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 1946Zoltan 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 1950Théodore 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.

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).

11 Lively Gifts for Plant Parents

Blue Q/Amazon/Picnic Time/World Market
Blue Q/Amazon/Picnic Time/World Market

Many folks have been showing off their green thumbs this year thanks to the pandemic, so why not encourage their hobbies? There's a special gift for every kind of plant parent out there—think starter grow kits to gardening tools to cute cartoon socks. If the Christmas tree in the living room isn't enough greenery for your gift recipient's taste this festive season, we have some great gift options below.

1. Back To The Roots Garden In A Can Herb Growing Kit; $25

Back to the Roots/World Market

Herb gardens are compact, useful, and easy to maintain. If your giftee lives in an apartment and doesn't have outdoor space for a large garden, Back To The Roots's Garden In A Can Herb Growing Kit—a three-pack of basil, cilantro, and mint—is a great place for them to start their indoor horticultural journey.

Buy it: World Market

2. Plants Rock Cactus Growing Kit; $13

Plants Rock/World Market

Another option for small spaces is cacti, which do not require much water or attention. This kit makes it easy to start growing cacti in your gift recient's home. The tools are all included, so all your giftee has to do is plant the seeds and set the ceramic pot in a sunny spot.

Buy it: World Market

3. Picnic Time Folding Garden Stool With Tools; $69

Picnic Time/World Market

For more experienced gardeners, tools are essential for helping plants thrive. This stool with tools might solve the problem of sore knees and backs from kneeling in dirt. Not only is the seat portable and lightweight, but it also includes a storage tote and five pockets for tools like the included trowels and garden forks.

Buy it: World Market

4. Green and Pink Ribbed-Glass Plant Misters; $26

World Market

Indoor plants need as much care and attention as their outdoor cousins, but lugging around a watering can may cause a mess in your giftee's home. Using this set of two plant misters is an easy way to keep moisture-loving plants like orchids and Boston ferns nice and dewy.

Buy it: World Market

5. Cotton Macramé Plant Hanger; $18

World Market

Macramé plant hangers were all the rage back in the '70s. They've made a comeback this year as people have become craftier at home. This plant hanger is great for showing off plants that grow long, curtain-like tendrils and helpful when your giftee lives in a small space. With the roof as the limit, they can pack in as many plants as they want.

Buy it: World Market

6. Can't Kill Me 2021 Calendar; $8

TF Publishing/World Market

If your gift recipient loves plants but can't keep real ones alive, give them this mini wall calendar. It features, well, plant arrangements they can't kill, like succulents, bonsai trees, and snake plants. This calendar will surely add a dose of green to their home office.

Buy it: World Market

7. The New Plant Parent: Develop Your Green Thumb and Care for Your House-Plant Family; $17

Harry N. Abrams/Amazon

All gardeners want one simple thing: to know more about keeping their plants alive and thriving. This book has all the essentials for cultivating houseplants. It's full of tips and tricks for repotting a plant, taking care of certain types of plants, and adjusting light for your plant baby's survival.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Homenote Bamboo Plant Labels; $14

HOMENOTE/Amazon

Plant labels are a great way for your giftee to remember where they planted their rosemary versus their parsley before they sprout. This 60 label set comes with a pen, so the labeling process is a breeze.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Blue Q Proud Plant Mom Socks; $13

Blue Q/Amazon

Proud plant moms want to show off their love for their greenery any way they can. That's why these crew socks will be a hit with any of your green-thumbed friends. Blue Q also donates 1 percent of its sales revenue to Doctors Without Borders.

Buy it: Amazon

10. EuroGraphics 1000-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle; $20

EuroGraphics Toys/Amazon

This 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle will occupy your gift recipients from the fall harvest to the spring planting season. The challenging design of multiple succulents features each plant's common and scientific name.

Buy it: Amazon

11. AeroGarden Indoor Hydroponic Garden; $124

AeroGarden/Amazon

If seasons don't matter to your giftee and they want to start their herb garden right now, then the AeroGarden is going to be their best friend. They'll be able to grow herbs like dill, thyme, and mint indoors in the middle of winter. Thanks to the LED grow lights, there is no need to worry about plants getting enough sunlight. They can grow up to six plants at a time, all year round.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

15 Facts About A Nightmare on Elm Street

Robert Englund as A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger.
Robert Englund as A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger.
New Line Cinema

Enrich your annual Halloween viewing A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven’s 1984 horror classic, with these fascinating tidbits.

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street is Johnny Depp’s film debut.

During casting, it came down to Johnny Depp, who was then 21 years old, or another young actor to play Glen. Director Wes Craven asked his teenage daughter which actor he should cast as the heartthrob boyfriend—she chose Depp.

2. A Nightmare on Elm Street was inspired by real-life events.

Craven decided to make A Nightmare on Elm Street after reading a series of Los Angeles Times articles about a group of teenage Khmer immigrants who, after moving to the U.S. from refugee camps, died in their sleep after suffering from disturbing nightmares.

3. Freddy Krueger is an amalgamation of Wes Craven’s childhood terrors.

“Freddy” was the name of a bully who beat Craven up in elementary school, and his signature hat was based on one worn by a neighborhood drunk who scared Craven when he was young.

4. Freddy Krueger’s sweater is scientifically scary.

Craven designed Freddy’s striped sweater after reading in Scientific American that the human eye has difficulty recognizing those particular shades of red and green side by side. Therefore, looking at it is subliminally unsettling.

5. Freddy Krueger’s weapon of choice was inspired by house pets and infomercials.

Craven didn’t want Freddy to wield a simple knife like Michael Myers in Halloween or Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th, so he drew on his fear of his own cat’s claws and a series of late-night commercials selling sets of knives to create Freddy’s iconic knife glove.

6. Wes Craven’s other influences include surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel and director Roman Polanski.

He drew on their works, particularly Polanski’s The Tenant and Repulsion, for the dream sequences in the film.

7. A Nightmare on Elm Street was shot in just 32 days.

Principal photography began in June 1984 and wrapped in July.

8. The boiler room in A Nightmare on Elm Street was an actual boiler room—in the basement of a jail.

The scenes where Freddy attacks his victims in a boiler room were shot in an actual boiler room in the basement of the Lincoln Heights Jail in Los Angeles. Soon after shooting ended, the building was condemned because of asbestos.

9. It took A Nightmare on Elm Street's makeup artists three hours each day to apply and take off Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger makeup.

The makeup consisted of 11 separate pieces applied to Englund’s face and upper chest.

10. Robert Englund based his performance as Freddy Krueger on a horror icon and musical theater star.

Englund was inspired by Klaus Kinski’s performance in the 1979 remake of Nosferatu and the work of actor James Cagney.

11. British actor David Warner was originally supposed to play Freddy Krueger.

He was forced to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.

12. One of A Nightmare on Elm Street's most famous scenes was inspired by Stanley Kubrick.

The famous scene in which a geyser of blood shoots out of Glen’s bed was inspired by a similar scene of blood pouring from an elevator in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. To create this effect, the blood was created from 80 gallons of water mixed with red paint, which was then was poured through a set built upside-down.

13. Nancy was almost killed by breakfast foods in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The sticky substance that keeps her from running up the stairs away from Freddy was in fact a mixture of oatmeal and pancake batter.

14. The movie that Nancy watches to try to stay awake is Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead.

Craven added the nod to Raimi because Raimi had previously included a poster of Craven’s second film, The Hills Have Eyes, in a scene in The Evil Dead. Raimi eventually returned the favor by hiding Freddy’s knife glove in a scene in a tool shed in Evil Dead II.

15. The sleep doctor who tries to cure Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street is played by Charles Fleischer.

Fleischer provided the voice for Roger Rabbit.

This story has been updated for 2020.