Related Topics: Judaism

Women in Government

Middle East


Grade Level: 5th/6th

Author: Allison Cassell


Background Information

Golda Mabovitch Meir was born on May 3, 1898 in Kiev, Ukraine. She was the seventh child of her father Moshe and mother Blume but only the second to live. Golda had two sisters. Sheyna was nine years older than Golda, and Tzipke was three years younger. They lived in a time and place in which they were treated poorly because of their Jewish faith. Jews were not allowed to own land and were forced to live in certain parts of the country. They were attacked and mobbed in what were called pogroms which were planned riots against Jews.

In 1903, Golda's father decided that he'd had enough of this way of life and set off for America. At this time Blume moved herself and her daughters to the city of Pinsk. This was a Jewish city of workers. It was there that Golda first heard of Zionism, the efforts being made to establish the Jewish homeland promised to them in the Bible. At this time Jews did not have a land of their own. There was only Palestine. It is now separated into the Arab state of Jordan, and the Jewish state of Israel. Finally in 1906, Moshe was able to bring his family to the United States. After 2 weeks on a ship, Blume, Golda, Sheyna, and Tzipke arrived in America. They then traveled 900 more miles to their new home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Milwaukee was a large city full of immigrants from all over the world. Golda learned English quickly, and at the age of 11 organized her first community project, the American Young Sisters Society. She rented a room for a meeting and sent out invitations. She gave speeches, but never wrote them down. She always preferred to speak directly from her heart. The purpose for this was to raise money for the poor children of Milwaukee that could not afford schoolbooks.

At the age of 14, Golda wanted to be a school teacher, but at that time school teachers could not be married. Golda's parents wanted her to quit school and get married, but Golda wanted to be somebody. With the help of her sister Sheyna, who had married and moved to Denver, Colorado, Golda ran away.

Golda lived with Sheyna and her husband in Denver and attended school. Golda also attended meetings with other young Jews to discuss the injustices they were facing throughout the world. It was at one of these meetings that Golda met Morris Myerson, a quiet man whom she later married. After two years, Golda received a letter from her father asking her to return to Milwaukee and finish school there. Golda returned to Milwaukee, without Morris and continued her schooling. Golda was known to stand on corners speaking about the need for a Jewish homeland. She organized marches to let people know what was happening to the Jews around the world.

Golda and Morris were married in 1917. At this time Golda worked for a Zionist group called Poalei Zion. She traveled around the United States and Canada speaking on the need for a Jewish homeland. In 1921, Morris and Golda had saved enough money and moved to Palestine. There they joined a kibbutz. A kibbutz is a small community of people that worked together and shared everything they earned and owned. Morris and Golda worked very hard on the land, planting trees and taking care of the animals. They stayed there two years then moved to Jerusalem. In their years there, Golda had two children, a son Merhavyah and a daughter Sarah. Golda still stayed very busy giving speeches and attending meetings. In 1933, Morris and Golda separated.

In 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, thousand of German Jews fled to Palestine. This caused alarm among the Arabs because they thought that the Jews would push them out of their country. Golda was appointed to the executive committee of the General Federation of Jewish Labor in Palestine. This was a very powerful organization, so Golda was on the inner circle of Jewish leadership. In 1939, World War II broke out. This concerned Golda a great deal because of all the Jews that were being killed. She tried to bring as many Jews to Palestine as she could. During this war, 6 million Jews were killed, which was almost half of the entire world population of Jews. In November of 1946, the United Nations passed a resolution separating Jerusalem into two different countries, an Arab state and a Jewish state.

The Arabs were very upset by this and wanted to fight the Jewish. In January of 1948, Golda set off for America to raise funds to purchase arms. She was very successful and raised over $50 million. There was great loss of life during the violence, but on May 14, 1948 Golda was one of 38 signers of Israel's Declaration of Independence.

In June of that same year, Golda was asked to serve as the ambassador to Russia. She enjoyed this position, but did not feel that she was doing all she could for Israel by attending parties and social events. In 1949, Golda was offered the job of minister of labor which she accepted. During her first two years in this position, 685,000 people became new citizens of Israel. Golda saw to it that these people had jobs and homes as quickly as possible.

In 1957, Golda was appointed to the position of Israel's foreign minister. At this time Golda changed her married name Myerson, to it's Hebrew form of Meir which means "to illuminate." As foreign minister, Golda helped to increase aid given to other developing countries. Her most important goal was to have peace between the Arabs and the Jews. She worked tirelessly to make this dream come true, but in 1966, she reluctantly came to the decision that it was time for her to retire.

Golda enjoyed her first few months of retirement, but soon became bored. She was regularly asked for her opinion and was an advisor to the government during the Six Day War. At the age of seventy, Golda was asked to be the Prime Minister of Israel, the head of government. During her years as Prime Minister, Golda did much to better the lives of the citizens of Israel. There was still trouble with the Arabs, and in October of 1973, they attacked. Israel was not prepared for such an attack and lost many soldiers in the battle. Golda was blamed for the lack of preparedness and resigned in 1974 at the age of seventy-six. Golda died in Jerusalem in December of 1978.

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Adler, David A. (1984) Our Golda-The story of Golda Meir. New York, NY: The Viking Press.

Dobrin, Arnold (1974) A life for Israel-The story of Golda Meir. New York, NY: The Dial Press.

Golda Meir-

Golda Meir-

Microsoft (1995) Golda Meir-

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1. Students will be able to describe the contributions made by Golda Meir and the impact she had on the country of Israel.

2. Students will be able to describe the advantages and disadvantages of living in a kibbutz.

3. Students will be understand the history of the Jewish state of Israel and the Arab state of Jordan. They will understand some of the reasons for the conflict.

4. Students will be able to identify some characteristic of the Jewish faith.

5. Students will be able to identify some of the similarities and differences between the US government and the Israeli government.

6. Students will identify something that they feel very strongly about like Golda Meir's passion for a Jewish homeland.

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Time Allotment

Approximately 7 class periods

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Resources Needed

Map of Israel and Jordan

Speaker on the Jewish religion

Handouts from the appendix

Reference books for Israeli government information

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1. Mini-Lecture and Time Line. Using the background information, give a brief presentation on the life of Golda Meir. This should include parts of her childhood, family, where she lived, some different government offices that she held and some of her major contributions. Also present a basic sequence of events to the class so they will have a concept of what is happening when. (Appendix A) This will provide a background for all that is discussed in this unit. In their learning logs, students will record something about Golda Meir that they found interesting. (Appendix C)

2. Think-Pair-Share. Golda Meir was a very passionate person and felt very strongly about the issue of the Jews having a homeland. She was known for her ability to speak from her heart about the things that she felt. Have students think of something that they feel very strongly about that they could speak on. Pair up the student and have them tell their partner what it is they feel very strongly about. After they have shared with a partner, the students will share their issues with the large group. Student will also record what they felt passionate about in their learning log.

3. Guest Speaker. The fact that Golda Meir was Jewish, was central to all she did for Israel. Find someone that you know that is Jewish and would like to share the basic points of their religion with the class. This can be a parent or relative of a student or anyone else in the community. The speaker should focus on some of the traditions they have. Before the speaker comes, as a class have the students brainstorm some things they may want to know about and make a list of questions to ask the speaker. In their learning logs, students will record something new that they learned about the Jewish religion.

4. Compare and Contrast. Golda Meir spent many years working with the Israeli government. Using a Venn diagram, have the students compare and contrast the United States government and the Israeli government. For example the position of Prime Minister in Israel versus the President in the United States. This should first be done individually using the handout. Have students research this in an encyclopedia or any other reference books that might have this information. Facts can also be obtained on the internet. When students have completed their individual diagrams, have them share their information with the class and record it on the chalkboard. In their learning logs, students will describe which form of government they prefer and why.

5. Corners. Golda and her husband Morris, spent two years in a kibbutz. A kibbutz is a small community that shares everything they earn or own. They are very close-knit much like an extended family. On the chalkboard, write the statement, "I would like to live in a kibbutz." On each of the four corners of the room put one of the following statements, "Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree or Strongly Disagree." Have students go to the corner which best describes their opinion. Once the students have found a corner, have them generate a list of reasons for their choice. As a class, make a list of the advantages to living in a kibbutz and then the disadvantages to living in a kibbutz. In their learning logs, have the students write down their response to the questions and some of the reasons they chose that corner.

6. Mini-Lecture. Golda spent much of her life working towards the goal of a homeland for the Jewish. The Jewish felt that the land of Palestine was theirs. Up until 1947, Palestine was one country. The United Nations signed a resolution stating that Palestine was to be divided into two different countries, the Jewish state of Israel and the Arab state of Jordan. The Arabs didn't feel that this was fair and have not had peaceful relations with Israel ever since. Identify on a map the two countries and the geological barriers that separate them. Have students write what they learned about the conflict in their journals.

7. Guided Discussion. At the end of the unit, separate the students into groups of five or six students. Assign one student to be the observer and one student to be the discussion leader. Provide students with the guided discussion worksheet provided. (Appendix B) Have students record their responses to the questions and attach them to the learning log.

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1. Learning logs will be assessed based on the quality of their responses for each day.

2. The Venn diagrams will be checked for completion and also the contributions to the group list will be noted.

3. Group lists for the advantages and disadvantages of living in a kibbutz will be assessed.

4. The record of the guided discussion will be assessed.

5. The participation in group activities and discussions will be assessed anecdotally.

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