Public discourse in Israel and America has become increasingly polarized and divisive in recent years. The special bond between our two great nations was born of shared values and must remain above politics.
That is why a bipartisan congressional coalition has introduced a bill calling upon the United States Treasury to celebrate Israel-America relations by minting a coin bearing the face of Israel’s fourth prime minister, Golda Meir.Meir, though born in Kyiv, was raised and shaped in the US.
The Golda Meir Commemorative Coin Act is a mammoth task that will require a two-thirds majority in both houses. Championed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) in Congress, alongside Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the Senate.
Its purpose, according to the text of the bill, is to honor and commemorate the 75th anniversary of the US-Israel relationship; the first female prime minister of the State of Israel, Golda Meir; and the unique relationship that prime minister Meir had with the US.
The initiative will offer all Washington lawmakers, especially the seven new senators and 74 new House representatives, the opportunity to reaffirm their support for Israel.
The life of Golda Meir
Meir arrived at Ellis Island in 1906, aged eight. Her family had fled religious persecution in Europe – much like the early pioneers.
She was raised in Wisconsin, where her father found employment in the workshops of the local railroad yard and her mother ran a grocery store.
From these humble beginnings, Meir would become a role model for young women everywhere – as a Founding Mother and signatory on Israel’s Declaration of Independence – and then one of the world’s first female heads of state, when elected Israel’s fourth prime minister.
LONG BEFORE taking to the global world stage as a stateswoman, Meir was a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant finding her way in America. Against her parents’ wishes, she graduated high school and university, and became a teacher.
During her studies, she would become enamored by Zionism – the 2,000-year-old yearning of Jews to return to their ancient, ancestral and indigenous homeland. She quickly became a leader in the Labor-Zionist movement, preaching a universal doctrine of equality and self-determination for world Jewry, almost two decades before two-thirds would be annihilated by the Nazi Holocaust.
Dubbed as both Israel’s Iron Lady and the nation’s grandmother, she embraced both titles – caring for the children and soldiers of Israel like they were her own – while securing Israel’s national interests above all else.
Her commitment to solidarity went far beyond the borders of Israel. Long before her country had reached its 10th birthday, Meir was building bridges and offering support to foreign states around the globe – particularly in Africa. She was the embodiment of the Herzlian call to help Africans fight off colonialism and help the continent progress and develop, much like the Jewish people had.
While some in Israel’s foreign policy establishment did not understand the outreach to African nations, Meir felt it was the Jewish state’s moral responsibility to do so, because of our shared past of suffering and being colonized.
“We Jews share with the African peoples a memory of centuries-long suffering. For both Jews and Africans alike, such expressions as discrimination, oppression and slavery – these are not mere catchwords,” Meir said upon becoming Israel’s second foreign minister. “They don’t refer to experiences of hundreds of years ago. They refer to the torment and degradation we suffered yesterday and today.”
This is what led the legendary Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere – and anti-colonialist fighter – to describe her as “the mother of Africa.”
UPON BECOMING foreign minister in prime minister David Ben-Gurion’s cabinet, Golda would Hebrasize her surname Myerson to Meir – meaning to illuminate. It was her belief that the Jewish state should act as a lighthouse to the world, sharing values of peace, reconciliation and unity.
Golda Meir's values
These values led Meir to achieve remarkable things, whether orchestrating the integration of immigrants into Israel’s workforce, reaching out to and meeting with Arab leaders to prevent war and bloodshed, or visiting Russian Jewish businesses during the antisemitic crackdowns in the former Soviet Union.
Meir was always less interested in politics and positions, but led with her heart and her passion, for her people and issues that mattered.
“It’s no accident that many accuse me of conducting public affairs with my heart instead of my head. Well, what if I do? Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either,” Meir said in her usual self-deprecating manner.
Golda Meir was the embodiment of the shared values that brought together Israel and America, and deserves to be fondly remembered and immortalized on an American coin – as a symbol of our eternal bond and friendship.
The writer is a Los-Angeles based philanthropist and real-estate developer who serves as chairman of the Golda Meir Commemorative Coin Committee, and the Abraham Accords Roundtable. He has been involved for many years in strengthening the US-Israel relationship and was instrumental in the passage of the Iron Dome legislation.