The Courageous Golda Meir

Obstacle 10 Apathy—Instill Self-Discipline

“No one has looked back sadly on a life full of experiences, but many look back wishing they had had the courage to do more.” — Anonymous

In the Jewish quarters of Kiev, Ukraine, Golda Mabovitch’s family heard the screams of discrimination: “Death to Jews!”[i] Jews, a religious minority, were hated and segregated in Russia. Feelings of terror and anger brewed in Golda’s bitter spirit; yet, with curiosity, she wondered what about her religion made people want to hurt her. This innate inquisitiveness revealed her purpose: one day there would be a safe place for Jews to live, and she would save other Jewish children from this type of terror-stricken life.

Poor to the bone, Golda’s family lived with persistent malnutrition in one cold room. Only three of the family’s eight children survived the appalling living conditions. Feeling hopeless, Golda’s father gave up on the idea that he could find work as a carpenter and decided to immigrate to the United States. Once he settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the rest of the Mabovitch family began the long, arduous journey to America in 1906. Golda loved the tall buildings, bright advertisements, cars, ice cream and soda pops. Jewish friends would gather at their apartment to drink tea and discuss their heritage, imagining a homeland that would one day be their true address. These ideals infused her spirit’s passion.

When her older sister, Shenya, contracted tuberculosis, the doctors recommended recovery in the dry Colorado climate. This was great news because her sister’s boyfriend had immigrated to Denver. Shortly after Shenya moved to Colorado and married, Golda began to be annoyed with her parents. They wanted her to drop out of school and work in their shop, but she loved learning and studying and had the innate self-discipline to excel in academia. When her parents informed her that she would not attend high school because she would be marrying an older man, she became defiant.

Only fourteen years old, Golda snuck out her bedroom window and traveled to Colorado to be with her sister and brother-in-law. Even at fourteen, Golda demonstrated a combination of passion and self-discipline that eliminated any possibility of getting stuck in apathy. I wonder how many of today’s teenagers would actually care enough to run away from home in order to continue their education. And at fourteen, how many of us had the self-discipline that Golda demonstrated? Golda’s self-discipline proved key to her ability to manifest her passions and her vision. In fact, the courage action necessary to overcome the apathy obstacle is

Instill self-discipline.

Though she only stayed a year in Colorado, Golda fell in love with one of her sister’s friends, Morris Meyerson, who introduced her to exciting new books and ideas. When Golda returned home, her parents were thrilled that Morris had expressed his desire to marry her, so they conceded in letting her attend school. She graduated from high school in less than two years and then attended the Milwaukee Normal School for Teachers.[ii] Golda demonstrated her natural genius in high school and college, but genius should not be confused with intelligence quotient (IQ). As Dr. Hawkins writes, “It would be more helpful to see genius as simply an extraordinarily high degree of insight in a given area of human activity.… Genius can be more accurately identified by perseverance, courage, concentration, enormous drive, and absolute integrity—talent alone is certainly not enough.… One could say that genius is the capacity for an extraordinary degree of mastery in one’s calling. A formula followed by all geniuses, prominent or not, is: Do what you like to do best, and do it to the very best of your ability.”[iii]

Dr. Hawkins’ definition of genius leaves no room for apathy, and words like “perseverance” and “concentration” point to the importance of self-discipline. Genius, then, has a lot more to do with finding your passion and developing the self-discipline to follow that passion than with intellectual skills.

Have you identified your passion—what you like to do best—or has a jaded culture of apathy taught you not to care? “Through apathy … people sometimes do not want to have anything to do with the Self. The Self is, after all, an uncomfortable subject. It asks us to revolutionize our lives … it demands hard work and exposes us to danger. Ignoring the whole matter and getting on with our everyday lives may be far easier. This response is the greatest form of betrayal—the denial of what we really are.”[iv] Are you satisfied to remain stuck in apathy while your spirit withers? Did you once have a passion for doing something but failed to instill the self-discipline needed to manifest that passion in your work? If we do not have the discipline to reduce the obstacles in us, we will prolong the suffering of unfulfilled work. Do you need to add this courage action to your Declaration of Courageous Intention (DCI)?

Marrying the bookish Morris in 1917, Golda endured ridicule from neighbors. “She was the husband—she worked while he shopped, cleaned, cooked, and even bought her clothes.”[v] In A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle writes, “Applying negative labels to people, either to their face or more commonly when you speak about them to others or even just think about them, is often part of this pattern [complaining]. Name-calling is the crudest form of such labeling and of the ego’s need to be right and triumph over others: ‘jerk, bastard, bitch’—all definitive pronouncements that you can’t argue with.”[vi] Constantly dodging the labels thrown her way, Golda’s self-discipline and unrelenting courage permitted her to express her beliefs. One belief was that men and women could share duties equally, a belief that continued throughout her life.

After World War I ended in 1918, the British announced that Jewish people from around the world would be welcomed in the newly acquired Palestine. Morris did not share Golda’s passion, but she could be very persuasive, and they courageously set off to establish themselves in the Jewish homeland, where they soon learned that Golda was pregnant. Eventually, Golda had to face the truth. Her calling did not guide her in the path of the traditional Jewish mother, and she could no longer imitate the life that Morris wanted. Choosing to put her calling first, she accepted a job as secretary of the Women’s Labor Council (the Pioneer Women) and moved to Tel Aviv with her son and baby daughter. Her heart’s mission remained clear: to build a Jewish nation. Many of us ask ourselves the question, “What will I be when I grow up?” Golda demonstrated what Oriah Mountain Dreamer affirms:

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.”[vii]

When the world learned the truth about the concentration camps at the end of World War II, Golda hoped the British would let the survivors go to Jewish Palestine. Sadly, the opposite occurred. Sensing that the Jews would have to fight other countries for their borders, Golda headed for the United States to raise money for the new Jewish state. Golda possessed the courageous self-discipline to reflect on changing situations and then make progressive adjustments to manifest her vision, unlike many visionaries, who lack the self-discipline to put ideas into action. Courage lives in action. She also knew “well-behaved women rarely make history.”[viii]

Unflagging Devotion

On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was born in Palestine. Israel won its War of Independence in January 1949, and Golda came home when she was appointed minister of labor following the first Israeli election. Fully embracing her passions, Golda wanted her last name to reflect the country’s Jewish heritage, so she changed Meyerson to a Hebrew name, Meir, meaning “illuminate.”[ix] Golda’s love for politics provided the perfect outlet for her passions, and for the rest of her professional life, she courageously worked to ensure that there would be a safe place for Jews to live.

With a family to support and a cancer diagnosis to face, Golda accepted the role of Israel’s fourth prime minister on March 17, 1969. Applying her forty-five years of political experience, she always maintained her self-discipline and focus. Her cabinet met each Sunday night in her kitchen to discuss the latest terrorist attacks. Golda retired as prime minister on April 10, 1974. My Life was published in 1975, and she died in 1978. Some historians say she never achieved her dream of a peaceful country, but one thing was for sure—she confirmed that gender is not the issue!

[i] Krull, Kathleen and Kathryn Hewitt, Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (New York: Harcourt, Inc. 2000), 71.

[ii] Felder, Deborah G., The 100 Most Influential Women of All Time: A Ranking Past and Present (New York: A Citadel Press Book, 1996), 126.

[iii] Hawkins, David, M.D., Ph.D., Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior (Sedona: Veritas Pub, 1995), 201.

[iv] Ferrucci, Piero, Inevitable Grace: Breakthroughs in the Lives of Great Men and Women (Los Angles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc. 1990), 10.

[v] Krull, Kathleen and Kathryn Hewitt, Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (New York: Harcourt, Inc. 2000), 72.

[vi] Tolle, Eckhart, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, (New York: Dutton, 2005), 61.

[vii] Dreamer, Oriah Mountain,

[viii] Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher,

[ix] Claybourne, Anna, Living Lives: Gold Meir (Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2003), 42.

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