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Poster Commentary
"In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles."David Ben-Gurion
Poster design:Yarom Vardimon


Commentary by Ruth Calderon

Devout in his secular beliefs, conservative in his revolutionary politics, David Ben-Gurion defies easy description. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Plonsk, Poland, Dovche Green turned to Zionism in his youth, taught himself Hebrew (and changed his name), and moved to British-controlled Palestine at age 20.

Ben-Gurion quickly became the leading figure of the emerging Jewish state. In his role as head of the provisional government he declared the birth of the state in May 1948, and during Israel’s first 15 years he served both as Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. He was dubbed “The Old Man,” because he was the “responsible adult” of this youthful nation, prepared to make its most fateful and difficult decisions.

In the modern State of Israel Ben-Gurion saw a revival of Jewish self-rule from the time of the Bible, a reclaimed national home for the entire Jewish people. In his vision a new Israeli character would emerge (he felt all Jewish immigrants should Hebraize their names) and a neo-Biblical national ethos would form, combining political sovereignty and military strength with the morality of the Prophets.

Ben-Gurion ruled with a strong hand and a sensitive conscience – he believed that “Israel’s destiny depends on its fortitude and its moral rightness” – and, at the same time, with humility and a sense of humor. He dreamed that subsequent generations of Israelis – a new wave of Pioneers – would one day settle in the Negev Desert (as he himself did in his 80s), make the wilderness bloom, and bring about yet another “realistic miracle.”

Dr. Ruth Calderon is an educator. She served in the Israeli Knesset (Yesh Atid party) from 2013 to 2015. She is founder and former director of Elul, a learning center (beit midrash) where secular and religious Jews study traditional texts together, and founder and chair of Alma: Home for Hebrew Culture in Tel Aviv.