International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

A letter from David Ben Gurion

Statue of David Ben Gurion in Caesarea (Photo: Flickrr/ zeevveez)

On May 10th, 1962, David Ben Gurion wrote a letter in response to one he had received from the bereaved sister of a recently killed Israeli soldier. The letter, published on the English-language website of the Israel State Archives (which, if you love Israel and history, you should bookmark and visit often), is a window into what made Ben Gurion a great leader.

It may seem like a strange thing to publish here – a blog generally reserved for analysis of breaking events. When we publish posts about history, it’s usually in a commemorative circumstance.

But one line from this letter struck me as so deeply moving that I wanted to share it. Prime Minister Ben Gurion (who, at that time, was also Minister of Defense) wrote:

I know I can’t argue with you. I must regard these matters rationally, and that I can’t demand of you; as a bereaved sister, I cannot require you to apply cool logic. Nor, I’m afraid, will I be able to mitigate your pain; such pain isn’t to be mitigated.

It’s not unusual for leaders to FEEL the burden of leadership – to think rationally while others have the luxury of emotion, to calculate, to apply “cool logic,” to be the adult in the room. Shakespeare said as much in “Henry IV” when he wrote “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” But it is unusual for them to talk about it. People – especially those in grief – don’t like to be told they are reacting emotionally or irrationally. People also don’t like to be told they are wrong.

But, even to a grieving sister, Ben Gurion wasn’t afraid to lay out what he really thought. Such boldness is refreshing – even 50 years after it was written.

Author: Stand For Israel | August 14, 2012
Posted in:  Uncategorized


What do you think?

  • Shannon
    August 29, 2012
    10:58 pm

    A kind word of blessing can save someone’s life and help to heal a broken heart. I give no criticism for this. I know one who wore a painful crown upon His head and painful it was to bear but He did it anyway and He did it for me. I am eternally grateful to Him and will bless Him forever more. You will find the identity of this humble ruler whom I have had the opportunity of knowing personally in my life if you are willing to read in the New Testament the book of John Chapter 1:) Blessings to the real children of Abraham!!!!!!! Blessings and prosperity and protection to Jerusalem the Holy City of Peace!!!!!!! Let the Spirit of Elijah upon this generation bring the Fathers back to the children and the children back to the Fathers! I pray to Jehovah Jireh that the needs of the orphans and widows in the Nation of Israel and the needs of those who are returning to be met and provided for abundantly with the Love of parents and for the widows everything they need in order to feel loved by a true Husband:) God bless you Israel! God bless you Israel! God bless you!

    Reply to this comment »
  • Aliza
    August 18, 2012
    11:31 am

    Israel always had great leader. It show how much he cared about his sister regardless what the letter say.
    Israeli leaders alalways be strong.

    Reply to this comment »
  • Mark
    August 17, 2012
    1:55 am

    One thing I have admired about Israel is that she is always willing to do what HAS to be done, regardless of world opinion. I pray the liberal elements of today do not succeed in changing that. Peace.

    Reply to this comment »
  • Malachy
    August 16, 2012
    6:18 am

    I love Israel and its people and David Ben Gurin was a great humanatarian so his letter to that unfortunate famiely did not suprise me.long live Israel.

    Reply to this comment »
  • Robin
    August 15, 2012
    6:37 am

    Tthis is an example to me of what our missiah siad “love your neighbor as yourself”, thank-you for sharing this letter from the past!

    Reply to this comment »
  • Greg
    August 14, 2012
    10:11 pm

    Very cold and impersonal. If I had written, I would have shown some kind of compassion.

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    • Julie
      August 17, 2012
      3:58 pm

      Greg, this little snippet does seem a bit cold, but not in context of the entire letter. Read the letter (link in 1st paragraph). You will see the letter is deeply compassionate.

      Reply to this comment »
  • sandra
    August 14, 2012
    9:47 pm

    This letter written especially for the grieving sister by Mr. Gurion shows a man who has both empathy and compassion. The letter shows the love as well as the sadness in his heart.

    Reply to this comment »
  • JoAnn
    August 14, 2012
    7:20 pm

    The sad thing is that this soldier probably died in a senseless battle. Israel does not want wars and yet the nations of the world insist.

    Reply to this comment »
  • RM
    August 14, 2012
    4:35 pm

    Moshe Dayan Israeli Defense Minister, David Ben Gurion Israeli Defense Minister, Golda Meir Israeli Prime Minister, & The Hon. Benjamin Netanyahu P.M. are simply the greatest thinkers ever. God Bless

    Reply to this comment »
    • O
      August 14, 2012
      4:51 pm

      Wow. Right on. You abselutly put it into a perfect nutshell. Nothing else need to be said

      Reply to this comment »
    • Margaret
      August 14, 2012
      10:15 pm


      Reply to this comment »
      • Beatrice
        August 16, 2012
        9:02 am

        Good morning, thank you for the comment. I agree God bless you Pray for Israel

        Reply to this comment »
  • David
    August 14, 2012
    3:01 pm

    Although I agree with Ben Gurion’s final conclusion, his self-praise was not deserved. He did not “regard matters rationally”, or “apply cool logic”, his considerations were just different…

    Reply to this comment »
    • Dan C
      August 14, 2012
      10:36 pm

      I did not read that statement as self praise; he merely stated a fact which set them apart in their thinking. And on what do you base the idea that He did not regard matters rationally or logically?

      Reply to this comment »
  • Betty
    August 14, 2012
    1:32 pm

    Even the fact that Mr. Ben Gurion took the trouble to write personally to this grieving sister was a mark of greatness. How many other national leaders have ever done that?

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