In the annals of history, there are individuals whose lives and accomplishments stand as a testament to their unwavering dedication and resilience. Golda Meir was undoubtedly one of them. Born on May 3, 1898, in Kyiv as Golda Mabovitch, she would go on to become a prominent figure in Israel’s history, serving as its first and only female prime minister to date. In this article, we delve into the life of Golda Meir, exploring her journey from humble beginnings to a position of global influence.
A Humble Beginning
Golda’s early years were far from glamorous. She emigrated to the United States in 1906, leaving behind the poverty-stricken communities of Eastern Europe. Despite the hardships, she excelled in school while working long hours at her mother’s grocery store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her determination and zeal were evident even at a young age.
After graduating from high school, Golda attended Milwaukee Normal School to become a teacher. It was during this time that she became an active member of Poale Zion, a Labor Zionist youth movement filled with hope for a better future.
Journey to Palestine
In 1917, Golda Mabovitch married Morris Meyerson in Wisconsin, and the couple made a life-altering decision to emigrate to Palestine at the end of World War I. They joined the Merhavia kibbutz, an agricultural settlement where Golda once again assumed a leadership role in kibbutz politics. The couple later relocated to Tel Aviv and then to Jerusalem, where they started a family with the birth of their two children, Menachem and Sarah.
Advocacy and Leadership
Golda Meyerson’s dedication to her people became even more apparent during World War II. She worked tirelessly on behalf of the Jewish people in the British Mandate of Palestine. Her prominent position in the Jewish-run government thrust her into the forefront of negotiations between Israel and Britain in 1946.
The Birth of Israel
The establishment of Israel in 1948 was a defining moment in history. Golda Meyerson played a pivotal role, raising $50 million in the U.S. to support the Israeli cause. David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, recognized her as the “Jewish woman who got the money which made the state possible.” On May 14, 1948, she signed the Israeli Declaration of Independence, though her political role faced numerous challenges, including health setbacks.
Transformation to Meir
In 1956, Golda Meyerson changed her surname to the Hebrew “Meir.” Her years from 1949 to 1956 were dubbed “seven beautiful years” due to her success in fostering Israel’s domestic viability. As Israel’s foreign minister from 1956 to 1966, she navigated the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956 and secured arms sales from the U.S.
Challenges and Retirement
Health issues, including heart trouble in 1955 and a diagnosis of lymphoma in 1965, led to Meir’s retirement from the foreign minister role. However, she remained active in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and the democratic socialist party, Mapai.
The Unexpected Prime Minister
Meir’s retirement was short-lived. In 1969, after the unexpected death of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, she was asked to run for office. Despite doubts about her candidacy, Meir accepted the challenge. She became prime minister in March and won the office in October of the same year.
A Turbulent Tenure
Meir’s premiership faced numerous challenges. Political party divisions in Israel fractured in 1970, and the 1972 Olympics brought further turmoil. Palestinian militant group Black September killed Israeli athletes, leading to a retaliatory massacre ordered by Meir. In a tragic twist, Israel’s national intelligence agency, Mossad, mistakenly killed a Moroccan waiter during the operation.
The Yom-Kippur War
The Yom-Kippur War of October 1973 defined Meir’s time as Prime Minister. Syrian and Egyptian forces attempted to push Israel out of Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula, respectively. Meir resisted a preemptive strike, fearing a withdrawal of U.S. support. The conflict had Cold War undertones, with Egypt and Syria backed by the Soviet Union. Ultimately, Israel signed cease-fire agreements with its adversaries in 1973 and 1974.
The Legacy of Golda Meir
Meir’s perceived inability to navigate the Yom Kippur War played a role in her decision to resign the premiership in 1974. Though she left formal politics, she remained engaged, even meeting with Henry Kissinger in 1976 to discuss the Middle East situation.
Golda Meir passed away from lymphoma in 1978 at the age of 80, leaving behind a legacy of unwavering dedication to her people and her homeland.