She was born Golda Mabovitch in 1898 in Kiev, which is now in the Ukraine, but then it was part of the Russian Empire. In her autobiography, Golda tells about her father boarding their home up, during the pogroms in 1905 in Kiev, where over 100 Jews were murdered. In 1906 her family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
She was a natural leader, famous for having raised money to pay for textbooks for her whole school when she was only 11 years old. She knew how to speak from her heart. She ran away from home when she was 15 years old because her parents wanted her to leave school and get a job. She went to Denver, where her sister Sheyna lived. There she learned about Zionism. She met Morris Myerson there, and they married, on the condition that they would move to Israel, which they did, in 1921 to Kibbutz Merhavia. They moved to Jerusalem in 1924 and had two children, Menahem and Sarah.
In Jerusalem, Golda Meir became politically active, by representing the Histadrut Trade Union and also serving as a delegate to the World Zionist Organization. This area, at the time, was under the control of Great Britain, as prescribed by the sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. This was a secret agreement from 1916 between the French and the British, which the Russians agreed to, that split up the region of what is now Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Armenia, and Israel.
The British White Paper of 1939 went so far to allow the Arab official of the area to determine the rate of Jewish Immigration, including during the Second World War. Golda Meir fought hard against these policies at the time. When it was decided that the Jews would be given a homeland in the area of Palestine, it was clear that there would be a war.
Golda knew English, so she knew how to speak to the American Jews. She went on a fundraising trip, and came back with 50M dollars! They were able then to buy weapons from Czechoslovakia, which enabled them to defend themselves during the war of independence. In 1948, Israel declared its independence and Golda Meir’s signature is on that declaration.
She was elected to the Israeli parliament, and when the fighting with the Arabs started, David Ben-Gurion sent her, dressed up in disguise as an Arab, on a secret mission, to plead with King Abdullah I not to enter into a war against Israel.
On May 10, 1948, four days before the official establishment of Israel, Meir traveled to Amman, Jordan, disguised as an Arab woman for a secret meeting with King Abdullah I of Transjordan at which she urged him not to join the other Arab countries in attacking the Jews. Abdullah asked her not to hurry to proclaim a state. Meir replied: "We've been waiting for 2,000 years. Is that hurrying?"
The war expanded to include Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, and Syria, all against Israel. The result, as we know, is that Israel preserved her independence. Golda was named the Minister of Labor, then the Foreign Minister. Carrying the first Israeli-issued passport, Meir was appointed Israel's ambassador to the Soviet Union.
In 1955, on Ben-Gurion's instructions, she stood for the position of mayor of Tel Aviv. She lost by the two votes of the religious bloc who withheld their support because she was a woman.
Golda Meir gave a speech to the UN in 1962 urging Arabs to agree to full disarmament. Here is part of the introduction:
[audio clip on podcast]
When Golda Meir was 68 years old, even though she wanted to leave the world of politics, she was convinced to stay on as the head of the Mapai party, which she was able to merge with two other parties into the Israel Labor Party. After Prime Minister Levi Eshkol suddenly died in 1969, she put off her retirement again and agreed to serve out the remainder of his term. Then her party won the elections, and she got a further four years as prime minister.
During her time as prime minister, she met with Henry Kissinger, she agreed for “security versus sovereignty,” where Israel would accept that Egypt has all of Sinai, while Egypt would accept Israeli presence in some of the Sinai strategic positions.
At the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team and a German police guard were murdered. Golda Meir then ok'd what is known as Operation Wrath of God, which was an undercover operation carried out by the Mossad, to kill the people responsible for the massacre, who were from the PLO and the Black September.
Now, let’s talk about the lead up to the Yom Kippur War. The Israeli intelligence couldn’t say for sure if an attack was being planned by the surrounding Arab nations, but on Oct 5, 1973, Meir did receive notice that the Syrian forces were massing on the Golan Heights. Her advisers said that they would still have enough time, if needed, to gather the Israeli troops up to fight, but the general feeling in the country was there would not be an attack after the results of the Six-Day War. So although a resolution was passed giving Golda the OK to gather all of the troops together just in case, she didn’t do it early enough.
Soon, it was clear that there would be war. Golda met with Moshe Dayan who was Minister of Defense, and with General David Elazar. Dayan said there would not be war, so to only gather up the air force and two divisions. General Elazar said that Israel should mobilize all of her troops, plus launch a preemptive strike. Golda Meir did not launch a strike but did gather the troops. She was afraid to lose the US backing, which would certainly be lost if Israel was seen to be the first attacker.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger later made a famous statement, that if Israel had launched a preemptive strike, she would not have received “so much as a nail.”
After the Yom Kippur War, Meir and her party were plagued with questions over the lack of preparation for the war. She resigned in April of 1974, succeeded by Yitzhak Rabin as prime minister. She died at the age of 80 from cancer in 1978.
The women I talk about are our teachers. Our mentors. Our examples of how we can behave today, how we can be strong women, know ourselves, give of ourselves, and make the world a better place. We are making history now! Every day!
So do something great!
Memorable! Make history!!
Thank you to the Jewish Virtual Library, plus other sites I used as resources for today’s show.
You can always see the links to our resources in the show notes, which are on the website at http://www.thestrongwomensclub.com/.
And: please share this podcast with three of your friends,
Tell them about it, show them how to subscribe and listen.