Even today, in nearly seven decades of its creation, Israel continues to be a land mired by huge controversy. Those who never wanted a Jewish homeland in the first place, continue to detest it to the present day. Israel, they say is a lion that sleeps with an eye open. Who knows what tomorrow may bring.
But this land was once protected by one of her own benevolent spirits- Golda Meir. The only woman prime minister of Israel, the fourth since the creation of the Jewish homeland in 1948.
Perhaps no other country has been as polarised as Israel- loved for its pathbreaking heights in science and technology, agriculture and entrepreneurship and derided for contributing to the unrest in the Middle East. And no other country on earth may stake claim to that position.
The scenes down in the Middle East’s most blazing and fiery corner may never change. It is a heartland of majestic non-stop activity. And perhaps that may just be a somber reality of the Jewish heartland.
But perhaps the forever burgeoning existential crisis that surrounds Israel today may live with the gladness that in leaders like Golda Meir- 1898 to 1978- it had a true face of a remarkable revolutionary; one against whose efforts the country finally got a residence in the world. Golda Meir, nearly a faultless politician, it could be said, was among the famous Israeli troika of politicians including the great David Ben-Gurion, Shimon Peres.
Not since Meir has the world seen a woman of such remarkable depth- a thinker, a leader, a politician, a diplomat, a nation-builder, a unifier of hope- represent the crisis and struggle for the formation of a nation. When Israel was formed, it wasn’t just blood and tears that were shed. You felt as if mother earth hosted perhaps the most valiant and vitriolic war on its heart. And Golda Meir was the irrepressible face of Israel’s triumph, in it winning the right to ‘exist.’
In simple parlance, most of us spend our lives to seek and sustain a livelihood. What matters most, above anything else, is to have a safe roof over her head. To put it to an Israeli context, Golda Meir- born in Ukraine- was among the first and foremost builders of the roof under which Israel breathes today.
Her efforts in securing Israel freedom from the Arab state leading to the formation of an independent state- even as sadly today the two-state solution seems far from ideal or applicable- were paramount in giving her nation an identity it had always craved for.
Liked for her warmth, admired for her fearless guidance of Israel through inarguably its most testing phase ever and hero worshiped for being a figure of poise and wisdom- Golda Meir, in essence, sums up what Israel is.
A land dauntless in its surge for excellence in diverse pursuits of life, a spirit undivided in protecting its people and a homage to perhaps the greatest virtue of the human character. To put it simply, it is the ability to fight against overwhelming odds.
Where else but in Israel would one have found a Golda Meir- a woman of remarkable substance- as being the signer of the declaration of independence? Can you name another country where a woman has been at the forefront of the creation of a national, political, democratic identity? Classicists, draw comparisons with the great Indira Gandhi and Golda Meir- two of the most distinguished and well-respected characters of their age, both revered widely in their country.
But perhaps what people forget about Golda Meir is that her struggle and career were forged in the existence and very creation of a country she continued to be involved in running till 68.
Created in 1948 amidst a period of great hostility, the revered Meir- the fourth prime minister of the Jewish homeland- traveled to extreme lengths fostering hope and garnering support from the West (most noticeably, the United States) to source aid for the creation of an independent Jewish state. Described as a people’s person, a spirit full of both- compassion and resoluteness- Meir gathered close to 50 million US dollars worth of support nearly single-handedly to forge a battle for Israel’s right to exist.
Most politicians succumb to squalor and greed in their running of the affairs of a nation, while Meir ran pillar to post- first taking over as the Prime Minister, thereon becoming a respected diplomat (taking over the foreign office in building ties with Russia) and continued to fight for peace in constantly oscillating situations.
At times Israel and peace become no-brainers, the two being polarised opposites of one another. But in Meir’s times, no less extreme to the often embittered affairs today, the country was never in dearth of a leading light during its harshest times. At 68, she oversaw the creation of the Israeli Labour Party by merging her Mapai political party and opposing forces.
This was to be a watershed moment and would give the nation a force of reckoning. Even as the present generation continues to fight for Israel’s right for survival, it may never repay the debt of Meir’s tireless crusade for Israel’s freedom and existence. Bloodshed, war, tears and ultimately, retribution, Meir presided over struggle and clamor and saw Israel through its shape-shifting paradigm leading to the little stability it ever sought. That is when it was created.
She did all of that without compromising on her iron-willed character and an intellectual virtuosity that has helped shape the dynamism of one of the world’s most intoxicating lands ever.
On her 81st birth anniversary, we extend our sincere regard.