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Ben-Gurion, David (1886–1973)

Subject History

Place Middle and Near East » Israel

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


Prime Minister of Israel (1948–53, 1955–63). He was a leader of zionism and of its labour movement in Palestine for over 40 years, of the Yishuv (Palestine Jewish Community) and then of Israel, whose political life he dominated for the first 15 years of its existence. Born David Gruen in Russian Poland, he emigrated to Palestine in 1906 as a farm worker. In 1912 he went to Constantinople (Istanbul) University to study Turkish law but returned to Palestine when the First World War began and was deported by the Turkish governor in 1915. He went to the US, where he joined the Jewish Legion of the British Army. Returning to Palestine (now a British mandate) after the war, he changed his name to the Hebrew Ben-Gurion (‘son of a lion cub’) and when the Histadrut (General Organization of Jewish Workers in the Land of Israel) was formed in 1920 he soon became its General-Secretary (1921–35). Through it he built up his own power base. By the 1930s his socialist party Mapai (Workers’ Party of the Land of Israel) was the dominant political movement in the Yishuv . From 1935–48 Ben-Gurion was Chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive, a cabinet responsible for the Yishuv ‘s affairs. When the Second World War began he had divided loyalties. He was anti-British because the White Paper of 1939 limited Jewish immigration to Palestine, yet he was pro-British in wanting an Allied victory in ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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