By Shelley A. Sackett
MARBLEHEAD — There is no dearth of books about and by Golda Meir, the Israeli politician, teacher, and kibbutznik who served as the fourth prime minister from 1969 to 1974. Yet, as far as Pnina Lahav was concerned, Meir’s real story was still untold.
The former law professor and member of the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies at Boston University last September published, “The Only Woman in the Room: Golda Meir and Her Path to Power,” which looks at Meir through a feminist lens, focusing on her recurring role as a woman standing alone among men. The meticulously researched book is chockful of anecdotes that flesh out Meir’s full identity as a woman, Jew, wife, mother, and Zionist leader who was one of the founders of Israel.
On Tuesday, March 21 at 7 p.m., the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore in Marblehead will sponsor “An Evening with Pnina Lahav,” where the Israel-born scholar will talk about her new book with this Journal correspondent and answer questions from the audience. The event is part of the Israel at 75 series and will be followed by a dessert reception.
The idea for the book emerged as Lahav approached retirement and found herself reflecting on her career and what had most resonated with her over the decades. In 1998, she wrote her first biography, an award-winning book about Shimon Agranat, the third president of the Supreme Court of Israel. She had enjoyed both the process and the positive reviews and prizes it earned.
While searching for a special retirement gift to herself, she came up with the perfect idea: She would write another biography and return to the topic that had held her interest for half a century, since she published her first article in 1974 titled, “The Status of Women In Israel: Myth and Reality.”
“I decided to explore how Golda, the most successful Israeli politician of the 20th century and the fourth and only woman prime minister, functioned between the myth of equality and the reality of misogyny,” Lahav told the Journal. The title is both a play on the famous statement, attributed to David BenGurion, that Golda was ‘the only man in the room,’ and a tip of the hat to the fact that Golda surrounded herself with men. She made sure she was indeed the only woman in her political room.
Lahav’s biggest challenge was covering the entire history of Israel through a gender-oriented lens, from the Second Aliyah (1904-1914) to the Yom Kippur War (1973). She hopes today’s Jewish woman learns a lesson of perseverance from reading about Golda’s life story.
“If you want something with all your heart, try to get it, try to do it all, and do not fear criticism. At the end, you will be a happier person.” Lahav said. Θ
The event is free to JCCNS members, $10 for the community. To register, visit jccns.org.