David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s Founding Father

David Ben-Gurion was born David Grün in Plońsk, Poland on October 16, 1886. He is widely known as Israel’s Founding Father due to his role in helping the country gain its independence. Today, there are a number of commemorative sites across Israel named after David Ben-Gurion, and many have become popular tourist attractions.

His Early Life
David Ben-Gurion was born in Poland, which was still part of the Russian Empire at the time of his birth. His father was a lawyer and a leader in the Hovevei Zion movement, and his mother died when he was 11 years old. For many years, his birth certificate was believed to be lost, but it was retrieved in Poland in 2003. It was learned that he had a twin brother who died after birth. At the age of 14, David Ben-Gurion and a friend formed Ezra, a youth club that encouraged the study of Hebrew and movement to the Holy Land.

07031102The Beginning of His Political Career
David Ben-Gurion attended the University of Warsaw in 1905 and became a member of the Poalei Zion, which was group founded by working-class Polish Jews to celebrate the social democratic party. Then, in 1906, he moved to Ottoman Palestine, Israel where he was elected to the Poalei Zion in Jaffa as chairman of the platform committee. He held a number of odd jobs between 1906 and 1912, from picking oranges to night watchman. In 1912, he decided to move to Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, where he studied law at Istanbul University. It was here that the man born David Grün adopted the name David Ben-Gurion, which he took from the famed medieval historian Joseph Ben-Gurion.

David Ben-Gurion’s American Family
At the start of the First World War, Ben-Gurion was living in Jerusalem. He was deported to Egypt in 1915, so he traveled across the globe to move to the United States. He settled in New York City and met Paula Munweis, who he married in 1917. They had three children: two daughters, Renana Leshem and Geula Ben-Eliezer, and a son, Amos. At the end of the First World War, Ben-Gurion, along with his family, returned to the land of Israel where he returned to his position as chairman of the Poalei Zion.

His Role in Israel’s Independence
After the Poalei Zion split in 1919, Ben-Gurion came to lead the centrist faction, and worked to establish several Zionist groups between that time and 1935. The Arab Revolt in the land of Israel, which occurred between 1936 and 1939, Ben-Gurion imposed “havlagah”, which is described as the restraint the Jews used to avoid retaliation for Arab attacks. He oversaw military operations in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and since he was considered the head of the Jewish Agency since 1935, he was the assumed leader of the Jewish population in the area. He officially declared Israel’s independence in 1948 on the last day of the British Mandate, and he was Israel’s first Prime Minister as of February 14, 1949.

David Ben-Gurion led Israel to its independence thanks to his beliefs, military leadership, and reputation throughout the Jewish population. Although he announced his withdrawal from politics in 1953, he served as interim prime minister in 1955 and was elected Israel’s Secretary of Defense in that same year. He died in Tel Aviv on December 1, 1973.