Astonishing Chapters from the Life of David Ben Gurion In the Ottoman Empire - رصيف 22
It will probably come as a shock to many that the founder of Israel, David Ben Gurion, lived some of his most formative years in Turkey - a period in which he developed his character, honed his identity as well as his cultural, educational, intellectual, social and political foundations. This period in Ben Gurion’s life reveals to us many important secrets, firstly surrounding the personality of Ben Gurion, and secondly on the concept of Zionism during its early stages - especially as held by the major figures of the Zionist movement who would go on to participate in the foundation of the State of Israel, such as Ben Gurion - Israel’s first Prime Minister - and his friend Yitzhak Ben-Zvi - one of the major figures during the foundation of the State and Israel’s second and longest-serving president. Perhaps the most peculiar development was the discovery by Ben Gurion and Ben-Zvi of Zionism while living unde Ottoman rule - for the duo’s aspirations were inextricably linked to loyalty to the Ottomans and Ottoman society, which they loved and defended like any other Ottoman citizen - regardless of their religious, national or ethnic affiliations.
While it may no longer be possible to politically build upon this discovery - with the suitable moment for that having long passed - it nonetheless was an important matter in Ben Gurion’s time and era during the early twentieth century: for it is probable that the Zionist project at that time was not planning to create a separate state independent from the Ottoman Empire, but a social and collective state, or a refuge or sanctuary specific to Jews which could offer them a safe haven to escape the persecution they encountered in both Eastern and Western European states. The most important aspect of such a project was for Jews to become Ottoman citizens, no longer holding Russian nationality or that of some other persecuting state. If so, the trajectory of the Zionist movement could have been significantly altered if the conception of Zionism as held by Ben Gurion and his likes was contained by the Ottoman state: for at the time, these figures preferred cooperation with the Ottoman state over seeking support from the English and French.