David Ben Gurion was born on October 16th 1886. He was the primary founder of the State of Israel and naturally the first Prime Minister of Israel. From a very young age he showed his interest and desire to form a State for the Jews and worked lifelong for it. He worked for this cause till his death on December 1 1973. David Gurion was the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946. As the primary founder of the state he helped to write the Israeli Declaration of Independence and was the first to sign it as well. Gurion led the Arab-Israeli War in 1948. Later he was instrumental in uniting the different militia into Israel Defence Forces. For all that he did for the Jews he is known as Israel’s “founding father.”
David Ben Gurion was born in Plonsk which was then part of the Russin Empire. His father was a lawyer and leader of the Hovevei Zion movement. His mother died when he was 11 years old. He had a twin who died shortly after birth. When he was 14 he got together with his friends and formed a youth club Ezra where the youngsters studied Hebrew studies and planned emigration to the Holy Land. He studied in the University of Warsaw and there he joined the Social-Democratic Jewish Worker’s Party Poalei Zion. He was detained two times during the Russian Revolution of 1905. In his memoirs David Gurion states that his hometown Polnsk, there was no anti-semitic persecution as the Jews there stayed in the same area and were very united. However it was from this place that maximum Jews migrated to Israel. He writes, “We emigrated not for negative reasons of escape but for the positive purpose of rebuilding a homeland.”
Setting the Platform
- In 1906 David Gurion immigrated to Ottoman Palestine and he immediately got into action.
- He was included into the Poalei Zion in Jaffa and was elected to the Central committee.
- He advocated a nationalist programme.
- From 1907 to 1912 he stayed away from active leadership of the Jews.
- However he was involved in small incidents.
- In 1911he arrived in Thessaloniki to learn Turkish for law studies.
- There he saw a huge Jewish community and was impressed by the kind of work done by the Jews; there were doctors, professors, craftsmen, business man, merchants and more.
- In 1912 David moved to Constantinople to study law in Istanbul University. He also worked as a journalist.
- David was in Jerusalem when the First World War broke out. He recruited Jews to help the Ottoman army.
- So he was deported to Egypt and he went to the US from there and stayed for three years.
- However after the Balfour Declaration of November 1917, he switched sides to join the Jewish Legion of the British Army.
- His unit fought the Turks during the Palestine campaign.
- After the WWI David and his wife and family moved to Palestine as Ottoman Empire was captured by the British.
David the Man
David Ben Gurion had very clear political views and aired it without fear. Even when he changed his stand he did not hesitate to declare it in the open. At a time when Lenin was considered a person with extremist inclination Ben Gurion supported Lenin saying he was an intellectual and superior to Trotsky. It was David’s bold decisions that helped Israel to get a land for itself though it was a decision which was full of compromise. The compromise was to have a land with equal if not more Arabs in their state. But David was willing to consider Arabs as equal citizens giving them equal opportunity. There were critics who said that he was anti-Arabs but it is known that e tried to learn Arabic to reach out to the Arabs, though he did not succeed in learning and in reaching out. Though British did not support Jews as they had promised, Ben Gurion decided to help the British in the Second World War. This statement sums it all. He asked his people to “support the British as if there is no White Paper and oppose the White Paper as if there is no war.”
David – Founder of Israel
David Ben Gurion was a visionary who not embittered with the treatment meted to Jews world over, but worked hard to found a state for Jews. It might have been his positive and progressive outlook on the issue that helped him gain popularity, notwithstanding criticisms. He proved his prowess in military advances and civil administration.
- In the Arab-Israel war of 1948 he oversaw the nascent operations of the military.
- Soon after independence the Israel Defence Forces was replaced by the national army.
- He brought together the militia of different groups under one umbrella thereby avoiding competition and opposed views in the army.
- He first became the Defence Minister of Israel.
- David with the help of Israel’s intelligence service Mossad, captured Adolf Eichmann and got him executed in 1962 in a much publicised trial by the International Court. Adolf Eichmann was the main person who carried the massive killing of Jews during the Nazi regime in Germany.
- After the Arab-Israel war the first national election was held and he was elected with a thumping majority as the Prime Minister of Israel.
- As a Prime Minister he founded many institutions and initiated many national projects which aimed at the rapid progress of the country.
- Operation Magic Carpet was to bring all the Jews from all over the world and bring them ot Israel.
- For a short period of two years he stayed away from the government and then came back on 1955 where he was re-elected as the Prime Minsiter.
David Ben Gurion stepped down in 1965 and appointed Eshkol as his successor. Later on difference of opinion arose between the two and Gurion started another party called Rafi. However his party did not win the next elections. He resigned from all forms of political association in 1970 and wrote 11 volumes on early history of Israel. After stroke he died on December 1st in 1973.