The Legacy of Golda Meir Essay
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The history of Israel would not be complete without the discussion of the life of Golda Meir, an important woman and an important leader for Israel and who have contributed immensely for the sake of Israel and her fellowman – the Jews. Her Early Life Golda Meir was first Golda Mabovitch, a daughter of a carpenter for a father, with a mother who migrated to the United States, where they followed later on in their lives. She was born in Kiev which was then part of old world Russia and now known as the independent Ukraine.
She lived in many different locations, like in Pinsk (still in Russia) and later in Milwaukee, as well as in Denver, both in the United States, and later still in Palestine during her married life. She believed living in Palestine is an important aspect of her being an active Zionist. Golda also found herself living in Tel Aviv as well as in Jerusalem. The movements were dictated by the need to survive – to survive the pogroms; to survive by going to where there are jobs for her parents and good prospects of education and living for her and her siblings; and most importantly, to let her political ideals and beliefs survive and thrive.
Since her younger years, Golda has already exhibited positive characteristics, like a sense of responsibility, not just to herself, but to other people, dependability and initiative. She exhibited these characteristics when she was helping her mother tend to their store, during her time at Fourth Street Grade School and her role in the formation of the group known as the American Young Sisters Society. One of the important events of Golda’s very young life, besides academic excellence and civic duty consciousness and action, is her transfer from Milwaukee to Denver, living with sister Sheyna.
This event in her early life is important because this was a solid follow up to her already growing consciousness about important issues involving her and the Jews, like Zionism, women’s rights and other important political issues which were often the subject of discussion among the constant guests in the house of her sister Sheyna and her husband (Seller 36). These talks and discussions, to which she was extensively exposed to, helped in the shaping of her opinion on political issues and helped shape her personal conviction on many different political aspects.
Equally important in this moment in her life was the fact that it was because she was in Denver that she was finally able to meet the man who would soon become her husband by the time she turned 19 – Morris Meyerson. During her young life, her position as a Labor Zionist and her pro-socialist stand was slowly being created and molded largely because of the type of people and crowd to which she was exposed to, while learning in different schools like the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and at Folks Schule.
Her early life and political journeys brought her inside circles like what is known today as the Habonim, then named as Young Poale Zion as well as inside the kibbutz circle later on in her life. Because of desirable qualities seen in Golda, she was always receiving promotions of sorts, like being elevated as representative to the Histadrut (Seller 36). An important aspect of her early life was her childhood memories of the atrocities done versus her fellow Jews.
Atrocities molded her consciousness and created the inner motivation for her to become a good leader so that the generations to follow would not experience what she, her parents and relatives and their contemporaries experienced before. She was a girl who was awakened in her senses in the time of hard emotional, physical, psychological and mental struggle. The strength she saw in her family helped her, in turn, to be a strong individual herself, despite what they have to get through in the past.
Meir describes her family’s struggle for survival in turn-of-the-century czarist Russia, where economic, educational and residential restrictions kept the Jewish masses impoverished and pogroms (government-instigated massacres) made life itself uncertain (Seller 36). ” What She Means to the Jewish People What Meir meant to the Jewish community is validated by how Jewish and even non-Jewish political analysts and critics describe Meir. “Meir… was one of Israel’s outstanding heroines (Scharfstein 109).
” The most of the Jewish embraced Meir as a heroine because of her actions like her leadership of the country. Her leadership was noticed during the times when the country is faced with armed conflict and the actions of Meir pointing to Meir’s sense of direction for the country, like her role in pushing for the country’s shift towards nuclear capability – “other women leaders to develop nuclear weapons include Golda Meir (Ramsay 263). ” Because of these reasons, she was enthroned as a modern-heroine.
She was brave as she was hard, aptly described as the Iron Lady of Israel and was placed side by side along with other prominent women leaders who like her displayed passion and patriotism and was hard and firm in their decisions and course of actions (Ramsay 236). “To register the surprisingly ‘masculine’ intractability or impregnability shown by these women, Indira Gandhi (the war of 1971), Golda Meir (the war of 1967), and Margaret Thatcher (the Falklands affair in 1982) were labelled ‘Iron Ladies’ (Ramsay 236).
” While it was common that Golda was showered with terms that made her image that of a strong willed and uncompromising woman, there are also times wherein critics describe her in a softer tone, like naming her the “grand old woman of Israeli politics” (1969: Israel 1). This was seconded by Jacobson’s description of an old woman in typical grandmother attire and how this, in comparison with well dressed generals, would be the hero (ine) of a war despite her looks (Jacobson 1).
Besides being considered by the Jews as one of their modern day heroines, the Jewish’s sentiment for Meir and how Meir meant to them is illustrated by the fact that Meir was described often as a person who loved Israel and the Jews passionately. And for that, her countryman loved her in return. She was devoted to her country and to her people. Her people, in return, displayed a high level of devotion to this very influential and very talented leader (Scharfstein 109). “Throughout her life she was fearless in her devotion to Israel (Scharfstein 109).
” A very admirable characteristic that Golda Meir possessed, which illustrated her love, compassion, dedication and patriotism for Israel and the Jewish people, is her inclination to monitor the activities of Jews outside of Israel; to see if they are doing alright; and to report to the people in Israel what she saw outside of the country. Her inspiring anecdotes of her travels helped strengthened the unity among Jews around the world and helped in keeping the Jews tied closely together.
For example, after her first visit to Russia serving as the country’s first ever ambassador in this then-communist country, one of the things that Meir reported back to Israel is about how the Jews in Russia were celebratory especially after the declaration of Israel’s independence (Roberts 339). Meir “reported home on 12 September that 20,000 people had celebrated the declaration of the State of Israel at a Moscow synagogue (Roberts 339).
” Between her role as Israel’s ambassador to Russia and her being the prime minister of Israel, she too was placed in other job positions requiring her specialization and skill, like inside the Ministry of Labor where she served as the minister, followed by her job as the foreign minister. Indeed, her love and passion for Israel and for the Jews were warmly reciprocated, not just by how people looked at her as a political leader and important personality in Israel, but also by how the people of Israel and even the Jews living outside of the country reacted to her.
Meir “reported that on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) huge crowds packed the Great Synagogue in Moscow and that in the street she was met by thunderous cheers and ‘cries’ in Hebrew (Roberts 339). ” Meir was very much loved and the public generally approved of her when she was alive. They greatly mourned after Meir finally passed away and left Israel, the Jews and the world. “When she died on December 8, 1978, people all over the world mourned this great and courageous woman (Scharfstein 109). “
What She has Done What can be considered as the main contribution of Meir to the Jewish people is what she has done which resulted to the creation of Israel as an independent country. There is no doubt that it was not a singular effort that resulted to the creation of Israel in Golda. She held the distinction of being one of the selected few and one of the very few women who were directly involved in the negotiations with the British government after the Second World War leading to the creation of Israel.
This does not indicate Golda’s special individual power because the negotiation was participated by many individuals. This indicates the extent of Golda’s dedication and commitment in giving the Jews what is rightfully theirs. This includes giving the Jews their own independent state. This was just one of the high points and not necessarily the culmination of Golda’s sacrifice in the name of political gains and agenda, which included quitting her own job just to be more focused with her civic actions and duties. In the end, it would be revealed that destiny has more plans for Golda Meir.
Another proof of how high up the political ladder Golda went, because of her contributions and actions that benefited Israel and the Jews is the fact that among the 24 signatories who signed the declaration of independence of the Israel, she was one of them. Only one of the two women were included in this elite group. As the nation’s leader, Meir’s main contribution to the Jewish people is Meir’s leadership and how Meir helped Israel stabilize and grow as a country, as well as an important country participating in the global stage. “Meir…
played an important role in the creation of Israel in 1948 (Seller 36). ” Meir was involved in many civic actions even when she was young. It was in politics during her later, more mature years that she found the opportunity to serve her fellow Jews and the country of Israel. And she did not participated in politics in a simple way; she did so with aplomb and her participation in Israel’s politics allowed her to be a record-maker of sorts. Meir made a historic mark in the political landscape of Israel by becoming the very first woman ever to take the position of Prime Minister for the country Israel.
This very great and historic and unprecedented feat of course, shadowed other milestones and landmarks that she set, not only in her own political career but also in the politics of Israel. For example, Meir also made a first albeit not something that would equal what was mentioned earlier. This first in Israel politics is Meir being tapped as the first ambassador of Israel to Russia (Scharfstein 109). As an act befitting her status in the newly formed Israel, it was also Golda who was the recipient of the first ever passport issued by the Israeli government (Pine 1).
There are also, of course, the little things she did for Israel. These are considered as little things because this appears little compared to the breadth and depth of what she achieved all in all. This is not actually popularized in popular media. Some of these actions that were geared in helping Israel and the Jews included Golda’s actions on negotiating support among different African states and her role in soliciting alliance, as well as support in any kind from the other countries.
Meir also led the people and her country during several serious political problems, like the Munich massacre during the Summer Olympics of 1972. In the very controversial Yom Kippur War, Meir made sure that the foreign aid, especially those from the US, would come Israel’s way if it can prove that it did not undertake a pre-emptive strike on the unprovoked Syria and let Syria start the hostilities before Israel takes it own action. Golda’s actions in the Yom Kippur War eventually made her the bigger heroine long after the dust and smoke of the battle has cleared (Jacobson, 2008).
Despite being described, often, as a woman who is tough and firm, writer Israel Shenker noted how Golda sought peace, particularly for Israel and for the Arab countries which would be achieved if the rest of the Arab nations can accept Israel as an independent country. According to Shenker, Golda has sought nothing but to be able to give Israel and its people this state of peace (Shenker 1). This is also one of the important contributions of Golda to the country she has served with dedication.
Despite what Meir has done for the country (or maybe, because of what she did for the country), there are groups and individuals who are against Israel and against the Jews. They viewed Meir as a very important person for the Jews and for Israel that it would be a serious blow for Israel and for the Jews if someone of Meir’s stature would be assassinated and killed. Because of that, many individuals plotted the death of Meir. One of these individuals is Ali Hassan Salameh.
“For Ali Hassan Salameh, the group’s (Black September) leader, though he was on the run from Mossad after masterminding the Munich atrocity, Golda Meir’s visit was an opportunity he could not ignore. He began to plan a missile attack against her plane as it landed at Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci Airport (Thomas 217). ” Although this particular assassination attempt and the other plans to assassinate Golda Meir, was not realized at all, Meir, despite being presented by a serious threat to her life, did not cower or back down.
Instead, she continued to fight for the Israel and the Jewish cause and led the country forward despite this predicament. Again, this shows the heart that Meir has for her country and for her countrymen. Besides the attempts to assassinate Meir, there were also other negative results of Meir’s political actions, although these results are less dangerous compared to the threats on her life. Some of these negative results include criticisms, particularly about Meir and how her being a hard-line ruler was considered as a sign of Meir’s as well of Israel’s and the Jew’s undying ‘Masada Complex’. “Mr.
Alsop (who is a commentator from Newsweek) quoted a high official in Washington (later known to be Joseph Sisco) who accused Golda Meir, then Israeli prime minister, of having a ‘Masada complex’ (Ben-Yehuda 244). ” The Masada Complex pertains to the uncompromising attitude of never-say-die. This is a term which has historical roots but is now used in Israeli and Jewish parlance in this line of thinking. Meir was considered as possessing the Masada Complex and in the process, influencing the rest of the country, too, with the same attitude because of Meir’s actions on several different international issues like her stand on the Suez Canal.
She refused cooperation in the effort of Russia and the United States to re-open the canal because of her stand versus the neighboring Egypt. She considered the complexion of the armed struggle versus Egypt and a lot of other political aspects of Israeli’s foreign policy especially against the countries it is hostile to or those who projected hostility against Israel. These might be affected if she agrees to the terms regarding the re-opening of the Suez Canal, putting her country’s welfare first before Israel’s relationship with other countries and governments.
Conclusion Meir’s actions, which are centered in fighting for Israel and for the Jews and their welfare, are rooted from her experience since childhood; and it did not stop growing. From the time that she started harbouring a sense of consciousness focused on fighting for Israel and her love for fellow Jews, everything that she did in her personal and in her public life were all somewhat connected to this love and passion.
One of the examples is how she finally had the last name “Meir”, which was not her last name when she was still unmarried and not the last name of the man she married later in her life. Golda’s last name found its last change when the couple decided, that as a show of support and dedication to the cause that they are fighting for and as a mark of their love for their Jewish roots, culture and homeland, the last name “Meyerson” was changed into Meir. The term “Meir” has a Jewish equivalent for something similar to the idea of “giver of light”. This was just a very fitting turn of events.
Even if Meir did not have any idea how far up she would go in leading Israel’s politics, the meaning of her last name, which carried until her death, was very suitable and very apt considering the role she played in Israel and among her fellow Jews, acting as the giver of light in her own right. Works Cited Ben-Yehuda, Nachman. The Masada Myth: Collective Memory and Mythmaking in Israel. University of Wisconsin Press, 1996. Jacobson, Philip. “How Golda Meir won the Yom Kippur war. ” The Sunday Times. 22 June 2008. 12 May 2009 <http://www. timesonline. co.
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, 1994. Seller, Maxine Schwartz.. Immigrant Women. State University of New York Press, 1994. Shenker, Israel. “Golda Meir: Peace and Arab Acceptance Were Goals of Her 5 Years as Premier. ” Obituary. The New York Times. 9 December 1978. 12 May 2009 <http://www. nytimes. com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0503. html>. Thomas, Gordon. Gideon’s Spies. The Secret History of the Mossad. St. Martin’s Press, 2007. “1969: Israel elects first female leader. ” BBC. 2008. 12 May 2009 <http://news. bbc. co. uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/march/7/newsid_4205000/4205843. stm>.