‘No confidence I am fulfilling my roles’: Documents reveal Ben-Gurion’s anxieties

The anxieties and day-to-day activities of David Ben-Gurion are revealed in documents set to go on display as part of a new exhibition of archival items belonging to the former prime minister.

Until now, the archive of Ben-Gurion’s papers was not accessible to the public, but a new facility will allow them to be displayed at the Midreshet Ben Gurion research and education complex, next to Kibbutz Sde Boker in the south of the country, the Ynet news site reported.

In 1953, the year before his resignation, Ben-Gurion was asked to complete a questionnaire by activists from Mapai, the predecessor to today’s Labor Party.

“What positions do you hold in the capacity of your job?” Ben-Gurion was asked in the document.

“I am in the positions of prime minister and defense minister. I have no confidence that I am fulfilling them properly,” he responded.

“Do these roles constitute a burden on you because of the scope of matters you are responsible for?”

“Not a burden, but rather anxiety,” he responded.

Questionnaire filled out by David Ben-Gurion (Screen grab/Ynet)

The director-general of the Ben-Gurion Heritage Institute said the documents revealed a rarely-seen side of the prime minister.

“The archive is a dream come true. We are constantly discovering more and more, like this questionnaire in which Ben-Gurion wrote that he has no confidence that he is doing things right. And he is considered ‘Mr. Security,’” Eitan Donitz, told the Ynet news site.

In a 1958 document, during Ben-Gurion’s second term, the prime minister complained to then-finance minister Pinchas Sapir that a ministry official had apparently leaked details about the upcoming talks in the United States.

Finance Minister Pinchas Sapir, March 30, 1971 (Moshe Milner/GPO)

“I am astonished by the publication made by the Treasury spokesman,” Ben-Gurion wrote.

“Why are we announcing what we will demand before it happens? Why brag? Why did they forget the correct warning that a man should not boast of his intentions before proving that he is capable of doing them? Look into the matter and if possible, correct.”

While sorting through the documents, archivists uncovered previously-unseen papers and notebooks, including the former prime minister’s diaries, embossed with the initials “D.B.G.” in English, and revealing his everyday life.

“We discovered Ben-Gurion’s original pocket diaries, documents we thought were long lost,” said archive director, Dr Adi Portugez, explaining to the Ynet news site that the former prime minister used the booklets to record everything he did — from praying at synagogue to watching a performance of the “The King and I.”

“I submitted my resignation to the president,” Ben-Gurion wrote in a diary on December 7, 1953.

A few days later on December 14, he wrote: “I went out to Sde Boker this morning.”

An official shows the signed document which proclaims the establishment of the new Jewish state of Israel declared by prime minister David Ben-Gurion, left, in Tel Aviv at midnight on May 14, 1948. (AP Photo)

On the famous date of November 29, 1947 when the United Nations adopted the Partition Plan, Ben-Gurion is known to have written a list of things that would be needed to establish a state: government, capital, army, court, flag, anthem, constitution, currency, ports, police and airports.

However, that particular diary entry has not yet been uncovered by the archivists.

“That hasn’t yet been found, but I am optimistic that we will because we have discovered so many other documents,” said Portugez.

Separately, the Ben-Gurion House in Tel Aviv, a museum in the building that served as a home for the former prime minister, honored Israel’s under-19 men’s soccer team reaching the country’s first-ever European soccer final by releasing ticket stubs and letters Ben-Gurion wrote to teams and the soccer association to congratulate them on their victories.

“One of the first things that Ben-Gurion understood was that the State of Israel needed to be recognized in the world,” Ran Levy of Ben-Gurion House told Channel 12 news. “And although he did not like football, after receiving advice from world leaders, he understood the importance of establishing a national football team that would play around the world.”

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