A Zionist from the Beginning

Stand for Israel  |  November 30, 2022

David Ben-Gurion with immigrant schoolchildren in Israel, 1950
(Photo: David Eldan/GPO)

Born David Grün in what is now Poland in 1886, the boy who would become David Ben-Gurion, the founding father of the modern state of Israel, was a Zionist from an early age. David’s father, Avigdor Grün, was inspired by the writings of Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, helped start a Zionist group of his own—Beni Zion, or the Children of Zion.

Despite his holy work of fighting for a Jewish homeland, Avigdor found life difficult. His wife died when David was just a baby, and Avigdor could not support their five children. David was forced to drop out of school once he had his bar mitzvah, as his father could not afford the boy’s education.

But David didn’t let life’s difficulties stop him. At just 14, he formed his own Zionist youth club called Ezra. The group offered Hebrew classes to local youth, and promoted aliyah (immigration to the Holy Land, then still Ottoman-ruled Palestine). In 1903, a nearby pogrom against the Jewish community found the impoverished David raising money for victims of the violent attacks.

But it wasn’t anti-Jewish hatred that led David Ben-Gurion to not just embrace Zionism, but to make aliyah to the Holy Land, and ultimately help found the modern nation of Israel. No, it was the call to fulfill biblical prophecy and return to Zion. As Ben-Gurion himself wrote, “We emigrated not for negative reasons of escape but for the positive purpose of rebuilding a homeland.”

So, for the first time, in 1906, David at last left Poland to go to the Holy Land. There, he would become just one of the countless olim through the years who have not only fulfilled promises of the Bible, but who hold future promise for the state of Israel—much like the immigrant schoolchildren seen here in 1950, being visited by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, a founding father who was once a Jewish boy named David Grün who dreamed of Zion.

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