A bronze sculpture of Golda
Sculpture of Golda Mier by
by artist Helene Hirmes.
Beatrice Goldfine in
New York City,
Golda Meir was one
of the most important and powerful political figures of the twentieth century. She led Israel
at its most critical time in history.
Her contributions to Israel,
inspirational achievements, and the power she embodied have gained her fame
worldwide and as a subject of many literary works. Numerous directors, writers, artists, and
actors have strived to honor and portray this woman’s life, passion,
achievements, and legacy. In each of
these famous works, including the drama A
Woman Called Golda, the play Golda’s
Balcony, and in various portraits, the author aims to depict two different
aspects of Golda Meir’s life. Golda is
portrayed as being both a powerful political leader as well as being a maternal
figure at a time when power was dominantly held by men. As
these literary works trace her political
as well as personal life, they show the presence of both her maternal
side as well as the traits she embodies that are typically considered
to be masculine in her actions and decisions as Prime Minister of
The docudrama A Woman Called Golda, made in 1982 by
director Alan Gibson, traces Golda Meir’s life from her childhood to her final
days as an active participant in the affairs of Israel. This movie does an incredible job of
depicting the ironwill and strength that Golda, played by Ingrid Bergman,
displayed all her life as well as representing her as the ultimate “Mother of
Israel.” From the very opening scene,
the viewer sees simultaneously Golda the politician and Golda the mother. At her arrival at her old school in Milwaukee,
she only agrees to put out her cigarette for the children she is about to speak
to. This single action displays her
maternal side. She is instinctually concerned about exposing the children to a harmful substance and of setting a good example. Golda's identity as a
mother played into her actions and behavior as a politician. When she meets the first child who greets
her by saying “hi Golda,” she affectionately pats her on the head. She is tough and at the same time maternal in
her appearance. She is dressed in a very
grandmotherly outfit of a knee-length skirt and blouse. Her hair is tied back in a bun at her nape,
and she is very short in stature.
However, there is also a powerful air and visible strength in her
countenance. This image of Golda as an
inspirational authority figure and a caring mother is seen in the rest of the
movie, as well. In one scene while Golda
is living on a kibbutz in Palestine,
the women are faced with a broken water pipe.
Golda responds by saying, “Why do we need a man?” Following this statement she climbs the roof
herself and fixes the water clog. This
scene illustrates the idea that she, a female, can do the same things that any
man can do. She becomes greatly
respected by the men living there and as a result is offered a position in the
Histurdat, the Jewish labor union in Palestine
(A Woman Called Golda).
A Woman Called Golda directed by Alan Gibson in 1982 traces the life of Golda Meir.
having children and being a housewife for several years, Golda returns to her
mission in life: “I came here to work and
build a homeland.” However, the movie also
shows her having brief recollections where she displays feelings of guilt over
leaving her children so that she can go to work. She describes the regret she feels after the
sad looks her children give her when she leaves for long periods of time. When she tells Morris, her husband, that she
has to see her sick daughter, he replies by saying “many people would be surprised.” Although she is seen as the mother of Israel,
her struggle to balance work and be a mother to her
two children is also often represented in literature (A Woman Called Golda).
While working in the Jewish
organization and government, Meir is depicted as having gained influence and
power in time in history when only men were in positions
of power. In all her meetings
with the other organization leaders, she is the only woman present. The film shows her as involved in many
important political affairs, but then the film also shows her making dinner for
the members of the Histurdat. Even as a
politician she is always at the same time a mother (A Woman Called Golda).
of the most touching scenes in the movie is when Golda goes to the Cyprus
camps where all the Jews who are trying to leave Europe
after World War II are being held. Golda visits
the camps because it is her job and because she is a mother. Her objective is to save the children and
their parents from the camps. Golda
refers to them as “these blessed children of ours.” She goes on to say she wants them to have the
chance to “grow up pure, strong, erect, and confident.” In a moment as Golda displays motherly devotion, the
children run to her as if she is their mother and give her flowers made of
paper. When she convinces the adults to
let the children come to Israel
before them, she sheds maternal tears, crying for the children “who never saw a
flower.” Male politicians are hardly
ever shown as having paternal characteristics or feelings. This aspect is what sets Golda apart from
other politicians. She brought her
motherly instincts and traits into her role as political leader (A Woman Called
In the film Golda
is depicted as the mother of Israel
because of her important role in the birth of Israel
and all that she sacrifices to keep it alive.
When threatened with attack from the Arab nations, Golda raises 50
million dollars, twice the expected amount, to help fight the war and keep Israel
alive. Golda states, “We’re paying for
the birth of our nation with our blood.”
When she returns home from the United
States, Ben Gurion, the first Israeli Prime
Minister, greets her and tells her she will go down in history as the “woman
who made it possible for the Jewish state to be born.” It was a woman, not a man, who made Israel. Without the money she raises, Israel
would not have been born. This money she raises goes towards defending Israel
from the Arab nations.
Although the money Golda raises is used to purchase weapons which is
ultimately used to bring death, she did not take pleasure in causing
death. Her instincts are very maternal. She wants to
protect her nation from harm and use the weapons in response to others
using the weapons against Israel first. Without this funding Israel
would not have been able to finance the war and therefore would have been
conquered by its enemy, leading to an ultimate end to the dream of the creation
of an independent Jewish state. So, in a symbolic way, Golda does give birth
to the state of Israel.
In the time following the victory Golda
becomes a “typical doting grandmother” to make up for the years that she has
not been a doting mother to her two children. In her years as the Prime
Minister of Israel, she never neglects her role as the mother of Israel
or as grandmother (A Woman Called Golda).
other politicians, as Prime Minister, Golda concurrently exhibits her maternal
and political qualities in all her actions and decisions. There is a scene in the movie where she meets
with an American senator to discuss war and weapons, and serves coffee and honey
cake she has made for him. The Senator is surprised,
but in the end her political wit and strong-will win him over. In another scene where she meets with President
Saddat she gives him a gift “as a grandmother to a grandfather.” Most politicians do not tend to bring aspects of
their personal life into their job. However, Golda brings her experiences and identity as a
mother into her political dealings. She
uses this identity as a mother to communicate with other political figures and
to achieve her political objectives (A Woman Called Golda).
Ingrid Bergman played Golda Meir in the 1982 docudrama A Woman Called Golda .
In the final scene
Golda is introduced as the “Earth mother and Mother of Israel”
at a political conference. In her last
speech in the final scene of the film she says since she is the Mother of
Israel, “I have the responsibility to be a good mother.” In her attempt to be a good mother, she tells
the audience “good night, it’s late. Go home.” The film reflects historical
reality. Golda Meir always tried to be a
good and responsible mother to Israel.
She does what she thinks is best for her “child,” the state: “I did what I thought was right.” Golda was a
symbol of hope to the Israeli people.
She symbolized their ideals and dreams and helped make them come alive (A
Woman Called Golda).
Golda’s Balcony, written in 2003
by William Gibson, is a story that depicts a woman who sacrifices to make the
birth of Israel
possible. At the same time it describes a
passionate woman who struggles to balance duty and her maternal feelings of
concern for the wellbeing of her people.
The play centers mainly on the conflict between Jews and the Arabic
countries, and the difficult decisions she faces. In an important scene in the play after Golda
has declined King Abdullah’s offer for averting war by partitioning Israel
to Jordan to be
placed under their rule, he is assassinated.
She then thinks of what might have happened if she had accepted the
offer to avert war. She states, “Women aren’t
made for killing; we bring life into the world” (Gibson, 34) That is exactly
what Golda Meir attempted to do in
reality as a politician. She combined
her maternal characteristics and values with her duty as a member of the Jewish
She hated having to do anything that caused bloodshed. And
although you can argue that she was a wartime leader she agonized
greatly over any decisions she made during war and tried to allow as
little bloodshed as possible. Ultimately Golda's maternal values
led to her retirement because she was unable to allow and give orders
that led to the death or her people.
the play there is mention of Golda’s struggle to be a mother and follow her
passions in politics. She mentions the
guilt she feels to the children for working so much. Golda’s husband tells her
he wants his children to grow up with a mother. However, she sacrifices spending time with
them when they are young so that she can make the world a better place for them
to live in: “I want them to grow up in a world that’s safe for Jews” (Gibson,
40). She sacrifices time with her
children to think about being a mother not just to her own children but to Israel
as well. Creating a Jewish state is her
life. She spends 50 years “laboring to
beget-and to keep, to keep!”(Gibson, 40). The character of
Golda uses the word “beget” (which means to produce, sire, or be the biological father of) to talk about the founding of Israel. Perhaps, the author uses
this word to show the violence and struggle Golda has to endure in order to
create a Jewish state. Golda is Israel's creator as much as any father or man. It may also be used to
represent the personality traits generally associated with men that existed in
Golda. Golda is always described as
being tough, iron-willed, and passionate.
Stereotypically these are all traits that are often attributed to men.
In the play Golda is depicted as the mother of Israel. Like mothers work to give birth to their
children when in “labor,” Golda worked hard for 50 years to give birth to a
"Golda's Balcony" a play by William Gibson depicts the life of Golda Meir played by Tovah Feldshuh in 2005.
In the play, there
are two balconies represented in Golda’s life.
The first balcony is outside her apartment in Tel Aviv, and the second
is her post at Dimona. The first balcony
represents her domestic life and maternal side.
The other symbolizes her political life. However, in many cases, the two different
elements of her life fuse together, affecting her decisions and political views. From these balconies she has a view of the
ships arriving with the Jewish exiles, refugees and survivors coming from Cyprus. When she goes as ambassador to Russia
and decides to bring back to Israel
a whole group of Jews, thousands of Jews
show up (Gibson, 45-46). They blow her kisses, cry, and kiss her
dress. She thanks them for remaining
Jews, “a sentence that passed through the crowd, like a word from Isaiah” (Gibson,
46). Golda is presented as a prophet and powerful being in this scene. A teenage boy takes a picture of
her and for weeks Jews on the street whisper to each other, “I have the picture”
(Gibson, 47). Copies are passed around
to everyone. Meir is a symbol of hope
and inspiration to Jews all over the world. In a way, she is represented in
this play almost as a mother goddess respected and worshipped by all.
As part of her
role as the mother of Israel,
she fights to keep it alive as it is a mother’s responsibility to make sure her
child stays alive. She spends so much
time at Dimona, preparing to defend Israel
against attack from the Arab nations, the men called it “Golda’s Balcony”
(Gibson, 58). Golda states: “Do I even
think of letting Israel
die?” (Gibson, 54). No, even when she is
physically sick and cannot sleep or eat she does everything in her power to
alive. She does this all because of a
dream she has. She dreams of a paradise,
with “grandchildren, a backyard with swings, a slide, and toy trucks to fall
over” (Gibson, 56). This is where the two halves of her life come
together. Her vision and dreams for Israel
combine her views as a mother and as a politician. She wants a state where Jewish people and her
own children can live in peace: “I ache, oh, all day for this
simple paradise” (Gibson, 56). These
two aspects of her life both influence her to make many decisions on behalf of Israel.
In later years of
Golda’s life, and even after she had passed on, there were many portraits
made of Golda because of her renowned fame as one of the most important figures
of the twentieth century. Andy Warhol,
one of the most influential twentieth century artists and filmmakers, created
many pieces of art from popular culture, including a portrait of Golda
Meir. This portrait shows Golda as a
powerful and influential woman in history.
The print shows her with a very peaceful expression on her face with
just the smallest of smiles. She has a very
motherly presence. Her hair is pulled
back in a bun, and there is warmth in her eyes and face. Her nose is very prominent, and her eyebrows
are thick. There
is still a feeling of
her power and importance in the fixed gaze of her eyes and calm
expression. Warhol's representation of her suggests that although she
struggled through hard and
violent years to establish a Jewish state she always and foremost tried
advocate peace through her authority.
This portrait displays her as one of the most popular and beloved mother figures in the twentieth
Andy Warhol pop culture portrait of Golda Meir painted in 1987.
that she sat for a year after her retirement was painted by Raphael Soyer, a
Russian-born American socialist realist painter. He found no deceitful or pompous behavior on
her part although many politicians possess them ("Golda Meir"). She did not choose to become prime minister so
that she could practice authority over others or because it was a prominent
position. Golda’s only motive was to
help establish a Jewish state for her people.
In the portrait she is sitting in
a chair with her hands in her lap. She looks very maternal in this painting. She is wearing a long, blue, full-sleeved
dress. She is not smiling but there is
still something nurturing in her appearance.
She has bags under her eyes and seems a little tired or like she has been
through a lot in her life. This portrait
represents Golda as a mother who worked hard as a politician of Israel
Golda sat for a portrait in 1975, a year after her retirement, painted by Raphael Soyer, a socialist realist painter.
The image of her on the cover of Time
Magazine shows both a maternal aspect and an aspect of a tough woman. She looks very serious in the image and very
strong. However she also looks very much
like a grandmother. Her hair is once
again pulled back in a bun, and many wrinkles are etched across her forehead
and face. Although she looks very stern
and like she has been fighting a long time, there is warmth in her eyes and she
still undeniably looks like a grandmother (Golda Meir).
September 19, 1969 Time Magazine Cover
Golda Meir has
been featured in various works of literature including plays, movies, books,
as well as portraits. All these works of
literature portray the story of a loving mother and an exceptional political
leader. These two halves of her life
came together and greatly influenced the choices she made, her achievements, and why she was seen as an inspiration by many. Her instincts as a mother and as a
talented politician led her to be seen as the mother of Israel
and as a symbol of hope. She will
forever be remembered this way in these literary works, as well as in future
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