Golda at War

Stand for Israel  |  September 18, 2023

As one of the Israelis we know (and love) the most, Golda Meir has featured prominently in past posts: her childhood in Ukraine, her upbringing in and relationship with America, and even her chicken soup! But as the Jewish people are in the High Holy Days, and with a recent movie focusing on Meir’s time as Prime Minister during a particularly turbulent time in the short and oft-tumultuous history of modern Israel—the Yom Kippur War of 1973, which occurred during this sacred season—this week we wanted to share a clip from the film, as well as an excerpt of a timely and insightful article by The Smithsonian’s Sonja Anderson:

Before Golda Meir accepted the nomination for prime minister of Israel on March 7, 1969, she spent a sleepless night smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and consulting her children on whether to take the job. At age 70, she had plenty to keep her occupied besides her career. She wanted to spend time with her children and grandchildren, and she had serious health issues to address, including shingles and lymphoma. But she also carried a fierce loyalty to the nation she’d helped form. Feeling she must lead it, Meir accepted the nomination, becoming Israel’s first—and to date only—woman prime minister.

Meir held that position until 1974, earning the praise and admiration of her people in the first years of her term and their scorn in the final ones. In October 1973, a coalition of Arab nations attacked Israel, killing 2,656 Israeli soldiers and wounding thousands more. Victory came, but Israelis could neither forgive nor forget the cost of the Yom Kippur War, as the conflict would later be known…

On October 6, 1973, Arab forces attacked Israel, surprising soldiers who were with their families for Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. When the phone rang that day, “I was told that there is no doubt it is starting today … and I knew that we weren’t ready for it to start then,” Meir recalled in an interview. “Those were terrible hours. Some people can easily take themselves out of the equation. I can’t. And I often said, I will never be as I was before the Yom Kippur War…”