David Ben-Gurion

The first prime minister of the Jewish state.

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More controversially, Ben-Gurion presided over the shilumim or reparations agreement, in which West Germany agreed to pay $715 million to the State of Israel in compensation for taking in refugees from the Holocaust. The deal provoked savage public debate: the government was accused of taking blood money from the Germans. Yet without the financial settlement, Israel’s economic development and very survival would have been in question.

On resigning from the premiership in 1953, Ben-Gurion retired to Kibbutz Sde Boker. In 1970, after a period in parliamentary opposition in the Knesset, his retirement became permanent. In the last years of his life Ben-Gurion was a solitary figure, but he continued to advocate aliyah, the ingathering of the exiles, and the settlement of the land, particularly the Negev desert.

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Matt Plen

Matt Plen is the Chief Executive of Masorti Judaism in the UK. He has taught and trained educators in diverse institutions in Israel, the UK and the USA and is currently researching his doctorate on Critical Pedagogy and Jewish Ideologies of Social Justice.