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In honor of International Women’s Day, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is celebrating the legacy of Golda Meir, Israel’s first female Prime Minister. 

Golda Meir, nee Mabovich, was born on May 3, 1898, in Kiev. She immigrated to the United States to Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her family at the age of 8. Meir was an activist even as a teenager, organizing a campaign to raise money for the schoolbooks of fellow classmates who could not afford them. By the age of 15, she was an active Zionist, became a teacher by the age of 19 at a Yiddish-speaking school and married Morris Meyerson. Her pre-conditions for marrying her husband was that he would agree to make Aliyah with her to what was then known as Palestine, which they did in 1921. They joined a kibbutz and Golda became active in the kibbutz movement and later the Histradrut, the labor federation for the Jewish community in Palestine. 

After moving to Tel Aviv with her family to continue her work for the Histadrut, she was then sent to the United States for 2 years as a Zionist emissary. When she returned to Palestine, she became a member of the Executive Committee of the Histadrut, was an observer at the 1938 Evian Conference, and in 1946 took over as the acting head of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department after many leaders of the Zionist movement were arrested by the British. 

At the beginning of 1948, Meir traveled to the US and raised $50 million to purchase weapons to defend the State of Israel when it was declared in May and the War of Independence began. She was one of two women who signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence, was issued the first official Israeli passport when she traveled to the USSR to become the Jewish state’s first Ambassador to the Soviet Union, and became Labor Minister and Foreign Minister upon her return in the 1950s. 

In 1969, after the sudden death of Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir became Israel’s Prime Minister, the second woman in the world to reach this office after India’s Indira Gandhi. She resigned in April 1974 after controversies surrounding the surprise attack on Israel by Egypt and Syria that previous October 1973 in what became known as the Yom Kippur War. However, until her death from cancer in 1978, she devoted her energies to fight on behalf of Soviet Jewry and other causes. To this day, she remains one of the most admired figures in Jewish history. 

This excerpt from Moriah Films In Search of Peace looks at the moment when Golda Meir secretly traveled to Amman, Jordan, a few days prior to the State of Israel being officially established, to negotiate a peace treaty with King Abdullah I. The narrator is Academy Award®-winner Michael Douglas and the voice of Golda Meir is the late Academy Award®-winning actress, Anne Bancroft.

For more information on In Search of Peace and how to stream it, click here

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