Ben-Gurion (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
David Joseph Gruen was born in the Polish village of Plonsk in 1886. His family lived on the edge of poverty, but they had ambition. His father earned a living as a writer of petitions, who knew how to mediate between the local Jews and the czarist authorities. David liked to think that his father had been a lawyer. As a small boy, David quickly proved that his large head was capable of great intellectual feats. His mother, a pious soul, wanted him to become a rabbi, while his father, who was less devout, hoped that he would be a doctor. David wanted to study law.
First and foremost, however, he saw himself as a Zionist. The Hebrew language was the key to forming a Jewish nation, he believed, and though he developed fluency in a half dozen languages over his eighty-seven years, secular modern Hebrew was his favorite. He joined Poale Zion, a Marxist Zionist party, when he was nineteen, and by the time he was twenty he was in Palestine, combining the life of a laborer with that of a political activist. As a pen name he used Ben-Gurion, a name which recalled a renowned defense minister in Jerusalem during the Jewish struggle against the Roman Empire. In 1948, David Ben-Gurion would be the defense minister of the new Israel which declared its independence of the British Empire.
Ben-Gurion’s political development went through many stages, as Shabtai Teveth, a well-respected Israeli journalist and political analyst, shows. Whether Ben-Gurion’s...
(The entire section is 1989 words.)
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Ben-Gurion (Magill Book Reviews)
In the village of Plonsk, in czarist-ruled Poland, David Joseph Gruen was born in 1886. His mother wanted the bright and ambitious boy to be a rabbi, and his father hoped that he would be a doctor. For a time he studied law, but his true calling was as a Zionist and a labor leader. The two were fully connected for him, because it was only the Jewish workers, he believed, who could make an Israeli state a reality.
Ben-Gurion was only twenty years old when he arrived in Palestine and began a career which led him to the leadership of the Labor party there. Throughout the Holocaust, he kept fighting for a Jewish state and became its first prime minister in 1948. His controversial and active career continued until his retirement in 1970, at the age of eighty-four.
Shabtai Teveth’s account reveals the bitter struggles among the Zionists as well as their struggles with the world at large. Ben-Gurion’s conflicts with Chaim Weizmann are of particular interest. Weizmann, also of Polish-Jewish origins, was regarded as “bourgeois” by Ben-Gurion, because he was well educated and well connected in Great Britain. Ben-Gurion, on the other hand, never completed his formal education, fought poverty for himself and his family for most of his life, and self-consciously saw himself as working class. He believed that the ground was “burning beneath the feet” of the Jews; therefore the founding of Israel was not simply a desirable goal, but a matter of...
(The entire section is 319 words.)
Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
Booklist. LXXXIII, June 1, 1987, p. 1489.
Choice. XXV, November, 1987, p. 535.
The Economist. CCCIV, August 29, 1987, p. 81.
Kirkus Reviews. LV, May 1, 1987, p. 709.
Library Journal. CXII, July, 1987, p. 74.
The New Republic. CXCVI, June 8, 1987, p. 48.
The New York Times Book Review. XCII, June 21, 1987, p. 3.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXI, April 17, 1987, p. 60.
The Washington Post Book World. XVII, July 5, 1987, p. 8.
(The entire section is 51 words.)