Levi Eshkol, A Friend
By Lova (Arieh) Eliav
|Eshkol was Ben Gurion's right hand during the War of Independence. He was responsible for the supply of energy, financial means, weapons, food, and - m
ost important - the recruitment and building of the fighting army for Israel that was struggling for survival. He did all that empowered by wisdom, innovation and resource, characterizing him all through his life.
A new gigantic assignment was put on his shoulders at the beginning of 1949. He had to organize the absorption settlement of the tens of thousands of new immigrants who started coming w hen Israels' gates were unlocked. He was nominated Head of the Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency.
Eshkol looked for a young assistant. I was recommended. I came to the interview still dressed in my military uniform. He liked me, and when I asked "When do I start?" he answered: "Yeste rday!". Then he asked: "Are you married?" . "Yes" I said. "No good" said Eshkol. "Do you have children?" - "Yes" I said, "I have a young boy". "Ay, no good" said Eshkol. "And do you have parents?" - "Yes", I said, "I have an old mother at home". "Ay, A y, very bad" he said and added with a heart warming smile: "I looked for a young person who should be unmarried and an orphan , because we will work non stop, day and night. The absorption and settlement of Olim will leave no time for family and children ".
Thus started an extraordinary friendship and fantastic work that continued through the 50s. I was at his side and he was like a father to me. I became one of the family. Together we tra veled long distances. I helped him wholeheartedly, to absorb and settle close to a million new comers during the 50s.
I learned to love the wise, warm hearted, humorous, man of the fields, the land and the water, the wonderful Jew, Eshkol.
Eshkol built, in the 60s, the economic framework of Israel. He is the one who readied the Israeli Army for the victory of the Six Day War.
He was a man of reconciliation, but when it was time to resolve he made the most strenuous decisions, courageously.
I have no doubt that if he would have lived a few more years he could bring closer peace between us and the Arabs. Because his ways, like the ways of the Torah, were ways of compassion, and all his traits Peace.