Israel's Good Name

Ben Gurion: Life and Death

In Israel, Negev on December 3, 2013 at 8:59 AM

Last week I spent a few days in the desert down south, driving my army truck around and going on adventures in my spare time. One day I was fortunate enough to have many, many hours of spare time and visited numerous interesting sites, among them two national parks. The first stop was Sde Boker, the little Negev kibbutz where David Ben Gurion – Israel’s first Prime Minister – staked his claim and settled down.

Animated David Ben Gurion

Animated David Ben Gurion

I parked outside the kibbutz and walked over to the historical site, Ben Gurion’s little house. Within the property, belonging to the kibbutz, I found a winery store and then various huts leading up to the front office. In two of these huts I found screens, and attempted to watch the animated film depicting David Ben Gurion’s life but, alas! the computer shut down mid-screening and so I temporarily abandoned the video presentations. Composed of superb animation, which reminded me of the “The Adventures of Tintin” TV show, and a richly accented English voice, I really enjoyed the video (screenshot above).

The Ben Gurion residence

The Ben Gurion residence

A brief synopsis on a pretty influential life, David Ben Gurion (originally David Grün) – often referred to as the “founding father of Israel” – was born in Poland (Czarist Russia) in 1886 and immigrated to the Holy Land in 1906 where he began working on settlements. By 1915 Ben Gurion was expelled by the reigning Ottoman Empire and made his way to the United States, there further aligning himself with Zionism. In 1918 he enlisted in the British Army’s Jewish Legion and returned to the Holy Land. In 1935 he was elected Chairman of the Jewish Agency and on May 14, 1948 announced the establishment of the State of Israel. Becoming the fledgling country’s first Prime Minister, Ben Gurion switched between politics and living quietly on Kibbutz Sde Boker, in the above house.

David Ben Gurion and quote

David Ben Gurion and quote

I entered the little green wooden house – left exactly as it was back then – and looked around, starting with the living room. An informational plaque on the wall explained the identity, and sometimes origin, of the various items and knick-knacks placed throughout the little room. I felt like I was in an Israeli version of Greenfield Village.

The Ben Gurion living room

The Ben Gurion living room

After inspecting the living room, bedrooms, library, kitchen, bathroom and outside yard of the Ben Gurion residence I met up with a docent, likely a member of the kibbutz. He insisted on returning my entrance fee, seeing that I came alone and I behaved myself so nicely. Despite my persistent refusal he managed to slip the coins into my pocket and so I gave up and then asked him for advice. Being a local, this man instructed me on where to go next – Ben Gurion’s burial place at Midreshet Ben Gurion. His instructions were good and sound, and I slipped my truck into a great parking spot at the national park’s entrance:

Parked truck

Parked truck

I walked through the well-designed park path and made my way to the burial spot, where my guide back in Sde Boker told me that I would see one of the best views in the Negev. Entering the plaza, I did see an incredible view – one that could easily pass for an alien planet:

View from the plaza

View from the plaza

And here is a panoramic which includes a wider shot of the intense desert view and the windy road heading down to Ein Avdat, another national park:

Panoramic view

Panoramic view

I stood and photographed for a while and then began to look around. I noticed that an army unit was getting an official tour and asked them which unit they were. The answer: “Oketz“, the IDF elite canine unit. Cool. Next. two IAF fighter jets did a screaming flyby, passing not too far over our heads and definitely capturing our attention. On their return trip, heading back to the wilderness, I tried capturing them on camera but it came out blurred.

The casual tourist

The casual tourist

David Ben Gurion died in 1973, immediately after the Yom Kippur War, and was buried with minimal fanfare and no eulogies (as requested). Here is David Ben Gurion’s gravestone, looking out over the Negev which he so loved, resting alongside his wife who passed away back in 1968:

David Ben Gurion's grave

David Ben Gurion’s grave

As I headed back down the pleasant stone and shrubbery walkway, lined with trees, I stopped and became aware of a presence. Glancing to my right I started, for I saw an ibex watching me. I’ve never come across an ibex in the “wild” and was a tad on the startled side. But then I came to my senses and began to use my camera, capturing the friendly beast for you to see – the Nubian ibex:

An ibex

An ibex

As I left the park, headed for my next destination – the national park Avdat – I took this photo of this pleasant green area, a break in the yellowish tan of the Negev desert:

Midreshet Ben Gurion

Midreshet Ben Gurion

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  1. I wonder what old Death would have to say if he were practicing his hobby here (gravestone analysis) – a short animation I made:

  2. […] visiting Sde Boker and Midreshet Ben Gurion, the home and burial place of Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, I drove a few […]

  3. […] blog post interrupts the three-part “desert adventure” (of which only Ben Gurion: Life and Death and Avdat have already been published, to date) to focus on an event which threw some of the […]

  4. […] to the desert trilogy of blog posts… Aftering visiting Sde Boker, Midreshet Ben Gurion and the ancient ruins of Avdat I pushed southwards and stopped at Mitzpe Ramon. A town on the […]

  5. […] further north, I stopped just after Sde Boker (where Ben Gurion lived and died) and happened upon a place I’ve never even heard of: the […]

  6. […] residence for Israel’s first prime minister, and it was between here and his desert home in Sde Boker that he divided his […]

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