War of Independence of the State of Israel in 1948,
Gurion sent her disguised as an Arab to Jordan to meet with King
Abdullah and try to persuade him not to attack the fledgling State, but to
no avail. (The lesson was not learned by another Jordanian monarch in June
of 1967, when again, in the early hours of the
King Hussein could not be persuaded to refrain from attacking Israel, with
disastrous consequences for himself and his country, but glorious ones for
the Jewish People, including the recapture of the Old City of Jerusalem.)
However, she had more success as Foreign Minister, the office that she
held for ten years, beginning in 1956. She initiated Israel’s policy of
assisting African countries that were themselves emerging into
independence at that time. When Levi Eshkol died in 1969, she became Prime
Minister, becoming the third female prime minister in the world, after
Indira Gandhi of India, and P.M. Bandaranaika of Sri Lanka.
The Yom Kippur War broke out, to the consternation of the Jewish World,
during her administration, with major coordinated assaults by Egypt and
Syria, coming from across the Suez Canal and on the Golan Heights,
respectively, on October 6, 1973. Of course, in their religious
“sensitivity,” these assaults were timed by the Arabs to coincide with the
holiest day of the Jewish calendar. According to the report of the
Agranant Commission, both the government and the military had erred
grievously in their assessment of both Arab military preparation and
intentions on the eve of the War.
Ariel Sharon was instrumental in saving Israel from disaster when he
crossed the Suez Canal in the opposite direction, effectively surrounding
and cutting off the major concentration of Egyptian military might. On the
whole, though, the psychological effect of this War, with great benefit
for both the Arabs and ourselves, was the breaking of the myth of
the invincibility of the Israel Defense Forces.
Although the Labor Party, with Golda Meier at its head, won the Israeli
elections later in 1973, Mrs. Meier resigned in 1974, in favor of Yitzchak
Rabin. She passed away on December 1, 1978, and was laid to rest on Har
Herzl in Yerushalayim.
The above graphic includes photographs that were provided by VERAfilm archives.