Posted on January 14, 2016
This post appears in the WIZO Lapid magazine “Women taking the lead”. The magazine is not available online.
I have often wondered what I would say to you if I ever was to meet you. What would a relatively new Olah say to one of the greatest leaders of all time? You were Israel’s fourth Prime Minister and remain an inspiration to this day. You give the impression that even though you were a formidable leader, you were still savta Golda, with your trademark bun and cigarette, an approachable bubbe who we could count on for advice.
It is 2016 and the tiny little country that you helped birth is a thriving, cosmopolitan and beautifully flawed democracy. Women’s rights have grown in leaps and bounds since you paved the way for us to realise we can become so much more than we ever thought we could. We are pioneers and trailblazers, entrepreneurs and home makers, politicians and doctors, ballerinas, soldiers and teachers. We are nation builders. In a neighbourhood where women are silenced, persecuted, raped and denied basic human rights, Israel’s women are the backbone of our great state.
A lot of this we owe to you.
You mentioned in your memoir of how emotional it was to sign the declaration of Independence next to another great woman, Rachel Kagan. She was a WIZO woman and today, we have over 800 projects across the country where we work very hard for an improved Israeli society. Daycare centres and battered women shelters, leadership programmes and schools, Golda, what naches you would feel!
Dear Golda, Israel has always been the birthplace of ideas. You were so proud of this fact and always encouraged education and now we are world leaders in science, medicine, agriculture and technology. We have been renamed “The Start Up nation”. You would be amazed at the incredible creativity bursting from our young, innovative citizens. We never lose hope that our neighbours will choose to educate their children to become members of the start-up generation instead of educating them with hate filled rhetoric.
One of your most memorable quotes was that there would be peace when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us. Golda, it breaks my heart to tell you that this has not changed. You wrote in your memoir “My Life” that you worried about preparing the next generation of 9 and 10 year old for the army. As I write this, we are enduring a horrendous wave of terror. Sadly, the same incitement and terror that you worried and opined about has not stopped and we have had to fight several more wars and endure two “Intifadas” as a result of such hostility. But you know we are a stubborn people and we sanctify life and will never lose our hope for peace.
We have mourned together and suffered loss as a nation. Our heads have been bowed but our spirits have never been broken. Our defiant love for life sustains and motivates us to carry on. At a time when stones are weapons of war, we use ours to build homes. When barbaric terrorists behead their victims, we use ours to look for groundbreaking solutions and at a time where women are maligned and mistreated in our neighbourhood, we endeavor to follow in your trailblazing footprints.
Dear Golda, you raised the ire of some but I reckon if people applaud every single thing you do, you probably aren’t doing your job effectively enough. You sometimes made decisions that were not always popular but as a true leader, always had Israel’s best interests at heart.
Africa held a special place in your heart and you believed that many of the countries shared a similar history and yearning for statehood that we did. You would be delighted to see the contribution Israel is making on the continent in helping with sustainability and growth. We pride ourselves in living up to the tenet of tikkun olam and wherever there is a crisis or natural disaster, you will find Israel leading the way. Our enemy Syria has been engaged in a civil war for four years and despite this, Israel has saved over 2000 lives.
You would be amused that some of your most awe-inspiring quotes are used by us, generations later, to effectively communicate how much we love our country and how we share the same frustrations you did. You had a way with words and in today’s technologically driven world I cannot help but wonder what you would have thought about social media and its importance in telling Israel’s story? You even created some controversy lately when a media watchdog site posted a picture of you with one of your legendary quotes. Today we will not be silent in the face of adversity and anti-Semitism and even though you are no longer with us, your words continue to inspire us and give us fortitude.
Dear Golda, we may not share the same taste in shoes but I would so love to join you in a celebratory glass of your favourite Israeli wine and toast to Israel, to her pioneering women and to you, a venerable leader who burst through the ceilings, raised the standards and blazed a glowing trail. L’Chaim!