Ben-Gurion's legacy: A refuge for every Jew

On the centenary of Ben-Gurion's aliya, a grandson looks back on his grandfather's fiery legacy.

david ben gurion 224.88 (photo credit: GPO)
david ben gurion 224.88
(photo credit: GPO)
The centenary of David Ben-Gurion's immigration to Turkish Palestine will be celebrated Monday at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. During the opening plenary session of its 36th annual board of governors meeting, the university will present eight awards to mark the occasion. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on the eve of the award ceremony, Dr. Yariv Ben-Eliezer, Ben-Gurion's eldest grandson and the director of media studies at Herzliya's Interdisciplinary Center's Lauder School of Government, talked about his personal relationship to his grandfather and about Ben-Gurion's legacy. "Since I was his first grandson, I got to spend many hours with a 'regular' grandfather," he said. "He wasn't always available, but when he was present, he was really present. He was never dominating or controlling, but he instilled in us the values it was important for him that we receive." According to Ben-Eliezer, Ben-Gurion's vision of the land to which he immigrated 100 years ago was shaped by the Zionist ideology that pervaded his home in Plonsk, Poland. "It was a home that taught him that being a Zionist meant living in Zion, not in Chicago, which is why he came here," he said. In addition to lecturing on the theoretical aspects of media and mass communications, Ben-Eliezer also works as a strategic consultant on political campaigns. Asked to comment on today's Labor Party, which evolved from the Mapai led by his grandfather throughout almost his entire political career, Ben-Eliezer said he did not view the party's current leadership as continuing his grandfather's legacy. "I am obviously not objective - after all, he was my grandfather David, and not Ben-Gurion," he said. "But when I watched the political commercials prior to the elections, in which Labor chairman Amir Peretz was depicted as a clone of my grandfather, I felt the public was being presented with a false image of the kind that television can create. Labor has become a different party than it was during the founders' generation. For the first time this year, since I was 18, I did not vote for Labor." According to Ben-Eliezer, while Ben-Gurion did not occupy the position of an opposition leader interested in joining the coalition, he belonged to a generation "that had the courage to fight for their values and pay the price. It's a bygone era, whose basic values have disappeared." The Zionism his grandfather believed in, he said, would persist "as long as the State of Israel continues to exist as a refuge for every Jew that wants to come here." "My grandfather," he said, "was a pragmatist, who believed in creating a synthesis between what you desire and what is possible and necessary, and he was willing to give up a large part of the territories in return for peace. He was an idealist, but also a pragmatist who didn't lose sight of reality." According to Ben-Eliezer, faced with the Israel of 2006, Ben-Gurion would likely have had the greatest difficulty in coming to terms with political corruption and social injustice. "Social justice and integrity were the most important things for him," he said. "These are principles that are measured by how they are implemented, not by how they are spoken about. Today, people in Israel prefer slogans to taking action." Recipients of the Ben-Gurion University Award are Lord Weidenfeld (UK), Edgar D. de Picciotto (Switzerland), Sir Aaron Klug (UK), Dr. Heinz-Horst Deichmann (Germany), Suzanne Zlotowski (Switzerland), Robert H. Arnow (US), Ellen. S. Marcus (US) and former university president MK Avishay Braverman.