Stories of the Zionist leaders of the early twentieth century usually begin: “He came from Poland (or Russia) and…” Golda Meir’s account, however, begins quite differently: She came from Milwaukee, Wisconsin (although she was born in Kiev).
Golda Malovitch Meyerson (1898-1978), who would, in 1956, change her name to Meir, began life in Palestine together with her husband, Morris, at Kibbutz Merchavya in 1921. Three years later, they left the Kibbutz and moved first to Tel Aviv and then to Jerusalem. Golda and Morris had two children, Menachem and Sarah.
With each move that they made, Golda was recognized for her natural leadership skills and fiery passion for the labor Zionist movement. In 1932, she returned to the United States for two years with her children (Morris remained in Palestine) to work as an emissary of the Hechalutz women’s organization.
Golda was appointed to head the Jewish Agency’s Political Department in 1946, after the British arrested the department’s senior leadership. Early in 1948, as politicians prepared for the end of the mandate, Golda returned to the U.S. to raise funds. She was expected to raise no more than $10 million, but she returned with $50 million. That May, Golda was one of 24 signatories on Israel’s Declaration of Independence and was brought into the government by David Ben-Gurion.
Ambassador (to the Soviet Union), Member of Knesset, Minister of Labor, Minister of Foreign Affairs…Golda Meir assumed the office of Prime Minister in 1969 upon the death of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol.
Golda’s time in office was tumultuous. She had to contend with constant fighting along the Suez (1969-1970), the murder of Israel’s athletes at the Munich Olympics (1972), and the Yom Kippur War (1973). Golda resigned and retired after that war. She passed away, at age 80, in 1978.
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