David Ben-Gurion — The ‘Old Pioneer’

This clip (1:16), taken from the British Pathé, shows one of our nation’s fathers shoulder to shoulder with young boys in the Kibbutz of Sde Boker — working with them, dining with them, and unwinding in his book-filled room when his chores are done.

In the spring of 1953, Ben-Gurion visited Kibbutz Sde Boker and expressed his impression of their pioneering settlement in a passionate letter in which he confessed, “I have never been jealous of anyone or any group of people…but, during my visit to your kibbutz, it was hard for me to suppress a certain jealousy I felt: Why did I not merit to partake in such an act?”

He requested membership, and after his first resignation from the government (December 1953), moved with his wife Paula to Sde Boker and worked in the kibbutz’s apartments.

For him, settling in the Negev was a “second immigration” — a kind of reliving of his initial immigration to Israel. His move to Sde Boker was an expression of his deep belief in settling the Negev, and he hoped that it would serve as a personal example to others who would follow his lead. In response to friends and neighbors who gathered sadly at his Tel Aviv home on the day he left for Sde Boker, Ben-Gurion said, “Instead of crying, you’re better off following me!”

The humility that emerges from this clip raises questions about leadership characteristics as we know and choose them today, and perhaps, if Ben-Gurion were alive today, he would never have been elected prime minister in Israel.


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