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By Elinor Burkett
Harper (2008)
An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-06-078665-6

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - February 19, 2009

Golda Meir (1898-1978) was undeniably a remarkable woman. Born into poverty in a Russian shtetl in 1898 as Golda Mabovitz, she went on to become Prime Minster of Israel from 1969 - 1974. During this tumultuous period she shepherded Israel through a maze of international political intrigue, wars, and the melding of a diverse population into a unified country. In this compelling biography, Elinor Burkett paints a detailed portrait of this extraordinary woman.

Focusing more upon Golda's political education and her historical role, rather than upon her personal life, this book presents not only an overview of Golda's life, but also the period in which she lived. Golda's life and political outlook where greatly influenced by the antisemitism that she witnessed in Tzarist Russia, and this was to have a major influence on her political outlook. In 1906 she immigrated with her family to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she became active in Poale Zion (the Socialist Zionist movement). She later married Morris Meyerson and in 1921 they immigrated to Palestine, and settled on Kibbutz Merhavia. There she became involved with the Histadrut (Trade Union Federation). Starting with Histadrut, Golda began working with many Yishuv luminaries such as David Ben-Gurion, Berl Katznelson, Levi Eshkol, and David Remez, and she was to become an integral player on the road toward Israeli statehood. She was also an active and proficient fundraiser for her new homeland and after the founding of Israel, and she carried out a variety of diplomatic mission for the new state.

In this book, Burkett illustrates Golda's unrelenting drive and desire and a deep connection to Israel and the Jewish people. This book briefly covers Golda's youth and move to Israel, with the bulk of the book devoted to her involvement in Israel's burgeoning labor movement and her ascent in the political arena. Burkett shows us a Golda who was once a beautiful and vibrant young woman with all the normal feminine urges and desires, but who was unwilling to take a backseat to men. Burkett follows Golda as she matured, and was slowly transformed into the matronly, hard-nosed, grandmother figure that led Israel through a turbulent period that may well have shaped its political outlook.

Unlike other biographies of Golda, such as Ralph G. Martin's Golda: Golda Meir, The Romantic Years which focuses almost solely on the personal side of Golda's life, Burkett's biography is more concerned with her public persona and only really delves into her private life as a means of explaining Golda's public actions. As such, this book not only provides a glimpse into the life and deeds of this exceptional woman, but also insights into Israeli politics and history, as seen through the lens of Golda Meir, the woman and the leader.

I've read many biographies of Golda Meir, and I found that Golda provides an unbiased overview of Golda's life, and it is one that also acknowledges her outstanding prowess as a respected international statesman and as an advocate for women's rights. A few new tidbits of information about Golda's personal life are also presented in this biography. This is a well researched and highly readable account of Golda Meir, and it includes an extensive bibliography that will prove invaluable to anyone seeking to delve deeper in the life of this remarkable woman, and the turbulent and momentous period in which she lived.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the life of Golda Meir or in reading a biography of an extraordinary woman. It is also well suited for use as a supplemental text in high school and college classes, and will fascinate anyone with an interest in Israeli history, Women's studies, the Middle East, or American-Israeli relations.

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