The IDF archives at the Defense Ministry recently published a letter written by Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Ben-Gurion said that he was upset by the decision not to include more women in his government.

David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister Photo Credit: IDF Archives at the Defense Ministry

In anticipation of International Women’s Day (March 8), the IDF archives at the Defense Ministry published a letter written by Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and sent it to various women’s organization, among them WIZO Women’s Union and the Women’s Federation of Hadassah. The letter was written in 1948, two months before the State of Israel was established.

“I personally agree with all my heart with your claim,” Ben-Gurion said. “I think that nominating a woman to government is a great privilege (and that means also a great need) for the state, and I was disappointed that my own party refused my advice to nominate a female member to the government.”

Ben-Gurion continued to extol the virtues of women and to emphasize the wider importance of diversity: “I see it as something we’re honor bound, not only toward our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters, who bear an equal burden in building and shaping the image of the state, but also toward the greater world and toward our neighbors.”

In addition to Ben-Gurion’s letter, the archive published a letter written by Esther Arditi, the highest decorated woman in the IDF. Nicknamed the “Angel in White” for her work as a paramedic, Arditi enlisted in the IDF at age 16 after emigrating from Bulgaria to Israel. She completed a paramedic’s course and, only a week after being certified, rescued two seriously injured pilots from a downed plane.

For this, she received an honorary citation from the IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan, which was subsequently converted into a Medal of Distinguished Service. To date, Arditi is the only female soldier to receive this medal.

Many years later, Arditi, a tour guide, asked to bring her family to meet Ben-Gurion. In the newly published letter, Arditi wrote to the prime minister, saying: “A family with Italian citizenship, whose greatest dream is to shake hands with the highly esteemed Mr. David Ben-Gurion!”