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Video: In and out of David Ben-Gurion’s desert house in 5 minutes

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The other day, a group of us visited David Ben-Gurion’s house in Sde Boker, the kibbutz in the Negev where he retired with his wife Paula in 1953, when the former prime minister was 67. The place is now a museum. I found the house charming, though friends pointed out that the site had a colonial element– the age of the olive trees suggesting that it was built on Palestinian lands. Not to mention the stone tablets on the walkways with Ben-Gurion quotes, urging Jews to colonize the Negev.

I missed some things in this tour. The portrait of Gandhi on the bedroom wall. The book, the Indestructible Jews on the bedside table. As Allison Deger pointed out the other day, the couple kept separate bedrooms, Ben-Gurion liked to stay up late reading. I believe I entered his bedroom at :40 or so. Notice his slippers by the bed. Paula Ben-Gurion died in 1968, David Ben-Gurion in 1973.

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17 Responses

  1. MRW
    September 16, 2013, 8:37 am

    From wikipedia:

    In 1954, he resigned and served as Minister of Defense, before returning to office in 1955. Under his leadership, Israel responded aggressively to Arab guerrilla attacks, and in 1956, invaded Egypt along with British and French forces after Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal.

    He stepped down from office in 1963, and retired from political life in 1970. He then moved to Sde Boker, a kibbutz in the Negev desert, where he lived until his death. Posthumously, Ben-Gurion was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Important People of the 20th century.

  2. a blah chick
    a blah chick
    September 16, 2013, 9:09 am

    Phil, I appreciate your going there but given the heavy issues that we slog through here could you not have provided tidbits that were a bit more, ahem, salacious? Like about Mr. BG’s girlfriends or what an insufferable busybody Paula was.

    One story I know, not salacious, occurred in the late sixties when he met with MK Tewfik Toubi. They had tangled for years in the Knesset and the first thing Mr. BG asks Toubi is about how Arabs name themselves.

    Great, he’d lived in Palestine/Israel for how many decades and he still knew so little about the culture. That is very telling to me.

  3. Krauss
    September 16, 2013, 12:30 pm

    I’m drawn to Ben-Gurion precisely because his personal character seems so out of date in our vanity-driven politics. He was an introvert who was not driven by status or wealth.
    This is reflected in the manner how he retired, a modest man of letters living a quiet life among his fellow people.
    Compare to current pols like Blair or Clinton who can’t even hide their own greed or vanity and neither have much ideological grounding.

    He was ultimately driven by convinction more than anything else and he was an intellectual in a way that is perhaps not possible for a politician today to be(Obama seems to be the exception to the rule).

    Of course, his ideology was a disaster, but there’s something attractive to the personal qualities he exhibited as a politician and a statesman that is today mostly lost.

    I feel similarily about Abba Eban, a man who graduated with a triple first from Oxford and makes the Liebermans and the Dayons of today look like simpletons, in large part because they are.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      September 16, 2013, 4:41 pm

      “He was an introvert who was not driven by status or wealth.”

      No, he was driven by something worse: the desire to destroy another people, take over their land and ethnically cleanse them. One might as well be drawn to a Grand Dragon of the KKK.

  4. jon s
    jon s
    September 16, 2013, 3:59 pm

    When seeing BG’s home in Sde Boker, one is always impressed by the modesty, even frugality of the place, especially in comparison withe the lifestyle of today’s leaders.
    Ben Gurion wasn’t good looking, wasn’t much of an orator, was a mediocre writer -yet he had a quality called “leadership”. People trusted him to make big decisions, and he made some which were breathtakingly audacious, (and made some really big mistakes, too…)
    His move to a kibbutz in the Negev was, in itself, a leadership moment: he sought to set an example to encourage settling in the Negev.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      September 16, 2013, 4:38 pm

      “he had a quality called ‘leadership’.”

      Yeah, the Butcher, the Architect of the Nakba, like Mussolini and Hitler, had leadership qualities. God save us from Duces and Führers like these.

      • jon s
        jon s
        September 16, 2013, 4:50 pm

        Unlike Mussolini and Hitler, BG was a leader in a democracy. He had to run in free elections, had to build coalitions, had to contend with opposition parties to his left and to his right. He could have been voted out at any time.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        September 17, 2013, 3:00 pm

        “Unlike Mussolini and Hitler, BG was a leader in a democracy.”

        BS. He created an ethno-religious Apartheid state. Nothing more.

      • Eurosabra
        September 17, 2013, 3:11 am

        The four crucial elements of Ben-Gurion’s strategic thought were the ones that cemented the State of Israel: 1)The realization that statehood could not be delayed, because the survival of the Yishuv would depend on the legitimacy of self-defense as a state, rather than a futile appeal on the behalf of yet another a victimized Jewish rabble 2)That the aid of the United States would be crucial, and that American Jews would be the key suppliers of aircraft 3)That the war would be international in scope and that Israel would have to engage and defeat the combined armed forces of Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, and Iraq and occupy part of Lebanon and 4)The British would intervene and surreptitiously attempt to construct a casus belli to enable Arab victory and the destruction of Israel and the Yishuv.

        Concomitantly, the occupation and destruction of Palestinian villages occupied a negligible part of his thought and planning once the Tel Aviv-Latrun-Lod-Ramle area was secured and members of the Knesset such as Ziskind kept trying to yank it back to the agenda of the day for critique only to be stymied, as documented in Yitzhak Laor’s “Narratives Without Natives.”

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        September 17, 2013, 2:58 pm

        “Concomitantly, the occupation and destruction of Palestinian villages occupied a negligible part of his thought and planning ”

        Noob, every thought associated with the creation of his racist apartheid state was a thought to advance the Nakba, because the former consisted of little more than theft, destruction and murder of those to whom the land belonged: the Palestinians.

  5. jon s
    jon s
    September 16, 2013, 4:15 pm

    As to this: “the age of the olive trees suggesting that it was built on Palestinian lands. ” Strikes me as an automatic compulsion to say something negative…

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      September 16, 2013, 4:40 pm

      “Strikes me as an automatic compulsion to say something negative…”

      Of course it does. God forbid your “leftist” soul be bothered by the ethnic cleansing that is the bedrock of your state. But what do you care? They were only Palestinians and thus, totally disposable people, right?

    • Pamela Olson
      Pamela Olson
      September 16, 2013, 7:30 pm

      Or perhaps just a compulsion to represent reality as it actually occurs. It’s not just an “innocent” settlement after all. It was not only built on expropriated land — it was built to encourage more expropriation of land from “undesirables.”

      Would you rather this be swept under the rug?

  6. Eurosabra
    September 16, 2013, 8:10 pm

    Yes, those olive trees made it there all the way from the 9th century:

    In a broader sense, yes, the Negev is inequitably developed, but the Sinai has been as well, and the Jordanian desert too, so this is not a specifically Israeli problem and probably has little to do with Jews as such.

    • jon s
      jon s
      September 17, 2013, 2:26 am

      What the Wiki says is that there are remains of a settlement that existed on the site betweem the 7th and 9th century CE. So the modern kibbutz did not expropriate land from an existing settlement.

      • Eurosabra
        September 17, 2013, 2:58 am

        I get intensely bitter about the insistent tone of this site that every item of development of the country by Israeli Jews is colonialism, that every bit of land or property is expropriated. It makes it easier to dismiss out of hand. On the other hand Kibbutz Sde Boker seems to have given the Mondoweiss crew the run of the place and they (the Mondoweiss crew) spectacularly failed to destroy it (Sde Boker, the State of Israel).

        This isn’t even an issue of Bedouin rights or infrastructural efficiency. This is axiomatic belief in the Little Satan.

  7. just
    September 17, 2013, 10:59 am

    Nice and modest home (now museum) that he left behind. So sorry that his modesty and niceness did not extend to the indigenous people of Palestine nor to any other Arabs, nor to the bedouins of the Negev. He did awful things, and awful things have continued to be done in his honor/name.

    He was a man of war and death to any who stood in the way of his terrible dream.

    I recall this article:

    “‘We must expel Arabs and take their place’: Institute for Palestine Studies publishes 1937 Ben-Gurion letter advocating the expulsion of Palestinians”.

    But, thanks for the video Phil.

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