Equal parts the story of a nation and the story of a woman, My Life is Golda Meir’s intimately personal account of the struggle to form the state of Israel and her contribution to it. Disarmingly honest and forthright, this lengthy tale makes for a quick read and gives readers a special behind-the-scenes view into the birth of a nation.
Golda Meir’s autobiography My Life never made an appearance on my lengthy reading list. Despite my Jewish heritage, I didn’t have much interest in the life of an old, Jewish woman, especially one in politics. I don’t spend much time reading biographies, and political-historical accounts don’t pique my interest.
Fortunately, my sister recently started a book club focused on the lives of influential women, and the first book, which she selected, was My Life. The size intimidated me instantly. Nearly five hundred pages of non-fiction is hardly my cup of tea.
Meir’s story captured me, however. With frank honesty and unembellished simplicity Meir tells of her beginnings in anti-Semitic Russia, her family’s difficult transition to America, her marriage, her years teaching in Milwaukee, and her passion for the Zionist movement as a young woman. She describes her sojourn to Palestine with her husband and other young Zionists, their work on a kibbutz, and how she became an integral part of the Labor Movement. As she became a mother as well and tried to balance the demands of her heart with the calls of duty, she helped the Jewish state take shape.
Meir’s boldness and passion gleam through her description of the many incredible obstacles that the Jewish people faced, from Nazi cruelty and British bias, to Arab hatred and American indifference. Before, during, and after the statehood of Israel was realized, the nation was under attack. However, they grew stronger, triumphed against all odds, and created a home for persecuted, impoverished Jews all over the world.
As Israel grew, Meir’s role in the fledgling government grew and expanded as well. She became a foreign ambassador, a party leader, a cabinet member, and finally prime minister, the role she held during the infamous Yom Kippur War.
Meir’s simple writing style made the book a surprisingly easy read, considering its length. Her prose is plain and unadorned, her narrative undramatic. Yet the personal drama of her life and the life of the nation of Israel pulses through the pages, revealing a woman and a people of uncommon strength, integrity, and determination.
I often find histories dry, and towards the end of My Life, I did find myself getting a little bit confused and glassy-eyed during Meir’s explanations of political events (a confusion I credit to my own ignorance of politics and history in the Middle East). But Meir’s life story kept me mostly captivated and gave me an insightful crash course in modern Jewish history.
The greatest impression My Life gave me was that a myriad of injustices have been done to Israel over the years. The Arab nations have attacked Israel with inexplicable venom for decades upon decades, while the rest of the world has looked on with indifference. In many cases, the world has gone further, maligning Israel and pointing the finger of blame on them. Jews, even in their own homeland, are faulted for the inconvenience of their existence.
Meir’s brave, ceaseless efforts towards peace and cooperation epitomize the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people and their desire to simply be allowed to live in harmony with their neighbors. She stands as a historic example l of how we ought to fight for freedom, for peace, for growth, and for life. Her book and her life stand as shining examples which light the path for those who seek humanity’s good today.