Tel Aviv has a fair few museums, but one of the first I’ll recommend for visitors is Ben Gurion’s House (on Ben Gurion Street) in the heart of the city, and a stone’s throw from the beach. Living just a block away, it’s one of the first spots I like to take visitors to, to give them a taste of the man, his personal life and some background to the establishment of the State of Israel.
Ben Gurion arrived in Ottoman Palestine at the beginning of the 20th century, and after some years on a kibbutz (picking oranges and rotating as a guard) he became active in politics. To the left of the political spectrum, and a great believer in Zionism, around fifty years later he would become known as the founding father of the State of Israel and its first Prime Minister.
The Tel Aviv house in which he lived (he had a second, in the Negev desert) has been left as it was in his day. It really is frozen in time - circa the 1960’s - giving you a good idea of Israeli decor and appliances, back then. What's clear from walking around it though is that Ben Gurion was a humble man - his house is a reflection of his egalitarian views (modest and simple) despite his position on the Israeli and world stage.
As well as a simple kitchen and modestly furnished bedrooms, the house also hosts an enormous library - and I mean enormous - with over 20,000 books. Ben Gurion spoke and read in several languages, and his tastes were eclectic (this is reflected in the different volumes of books). The second floor also showcases quite a few interesting letters to and from the man himself to Churchill, Einstein etc, not to mention endless photos of the era.
Wandering round this small house (a visit can taken anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour), I never fail to feel inspired. It’s as if history is unfolding before your eyes - his tiny kitchen (with a small table), his small bedroom (from where he conducted the 1956 Suez Campaign, whilst sick) and - as mentioned before - his astonishing library.
So, if you want to get a real feel for one of Israel’s most visionary and accomplished leaders, take advantage of the fact that Ben Gurion stated in his will that his house was to be left to the state and used as a museum. Admission is free, and for anyone interested in period memorabilia, the challenges that the early State of Israel faced or just the curious, it’s a must-see.