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Text Box: “Israel has created a new image of the Jew in the world - the image of a working and an intellectual people, of a people that can fight with heroism.”
David Ben Gurion
1886 - 1973
Text Box: DAVID BEN-GURION (1886 - 1973)
David Ben-Gurion (help·info) (October 16, 1886 – December 1, 1973; Hebrew: דָּוִד בֶּן גּוּרִיּוֹן) was the first and third Prime Minister of Israel. As a leader, he was instrumental in the founding of the state of Israel at the expiration of the British Mandate, carrying Israel through the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and leading the country in its first years of existence, not retiring until 1970.
Early life
Ben-Gurion was born as David Grün in Płońsk, Poland which was then part of the Russian Empire. His father, Avigdor Grün was a lawyer and a leader in the Hovevei Zion organization. His mother, Scheindel, died when David was 11 years old.
In part because of his father's interests, but also shocked by the pogroms and rampant anti-Semitism that plagued Jewish life in Eastern Europe, he became an ardent Zionist and socialist and moved to Palestine in 1906.
He first worked as an agricultural laborer in the orange groves, and later as journalist. It was during this time that he adopted his Hebrew name Ben-Gurion as he began his political career. He was expelled from Palestine, then under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, in 1915 due to his political activities.
Settling in New York City in 1915 he met the Russian-born Paula Munweis. They were married in 1917, and subsequently had three children. He joined the British Army in 1918 as part of the 38th Battalion of the Jewish Legion (following the Balfour Declaration in November 1917). He and his family returned to Palestine after World War I after it had been captured by the British from the Ottoman Empire.
Jewish Legion.
Zionist leadership
Ben-Gurion was at the political forefront of the Labor Zionist movement during the fifteen years leading to the creation of the State of Israel when Labor Zionism had become the dominant tendency in the World Zionist Organization.
An austere, ascetic idealist, he was marked by a commitment to the establishment of a Jewish state. In the Israeli declaration of independence, he stressed that the new nation would "uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex".
Ben-Gurion encouraged Jews to join the British military at the same time as he helped orchestrate the illegal immigration of thousands of European Jewish refugees to Palestine at a time when the British sought to bar new Jewish immigration. He is also considered the architect of both the Federation of Jewish Labor, the Histadrut which created a Jewish state within the British state and the Haganah, the paramilitary force of the Labor Zionist movement that facilitated underground immigration, defended kibbutzim and other Jewish settlements against attack and provided the backbone of the future Israeli Defense Forces. Both of these developments put pressure on the British to either grant the Jews a state in Palestine or quit the League of Nations Mandate - they did the latter in 1947 on the heels of a United Nations resolution partitioning the territory between the Jews and Arabs.
During the pre-statehood period in Palestine, Ben-Gurion represented the mainstream Jewish establishment and was known as a moderate, with whose Haganah organization the British dealt frequently, sometimes in order to arrest more radical groups involved in resistance against them. He was strongly opposed to the Revisionist Zionist movement led by Ze'ev Jabotinsky and his successor Menachem Begin.
He was also involved in occasional violent resistance during the short period of time his organization cooperated with Menachem Begin's Irgun, though he refused to be involved in terrorism of any kind, and insisted that violence only be used against military targets. Ben-Gurion initially agreed to Begin's plan to carry out the King David Hotel bombing, with the intent of humiliating (rather than killing) the British military stationed there. However, when the risks of mass killing became apparent, Ben-Gurion told Begin to call the operation off; Begin refused.[1]
He passed the resolution to declare the independence of Israel on May 14, 1948, by vote of 6 to 4, against strong opposition from both sides of the political spectrum of the Jewish community in Palestine, even in his own party.
During the first weeks of Israel's independence, he passed the decision to disband all resistance groups and replace them with a single formal army, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). To that end, Ben-Gurion gave the order to open fire upon and sink a ship named Altalena, which carried ammunition for the Irgun (also called Etzel) resistance group. That command remains controversial to this day.
Prime Ministership
Ben Gurion led Israel during its War of Independence. He became Prime Minister on February 25, 1949, the day after the first armistice with Egypt was signed to end hostilities. He would remain in that post until 1963, except for a period of nearly two years between 1954 and 1955. As Premier, he oversaw the establishment of the state's institutions. He presided over various national projects aimed at the rapid development of the country and its population: Operation Magic Carpet, the airlift of Jews from Arab countries, the construction of the National Water Carrier, rural development projects and the establishment of new towns and cities. In particular, he called for pioneering settlement in outlying areas, especially in the Negev.
In 1953 Ben-Gurion announced his intention to withdraw from government and settle in the Kibbutz Sde-Boker, in the Israeli Negev. He returned to office in 1955 assuming the post of Defense Minister and later prime-minister.
Returning to government, Ben Gurion collaborated with the British and French to plan the 1956 Sinai War in which Israel stormed the Sinai Peninsula in retaliation for raids by Egypt thus giving British and French forces a pretext to intervene in order to secure the Suez Canal after Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser had announced its nationalization. Intervention by the United States and the United Nations forced the British, French and Israelis to back down.
Ben-Gurion was among the founders of Mapai which governed Israel during the first three decades of its existence. He stepped down as Prime Minister, on personal grounds (as he explained) in 1963, and, in fact, nominated Levi Eshkol to be his successor. One year later a rivalry developed between the two on the issue of the Lavon Affair. Ben Gurion broke with the party in June 1965 over Eshkol's handling of the Lavon affair and formed a new party, Rafi which won ten seats in the Knesset. As tensions loomed before the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967, Ben-Gurion strongly urged that Israel must have a Great Power on its side. After the war ended with large Israeli territorial gains, Ben-Gurion argued that other than keeping a united Jerusalem, Israel should not occupy more Arab land.
In 1968, when Rafi merged with Mapai to form the Labour Alignment, Ben Gurion refused to reconcile with his old party and formed another new party, The State List, which won four seats in the 1969 election. Ben Gurion retired from politics in 1970 and spent his last years on his kibbutz.
He was voted by Time Magazine as one of the top 100 people who shaped the 20th century [1].
According to Jewish educator, comics fan and writer Alan Oirich, artist Gil Kane based his design of the large-headed, balding Guardians of the Universe in DC’s Green Lantern on David Ben-Gurion.[2]
Israel's largest airport, Ben Gurion International is named in his honor.
He learned the Spanish language so that he could read Cervantes' novel Don Quixote de la Mancha in its original Spanish language, a book he considered a prerequisite to becoming an effective statesman.
Ben Gurion turned to the Feldenkrais method late in life in order to address recurring back problems, and was once famously photographed practicing on a beach in Tel Aviv. Virtually all Israelis recognize an image of a balding, bushy-haired man standing on his head as a caricature of their first prime minister.
In 1941, Franklin Roosevelt, despite being very popular among the Jews, let David Ben-Gurion "languish in a hotel room for ten weeks before refusing him a meeting." .[2]
His famous quote regarding the Arabs: "If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?" -David Ben Gurion, Prime Minister of Israel 1948-1963.
Credit: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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