Golda Meier

June 15, 2006

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, David ben 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 Six-Day War, 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.