Peres crafts warm ode to Ben-Gurion

“Ben-Gurion: A Political Life” by Shimon Peres in Conversation With David Landau

By Burton A. Boxerman, Special to the Jewish Light

“Ben-Gurion: A Political Life” is the 19th title in the Jewish Encounter series from Shocken and Nextbook Press, written by Shimon Peres with the assistance of David Landau, former editor of Haaretz. Peres is currently the Israeli president and a protégé of David Ben-Gurion, one of the founders of the State of Israel, and the country’s first prime minister. Because Peres has always idolized his hero, readers must understand that there is very little pretense of objectivity in this book.

Despite the obvious bias towards Ben-Gurion, Peres certainly is in the position to evaluate and assess a person he fondly calls the “Old Man.” During his reminiscences of his mentor, Peres presents a very human portrait of Ben-Gurion, a man he considers to be a master strategist who possessed an unshakable vision for the future of Israel.

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Peres describes his long friendship with Ben-Gurion and his obvious affection and respect for him. They were both ardent Zionists with a deep vision for a secure and strong Jewish State. At one time the two men “flirted” with Bolshevism, but during a visit to the Soviet Union, Ben-Gurion witnessed horrific anti-Semitism there, and was sickened by the utter lack of human rights for all of its citizens. He quickly changed his mind and convinced Peres to do the same.

Peres discusses Ben-Gurion’s many achievements, and how his friend envisioned a modern, democratic Jewish nation-state able to live peacefully and securely alongside its Arab neighbors. Unlike many of Ben-Gurion’s critics who claimed that the prime minister was too quick to compromise, Peres credits him for his uncanny pragmatism which ultimately resulted in the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, much to the chagrin of those who insisted on Jewish settlement in the entire land of Israel.

This book is more than a standard biography of Ben-Gurion. In addition to describing their warm relationship, Peres discusses his own life. This discussion, which takes the form of a conversation between Peres and his co-writer, David Landau, are inserted within the text of the book. While some readers may feel that they break up the flow of the narrative, they actually brighten and sharpen the dialogue sections.

This book is a worthwhile read, an intimate and personal book about the brave men and women who helped create Israel against tremendous odds following the devastation of the Holocaust.