Military Wiki
David Ben-Gurion
דָּוִד בֶּן-גּוּרִיּוֹן
Prime Minister of Israel

In office
17 May 1948 – 26 January 1954
President Chaim Weizmann
Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
Preceded by New office
Succeeded by Moshe Sharett

In office
3 November 1955 – 26 June 1963
President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
Zalman Shazar
Preceded by Moshe Sharett
Succeeded by Levi Eshkol
Chairman of the Provisional State Council of Israel

In office
14 May 1948 – 16 May 1948
Preceded by New office
Succeeded by Chaim Weizmann
Minister of Defense

In office
14 May 1948 – 26 January 1954
Prime Minister Himself
Preceded by New office
Succeeded by Pinhas Lavon

In office
21 February 1955 – 26 June 1963
Prime Minister Moshe Sharett
Preceded by Pinhas Lavon
Succeeded by Levi Eshkol
Personal details
Born David Grün
(1886-10-16)16 October 1886
Płońsk, Congress Poland
Died 1 December 1973(1973-12-01) (aged 87)
Tel HaShomer, Israel
Political party Mapai, Rafi, National List
Spouse(s) Paula Ben-Gurion
Children 3
Religion Jewish Atheism[1][2][3][4][5]

David Ben-Gurion (About this sound pronunciation ; Hebrew: דָּוִד בֶּן-גּוּרִיּוֹן‎, Arabic language: دافيد بن غوريون‎, born David Grün; (16 October 1886 – 1 December 1973) was an Israeli statesman. He was the main founder and the first Prime Minister of Israel.

Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946.[6] As head of the Jewish Agency, and later president of the Jewish Agency Executive, he became the de facto leader of the Jewish community in Palestine, and largely led its struggle for an independent Jewish state in Palestine. On 14 May 1948, he formally proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel, and was the first to sign the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which he had helped to write. Ben-Gurion led Israel during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, and united the various Jewish militias into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Subsequently, he became known as "Israel's founding father".[7]

Following the war, Ben-Gurion served as Israel's first Prime Minister. As Prime Minister, he helped build the state institutions, presiding over various national projects aimed at the development of the country. He also oversaw the absorption of vast numbers of Jews from all over the world. A centerpiece of his foreign policy was improving relationships with the West Germans. He worked very well with Konrad Adenauer's government in Bonn and West Germany provided large sums (in the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany) in compensation for Germany's prosecution of the Holocaust against the Jews.[8]

In 1954, he resigned and served as Minister of Defense, before returning to office in 1955. Under his leadership, Israel responded aggressively to Arab guerrilla attacks, and in 1956, invaded Egypt along with British and French forces after Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal.

He stepped down from office in 1963, and retired from political life in 1970. He then moved to Sde Boker, a kibbutz in the Negev desert, where he lived until his death. Posthumously, Ben-Gurion was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Important People of the 20th century.


Ben-Gurion with Paula Monbas before their marriage

David Ben-Gurion was born in Płońsk, Congress Poland, which was then part of the Russian Empire. His father, Avigdor Grün, was a lawyer and a leader in the Hovevei Zion movement. His mother, Scheindel, died when he was 11 years old. Aged 14 he and two friends formed a youth club, Ezra, promoting Hebrew studies and emigration to the Holy Land.

From left: David Ben-Gurion and Paula with youngest daughter Renana on BG's lap, daughter Geula, father Avigdor Grün and son Amos, 1929

In 1905, as a student at the University of Warsaw, he joined the Social-Democratic Jewish Workers' Party – Poalei Zion. He was arrested twice during the Russian Revolution of 1905. In 1906 he immigrated to Ottoman Palestine. He does mention his hometown in his memoirs and says: "For many of us, anti-Semitic feeling had little to do with our dedication [to Zionism]. I personally never suffered anti-Semitic persecution. Płońsk was remarkably free of it ... Nevertheless, and I think this very significant, it was Płońsk that sent the highest proportion 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 Płońsk was peaceful enough. There were three main communities: Russians, Jews and Poles. ... The number of Jews and Poles in the city were roughly equal, about five thousand each. The Jews, however, formed a compact, centralized group occupying the innermost districts whilst the Poles were more scattered, living in outlying areas and shading off into the peasantry. Consequently, when a gang of Jewish boys met a Polish gang the latter would almost inevitably represent a single suburb and thus be poorer in fighting potential than the Jews who even if their numbers were initially fewer could quickly call on reinforcements from the entire quarter. Far from being afraid of them, they were rather afraid of us. In general, however, relations were amicable, though distant."[9]

A month after his arrival he was elected to the central committee of the newly formed branch of Poalei Zion in Jaffa, becoming chairman of the party's platform committee. He advocated a more nationalist program than other more leftist/Marxist members of the committee. The following year he complained about the Russian domination of the group. At the time the Jewish population in Palestine was around 55,000 – of whom 40,000 held Russian citizenship. In 1907, having been working picking oranges at Petah Tikvah, Ben-Gurion moved to the settlements in Galilee where he worked as an agricultural labourer and withdrew from politics. In 1908 he joined an armed group acting as watchmen at Sejera. On 12 April 1909, following an attempted robbery in which an Arab from Kfar Kanna was killed, Ben-Gurion was involved in fighting in which one of the watchmen and a farmer from Sejera were killed.[10]

In 1909 he volunteered with HaShomer, a force of volunteers who helped guard isolated Jewish agricultural communities. On 7 November 1911, Ben-Gurion arrived in Thessaloniki in order to learn Turkish for his law studies. The city, which had a large Jewish community, impressed Ben-Gurion who called it "a Jewish city that has no equal in the world". He also realized there that "the Jews were capable of all types of work," from rich businessmen and professors, to merchants, craftsmen and porters.[11]

In 1912, he moved to Istanbul, the Ottoman capital, to study law at Istanbul University together with Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, and adopted the Hebrew name Ben-Gurion, after the medieval historian Joseph ben Gorion. He also worked as a journalist. Ben-Gurion saw the future as dependent on the Ottoman regime. He was living in Jerusalem at the start of the First World War where he and Ben Zvi recruited forty Jews into a Jewish militia to assist the Ottoman Army. Despite this he was deported to Egypt in March 1915. From there he made his way to the United States where he remained for three years. On his arrival he and Ben Zvi went on a tour of 35 cities in an attempt to raise a pioneer army, Hechalutz, of 10,000 men to fight on Turkey's side.[12] Settling in New York City in 1915, he met Russian-born Paula Munweis. They were married in 1917. He joined the British Army in 1918 as part of the 38th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (Jewish Legion) part of Chaytor's Force (following the Balfour Declaration in November 1917). He and his family returned to Palestine after World War I following its capture by the British from the Ottoman Empire.

Ben-Gurion in his Jewish Legion uniform, 1918

David and Paula Ben-Gurion had three children; a son, Amos, and two daughters, Geula Ben-Eliezer and Renana Leshem. Amos Ben-Gurion would become Israel's Police Deputy Inspector-General, and also the Director-General of a textile factory. He married an Irish woman who converted to Judaism. He and his wife Mary had two daughters and a son, and six granddaughters. Geula had two sons and a daughter, and Renana, who worked as a microbiologist at the Israel Institute for Biological Research, had a son.[13]

Zionist leadership

After the death of theorist Ber Borochov, the left-wing and right-wing of Poalei Zion split in 1919 with Ben-Gurion and his friend Berl Katznelson leading the right faction of the Labor Zionist movement. The Right Poalei Zion formed Ahdut HaAvoda with Ben-Gurion as leader in 1919. In 1920 he assisted in the formation and subsequently became general secretary of the Histadrut, the Zionist Labor Federation in Palestine. At Ahdut HaAvoda's 3rd Congress, held in 1924 at Ein Harod, Shlomo Kaplansky, a veteran leader from Poalei Zion, proposed that the party should support British Mandatory authorities plans for setting up an elected legislative council in Palestine. He argued that a Parliament, even with an Arab majority, was the way forward. Ben-Gurion, already emerging as the leader of the Yishuv, succeeded in getting Kaplansky's ideas rejected.[14]

In 1930, Hapoel Hatzair (founded by A. D. Gordon in 1905) and Ahdut HaAvoda joined forces to create Mapai, the more right-wing Zionist labor party (it was still a left-wing organization, but not as far-left as other factions) under Ben-Gurion's leadership. In the 1940s the left-wing of Mapai broke away to form Mapam. Labor Zionism became the dominant tendency in the World Zionist Organization and in 1935 Ben-Gurion became chairman of the executive committee of the Jewish Agency, a role he kept until the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Ben-Gurion believed that the sparsely populated and barren Negev desert offered a great opportunity for the Jews to settle in Palestine with minimal obstruction of the Arab population, and set a personal example by settling in kibbutz Sde Boker at the centre of the Negev.[15]

During the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, Ben-Gurion instigated a policy of restraint ("Havlagah") in which the Haganah and other Jewish groups did not retaliate for Arab attacks against Jewish civilians, concentrating only on self-defense. In 1937, the Peel Commission recommended partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab areas and Ben-Gurion supported this policy.[16] This led to conflict with Ze'ev Jabotinsky who opposed partition and as a result Jabotinsky's supporters split with the Haganah and abandoned Havlagah.

The Ben-Gurion House, where he lived from 1931 on, and for part of each year after 1953, is now a museum in Tel Aviv.

In 1946, Ben-Gurion and North Vietnam's Politburo chairman Ho Chi Minh stayed at the same hotel in Paris, and became very friendly.[17][18] Ho Chi Minh offered Ben Gurion a Jewish home-in-exile in Vietnam.[17][18] Ben-Gurion turned the offer down, however, telling Ho Chi Minh: "I am certain we shall be able to establish a Jewish Government in Palestine."[17][18]

Views and opinions

Attitude towards the Arabs

Ben-Gurion published two volumes setting out his views on relations between Zionists and the Arab world: We and Our Neighbors, published in 1931, and My Meetings with Arab Leaders published in 1967. Ben-Gurion believed in the equal rights of Arabs who remained in and would become citizens of Israel. He was quoted as saying, "We must start working in Jaffa. Jaffa must employ Arab workers. And there is a question of their wages. I believe that they should receive the same wage as a Jewish worker. An Arab has also the right to be elected president of the state, should he be elected by all."[19]

Ben-Gurion recognized the strong attachment of Palestinian Arabs to the land and in an address to the United Nations on 2 October 1947, he doubted the likelihood of peace:

This is our native land; it is not as birds of passage that we return to it. But it is situated in an area engulfed by Arabic-speaking people, mainly followers of Islam. Now, if ever, we must do more than make peace with them; we must achieve collaboration and alliance on equal terms. Remember what Arab delegations from Palestine and its neighbors say in the General Assembly and in other places, talk of Arab-Jewish amity sound fantastic, for the Arabs do not wish it, they will not sit at the same table with us, they want to treat us as they do the Jews of Bagdad, Cairo, and Damascus.[20]

Nahum Goldmann criticized Ben-Gurion for what he viewed as a confrontational approach to the Arab world. Goldmann wrote, "Ben-Gurion is the man principally responsible for the anti-Arab policy, because it was he who molded the thinking of generations of Israelis."[21] Simha Flapan quoted Ben-Gurion as stating in 1938: "I believe in our power, in our power which will grow, and if it will grow agreement will come..."[22]

In 1909, Ben-Gurion attempted to learn Arabic but gave up. He later became fluent in Turkish. The only other languages he was able to use when in discussions with Arab leaders were English, and to a lesser extent, French.[23]

Attitude towards the British

The British 1939 White paper stipulated that Jewish immigration to Palestine was to be limited to 15,000 a year for the first five years, and would subsequently be contingent on Arab consent. Restrictions were also placed on the rights of Jews to buy land from Arabs. After this Ben-Gurion changed his policy towards the British, stating: "Peace in Palestine is not the best situation for thwarting the policy of the White Paper".[24] Ben-Gurion believed a peaceful solution with the Arabs had no chance and soon began preparing the Yishuv for war. According to Teveth 'through his campaign to mobilize the Yishuv in support of the British war effort, he strove to build the nucleus of a "Hebrew army", and his success in this endeavor later brought victory to Zionism in the struggle to establish a Jewish state.'[25]

During the Second World War, Ben-Gurion encouraged the Jewish population to volunteer for the British Army. He famously told Jews to "support the British as if there is no White Paper and oppose the White Paper as if there is no war".[26] About 10% of the Jewish population of Palestine volunteered for the British Army, including many women. At the same time Ben-Gurion assisted the illegal immigration of thousands of European Jewish refugees to Palestine during a period when the British placed heavy restrictions on Jewish immigration.

In 1946, Ben-Gurion agreed that the Haganah could cooperate with Menachem Begin's Irgun in fighting the British, who continued to restrict Jewish immigration. Ben-Gurion initially agreed to Begin's plan to carry out the 1946 King David Hotel bombing, with the intent of embarrassing (rather than killing) the British military stationed there. However, when the risks of mass killing became apparent, Ben-Gurion told Begin to call the operation off; Begin refused.[27]

Illegal Jewish migration led to pressure on the British to either allow Jewish migration (as required by the League of Nations Mandate) or quit – they did the latter in 1948, not changing their restrictions, on the heels of a United Nations resolution partitioning the territory between the Jews and Arabs.

Religious parties and status quo

In September 1947 Ben-Gurion reached a status quo agreement with the Orthodox Agudat Yisrael party. He sent a letter to Agudat Yisrael stating that while he is committed to establishing a non-theocratic state with freedom of religion he is promising that Shabbat would be Israel's official day of rest, that in State-provided kitchens there will be access to Kosher food, that every effort will be made to provide a single jurisdiction for Jewish family affairs, and that each sector would be granted autonomy in the sphere of education, provided minimum standards regarding the curriculum are observed.[28]

To a large extent this letter (or agreement) provided a framework for religious affairs in Israel (e.g. no civil marriages, just as in Mandate times) and is often a benchmark to which the status[Clarification needed] is compared.

Modern Orthodox philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz considered Ben-Gurion "to have hated Judaism more than any other man he had met."[29]

Formative influences

In Ben Gurion: A Political Life by Peres and David Landau, former editor in chief of Haaretz newspaper, Shimon Peres recalls his first meeting with Ben-Gurion as a young activist in the No'ar Ha'Oved youth movement. Ben-Gurion gave him a lift to Haifa. Towards the end of the ride, Ben-Gurion told him that he preferred Lenin to Trotsky because he was "decisive." [30]

Military leadership

David Ben Gurion visits 101 "First Fighter" Squadron.

During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War Ben-Gurion oversaw the nascent state's military operations. During the first weeks of Israel's independence, he ordered all militias to be replaced by one national army, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). To that end, Ben-Gurion used a firm hand during the Altalena Affair, a ship carrying arms purchased by the Irgun. He insisted that all weapons be handed over to the IDF. When fighting broke out on the Tel Aviv beach he ordered it be taken by force and to shell the ship. Sixteen Irgun fighters and three IDF soldiers were killed in this battle. Following the policy of a unified military force, he also ordered that the Palmach headquarters be disbanded and its units be integrated with the rest of the IDF, to the chagrin of many of its members. His attempts to reduce the number of Mapam members in the senior ranks led to the "Generals' Revolt" in June 1948. As head of the Jewish Agency, Ben-Gurion was de facto leader of Jewish population even before the state was declared. In this position, Ben-Gurion played a major role in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War When the IDF archives and others were opened in the late 1980s, scholars started to reconsider the events and the role of Ben-Gurion.[31]

Founding of Israel

David Ben-Gurion proclaiming independence beneath a large portrait of Theodor Herzl, founder of modern Zionism

U.S. President Harry S. Truman in the Oval Office, receiving a Menorah as a gift from the Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion (center). To the right is Abba Eban, the Ambassador of Israel to the United States.

On 14 May, on the last day of the British Mandate, Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the state of Israel. In the Israeli declaration of independence, he stated that the new nation would "uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race".

In his War Diaries in February 1948, Ben-Gurion wrote: "The war shall give us the land. The concepts of 'ours' and 'not ours' are peace concepts only, and they lose their meaning during war."[32] Also later he confirmed this by stating that, "In the Negev we shall not buy the land. We shall conquer it. You forget that we are at war."[32]

After leading Israel during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Ben-Gurion was elected Prime Minister of Israel when his Mapai (Labour) party won the largest number of Knesset seats in the first national election, held on 14 February 1949. He would remain in that post until 1963, except for a period of nearly two years between 1954 and 1955. As Prime Minister, he oversaw the establishment of the state's institutions. He presided over various national projects aimed at the rapid development of the country and its population: Operation Magic Carpet, the airlift of Jews from Arab countries, the construction of the National Water Carrier, rural development projects and the establishment of new towns and cities. In particular, he called for pioneering settlement in outlying areas, especially in the Negev. Ben-Gurion saw the struggle to make the Negev desert bloom as an area where the Jewish people could make a major contribution to humanity as a whole.[15]

During this period, Palestinian fedayeen repeatedly infiltrated into Israel from Arab territory. In 1953, after a handful of unsuccessful retaliatory actions, Ben-Gurion charged Ariel Sharon, then security chief of the northern region, with setting up a new commando unit designed to respond to fedayeen infiltrations. Ben-Gurion told Sharon, "The Palestinians must learn that they will pay a high price for Israeli lives." Sharon formed Unit 101, a small commando unit answerable directly to the IDF General Staff tasked with retaliating for fedayeen raids. During its five months of existence, the unit launched repeated raids against military targets and villages used as bases by the fedayeen.[33] These attacks became known as the Reprisal operations.

In 1953, Ben-Gurion announced his intention to withdraw from government and was replaced by Moshe Sharett, who was elected the second Prime Minister of Israel in January 1954. However, Ben-Gurion temporarily served as acting prime minister when Sharett visited the United States in 1955. During Ben-Gurion's tenure as acting prime minister, the IDF carried out Operation Olive Leaves, a successful attack on fortified Syrian emplacements near the northeastern shores of the Sea of Galilee. The operation was a response to Syrian attacks on Israeli fishermen. Ben-Gurion had ordered the operation without consulting the Israeli cabinet and seeking a vote on the matter, and Sharett would later bitterly complain that Ben-Gurion had exceeded his authority.[34]

Ben-Gurion returned to government in 1955. He assumed the post of Defense Minister and was soon re-elected prime minister. When Ben-Gurion returned to government, Israeli forces began responding more aggressively to Egyptian-sponsored Palestinian guerilla attacks from Gaza—still under Egyptian rule. The growing cycle of violence led Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser to build up his arms with the help of the Soviet Union. The Israelis responded by arming themselves with help from France. Nasser blocked the passage of Israeli ships through the Straits of Tiran and the Suez Canal. In July 1956, the United States and Britain withdrew their offer to fund the Aswan High Dam project on the Nile and a week later, Nasser ordered the nationalization of the French and British-controlled Suez Canal. Ben-Gurion collaborated with the British and French to plan the 1956 Sinai War in which Israel invaded and occupied Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, thus giving British and French forces a pretext to militarily intervene against Egypt in order to secure the Suez Canal. Intervention by the United States and the United Nations forced the British and French to back down and Israel to withdraw from Sinai in return for promises of free navigation through the Red Sea and Suez Canal. A UN force was stationed between Egypt and Israel.

In 1959, David Ben-Gurion learned from West German officials of reports that the notorious Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann, was likely living in hiding in Argentina. In response, Ben-Gurion ordered the Israel foreign intelligence service, the Mossad, to capture the international fugitive alive for trial in Israel. In 1960, this mission was accomplished and Eichmann was tried and convicted in an internationally publicized trial for various offenses including crimes against humanity, and was subsequently executed in 1962.

Ben-Gurion is said to have been "nearly obsessed" with Israel obtaining nuclear weapons, feeling that a nuclear arsenal was the only way to counter the Arabs' superiority in numbers, space, and financial resources, and that it was the only sure guarantee of Israel's survival and the prevention of another Holocaust.[35]

David Ben-Gurion speaking at the Knesset, 1957

Ben-Gurion stepped down as prime minister for personal reasons in 1963, and chose Levi Eshkol as his successor. A year later a rivalry developed between the two on the issue of the Lavon Affair, a failed 1954 Israeli covert operation in Egypt. Ben-Gurion had insisted that the operation be properly investigated, while Eshkol refused. Ben-Gurion subsequently broke with Mapai in June 1965 and formed a new party, Rafi, while Mapai merged with Ahdut HaAvoda to form , with Eshkol as its head. Alignment defeated Rafi in the November 1965 election, establishing Eshkol as the country's leader.

Later political career

In May 1967, Egypt began deploying forces in the Sinai after expelling UN peacekeepers and closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. This, together with the actions of other Arab states, caused Israel to begin preparing for war. The situation lasted until the outbreak of the Six-Day War on 5 June. In Jerusalem, there were calls for a national unity government or an emergency government. During this period, Ben-Gurion met with his old rival Menachem Begin in Sde Boker. Begin asked Ben-Gurion to join Eshkol's national unity government. Although Eshkol's Mapai party initially opposed the widening of its government, it eventually changed its mind.[36] On 23 May, IDF Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin met with Ben-Gurion to ask for reassurance. Ben-Gurion, however, accused Rabin of putting Israel in mortal danger by mobilizing the reserves and openly preparing for war with an Arab coalition. Ben-Gurion told Rabin that at the very least, he should have obtained the support of a foreign power, as he had done during the Suez Crisis. Rabin was shaken by the meeting and took to bed for 36 hours.

On 5 June, the Six-Day War began with a preemptive Israeli air strike that decimated the Egyptian air force. Israel then captured the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria in a series of ground offensives. Following the war, Ben-Gurion was in favour of returning all the captured territories apart from East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Mount Hebron as part of a peace agreement.[37]

On 11 June, Ben-Gurion met with a small group of supporters in his home. During the meeting, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan proposed autonomy for the West Bank, the transfer of Gazan refugees to Jordan, and a united Jerusalem serving as Israel's capital. Ben-Gurion agreed with him, but foresaw problems in transferring Palestinian refugees from Gaza to Jordan, and recommended that Israel insist on direct talks with Egypt, favoring withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for peace and free navigation through the Straits of Tiran. The following day, he met with Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek in his Knesset office. Despite occupying a lower executive position, Ben-Gurion treated Kollek like a subordinate.[38]

Following the Six-Day War, Ben-Gurion criticized what he saw as the government's apathy towards the construction and development of the city. To ensure that a united Jerusalem remained in Israeli hands, he advocated a massive Jewish settlement program for the Old City and the hills surrounding the city, as well as the establishment of large industries in the Jerusalem area to attract Jewish migrants. He argued that no Arabs would have to be evicted in the process.[38] Ben-Gurion also urged extensive Jewish settlement in Hebron.

In 1968, when Rafi merged with Mapai to form the , Ben-Gurion refused to reconcile with his old party. He favoured electoral reforms in which a constituency-based system would replace what he saw as a chaotic proportional representation method. He formed another new party, the National List, which won four seats in the 1969 election.

Graves of Paula and David Ben-Gurion, Midreshet Ben-Gurion

Final years and death

Ben-Gurion retired from politics in 1970 and spent his last years living in a modest home on the kibbutz, working on an 11-volume history of Israel's early years. In 1971, he visited Israeli positions along the Suez Canal during the War of Attrition.

On 18 November 1973, Ben-Gurion suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, and was taken to Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer. During the first week of after stroke, he received visits from many high-ranking officials, including Prime Minister Golda Meir. His condition began deteriorating on 23 November, and he died on 1 December. His death and stroke took place during the immediate aftermath of the Yom Kippur War. As he was dying, his grandson Alon, who fought as a paratrooper in the war, was also hospitalized for shrapnel wounds sustained in combat.[39] His body lay in state in the Knesset compound before being flown by helicopter to Sde Boker. Sirens sounded across the entire country to mark his death. He was buried in a simple funeral alongside his wife Paula at Midreshet Ben-Gurion.


  • In both 1951 and 1971, Ben-Gurion was awarded the Bialik Prize for Jewish thought.[40]
  • In 2005, he was voted the 2nd-greatest Israeli of all time, after Yitzhak Rabin, in a poll by the Israeli news website Ynet to determine whom the general public considered the 200 Greatest Israelis.[41]


Sculpture of David Ben-Gurion at Ben Gurion International Airport, named in his honor

  • Israel's largest airport, Ben Gurion International Airport is named in his honor.
  • One of Israel's major universities, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, located in Beersheva, is named after him.
  • Numerous streets, as well as schools, throughout Israel have been named after him.
  • An Israeli modification of the British Centurion Tank was named after Ben-Gurion
  • Ben-Gurion's Hut in Kibbutz Sde Boker which is now a visitor's center.
  • A desert research center, Midreshet Ben-Gurion, near his "hut" in Kibbutz Sde Boker has been named in his honor. Ben-Gurion's grave is in the research center.
  • An English Heritage blue plaque, unveiled in 1986, marks where Ben-Gurion lived in London at 75 Warrington Crescent, Maida Vale, W9.[42]
  • Is also a chapter in the Pacific Coast Region of The B'nai B'rith Youth Organization in Pomona, California.
  • In the 7th arrondissement of Paris, part of a riverside promenade of the Seine is named after him.[43]
  • His portrait appears on both the 500 lirot[44] and the 50 (old) sheqalim notes issued by the Bank of Israel.[45]

See also


  1. Zev Chafets (2008). A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man's Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance. HarperCollins. p. 37. ISBN 9780060890599. "“To be a realist here, you have to believe in miracles,” David Ben-Gurion once remarked. He didn't believe that literally, of course; he was an atheist. But he insisted that his offi- cials and generals take Old Testament names." 
  2. Tariq Ali (2003). The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (2 ed.). Verso. p. 10. ISBN 9781859844571. "Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan were self-proclaimed atheists." 
  3. Karen Armstrong (1997). Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths. Random House Digital, Inc.. p. 369. ISBN 9780345391681. "Even a committed atheist like Ben-Gurion found its sacred position on his own emotional map more compelling than the demographic and historical facts that were staring him in the face." 
  4. Jonathan B. Isacoff (2006). "2". Writing the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Pragmatism And Historical Inquiry. Lexington Books. p. 54. ISBN 9780739112731. "David Ben-Gurion makes an especially fascinating study as a spokesman for Jewish messianic teleology in that by most accounts he was a secular atheist." 
  5. Eyal Chowers (2012). The Political Philosophy of Zionism: Trading Jewish Words for a Hebraic Land. Cambridge University Press. p. 124. ISBN 9781107005945. "David Ben-Gurion (1886–1973), the first prime minister of Israel and its foremost politician in the age...Though an atheist, he saw the Bible as the most important source for shaping the new Hebrew's identity..." 
  6. Brenner, Michael; Frisch, Shelley (April 2003). Zionism: A Brief History. Markus Wiener Publishers. p. 184. 
  7. BBC ON THIS DAY | 1 | 1973: Israel's founding father dies – BBC
  8. George Lavy, Germany and Israel: moral debt and national interest (1996) p. 45
  9. Memoirs : David Ben-Gurion (1970), p. 36.
  10. Teveth, Shabtai (1985) Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs. From Peace to War. Oxford University Pres. ISBN 0-19-503562-3. Ezra – pp. 3, 4; Paolei Zion – p. 6; central committee – p. 9; populations—pp. 10, 21; Galilee pp. 12, 14–15.
  11., Gila Hadar, "Space and Time in Salonika on the Eve of World War II and the Expulsion and Extermination of Salonika Jewry", Yalkut Moseshet 4, Winter 2006
  12. Teveth, Shabtai (1985) Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs. From Peace to War. Oxford University Pres. ISBN 0-19-503562-3. pp. 25, 26.
  13. Beckerman, Gal (09/01/2013). "The apples sometimes fall far from the tree". 
  14. Teveth, Shabtai (1985) Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs. From Peace to War. Oxford University Pres. ISBN 0-19-503562-3. pp. 66–70
  15. 15.0 15.1 Importance of the Negev David Ben-Gurion, 17 January 1955 (Hebrew)
  16. Morris, Benny (3 October 2002). "Two years of the intifada – A new exodus for the Middle East?". Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 "Ben-gurion Reveals Suggestion of North Vietnam’s Communist Leader". 8 November 1966. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 "ISRAEL WAS EVERTHING". 21 June 1987. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  19. Efraim Karsh, "Fabricating Israeli history: the 'new historians'", Edition 2, Routledge, 2000, ISBN 978-0-7146-5011-1, p. 213.
  20. David Ben-Gurion, statement to the Assembly of Palestine Jewry, 2 October 1947
  21. Nahum Goldmann, The Jewish Paradox A Personal Memoir, translated by Steve Cox, 1978, ISBN 0-448-15166-9, pp. 98, 99, 100
  22. Simha Flapan, Zionism and the Palestinians, 1979, ISBN 0-85664-499-4, pp. 142–144
  23. Teveth, Shabtai (1985) Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs. From Peace to War. Oxford University Pres. ISBN 0-19-503562-3. p. 118.
  24. S. Teveth, 1985, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs, p. 199
  25. S. Teveth, 1985, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs, p. 200
  26. Ben-Gurion's road to the State Ben-Gurion Archives (Hebrew)
  27. Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews, p. 523.
  28. The Status Quo Letter, in Hebrew
  29. Michael Prior (12 November 2012). Zionism and the State of Israel: A Moral Inquiry. Routledge. pp. 293–. ISBN 978-1-134-62877-3. Retrieved 20 May 2013. 
  30. Secrets of Ben-Gurion's Leadership
  31. See e.g. Benny Morris, the Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem and The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited
  32. 32.0 32.1 Mêrôn Benveniśtî, Sacred landscape: the buried history of the Holy Land since 1948, p. 120
  33. "Unit 101 (Israel) | ||". Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  34. Vital (2001), p. 182
  35. Zaki Shalom, Israel's Nuclear Option: Behind the Scenes Diplomacy Between Dimona and Washington, (Portland, Ore.: Sussex Academic Press, 2005), p. 44
  36. "The Six Day War – May 1967, one moment before – Israel News, Ynetnews". 20 June 1995.,7340,L-3407901,00.html. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  37. Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill, The Six Day War, 1967 p. 199 citing The World at One, BBC radio, 12 July 1967
  38. 38.0 38.1 Shalom, Zaki: Ben-Gurion's political struggles, 1963–1967
  39. The Evening Independent (1 December 1973 issue)
  40. "List of Bialik Prize recipients 1933–2004" (in Hebrew). Tel Aviv Municipality website. 
  41. גיא בניוביץ' (20 June 1995). "הישראלי מספר 1: יצחק רבין – תרבות ובידור". Ynet.,7340,L-3083171,00.html. Retrieved 10 July 2011. 
  42. "BEN-GURION, DAVID (1886–1973)". English Heritage. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  43. Byron, Joseph (15 May 2010). "Paris Mayor inaugurates David Ben-Gurion esplanade along Seine river, rejects protests". European Jewish Press. Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  44. "BANKNOTE COLLECTION". Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  45. "BANKNOTE COLLECTION". Retrieved 3 August 2012. 

Further reading

  • Aronson, Shlomo (2011). David Ben-Gurion and the Jewish Renaissance. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-19748-9. .
  • Peres, Shimon (2011). Ben-Gurion, Schocken Pub., ISBN 978-0-8052-4282-9.
  • Teveth, Shabtai (1985). Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs: from peace to war. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-503562-9. 
  • Teveth, Shabtai (1996). Ben-Gurion and the Holocaust. Harcourt Brace & Co.. 
  • Teveth, Shabtai (1997). The Burning Ground. A biography of David Ben-Gurion. Schoken, Tel Aviv.. 
  • St. John, Robert William (1961), Builder of Israel; the story of Ben-Gurion, Doubleday

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