David Ben-Gurion (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Ben-Gurion dreamed of the state of Israel, then turned that vision into reality. As Israel’s first prime minister and defense minister, he laid a solid foundation for the country’s survival and prosperity; as its leading statesman, he established the principles that continue to guide it.
The son of Avigdor and Sheindel (Friedman) Gruen, David Ben-Gurion was born in Płónsk, Poland, on October 16, 1886. His father was a local leader in Hovevai Zion (lovers of Zion), a forerunner of the Zionist movement, and a product of the Haskalah (Jewish enlightenment), which sought to fuse traditional and modern thought and to revive Hebrew as a living language. At the age of fourteen, he and two friends organized the Ezra Society to teach local children to speak and write Hebrew. Despite opposition from religious leaders who regarded Hebrew as too sacred for daily use, the group attracted 150 students.
Along with his love of Israel, the young Ben-Gurion was imbibing socialist principles. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Leo Tolstoy, and Abraham Mapu shaped his politics, and in 1905 he joined Poalei Zion (workers of Zion), which sought to build a workers’ state in Israel. A natural organizer and orator, Ben-Gurion united the seamstresses of Płónsk to strike for a shorter workday, and he repeatedly outdebated non-Zionist opponents who argued for assimilation and socialist revolution in Europe....
(The entire section is 2499 words.)
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