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Homepage  History  Former Prime Ministers  David Ben-Gurion The First Prime Minister
David Ben-Gurion The First Prime Minister

  
David Ben-Gurion was born in Plonsk, Poland
in 1886 and was named David Green. He was educated at a Hebrew school established by his father, a member of "Hovevei Zion". By his mid-teens, Green founded a Hebrew youth group, "Ezra", and at the age of 18 he moved to Warsaw, where he joined the Zionist-Socialist party "Poalei Zion".
He arrived in Israel in 1906, worked as a farmer and a teacher, and was active in the "Poalei Zion" party, and a member the "Achdut" newspaper. In 1910 he changed his name to Ben-Gurion. From 1911-1914 he studied Turkish in Salonika and law in Istanbul in order to qualify for representing his party with the Ottoman Empire. Following the outbreak of World War I, in 1915, he was deported by the Ottoman authorities from the land of Israel.
Ben-Gurion traveled to the US and continued to work for the Zionist socialist cause. In 1918 he enlisted in the Jewish Legion of the British army and, within that framework, returned to Israel. In 1919 he participated in the establishment of the "Achdut Ha'avoda" party, and between 1921-1935 served as the Secretary General of the Histadrut, the national federation of Jewish laborers in Israel. In 1930 he participated in the establishment of the "Mapai" party, and was its representative in the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency. From 1935- 1948 he served as Chairman of the Jewish Agency, and in 1946 assumed responsibility for matters relating to the security of the Jewish community in Israel.
Ben-Gurion led the struggle of the Zionist movement for the establishment of a Jewish state in the land of Israel. In May 1948, following the declaration of independence, he presided in his dual roles as acting Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. He served in these posts from 1948-1953, during which time he oversaw the War of Independence, the absorption of a wave of immigration, the implementation of mass settlement and development projects and the signing of a reparations agreement with Germany.
At the end of 1953 Ben-Gurion left the government and the Knesset and retired to his kibbutz, Sde Boker in the Negev. Following the uncovering of a group of Israeli spies in Egypt, he returned to political life at the beginning of 1955, and assumed the post of Minister of Defense in the Sharett government. Following the 1955 elections, he resumed the premiership.
In 1956, Israel initiated the "Sinai Operation", in which the IDF occupied, with British and French backing, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. After the cease-fire, Ben-Gurion agreed to withdraw from the occupied areas, and in return, Israel had a respite for 11 years on the Egyptian border, and safe passage through the Straits of Tiran.
Under Ben-Gurion's leadership, Mapai won both the elections of 1959 and 1961, and he again served as Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.
In June 1963, Ben-Gurion resigned from these posts, and was replaced by Levi Eshkol. Ben-Gurion remained politically active, first as Eshkol's partner, and later as his bitter rival. The source of tension between the two leaders was the failure of a spying operation in an Arab country. In June 1965 the Mapai party split, with Ben- Gurion establishing Rafi, which won 10 Knesset seats in the following elections. In 1968, Rafi rejoined Mapai and Achdut Ha'avoda, to form the Israel Labor Party, while Ben-Gurion formed a new party, "Hareshima Hamamlachtit", which won four Knesset seats in the 1969 elections.
In June 1970 Ben-Gurion retired from political life and returned to Sde Boker. He passed away on December 1, 1973. His wife, Paula, died in 1968. He is survived by 2 daughters (Geula and Renana) and a son (Amos).
 

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