Golda and Morris married in 1917. Settling in Palestine was Golda's
precondition for the marriage. A short time after their wedding,
Golda embarked on a fundraising campaign for Poale Zion that took her
across the United States. Finding herself pregnant, she underwent
an abortion because she felt "her Zionist obligations simply did not
leave room for a child." The couple moved to Palestine in 1921
together with Golda's sister Sheyna.
Aliyah to Palestine
Golda Meir in the fields at Kibbutz MerhaviaIn Palestine, the couple
joined a kibbutz. Their inital application to Kibbutz Merhavya in the
Jezreel Valley was rejected, but in the end they were accepted.
Golda's duties included picking almonds, planting trees, working in
the chicken coops and running the kitchen. Recognizing her leadership
abilities, the kibbutz chose her as its representative to the
Histadrut, the General Federation of Labour. In 1924, Golda and her
husband left the kibbutz and resided briefly in Tel Aviv before
settling in Jerusalem. There they had two children, a son Menachem
(born 1924) and a daughter Sarah (born 1926). In 1928, Golda was
elected secretary of Moetzet HaPoalot (Working Women's Council), which
required her to spend two years (1932-34) as an emissary in the United
States. The children went with her, but Morris stayed in
Jerusalem. Morris and Golda grew apart and eventually divorced.
Morris died in 1951.
In 1934, when Meir returned from the United States, she joined the
Executive Committee of the Histadrut and moved up the ranks to become
head of its Political Department. This appointment was important
training for her future role in Israeli leadership.
In July 1938, Meir was the Jewish observer from Palestine at the Évian
Conference, called by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt to discuss
the question of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. Delegates
from the 32 invited countries repeatedly expressed their sorrow for
the plight of the European Jews but made excuses as to why their
countries could not help by admitting the refugees.Meir was
disappointed at the outcome and remarked to the press, "There is only
one thing I hope to see before I die and that is that my people should
not need expressions of sympathy anymore".
Pre-state political role
In June 1946, the British cracked down on the Zionist movement in
Palestine, arresting many leaders of the Yishuv. Meir took over as
acting head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency during
the incarceration of Moshe Sharett. Thus she became the principal
negotiator between the Jews in Palestine and the British Mandatory
authorities. After his release, Sharett went to the United States to
attend talks on the UN Partition Plan, leaving Meir to head the
Political Department until the establishment of the state in 1948.
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|In January 1948, the treasurer of the Jewish Agency was convinced that
Israel would not be able to raise more than $7-8 million from the
American Jewish community. Meir traveled to the United States and
managed to raise $50 million, which was used to purchase arms for the
nascent state in Europe. Ben-Gurion wrote that Meir's role as the
"Jewish woman who got the money which made the state possible," would
go down one day in the history books. 
On May 10, 1948, four days before the official establishment of the
state, Meir traveled to Amman disguised as an Arab woman for a secret
meeting with King Abdullah of TransJordan at which she urged him not
to join the other Arab countries in attacking the Jews. Abdullah asked
her not to hurry to proclaim a state. Golda, known for her acerbic
wit, replied: "We've been waiting for 2,000 years. Is that
As head of the Jewish Agency Political Department, Meir called the
mass exodus of Arabs before the War of Independence in 1948 as
"dreadful" and likened it to what had befallen the Jews in
Meir was one of twenty-four signatories (two of them women) of the
Israeli declaration of independence on May 14, 1948. She later
recalled, "After I signed, I cried. When I studied American history as
a schoolgirl and I read about those who signed the Declaration of
Independence, I couldn't imagine these were real people doing
something real. And there I was sitting down and signing a declaration
Israel was attacked the next day by the joint armies of Egypt, Syria,
Lebanon, Transjordan, and Iraq in the Israeli War of Independence.
Ambassador to Moscow
Armed with the first Israeli-issued passport,  Meir
was appointed Israel's ambassador to the Soviet Union. During her
brief stint there, which ended in 1949, she attended high holiday
services at the synagogue in Moscow, where she was mobbed by thousands
of Russian Jews chanting her name. Despite Stalin's repression of
Jewish identity in the Soviet Union, the turnout showed that the
Jewish community was still strong and united. The Israeli 10,000
shekel banknote issued in November 1984 bore a portrait of Golda on
one side and the image of the crowd that turned out to cheer her in
Moscow on the other
In 1949, Meir was elected to the Knesset as a member of Mapai and
served continuously until 1974. From 1949 to 1956, she served as a
Minister of Labor, introducing major housing and road construction
In 1956, she became Foreign Minister under Prime Minister David
Ben-Gurion. Her predecessor, Moshe Sharett, had asked all members of
the foreign service to Hebraicize their last names. Upon her
appointment as foreign minister, she shortened "Meyerson" to "Meir,"
which means "illuminate." As foreign minister, Meir promoted ties with
the newly-established states in Africa in an effort to gain allies in
the international community. But she also believed that Israel had
experience in nation-building that could be a model for the Africans.
In her autobiography, she wrote: "Like them, we had shaken off foreign
rule; like them, we had to learn for ourselves how to reclaim the
land, how to increase the yields of our crops, how to irrigate, how to
raise poultry, how to live together, and how to defend ourselves."
Israel could be a role model because it "had been forced to find
solutions to the kinds of problems that large, wealthy, powerful
states had never encountered."
In the early 1960s, Meir was diagnosed with lymphoma. In January 1966,
she retired from the Foreign Ministry, citing exhaustion and ill
health, but soon returned to public life as secretary general of Mapai,
supporting the prime minister, Levi Eshkol, in party conflicts.
After Levi Eshkol's sudden death on February 26, 1969, the party
elected Meir as his successor. Meir came out of retirement to take
office on March 17, 1969, serving as prime minister until 1974. Meir
maintained the coalition government formed in 1967, after the Six Day
War, in which Mapai merged with two other parties (Rafi and Ahdut
HaAvoda) to form the Israel Labor party.
In 1969 and the early 1970s, Meir met with many world leaders to
promote her vision of peace in the Middle East, including Richard
Nixon (1969), Nicolae Ceausescu (1972) and Pope Paul VI (1973). In
1973, she hosted the chancellor of West Germany, Willy Brandt in
In August 1970, Meir accepted a U.S. peace initiative that called for
an end to the War of Attrition and an Israeli pledge to withdraw to
"secure and recognized boundaries" in the framework of a comprehensive
peace settlement. The Gahal party quit the national unity government
in protest, but Meir continued to lead the remaining coalition.
Main article: Operation Wrath of God
In the wake of the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, Meir
appealed to the world to "save our citizens and condemn the
unspeakable criminal acts committed." Outraged at the lack of
global action, she authorized the Mossad to hunt down and assassinate
the Black September and PFLP operatives who took part in the
massacre. The 1986 TV film Sword of Gideon, based on the book
Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team by
George Jonas, and Steven Spielberg's movie Munich (2005) were loosely
based on these events.
Yom Kippur War
A sculpture of Golda Meir at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library
and Museum, CaliforniaIn the days leading up to the Yom Kippur War,
Israeli intelligence was not able to determine conclusively that an
attack was imminent. However, on October 5, 1973, Meir received
official news that Syrian forces were massing on the Golan Heights.
The prime minister was alarmed by the reports, and felt that the
situation reminded her of what happened before the 1967 war. Her
advisers, however, assured her not to worry, saying that they would
have adequate notice before a war broke out. This made sense at the
time, since after the 1967 war, most Israelis felt it unlikely that
Arabs would attack again. Consequently, although a resolution was
passed granting her power to demand a full-scale call-up of the
military (instead of the typical cabinet decision), Meir did not
mobilize Israel's forces early. Soon, though, war became very clear.
Six hours before the outbreak of hostilities, Meir met with Minister
of Defense Moshe Dayan and general David Elazar. While Dayan continued
to argue that war was unlikely and thus was in favor of calling up the
air force and only two divisions, Elazar advocated launching a
full-scale pre-emptive strike on Syrian forces.
Meir sided with Dayan, citing Israel's need for foreign aid. She
believed that Israel could not depend on European countries to supply
Israel with military equipment and the only country that might come to
Israel's assistance was the United States. Fearing that the U.S. would
be wary of intervening if Israel were perceived as initiating the
hostilities, Meir decided against a pre-emptive strike. She made it a
priority to inform Washington of her decision. Then-U.S. Secretary of
State Henry Kissinger later confirmed Meir's assessment by stating
that if Israel had launched a pre-emptive strike, Israel would not
have received "so much as a nail."
Biographer Elinor Burkett comes to a different interpretation of Meir:
She says that Meir was the real hero of the war and not the Minister
of Defense Moshe Dayan, who considered surrender. 
Following the Yom Kippur War, Meir's government was plagued by
in-fighting and questions over Israel's lack of preparedness for the
war. The Agranat Commission appointed to investigate the war cleared
her of direct responsibility, and her party won the elections in
December 1973, but she resigned on April 11, 1974, bowing to what she
felt was the "will of the people." Yitzhak Rabin succeeded her on
June 3, 1974.
In 1975, Meir was awarded the Israel Prize for her special
contribution to the State of Israel.
On December 8, 1978, Golda Meir died of cancer in Jerusalem at the age
of 80. She was buried on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on December 12,
Golda Meir's grave on Mt. Herzl
Portrayals in film and theater
Golda Meir's story has been the subject of many fictionalized
portrayals over the years. In 1977, Anne Bancroft played Meir in
William Gibson's Broadway play Golda. Ingrid Bergman and the
Australian actress Judy Davis played Meir in the television film A
Woman Called Golda (1982), opposite Leonard Nimoy. In 2003, the
American Jewish actress Tovah Feldshuh portrayed her on Broadway in
Golda's Balcony, Gibson's second play about Meir's life. The one-woman
show was controversial in its implication that Meir considered using
nuclear weapons during the Yom Kippur War. Valerie Harper portrayed
her in the touring company and in the film version of Golda's
Balcony. In 2005, actress Lynn Cohen portrayed Meir
in Steven Spielberg's film Munich. Later on, Tovah Feldshuh assumed
her role once again in the 2006 English-speaking French movie O
Collection of quotations related to:
- Golda Meir "The Muslims can fight and lose, then come back and fight
again. But Israel can only lose once."
- "There were no such thing as
Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with
a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First
World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not
as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering
itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and
took their country away from them. They did not exist."
- "[The Arabs] will stop fighting us when they love their children more
than they hate [Jews]."
- "When peace comes we will perhaps
in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it
will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill
their sons." (Press conference after the Six-Day War, 1967)
Memorial plaque in KievGolda Meir Center for Political Leadership at
Metropolitan State College of Denver
Golda Meir House, Denver, Colorado
Golda Meir School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Golda Meir Library
Golda Meir Boulevard, Jerusalem, Israel
Golda Meir Center for the Performing Arts, Tel Aviv
This is Our Strength (1962) - Golda Meir's collected papers
My Father's House (1972)
Meir, Golda (1975). My Life. Putnam. ISBN 0-399-11669-9