A Jewish Way Tribute: Golda Meir 1898-1978


A long journey led her from rural Ukraine at the turn of the 20th century, when Jews lived in constant fear of violence and pogroms, to end up in “The Promised Land” as its main leader. Born in the Russian Empire, during her childhood time she suffered anti- Semitic persecutions and extreme poverty. The memory of those years marked her the rest of her life. “If there’s an explanation, the course that took my life, it’s surely my wish and determination that a Jewish child won’t ever have to go throughout such an experience,” she once said.

Even though she ed and immigrated to the United States, those thoughts were her “motto,” the force behind her tireless fight. From the days of helping her parents at their grocery store in Milwaukee, to farming at a kibbutz, or advocating for the trade union rights, every single step she made was driven by a deep love for her homeland and her people. A remarkable life of achievement and lasting political career in central government positions are a source of immense “inspiration” for today’s generations and the next to come.



Golda was born in 1989 in Kiev, Russian Empire (today Ukraine) to a traditional Jewish family. She grew up in times of great poverty and anti-Semitism in Europe. Her father left for New York City in search of employment. After a few years, he managed to send money to his family and bring them to the United States of America.


They settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Golda Meir went to high school and got a teaching degree. There she got married to Morris Meyerson. As an active militant of labor rights, she joined Milwaukee’s Labor Zionist Party, which supported the establishment of a state of Israel in the British Mandate of Palestine, eventually becoming its leader.


In 1921, Golda Meir and her husband emigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine, arriving at Merhavia Kibbutz, where they lived and worked the land. They later moved to Jerusalem, where they had two children, and where the rest of the family from Milwaukee joined them. While in Jerusalem, Golda became very involved in political activities. She represented the Trade Union organization, Histadrut, and became head of its political department in 1940. She also served as a delegate to the World Zionist Organization, the real beginning of her Zionist political career.

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into games of achievement.”

Golda Meir (1898-1978), Israeli Prime Minister, 1963


Before World War II British officials had made promises to establish a Jewish homeland, but that never happened. The British White Paper of 1939 only called for a Jewish Hhomeland, not a Jewish state and it allowed Arab officials to limit the rate of Jewish immigration. During World War II, Golda emerged as a forceful spokesman for the Zionist movement and pleaded to increase Jewish immigration, which was crucial because of the Nazi persecution. In 1939, she attended the Evian Conference convened by the United States to aid the Jewish victims of the Nazi regime. There she said, “There is only one thing that I hope to see before I die, and it is that my people need no manifestation of compassion ever again.” In 1946, the British arrested many Jewish activists, including the head of the Jewish Agency, Moshe Sharett. Golda Meir replaced him momentarily and negotiated his release, after which Sharett came back and took over his former position.


In 1948, Golda Meir was one of the signers of Israel’s declaration of independence, and that same year she was appointed as minister plenipotentiary to Moscow. But when hostilities broke out between Arab nations and Israel, she returned to Israel.


In 1949, Golda Meir was elected to The Knesset (Israeli parliament) and served in that body until 1974. From 1949 to 1956, as Minister of Labor, she supported housing and road construction programs and vigorously defended the policy of unrestricted Jewish immigration to Israel. She directly tried to dissuade King Abdullah of Jordan from joining the invasion of Israel set on by other Arab nations, and she also promoted the Israeli policy of aid to the new African states, aimed at enhancing diplomatic support among neutral countries.


At age 68, tired and already ill, she wished to retire from public life, but members of the Mapai party encouraged her to answer as the party’s secretary general supporting Prime Minister Levi Eshkol. After Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in June of 1967, she helped merge the Mapai party with two dissident parties into the Israeli Labor Party.


Following the unexpected death of Levi Eshkol in 1969, she had to put o her wishes of retirement again and had to replace him. Shortly after, her party won the elections, and she became the fourth, and first woman, Prime minister of the state of Israel. She maintained a coalition government that had come out in June 1967, pressing for a peace settlement in the Middle East by diplomatic means. She gained economic and military assistance from the United States and traveled widely. She met with Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania in 1972, and Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1973, and was host to the chancellor of West Germany. But her e orts to build peace with the Arab states were broken o in 1973 by the outbreak of the fourth Arab-Israeli, “Yom-Kippur” War. Israel’s lack of readiness and the negative results of the war led to a campaign against its prime minister. Anyway, she came back and won the 1974 elections. Golda Meir formed a new coalition government, but exhausted and ill, she resigned shortly afterward, remaining in the government until a new government was formed. She was succeeded by Yitzhak Rabin.


She retired to live in a kibbutz with her daughter for the final years of her life. While in retirement, she remained a prominent political figure. In 1975, she published her autobiography, and upon her death, it was disclosed that she had been suffering leukemia for the previous 12 years. She was buried on December 12, 1978, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

JWmagazine Articles & editorial enquiries contact: pr@jwmagazine.com