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March 17: Prime Minister Golda Meir

Lawrence Bush
March 17, 2010

Golda_MeirGolda Meir (Golda Meyerson) became prime minister of Israel on this date in 1969, after a lifetime in the Labor Zionist movement and 48 years in British Mandate Palestine and Israel. Born in Kiev, she spent most of her childhood and teen years in Milwaukee — which helped equip her, in 1948, to raise $50 million, six times more than expected, from American Jews for weapons purchases. Meir was one of two women out of 24 people who signed to the 1948 Israeli Declaration of Independence the day before Israel was attacked by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon. Her brief presence in Moscow as ambassador to the USSR helped catalyze the revival of Soviet Jewish identity in a time of severe repression. From 1949 to 1956, Meir was Israel’s minister of labor; from 1956 to 1966, she headed Israel’s Foreign Ministry, in which she actively built ties with newly independent, decolonized African states. As prime minister from 1969 to 1974, she led the country through tragedy of the Munich Olympics (she ordered the Mossad to hunt down the killers of the Israeli athletes) and the shaky days of the Yom Kippur War (1973) — denying the national identity of the Palestinians. Meir was succeeded in office by Yitzhak Rabin.
“We have always said that in our war with the Arabs we had a secret weapon — no alternative.” —Golda Meir

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.