Golda Meir – A Forty Year Perspective

Meron Medzini. Israel Studies. Volume 23, Issue 1. Spring 2018.

Almost four decades after Golda Meir’s death, it seems that most Israelis have forgotten her. Her name and fame continued to reverberate overseas, mainly in the United States. But for many years after her death, in Israel her image remained negative. For many years, there was almost unanimity among Israelis that of the first four prime ministers of Israel, she was the worst. Few praised her achievements and many were critical. One such evaluation was that of historian David Shaham:

She was a decisive and unwavering person. She divided the world to the just and the unjust. She had a deep and burning belief that her side, the nation, the party, was always the just side. This belief she succeeded to convey with total inner conviction. It was said that her language was limited and her vocabulary poor. But this never prevented her from being a highly effective speaker. She always exuded an unmitigated assurance around her, in every word she uttered. She had an excellent debating skill and could utilize her opponents’ vulnerable spots. Analysis of her texts shows many logical weaknesses, but the way she spoke and the tone of her speech were also among the components of awe that she spread in her environment. Few dared to dispute her words after she had expressed her decreed opinion. She held the reins of the government and party with a strong and steady hand.

This assessment fails to explain why so many millions around the world mourned her death. The Israeli historian Anita Shapira wrote that she had captured the imagination of those who mourned her with unparalleled power, as a leader, a woman. Her mistakes and mishaps that lowered her image among the Israeli intellectuals and among the public at large, have never hurt her super-status as an admired personality. Even after the Yom Kippur War, she awakened the spontaneous support of many groups. After she retired from the premiership, she became a highly important, well-liked national and international figure. Somehow, her charisma continued to attract hearts with no connection to her position. There was something in her figure, lumpy, heavy, something of the strength of a rock, that succeeds to withstand the erosion of the tempests of the time, inspiring trust and confidence, because of being so stable, so unchanging, so predictable.

In the first years after her death, her name continued to echo around the world, mainly in the US, where her personality continued to be the source of much interest as seen in thousands of articles, several books, and even a television series starring Ingrid Bergman. The interest waned somewhat until the play “Golda’s Kitchen” reawakened interest in her. Several books were written about her in the early years of the present millennium, two of them in French. In Israel, too, more historians were attracted to study this figure and this led to two full-scale biographies. The publication of the protocols dealing with the Yom Kippur War and her testimonies before the Agranat Commission produced a far more balanced picture. Transcripts of her meetings with Nixon and Kissinger, and the many descriptions praising her leadership during the Yom Kippur War, helped restore her image. A number of highly uncomplimentary books about Moshe Dayan and scores of autobiographies of the participants in that cataclysmic event, also led many to reconsider their previous evaluation of Golda.

Another reason for the renewed interest in her was the many turbulent developments in Israel. The first war in Lebanon that led Begin to resign and sink into depression, the outbreak of the First Intifada, the first Gulf War, the Oslo Process, the signing of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, the failure of Oslo after the assassination of Rabin, the Second Intifada, the Second War in Lebanon, three operations in Gaza, the lackluster performance of some of her successors, all this led many in Israel to seek a strong and decisive leadership that Golda had provided. Having been followed by prime ministers like Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Olmert, no wonder that her image far overshadows theirs and now she is depicted as the symbol of adherence to values, principles, and goals, her personal integrity, her insistence on peace as she understood it, and her ability to resist international pressure. Many of her harsh critics who accused her of stubbornness, rigidity, ignoring major changes that had taken place in Israel and in the Middle East, now realize that they have erred in some of their assessments, mostly when it came to the charge that she missed an opportunity for peace with Egypt between 1970 and 1973 that led directly and inevitably to the Yom Kippur War.

There has been a revival of interest in her, also because of the three Palestinian uprisings, in view of the adamant hostile and uncompromising actions and policies of Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and Iran’s determination that Israel must be eliminated. The concept of “it is us or them”, so clearly pronounced by Golda Meir, for which she was derided and sneered at, has come back to haunt the national psyche. More Israelis now feel that she may have had a point when she claimed that she could not foresee peace between Israel and its neighbors in the near future. What is the new image that now emerges?

Golda belonged to that small and elite group of leaders who left their imprint, for better or worse, by commission and omission, on the development of Zionism, Israel, Israeli politics, Israeli society, and the Labor Movement. She was the product of the shtetl and remained an authentic representative of Eastern European Jewry for all her life. She was the personification of the Diaspora and was intuitively identified with the Diaspora’s Jewish masses. And indeed, there could be no better spokesperson for the Jewish People. Her nationalism emerged as a reaction and response to the state of the Jews in Eastern Europe, persecuted and threatened, forever on the defensive against the hostile and brutal outside world. Indeed, since her childhood, she did come into contact with this alien world and to her dying day she could never rid herself of the complex of suspecting the gentiles. Yet, she was able to forge special relationships with many of the world’s leaders, and eventually turned out to be the most impressive representative of Israel and the Jewish People, winning international acclaim in the process.

Golda learned her Zionism and what little she knew of the Jewish tradition and heritage from her elder sister, and not from her parents. Similar to other Second Aliyah leaders, she was raised on the theories of Borochov and Syrkin that fused Zionism with socialism, and was imbued with the belief that human society in general, and the Jewish People in particular, could attain great heights on their path to changing their condition and transforming their status among the nations.

The central elements of Golda Meir’s personality were unflagging and unqualified loyalty to the Zionist ideal, to socialism, and to the Labor Movement. Apart from politics, she barely had other areas of interest. She truly believed that lofty ideals could move people to action, and that eventually the Zionist ideal would triumph. From her early years until the fifth decade of her life, she had the talent and ability to acquire new ideas with relative ease and speed, to adopt and popularize them as though her own. She was capable of reacting swiftly to new circumstances, and was, on the whole, flexible. But towards the latter part of her life, at the peak of her popularity and renown, there appeared signs of mental stagnation and inflexibility. This occurred at the time when vitality and originality were so sorely needed. It happened while she was Israel’s prime minister and had to deal with highly complex and difficult issues. At the end of her stewardship, she had to grapple with the key issue of Israel’s very existence. Golda was far removed from intellectual depth, but being a highly pragmatic person, she was capable of analyzing social and political processes, setting goals and determining priorities, and even creating new organizational structures to achieve her goals.

She was a woman endowed with enormous patience. She did not possess, as did Ben-Gurion and Weizmann, traits of nervousness, or impulsiveness, nor did she display fits of anger. She had no inferiority complex regarding her origins and therefore was treated with much respect by Jews and non-Jews alike. With the latter, she spoke on the basis of equality. Non-Jewish leaders saw her as a genuine representative of the Jewish People, of the Yishuv, and later of the State of Israel. She was proud of her Jewishness and had no complexes about the Jewish tradition even though she was not observant and had little Jewish education. She never formed her own faction or bloc in the party or Movement that could be seen as her power base. She exuded an aura of enormous political power, but this created an illusion that Golda was omnipotent and could be counted upon to act correctly under any situation. The feeling only intensified the confusion when it became evident that Golda and her associates gravely misread the military-political map on the eve of the Yom Kippur War. It was then that the legend burst and her prestige plummeted at home.

She was a highly unique leader. At the beginning of her career, she rebelled against the conventions of her time and attempted to grapple with a new and unknown reality, when she fled her home and joined her sister. Later, this became evident when she decided to immigrate to Palestine. There, she and her friends who implemented the Zionist revolution in its best years, created in fact a new social and political reality, when they established the institutional infrastructure of the “State on its Way”. She and her close associates were highly successful in translating their dream into a vital organizational and institutional system, without which Israel would not have come into being and survived its early years. Rebellion ended for Golda in the 1950s, which coincided with her own age. From then on, until the end of her life, her revolutionary zeal waned and she focused on preserving the machinery, ideals, and the achievements of the past.

What was the secret of her charisma? Like any charismatic figure, she was a domineering woman, at times intolerant and occasionally fanatic when it came to her views and positions. Her charisma also derived from the feeling of her comrades, that after Ben-Gurion’s departure from the political arena in 1963, she alone remained of the generation of the giants and they saw in her also the good Jewish mother, always concerned about the fate of her children-people. But often she seemed unable to rise above current events, to think in an orderly fashion on the future of the country and devise a proper strategy to insure its existence. Golda never saw herself as the generations’ teacher and was inherently unfit to play such a role. The gap between her and Israel’s younger generation in the 1960s and 1970s was unbridgeable. She did not occupy her time wondering over issues of values and morality. She did not pose a new direction to the question of what were the values of the Labor Movement in a rapidly changing reality. How should its leaders comport themselves and how could they set a behavior pattern for others to emulate? No wonder that ideology per se never interested her and she did not contribute in any meaningful way to the ideology of the Labor Movement. She sermonized endlessly about such issues as progress, equality, unity and consensus, justice and self-realization. But even then, there was an absence of variety and sophistication, partly because of her limited command of Hebrew (and English). She never bothered to prepare her speeches carefully and chose instead to chat rather than orate. Her speeches often sounded hollow and when read today it is clear that little remains which is relevant to Jewish history.

While demanding perfection of herself and of her associates in performing her duties, she did not have the capacity to observe developments from the margins. Being a woman of action, she did not brood long over issues and therefore had to settle for a series of compromises. She disliked routine and above all lack of creativity. For her, the seven good years of her life were those spent in the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. Apart from laying the foundations for Israel’s presence in Africa, she was never taken with the routine and often dull diplomatic work in the Foreign Ministry and abhorred its outer manifestations of ceremonies and rites.

From the early 1960s, there occurred in her an inner change. From then on, until she resigned her office as prime minister in 1974, she was noted for the stratification of her thinking. Her leadership was no longer constructive and creative. She was content to play the role of mediator and arbitrator in an attempt to satisfy all the needs and demands that operated in the Israeli political and coalition systems. In a situation where human and financial resources are very limited, this role is not only thankless but virtually impossible. Instead of trying to change Israel’s governance system, revising the electoral system, altering the relations between the secular and the orthodox, trying to ameliorate the growing gap between the better-off Ashkenazi Jews and the poorer Sephardi Jews, she preferred to preserve the existing order, which was to her a symbol of stability and the only one she knew. She preferred to act through the party institutions that she knew so well: the Secretariat, the Knesset faction, the Bureau, the Central Committee, “our friends”, “our ministers”. She truly believed that she and her party were serving the principles of the Labor Movement and Zionism. Regrettably, she barely had any influence on the development of parliamentary life in Israel. Apart from key social and labor laws, her name is not connected with any significant legislation.

The central problem that faced Mapai and the Labor Movement from the 1950s was how to retain constant ideological tension, ferment, and commitment to social change. The true test of any ideological, monolithic, and militant political party lies in its success to bring about social change. Mapai succeeded in implementing its social ideology during the Mandate era and in the early years of Israel’s independence. It provided employment, education, health services, housing, welfare, and even some culture. Mapai was highly successful in ordering its priorities: security, immigration, absorption, strengthening Israel’s international position and its economic growth. But in the process, it failed to bring about a change in public views, because along the way there developed discrimination, narrow interests, and conservatism. Mapai sought to fight this phenomenon through political mechanisms aimed at preventing opportunism among the Israeli people and the crossing of party lines of some leaders due to career considerations. For many years Mapai succeeded in maintaining party discipline and keeping the leaders and the rank and file under control. But in the effort to create a new Israeli nation—Mapai failed.

The Italian leader Massimo d’Azeglio once said: “Now that we have created Italy, we have to create the Italians”. The Labor Movement created Israel but failed to mold the Israeli nation according to their ideals. The leaders realized this failure but preferred to blame the people rather than themselves. The Likud eventually turned out to be far more populist than Labor. In 1977, some of the Labor leaders thought that the election results that brought Likud to power were a mistake on the part of the electorate, sort of an accident. When the voters eventually realized their erroneous ways, they would vote Labor again. From 1977 until 2017, Labor would govern the country twice, from 1992 to 1996, with Yitzhak Rabin at the helm, and from 1999 to 2001, under Ehud Barak as prime minister. Israelis continued to cast more votes for the nationalist right-wing Likud and its Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox allies than to centrist or leftist parties. The rise and fall of Golda Meir is in more ways than one the story of the rise and fall of the Israel Labor Movement.

As a highly disciplined woman, Golda proved that positions and duty precede family, friends, sentiments, and even love. In order to fulfill the many roles entrusted to or desired by her, she in fact mortgaged her marriage and other romantic attachments. The irony was that until she became foreign minister, she continued to grow in stature. The moment she assumed the two most senior positions in the land, those of foreign and prime minister, it seemed as though she ceased to realize her potential and to develop. She never chose a successor, even though she was aware of the need to prepare future leaders for the country and party.

She was a classical product of a political party, a Socialist movement, and the Histadrut. But she preferred to promote men, and almost no women, who did not originate from these bodies. Like Ben-Gurion she opted more for senior IDF officers: Yigal Allon, Yitzhak Rabin, Chaim Bar-Lev, and Aharon Yariv, to name a few. Perhaps, subconsciously, they were promoted because they were never a threat to her leadership and standing, they would not criticize her in public. Popular labor leaders such as Yitzhak Ben-Aharon were removed from center stage. The others simply chose to remain silent fearing the prime ministerial “glance”, as Eban aptly described it. She was not known for advancing women to positions of responsibility.

Throughout her life, Golda was a superb tactician but a poor strategist. In the early 1930s, her enormous potential became apparent. From a somewhat hesitant and unsure woman, she emerged as a superb organizer and a sophisticated tactician, determined and often daring, with a growing sense of self-assurance. But as these positive traits became more evident, they were accompanied by a sense of inadequacy and the constant urge to prove that she was “somebody”. Perhaps she chose politics because of a lack of self-assurance. But she succeeded in overcoming the many doubts and hesitations that were so typical of her in the 1920s and to develop a sense of inner strength, which at times was even exaggerated. At least these were the impressions that she exuded. In the final analysis, she had a highly positive motivation of self-realization and achievement that drove her to become “somebody”, to achieve her inner needs, to gain approval, esteem, honors, love, and admiration. All these came with economic security, always important to her.

Golda was a woman with a strong urge to advance her career, but she was flexible and held her aspirations under a tight rein. She was not calculating regarding every move she made. She was less interested in the material gains that accompanied each role or function, such as salary, status, rank, grade, fringe benefits, and even power. She never sought to accumulate political power for the sake of power. She was mainly interested in what she could accomplish in the framework of each role, but also how it would further advance her career.

From her American experience, she developed the belief that institutional mechanisms would bring redemption and solve many problems. Therefore, she devoted many years to deriving the maximum benefits from those institutions in which she functioned. Since she was blessed with acute and healthy political instincts, she correctly identified the hopes placed in Mapai and the Histadrut in the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s. They were mainly in the spheres of education, health, employment, and social security. Hence, she dealt with the unemployed, created funds to stimulate employment, and acted within the Histadrut’s social services network. Towards the end of her career as prime minister, she never promised her people a bed of roses, created few expectations, and did not stir great hopes. Her leadership then seemed to have lost a sense of inspiration. She had no choice but to follow the public expectations and promise the people peace, security, economic well-being, and equality in bearing the burden and sharing national duties. As Israelis became more educated and sophisticated, they demanded the fulfillment of the promises. When it became apparent that Israel’s economy could not allow the implementation of the promises, there developed a sense of bitterness, frustration, and disappointment that seeped into many sectors. The move to that party that promised more, without worrying too much who would foot the bill—the Likud—was rapid and exploded in the May 1977 elections. The Likud garnered more power and appeal as it became evident that chances of reaching some co-existence with the Palestinians were virtually impossible.

Golda Meir probably did not understand Mao Zedong’s dictum of the need for a party to maintain close links not only with the masses but between the party’s institutions and the rank and file. The Israel Labor Party became a cumbersome and bloated bureaucratic apparatus that ceased to be a warm home to its members. It continued to be a warm nest for Golda, who may not have discerned, or refused to admit, its rapid decline. The new Israeli proletariat, whose majority was now Sephardi Jews, no longer saw Labor as a party ready to help their plight. The prevailing system was perceived by them as helping the ruling elite, the new plutocracy and the old oligarchy. They became apathetic, and later they transferred their loyalty to the Likud that openly preyed on their bitterness and growing sense of deprivation.

Golda’s attitude to the Arabs was based, too, on wrong sentiments. She was afraid of Arabs, and these fears were connected in her mind with memories of pogroms, riots, and the Holocaust. She may also have been afraid of the Arab sentiments of vengeance and grievances of which she often spoke. She could not bear to admit that perhaps the Palestinian Arabs felt that they were grievously wronged and dispossessed. She also rejected out of hand the remote possibility that some of their demands might be just. She refused to accept the sense of Arab humiliation. She refused to accept the idea that the Palestinian Arabs were people without a country. For years, she ignored the notion that there is a Palestinian identity and entity, and changed her views only after strenuous efforts to convince her otherwise. She preferred to speak at length, like Begin, and unlike Ben-Gurion, of the great trauma inflicted on the Jewish people. Once stress is laid on the horror in Jewish history, there is resistance to change in attitude. She found it hard to confront the key issue that faced Zionism from its inception: the Arab question. Her position was simple: We or they. To her, Israel was constantly at war and therefore anyone who dared challenge or question this premise was undermining Israel’s security. She railed against those who sought to shatter myths and accused them of undermining morale in times of war. Righteousness became her symbol. This also explains her impatience with the Israeli academic community and many of the country’s writers and intellectuals with whom she never found common language, and rarely made any attempt to seek one.

What remains of her half a century of toil? First and foremost, a glorious system of labor legislation in the spheres of social security, vocational training, protection of working women and children, days of rest, and other workers’ benefits. All these progressive laws were designed to realize the Zionist-Socialist principles of equality, justice, and nation building. These achievements will long be remembered and linked with Golda’s name, although the objects of these laws, immigrants from countries of distress and native-born Israelis on the lowest economic scales, turned their back on Mapai that brought them to Israel, absorbed them, and whose representative initiated this legislation. A second personal achievement is the immigration of Soviet Jews. She never wearied of this long and arduous struggle, at times dangerous and hopeless against a harsh dictatorship.

Towards the end of her life, she lived to see the beginning of the opening of the gates, but did not live to witness their final downfall after 1989, and the arrival of over a million Jews from the former Soviet Union in Israel, forever changing the face of the country. The privilege of lighting the beacon for Russian Jews will never be taken away from her. A third achievement was the laying of the foundations for Israel’s ties and presence in many Third World countries, mainly on the African continent. Even their setback during the 1973 war cannot eclipse her role in nurturing them. She also had many personal achievements in promoting Israeli-American relations in such fields as arms purchase, nuclear understanding, and economic aid, not to mention her tremendous power over American Jews. This huge community reciprocated and showered on her sentiments of love, admiration, and adulation. But most of them failed to heed her example and follow her to Israel.

One of her main achievements was the leadership she displayed during the Yom Kippur War. At the time when a number of key men in charge of Israel’s defense were wondering about the very existence of the State of Israel, she assumed command and guided the political-military-strategic decisions with an assured hand that inspired confidence in those who conducted the war. To this very day few Israelis are aware of the central role Golda Meir played in the course of that harrowing war and how her steady nerves and good common sense helped save the day. She never despaired, never criticized during the war, and supplied the government of Israel with strong leadership. Regrettably, her failure to appear in public denied the Israeli people the realization that in spite of the early failures, Israel had rallied and the IDF achieved some major victories.

But there were many searing failures, the key among them the lack of preparedness for the October 1973 War and the terrible price that it exacted from the Israeli people. Notwithstanding her own leadership role during the war, she knew deep in her heart the consequences of that event were highly negative for Israel. It undermined Israel’s international position and exposed many weaknesses. Golda was the first to admit that she and her government failed to prepare the nation for the eventuality of such a brutal war. All this led to the collapse of the self-assurance of many Israelis and sowed seeds of doubts among world Jewry and friends of Israel that its leaders knew what they were doing. A personal setback for Golda and a very bitter pill to swallow was the desertion of most of the African nations who suspended diplomatic ties with Israel in the midst of the war, caving in to Arab threats and blackmail. Friends are tested in times of need. The African governments failed to meet this test. A similar setback occurred when Golda and her associates in the Labor Movement failed to stem the chilly and deteriorating attitude of the European Socialist parties and governments in October 1973. They were in no rush to help the besieged and beleaguered Israel and some even interfered with the American effort to do so.

Her own party disintegrated during her lifetime. It lost its hegemony, deservedly, in May 1977. Golda could not stem the slow process of the party’s decline, although she did preside over the unification of the three major Labor parties in early 1968. By then, it was too late. During her brief tenure as the party’s secretary general, she could not stop the accelerating process of the party’s rot, disintegration, and its evident loss of direction due to a sick leader and two heirs-apparent waiting in the wings. She failed to give voice to the people’s aspirations and hopes after the Six-Day War. She, who began her way as a rebel, became the preserver of the values and heritage of the past. But these were no longer applicable to the needs of modern industrial Israel.

At the conclusion of the Yom Kippur War, her healthy instincts told her that she had to go. She realized it was impossible to gloss over this event as though nothing had happened. But in those very days, she was physically and emotionally drained and could not bear the thought of radical changes that must be made because of the war and its consequences for Israel. The war tested her personal courage and leadership qualities. But that was not enough. Although Israel achieved an impressive military victory, it was unable to translate these achievements into political gains. One of her glaring deficiencies as prime minister was her inability to read correctly rapidly changing situations that required quick improvisations and new ideas and policies to fit the new reality. She understood better global processes than the changes that took place in the Arab world after the 1967 war and mainly after the October 1973 war. It was hard for her to see that history flows in its own channels. As the quintessential Jewish mother, forever worried over her children, tempered by pogroms and persecution, she chose to stand on guard and to prevent any expression that could be interpreted as lack of moral justification in the righteousness of her cause. She was not among the doubters and hesitaters. While she won a legion of admirers overseas because of this trait, at home there were growing doubts over her leadership style and her capacity to read and interpret and act quickly in the face of new military, political, and economic maps. What was seen as fidelity to principles and adherence to lofty goals abroad was seen as stubbornness and obstinacy in Israel.

Among the leaders of the Yishuv and of Israel, few were fortunate to be included in the category of figures that changed history. Chaim Weizmann, Berl Katznelson, and mainly Ben-Gurion were among them. Golda Meir cannot be perceived as a historic figure that changed the annals of her nation. But there is little doubt that she was one of the main builders of the Yishuv and the State of Israel, a loyal assistant to Ben-Gurion. However, when she reached the pinnacle of her career, she was unable to develop an independent leadership style. She left her mark on the history of Israel and the Middle East between 1969 and 1974 by virtue of being the prime minister of Israel.

The answer to the question whether she contributed positively to historical developments in the region during those years is not highly flattering. Yet, she was the last authoritative leader of the Labor Movement. Her successors failed to find the answers to the significant changes facing Israeli society. Instead of grappling with them, at least one successor, Shimon Peres, sought shelter in the broad arms of a Government of National Unity with the Likud. The veteran Labor Party leaders were replaced by unimpressive figures, with the exception of Yitzhak Rabin.

A popular saying divides human beings into three categories: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who later wonder what happened. Golda began her career as a central collaborator in the making of key events in the history of the renaissance of the Jewish people. She never watched things from the sidelines. Finally, she kept asking herself during the five years of torment that remained to her after 1973—what went wrong? With the passing of time, Israelis too, wonder what happened to that special personality—Golda Meir, whose fate was to lead them in five turbulent years.

In her will she forbade naming things after her. But even while still alive, she permitted the establishment of the “Golda Meir Fund for Social Advancement of Youth from Border Regions”. Today, throughout Israel there are streets, squares, suburbs named after her. In the heart of Tel-Aviv there stands the Golda Meir Performing Center housing the Israel National Opera and theaters. Her name appeared on the doors of at least one fashionable restaurant. The paucity of great leaders in the Labor Movement brought many Israelis to cling to her memory. Many visit her grave on the official day of the commemoration of her memory.

Once a year, as the dwindling number of her admirers gather on the slopes of Mount Herzl, facing her grave which overlooks the Judean mountains, they keep wondering about the special character and image of this proud Jewess, this motherly but tough, stern, and gracious lioness among lions, loving and scathing, soft but severe woman, full of empathy, yet who could lash out mercilessly at her critics. The commander in chief during Israel’s bloodiest war, a peace lover by nature, a Labor Movement leader, and in fact the leader of the entire Jewish People. Her vision was, according to her own words: “A Jewish state in which masses of Jews from all the corners of the world continue to settle and build; Israel linked in a cooperative effort with its neighbors for the sake of all the nations in the region; Israel that will continue to be a flourishing democracy, based on the solid foundations of justice and social equality.”

When she was prime minister, she was beset with terrible dreams. A close friend, Ya’acov Hazan, once asked her if she was beset by dreams at night. She replied:

And how. But there is one terrible dream. Suddenly all the telephones in the house start ringing. I know what the ringing heralds and I am afraid to lift the many receivers. I wake up soaked in cold sweat. It’s quiet in the house. I heave a sigh of relief, but cannot fall asleep again. I know that if I fall asleep, the dream will come back. I lie and think only of this: when will this dream leave me and those who will succeed me? Then we can go back to dream all our beautiful life dreams.

The beautiful dream and the harsh reality—this was the essence of the life of Golda Meir.