It’s been hard to avoid Golda Meir’s presence in our cultural life in recent years. Meir, the only woman to serve as prime minister of Israel (between 1969 and 1974), has become a cinematic heroine, portrayed by Helen Mirren in a new biopic. Around a year ago, a comprehensive biography of her, The Only Woman in the Room by Pnina Lahav, was published. Three years ago, a documentary film focused on one of her last interviews was released. And for those who may not know it, the most popular ice-cream brand in Israel now is called Golda.
This new biography, wonderfully written by Deborah Lipstadt, joins the trend. But before delving into the book itself, it’s worth pondering the renewed fascination with Meir. Why has someone who just five years ago, on the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of Israel’s founding, was ranked in a public survey conducted by Haaretz newspaper as the country’s worst ever prime minister, become a figure of such fascination?
There are several possible explanations. First, it could be generational. Those who fought in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel’s unpreparedness for which was blamed on Meir, are now in their late seventies, and younger generations may not have the same bitter memories of that conflict. Second, it