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Standing on his head

Serendipity — or just excellent organization? That’s what I asked myself as, on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Alon Ben Gurion took the stage at JNF Mountain States’ annual breakfast, May 9. Yes, he’s part of that Ben Gurion family. Alon is David Ben Gurion’s grandson. He regaled the crowd with amusing anecdotes about his grandfather, Israel’s first prime minister. Behind him were projections of black and white photos that made that connection to Israel’s foundation and captured the unceremonious nature of Israel’s earliest leaders.

One factoid that landed with me was that David Ben-Gurion was an avid reader. He owned some 40,000 volumes, all of which, Alon said, his grandfather had read! He was also fluent in many languages, often learning them so he could read texts in the original.

Alon took the crowd beyond stories, sharing with us Ben Gurion’s mindset. What motivated his grandfather, he said, were two things: the Jewish community and the Jewish land. For him, however, the Jewish land wasn’t limited to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. He moved to the middle of nowhere — the Negev desert.

At that time, Beersheba wasn’t the urban center it is now. The region was bare. Ben Gurion understood that it needed to prosper for Israel to prosper.

Alon Ben Gurion’s presence at the breakfast brought home just how young Israel is. True, most everyone living today cannot recall a time that Israel did not exist. Yet here, standing in front of us, was a man who was the grandson of its founding father. That’s pretty fresh in the historical scheme of things.

The slideshow ended with the iconic photograph of Ben Gurion doing a handstand on the beach. According to Alon, when asked about the stance, his grandfather answered: “I have to stand on my head, so the State of Israel can stand on its feet.” While I can’t figure out the exact logic in that, it seems to have worked!

Shana Goldberg may be reached at

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