On Tuesday, January 15th, we went to the Maltz Museum on Richmond Road in Beachwood for attend a Daytime Coffee Talk in which Dr. Peter J. Haas, the Abba Hillel Silver Professor Emeritus at CWRU, spoke about David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister and Founder of the State of Israel.
During the presentation, we sat next to Ms. Erika Gold, a neat lady who volunteers countless hours of her time assisting at the Maltz. She believes in what it is doing to preserve the beautiful aspects of Jewish history and culture and share them with the community. She recognized us when we first arrived due to our steady presence at the City Club whose taped presentations she watches consistently.
In the course of his address, Dr. Haas gave a brief but detailed overview of Mr. Ben-Gurion’s life: from his 1886 birth in Plonsk, Poland to his death in 1973 in Israel. He covered Mr. Ben-Gurion’s early years as an organizer and advocate for Zionism, as well as his later years in which he laid the groundwork for the country of Israel as we know it today. You can learn more about Ben-Gurion’s life at the Jewish Virtual Library.
In addition to discussing Mr. Ben-Gurion, Dr. Haas wisely devoted time to explaining events in the Middle East and beyond that helped shape the times in which Mr. Ben-Gurion lived; otherwise, it would have been impossible to understand the man himself.
One of the things that we found particularly interesting about Mr. Ben-Gurion is that his embrace of Zionism was not based on any discrimination he encountered in his early life but for constructive reasons. In fact, Dr. Haas shared with us the following statement by Mr. Ben-Gurion:
“For many of us, anti-Semitic feeling had little to do with our dedication [to Zionism]. I personally never suffered any anti-Semitic persecution. Plonsk was remarkably free of it…Nevertheless, and I think this very significant, it was Plonsk that sent the highest number of Jews to Eretz Israel from any town in Poland of comparable size. We emigrated not for negative reasons of escape but for the positive purpose of rebuilding a homeland…Life in Plonsk was peaceful enough.”
What was most impressive of all was to hear that as Prime Minister in Israel’s early years, Mr. Ben-Gurion proved himself to be a master in terms of pulling together and uniting the different factions of the Jewish community (most of them immigrants) in order to form a very progressive society that is a model of its kind. This made us consider the abilities of most of the political leaders (both domestic and international) of today and how they seem tepid by comparison.