My Life: The Iron Lady of Israel, Golda Meir - XVII

NewsBharati    05-Feb-2024 11:06:00 AM   
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Relation between developed and developing countries according to Golda

The first International Conference on Science in the Advancement of New States was conducted in Israel, in addition to the Cooperation Programme by Histadrut. The purpose is to make an effort to build a bridge between the developed and developing countries and to try to find how science and technology can be of help. African and Asian countries participated enthusiastically, on the other hand leading European and American scientists participated in it. Golda described it as the ' giant step in the direction of international cooperation '. She observed that African statesmen and ministers interacted with Nobel laureates and famous members of the scientific international community. Such a conference was organized every 2 years, it became a tradition. Money could not give what people could get in the conferences.
golda meir

Golda considered the project of the International Training Centre for Community Services, it concentrated on offering training to women from developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, it started in 1960. Training in various areas was available, the trainees could see the development too. Women from the developing countries had to leave their villages and families and travel to the far away country to get training which was helpful to their people. They were wives and mothers who became pioneers in their fields, they wanted women to take their rightful place in society as full contributors to the future and the society. They saw Jewish women performing their role and duty in Israel. They were hardworking.

Golda too traveled mostly in small planes to the African countries, where she saw Israeli advisers treated with fondness and trust, she always was amazed at the determination and involvement of young Israelis who lived in unfamiliar and primitive conditions, they chose. They worked sincerely and slowly at the pace people could work, and both sides understood the value of the work undertaken. She used to meet Africans trained in Israel who showed her around the clinics, farms, and schools in fluent Hebrew.

Of course, there were some disturbing experiences, but there were some rational leaders too.

Golda practiced what she preached. She described an incident where in Rhodesia she did not get down from a bus when the African dignitaries traveling with her were not permitted as they were black.

She described one more incident, she was to go to Nairobi on her way home. The Israeli ambassador told her that all the wives of ambassadors of Arab countries were to protest against her. She refused to be bullied and continued with her program, but a surprise awaited her. A huge crowd of men and women assembled there, they were trained in Israel or by Israelis in Nigeria. All were singing,' We bring peace to you '. ( A Hebrew theme song ) It was the theme song of the international cooperation program. She was described as ' an ambassador of true goodwill ' by the president of Nigeria.

Jew heritage and Jewish ethic, she thought in Africa with Christianity, had some familiarity. In Asia, this was not the case. She admitted that with China they could not gain ground.

Golda wrote about her experience with African countries, and how Israel could help in developing some sectors. But ultimately the African countries did not stand by Israel. There were many doctors responsible for it.

She described the visit to Japan as the foreign minister of Israel. There Jews and one of the royal members even interacted in Hebrew. The ties became strong. She traveled to many countries, in Asia. She noted the ties with Burma ( Myanmar now ), it was interested in knowing the different types of socialism of Israel. I learned a lot from Israel. It adopted the model of getting trained for agriculture and the military as well. Kibbutz too fascinated them. Many joint Burmese-israeli projects were undertaken, many were trained in Israel and even Israelis went to Burma. When Burma took a pro-Russia and anti-America stand and non-involvement with non-Burmese interests the ties got shattered.

This was a period she was consistently traveling, it took a toll on her health sometimes. There used to be needs in the country or abroad, she just could not slow down. By the end of 1965, she was tired, she had spent 30 years in public life, and she thought of retiring. She thought it would not be a disaster if she was not part of the public life.
Retirement and return to public life
Golda in her writing admitted that her children and grandchildren never looked at her as an important person, they treated her as a normal person.

Her sister Sheyna was not well, and at the same time, she thought that the change was needed for her. Had some health problems too.

She shifted from Jerusalem to a quiet house in Tel Aviv that was just next door to her son. She sorted her belongings, she had traveled a lot for 25 years which was the cause of the collection of many mementos. She kept very few things mainly the books. She thought she would never need to return to her old lifestyle. She had a small house which made her feel comfortable.

She liked the change, doing her shopping, and using public transport instead of being driven everywhere. She felt it was like being released from prison. She wanted to read books, catch up with old friends, and visit Revivim which were long due. She wanted to move out before people wished her out. People always treated her with affinity and respect, but she enjoyed being free from the inevitable appointments and official receptions. She worked as much as she wanted but that was not to happen.

There was trouble for the labor party, the anti-western and Marxist groups wanted Israel-Russia friendship, and wanted Israel to work on it.

The differences among the socialists were not very severe, but bridging the distance was essential and without causing any new damage. The need of the hour was that the different shades of labor were to be dealt with. The party wanted her to do this job as she was the only person who was qualified and had sufficient time. She was requested to be the secretary general of the Mapai (labor party ). Golda could not refuse it, as the future of labor movement was at risk. She accepted the task and everything along with it, traveling, meetings, appointment book. She thought this was the last assignment she accepted.

War with Arabs

Arabs were preparing for another war, terrorist gangs were active, and President Nasser ( Egypt ) supported all such activities. They were collecting stock of weapons, money was also allocated. Syria was bombarding Israeli settlements continuously, snipers were targeting fishermen and farmers. Underground shelters were made for security, they were constantly under fire.
Russia started accusing Israel stating that it was preparing itself for the full-scale attack on Syria. Though investigated and found nothing to support the claim, Russia kept describing it as aggression, on the other hand, Syria could receive arms and aid. Israel airforce had to be in action which was labeled as preparation for war against Syria.

Egypt asked the UN force to evict their area. The UN force that was stationed to supervise the ceasefire between the two, was immediately withdrawn. Egypt had full control then. It was as good as surrender to Egypt. Last time too Golda tried in vain to explain that the solution was to insist on a non-aggression pact by both. When again and again she remembered her efforts after the six-day war and realized that Arab nations thought that they could just wipe out Israel. Nasser made his intention of all-out war with Israel clear, decided to impose a blockade again.

The situation was complex, Russia supported Egypt, and Nasser was ready and thought Egypt would win. Jordan King decided to join Nasser. Iraq too joined them ultimately. Golda had to make herself available for decision-making on complex issues. Golda stated that all wanted to avoid it and if it was to be fought, it had to be won. The right to exist had to be defended, but they were advised not to make the first move, patience and self-control were to be practiced. The survival was at stake, so Israel started preparing for the war. The basement shelters were cleaned, sandbags were filled trenches were dug, and the troops waited for the action. Golda was too packed for the basement shelter, the entire nation was ready for the onslaught.

Some preparations were to be done secretly, ration was stocked, there prevailed a sense of unity, and the danger of getting extinguished transformed things.

Prof. Vidya Deshpande

Professor Vidya Deshpande has had a journey of more than four decades in the field of education. Her  main expertise is in the subject of Philosophy,  and she has worked as a teacher of philosophy and logic with Nowrosjee Wadia college for 36 years. She has been associated with the Janakalyan Blood bank for last for 38 years and has also carried out the responsibility as a management committee member of Karve Stree Shikshan Sanstha for 10 years. Her special fields of interest are Philosophy of social sciences, school education, development of skills for self reliance,  and top up skills to make students profession ready,