11 Facts About Golda Meir

Harry Dempster/Express/Getty Images
Harry Dempster/Express/Getty Images

Prime Minister Golda Meir, the Iron Lady of Israeli politics, played a fundamental role in establishing Israel as a country and guiding it through its difficult formative years. As an early proponent of Zionism, she moved to what was then British Palestine at the age of 23, and eventually rose to the fledgling state of Israel’s highest office. Here are 11 facts about Israel’s kindly grandma and political strategist.

1. SHE WAS BORN IN THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE AND RAISED IN MILWAUKEE.

Born Golda Mabovitch in 1898 in Kiev, Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire), the future Israeli prime minister had a genuinely international upbringing. Her family escaped Russia during a time of increased anti-Jewish sentiment and widespread pogroms—violent mob persecutions of Jewish people—when she was eight years old. Her father, Moshe, left first; he initially sought work in New York City, but then landed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he saved enough money to bring his family over, three years after he had arrived. Golda liked Milwaukee—she later wrote of being entranced by her "pretty new clothes, by the soda pop, and ice cream and by the excitement" of Schuster's Department Store.

2. SHE DISCOVERED ACTIVISM IN GRADE SCHOOL.

Golda got her start with political activism in the fourth grade, when she and her friend Regina Hamburger organized the American Young Sisters Society to raise money to buy textbooks for fellow classmates who couldn't afford them. Their fundraising efforts included some of Golda's first attempts at public speaking, for which she discovered she had a knack.

3. SHE PURSUED AN EDUCATION WHEN HER PARENTS WANTED HER TO GET MARRIED.

Golda’s conservative parents thought that she should work in their deli and start thinking about getting married instead of going to high school. She rebelled by going to live with her sister, Sheyna Korngold, in Denver. The Korngold household was filled with intellectual conversations about Zionism, Socialism, and more. While there Golda also (perhaps ironically) met her future husband, Morris Meyerson.

4. HER MOVE TO PALESTINE WAS DELAYED BY WORLD WAR I.

Golda and Morris were married in 1917, and had intentions to make aliyah, as Jews from the diaspora refer to moving to Israel (aliyah means "ascent"). But they were stalled by the curtailing of transatlantic travel during WWI. While waiting to go, Golda raised funds for the Marxist-Zionist workers group Poale Zion. She finally made the move with her husband and sister in 1921.

5. SHE WAS IN CHARGE OF A CHICKEN FARM.

Golda and her husband’s application to the kibbutz (a type of Israeli collective settlement) Merhavia was initially rejected, but they eventually got in, thanks in part to her husband owning a phonograph. A natural leader, Golda took on and excelled in responsibilities in the community, including almond harvesting, running a kitchen, and tending the chicken coops. They left Merhavia in 1923 for Tel Aviv, and later moved to Jerusalem.

6. SHE WAS ONE OF TWO WOMEN WHO SIGNED ISRAEL’S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.

Golda Meir speaking at Histadrut headquarters in 1946
Golda Meir speaking at Histadrut headquarters in 1946
Zoltan Kluger, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

After becoming a kibbutz representative to the Israeli labor organization Histadrut, Golda quickly rose through the ranks. She then held several key posts in the World Zionist Organization and in the Jewish Agency, then the highest Jewish authority in Palestine, becoming a powerful spokesperson for the Zionist cause during World War II. When Israel declared independence in 1948, she was one of only two women asked to sign the declaration. Reflecting on the experience years later, Golda said, “After I signed, I cried. When I studied American history as a schoolgirl and I read about those who signed the [United States] Declaration of Independence, I couldn’t imagine these were real people doing something real. And there I was sitting down and signing a declaration of independence.”

7. SHE GOT THE FIRST ISRAELI-ISSUED PASSPORT.

Soon after signing the declaration, Golda flew to the United States to raise money for the fledgling state. As part of this, she received what was effectively the very first passport (technically a Laissez-passer, or travel document) that Israel ever printed. She was soon made Israel’s Minister Plenipotentiary to the Soviet Union, an office she held for less than a year, but during that time she went to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at Moscow Choral Synagogue, where she was mobbed by thousands of Russian Jews chanting her name. The scene was later depicted along with her face on the 10,000 Shekel note.

8. SHE WAS ELECTED TO THE FIRST ISRAELI PARLIAMENT.

Meir with Israeli children in 1950
Meir with Israeli children in 1950
Théodore Brauner, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When the Israeli parliament, known as the Knesset, first convened in 1949, Golda acted as Minister of Labor and Social Security as a member of the center-left Mapai party. She continued in the role (later retitled the Minister of Labor), overseeing huge infrastructural growth, until 1956, when she became Foreign Minister. It was then that, under a directive from predecessor Moshe Sharett that all foreign service members Hebraicize their names, she officially changed her last name from Meyerson to Meir.

9. SHE LEFT THE CABINET BEFORE BECOMING PRIME MINISTER.

Golda was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1965, and stepped away from her role in the cabinet in 1966, becoming the secretary general of her party instead. Three years later, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol died suddenly of a heart attack, and she was called to the post to prevent a power struggle. During her time in office, she built a strong relationship with the United States, worked to promote her vision for Middle East peace, and helped the country weather the terrorist attack at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich—when 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage, beaten, and eventually murdered.

10. MEN IN POWER SAW HER PREMIERSHIP AS TEMPORARY UNTIL SHE PROVED EVERYONE WRONG.

Golda Meir in 1964
Willem van de Poll, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Golda’s rise out of semi-retirement was orchestrated in part by the powerful party operative Pinchas Sapir, who saw her taking the position as a way to keep the party secure and prevent Yigal Allon and Moshe Dayan from fighting for the job after Eshkol’s death and splitting the party. It was also meant to be a short-term situation that would last the rest of Eshkol’s term—but Golda once again proved her leadership prowess, ran for the position during the 1969 election, and won. She was Prime Minister until 1974.

11. SHE WAS A FASHION ICON FOR A PECULIAR REASON.

Beyond her political achievements, Golda made a sartorial mark by wearing clunky orthopedic shoes, which became known as na’alei Golda, or “Golda’s Shoes.” Pairs were supplied to female soldiers for years as part of their uniforms, but they were later phased out (to the relief of many in the army).

7 Massage Guns That Are on Sale Right Now

Jawku/Actigun
Jawku/Actigun

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10 Fascinating Facts About Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge stars in Fleabag.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge stars in Fleabag.
Amazon Studios

In just two short seasons, British sitcom Fleabag has made a lasting mark on television. The series centers around Fleabag, a 30-year-old Londoner—played by the effortlessly funny Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who also created the show—who is caught up living a life of late nights filled with booze and promiscuity in the wake of her mother’s death.

At first Fleabag appeared to be a simple half-hour comedy following the often naughty exploits of its quirky main character. Yet, as the series progressed, it quickly proved itself to be a truly masterful piece of work with each episode adding more complicated layers and darker themes to which many viewers can relate. Here are some facts about the groundbreaking comedy.

1. Fleabag began as a one-woman stage play.

It’s hard to imagine what Fleabag might look like if it were stripped of all its chaotic characters and performed as a solo show, but that’s exactly how it started. Before there was a TV show, creator/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge staged Fleabag as a one-woman play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival back in 2013. The title character addressed the audience in an hour-long, sexcapade-filled monologue, which was generally met with praise by theater critics. The TV show was created soon after, and originally premiered on BBC Three in July 2016.

2. The title of the show refers to more than just the main character.

The title Fleabag comes from a nickname given to Phoebe Waller-Bridge by her family. “It was my family nickname as far back as I can remember,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2019. Speaking to This Morning in April 2020, Waller-Bridge also revealed a deeper meaning for the name choice (which is never actually spoken in the show).

“A fleabag motel is something that's a bit rough around the edges,” Waller-Bridge explained. "I wanted to call her that because I wanted her persona and her outside aesthetic to give the impression that she was completely in control of her life, when actually, underneath, she's not."

3. Phoebe Waller-Bridge co-founded a theater company before penning Fleabag.


L to R: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Vicky Jones, and Tuppence Middleton at London's Soho Theatre.
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

In 2007, several years before Fleabag was born, Waller-Bridge was fed up with not being able to find work, despite having graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art two years earlier. So she co-founded her own theater company, DryWhite, with her best friend Vicky Jones. DryWhite paved the way for Waller-Bridge’s 2008 debut stage performance in Roaring Trade at London’s Soho Theatre, which led to two other successful plays—Crashing and, of course, Fleabag—both of which were created by and starred Waller-Bridge, and both of which were turned into television series. DryWhite is still going strong today, bringing fresh talent out in new productions every year.

4. Isobel Waller-Bridge, Phoebe's sister, composed the Fleabag soundtrack.

The badass guitar chords played after every episode of Fleabag are composed by Isobel Waller-Bridge, Phoebe’s very talented sister. Isobel earned a bachelor's degree in Music at Edinburgh University followed by a master's degree at King's College London then additional study at the Royal Academy of Music.

Isobel has firmly established herself in the music world. Like her sister, Isobel has received several awards, including Best Composer at the Underwire Film Festival. She also composed the chorused background music for Fleabag’s second season, which perfectly fit the religious theme. Her impressive work can be heard on her SoundCloud.

5. The fourth wall breaks in Fleabag aren’t just there for comedic effect.

Fleabag’s hilarious fourth wall breaks actually serve a deeper purpose for the character, which is realized by the end of season 1. Fleabag, who is deeply suppressing grief from the loss of her mother and best friend, uses these breaks to escape her troubled reality.

By season 2, the fourth wall breaks became less of a crutch as the character became more engaged in her real life and even fell in love. By the end of the show (spoiler!), Fleabag retires from the audience altogether as she decides to face her reality going forward.

6. The “Hot Priest” role was written specifically for Andrew Scott.

Waller-Bridge worked with Irish actor Andrew Scott years before she cast him to play the role of The Priest—a.k.a. “The Hot Priest”—in Fleabag’s second season. Speaking to IndieWire in 2019, Waller-Bridge praised Scott’s acting style, saying, “there’s something really dangerous about how truthful he is as an actor … he just comes with so much complexity that your characters instantly become interesting.” Waller-Bridge wrote the part once Scott agreed to it and their perfectly tragicomic love story was born.

7. Had Andrew Scott turned the part down, a second season of Fleabag might never have happened.

Waller-Bridge was so set on getting Andrew Scott to sign on to play The Priest that she admitted a second season might not have happened if he had said no. She told IndieWire:

"Religion was already a theme in my mind from very, very early on, but I didn’t know how to distill that until I had decided on The Priest. I worried it would be too much of an obvious sort of comedy idea, that Fleabag, who you can’t imagine has ever stepped foot in a church before, that she should come up against a man of the cloth. It seems almost too comedic, too sitcom.

"But then the moment I imagined Andrew Scott in that role, and making this man complex and three-dimensional, and sort of a match for Fleabag, then I was like ‘I’ve got the show now.’ It’s all about these two and how they affect each other’s lives. I called him up before I’d even written it to see if he’d be interested in doing it, and I pitched him the idea because I think if he’d said no, I don’t know if I would have actually been able to write that part."

8. The Priest notices something about Fleabag that no other character in the show is able to see.

Andrew Scott in Fleabag (2016)
Andrew Scott stars in Fleabag.
Amazon Studios

Fleabag often breaks the fourth wall mid-conversation with characters to address the audience, until she is eventually caught in the act of doing it by The Priest—much to her, and the viewer's, surprise. Whenever things get too intense for Fleabag, she switches off, which is something the Priest notices almost right away. In a 2019 interview with IndieWire, Waller-Bridge discussed the significance of this moment between the two characters: “[S]peaking to the audience concerns the theme of loneliness, and I think that he’s able to recognize that because he’s actually able to see her.”

9. Fleabag had an alternate ending.

In 2019, Waller-Bridge revealed to The Guardian that there was an alternate ending for Fleabag, but she remained tight-lipped on what it was. At the beginning of season 2, Fleabag tells audiences this is “a love story” which, despite ending rather tragically, remains hopeful by the end as Fleabag leaves audiences behind to move forward in her own life. So Waller-Bridge can keep her alternate ending—the one viewers saw was perfect.

10. No, there will not be a third season of Fleabag.

Sian Clifford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in 'Fleabag'
Sian Clifford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag.
Hal Shinnie/Amazon Studios

Though Fleabag dominated the most recent awards season, winning two Golden Globes (including Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy) and six Emmy Awards (including Outstanding Comedy Series), Waller-Bridge has made it clear that there will not be a third season. Even after the second season won so many awards, Waller-Bridge said, “I haven’t changed my mind about season 3. It feels more and more about being the right decision. [These awards shows] are just beautiful goodbyes."