She was born Golda Mabovitch in Kiev, Ukraine on May 3, 1898, the daughter of Moshe and Bluma Mabovitch. Her autobiography tells of her father boarding up the house during the 1905 Kiev pogrom where mobs killed over 100 Jews. Her Russian childhood left her, she said, with “no happy or even pleasant memories.” The family immigrated to the United States in 1906 settling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Golda attended North Division High School and joined a Zionist group that supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. It was the first step in a long and winding political journey.
After her graduation from the teachers college Milwaukee State Normal School (now University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee), the convinced Zionist from an early age married a sign-painter named Morris Myerson and in 1921 they left for British Mandate Palestine where they lived on the Merhavia Kibbutz, a communal settlement.
Three years later, twenty-one year old David Horowitz would also arrive in Palestine as a young pioneer at the Mikveh Israel Agricultural School settlement. Nothing in the records indicate that the young pioneers paths ever crossed while living as kibbutzniks, but their paths were destined to converge later on a much larger stage.
Moving to Jerusalem in 1924, Golda intensified her political activity by representing the Histadrut Trade Union and serving as a delegate to the World Zionist Organization. In July 1938, Meir was the Jewish observer from Palestine at the Évian Conference, called by President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States to discuss the question of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. She later replaced Moshe Sharett in 1946 as head of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department, the chief Jewish liaison with the British.
For two years prior to the establishment of the new State of Israel, United Nations correspondent David Horowitz carried on a dialogue with the Emir of Trans-Jordan, Abdullah bin al-Hussein (who later became King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in May, 1946). This path breaking correspondence with the monarch became the first dialogue of the time aimed at bringing peace between Jews and Muslims. By 1948, newly appointed member of the Provisional Government Golda Meir was about to have her own special dialogue with the King of Jordan.
On May 10, 1948, four days before the official establishment of the State of Israel, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion dispatched Golda Meir to travel to Amman, disguised as an Arab woman, for a secret meeting with King Abdullah I, 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?”
Meir was one of 24 signatories (including two women) of the Israeli Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. She later recalled, “After I signed, I cried. When I studied American history as a schoolgirl and I read about those who signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence, I couldn’t imagine these were real people doing something real. And there I was sitting down and signing a declaration of establishment.” Israel was attacked the next day by the joint armies of neighboring countries in what became the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.
Carrying the first ever Israeli-issued passport, Meir was appointed Israel’s minister plenipotentiary to the Soviet Union, with her term beginning on September 2, 1948. Elected to the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) in 1949, she was Minister of Labor from 1949-56 and Foreign Minister from 1956 until 1966.
On March 17, 1969, 71 year-old Golda Meir was elected the fourth Prime Minister of Israel following the untimely death of Levi Eshkol. She moved into the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem and began to get used to “the permanent presence of police and bodyguards, to a work day of at least 16 hours and to the minimum of privacy.”
She served as Israel’s Prime Minister during a very difficult period, including the Munich Olympics massacre (1972) and Yom Kippur War (1973). It was during this period that she met UN correspondent David Horowitz.
Israel’s first and only woman to hold the office of Prime Minister, she was described as the “Iron Lady” of Israeli politics, (the term was later applied to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher). Former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, whom David Horowitz had known since the early days of statehood, used to call Meir “the best man in the government”; she was often portrayed as the “strong-willed, straight-talking, grey-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people.”
Once asked when she thought the Arab problem would be resolved, she replied: ‘When the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.’
David Horowitz often spoke of the courage and determination of this “Woman of Valor” after meeting her in the difficult days before the Yom Kippur War in October 1973. But the opportunity for the two to finally meet might possibly have never taken place.
Just a decade ago, in 2009, documents revealed that a plot by the Black September terror organization to assassinate Meir during her trip to New York City on March 4, 1973, was foiled by the United States. A U.S. intelligence organization intercepted a communication between the Iraqi United Nations office and the Iraqi embassy in Washington D.C., containing specific information about placement of three car bombs around New York City meant to detonate when Meir was nearby. The message was sent to the FBI, who worked with the New York Police Department to find and dispose of the explosive devices.
On December 8, 1978, Golda Meir died in Jerusalem at the age of 80. It was revealed that she suffered from leukemia. She was laid to rest at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
Ralph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union and author of “The Book of David: David Horowitz: Dean of United Nations Press Corps and Founder: United Israel World Union.”