Ben-Gurion visiting Milwaukee. No, really.

 

Carrying the Ben-Gurion name was not a childhood burden for the grandson of Israel’s first prime minister.

“For me and my two sisters, it was a normal life,” said Alon Ben-Gurion, who grew up in Israel. “The kids in my neighborhood were like, ‘If you can play soccer, come with us.’ They didn’t care about the name or that my grandfather (David Ben-Gurion) was a former prime minister. I had a great childhood.”

He learned to live with the Ben-Gurion name. “The moment you become a representative of the people, as my grandfather was, everything is on the table and you know your family will be part of it, that it’s part of the game,” Alon said. “Your wife, your children …they are fair game in my mind, but we never had a problem. I am very happy to carry the name of David Ben-Gurion.”

Alon Ben-Gurion

Now Alon travels the world, speaking about one of the major figures in the establishment of the State of Israel, which celebrates its 70th birthday this year. And in so doing, “I have never had so much fun, meeting and talking with people about something I am passionate about,” he said.

The 66-year-old Alon Ben-Gurion will speak at the Jewish National Fund’s Breakfast for Israel on Thursday, May 24, at 7:30 a.m. at The Wisconsin Club’s Country Club. His speech is titled: “David and Golda: The Friendship that Grew a Nation.” Golda Meir attended school in Milwaukee and became Israel’s fourth prime minister.

Alon says he never gets tired of speaking about his grandfather. And he speaks about him a lot. On a recent Friday, he had already given seven speeches that week, and sometimes does three or four speeches a day, from New York to California.

Alon Ben-Gurion is married with two daughters ages 30 and 25, and calls Tel Aviv his home. He is an international hospitality consultant who has managed the revenue and operations of hotels around the world, including as the general manager of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. He is using his extensive network and hospitality know-how to actively promote development in the Negev, working to make the desert region bloom and realize his grandfather’s dream.

He focuses his speeches on the birth of Israel and his grandfather’s heritage, throwing in personal stories. He wants his audiences to feel good about the state of Israel, and sometimes he knows instantly that he has succeeded in delivering his message. “I was humbled in Los Angeles when I got a standing ovation coming off the stage,” he said.

David Ben-Gurion, who was to become Israel’s first prime minister, reads the new nation’s Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv, May 14, 1948. Photo by Zoltan Kluger/Israeli Government Press Office via Getty Images.

David Ben-Gurion died in 1973 when Alon was 22, and Alon realizes that now his audiences include people whose only knowledge of his family name comes from flying in or out of Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.

Alon Ben-Gurion said his grandfather “devoted his life to one purpose – to build a state for the Jewish people and to try to build a society of a higher virtue.” Alon continued, “He lived his life for one thing – to build a state, a place where all Jews would come. And now we must protect it at all costs, even if it means our lives.” Alon became a paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces and was severely wounded in the Yom Kippur war of 1973. He was in one hospital, while at the same time his dying grandfather was in another.

Alon said if he could ask his grandfather one question today, ”I would ask him if Israel was on the right path. Do we continue with the philosophy he had then, or do we change?

“I think I know the answer – stay the course.”

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How to go

What: Jewish National Fund’s Breakfast for Israel

When: Thursday morning, May 24

Where: The Wisconsin Club’s Country Club, 6200 W. Good Hope Road, Milwaukee.

Who: Alon Ben-Gurion, the grandson of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, is the featured speaker.

Before you go: Order complimentary tickets, see JewishChronicle.org for link.

For more information: Call 414-963-8733