THERE WAS only one choice for my Jewish hero. Golda Meir was a hero to American Jews, which I am, and an icon of feminism before that word was even coined. Yes, I’m a feminist, too.
Without divulging my actual age, Golda Meir’s tenure as cabinet minister and, of course, prime minister, coincided with my personal Jewish journey and she played an important role in crystallising my views on Zionism and my pride in Israel.
Girls like me were awed that a “nice Jewish girl” from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, could rise to such heights.
She made us believe that there really were no limits to what we could achieve.
Perhaps her inspired choice of the surname “Meir”, which means “illuminating” or “shining”, was prescient.
In an American Women’s Studies course at university, I remember being moved to tears by Meir’s reminiscence on signing the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
“After I signed, I cried,” she said. “When I studied American history as a schoolgirl and I read about those who signed the US Declaration of Independence, I couldn’t imagine these were real people doing something real. And there I was sitting down and signing a declaration of independence.”
Two distinct accomplishments stand out: one was her drive across America to appeal for funds for the fledgling state of Israel, raising more than $50million.
And Operation Wrath of God, authorising Mossad to kill operatives of Black September and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine after the murders of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.
My favourite quote illuminates the best qualities of Zionism, Israel and Golda Meir herself: “We do not rejoice in victories,” she said, “we rejoice when a new kind of cotton is grown and when strawberries bloom in Israel.”