The first Prime Minister of the state of Israel, David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) was born David Gruen on this day in Plonsk, Russia, which is now Poland. At age 20, he moved to Palestine and worked on a farm where he overcame poverty and malaria.
"Without moral and intellectual independence, there is no anchor for national independence," he once said.
The charismatic and controversial Ben-Gurion rose to power as a tenacious labor leader. Elected secretary-general of the Histadrut trade union in 1921, he led the development of Jewish economic, political, and defense forces. With passion, he played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Mapai (Israel Workers Party) in 1930.
He said, "Thinking is a strenuous art few practice it; and then only at rare times."
Ben-Gurion dedicated his life to the Zionist movement and sought to create an independent Jewish state in Palestine. "In order to be a realist you must believe in miracles," he said. In 1948, his miraculous dream was realized... and Israel was born.
"The State of Israel will prove itself not by material wealth, not by military might or technical achievement, but by its moral character and human values," said Ben-Gurion who remained active in politics until 1970. The echoes of his accomplishments resound in the Middle East today.