Lived: October 16, 1886 – December 1, 1973
Offices held: Prime Minister of Israel (twice), Israeli Minister of Defense, Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization
Languages: In addition to his native Yiddish and Hebrew, Ben-Gurion also learned Turkish, English, Russian, French, German, and later in life, Spanish and ancient Greek.
Why you should know him: Born in Poland, David Ben-Gurion made aliyah (immigrated) to the Holy Land in 1906, where he led the struggle to establish the state of Israel in 1948. As one of the early leaders of the Zionist movement, he helped establish the state’s institutions, oversaw construction of the national water carrier, helped create what is now the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and established new towns and cities. Ben-Gurion also oversaw Operation Magic Carpet, the airlift of Jews to Israel from Arab lands. He was the first and third Prime Minister of Israel, and was heavily involved in Israeli politics until his retirement in 1970.
In his own words: “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.”