I recently purchased a silver plated bowl given by Paula Ben-Gurion to Abba and Suzy Eban, the wife of Abba Eban for a mere $100.00 (how I found out about it is a story for another day)
The bowl really isn't very attractive (it was a popular style bowl in Israel in the 50's) but it is a piece of history. What I liked most about it is that it has a stamp on the bottom of it that proves it was from Paula Ben Gurion.(born Paula Munweis (or Monbesz) in Russia, and raised in the United States).
On the bottom of the bowl it says P B-G (for Paula Ben-Gurion). Apparently, the reason that it doesn't say the full name is that there was a charge for each printed letter and Paula was frugal enough that she wanted to save money so she got her name down to three letters. That detail in itself is priceless!
The bowl would be an absolutely great item to bring for Show and Tell--too bad I already have graduated from kindergarten.
Since I have the bowl, I began searching the internet to learn more about Paula Ben-Gurion, who is described as a feisty woman, and came across and article about her written July 15 1961 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that had me laughing out loud.
The article focused on how unconventional Paula Ben Gurion was compared to other First Lady's.
The Ben-Gurions lived as frugally after the state of Israel was born as they did prior thereto.
Even at state dinners, Paula did the majority of the cooking!
She usually did her own shopping, except for the time that she told the machine gun carrying security guard guarding the Ben-Gurion home in Tel-Aviv to "run down to the supermarket and get me a couple of heads of cabbage".. When the guard refused on the basis that he could not leave his post, Paula snapped "Nonsense…You go to the store for me . I'll guard the Prime Minister. She sent him off with her grocery list and took his place at the sentry box.
She was said to have made it her mission to look after David Ben-Gurion, even staying up and delivering him coffee in a vacuum bottle if he had an extra late session at the Knesset. She was also known to have asked her husband to do the dishes at home (showing her socialist ideals).
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Paula Ben-Gurion once interrupted a state dinner in Jerusalem by "a singularly housewifely demand." After noticing that Prime Minister Ben-Gurion at his end of the table had become engrossed in conversation with high ranking officials, Paula called out from her end of the table, "David, eat your chicken." (I will probably think of this story every time I use the bowl)
Paula's frankness went so far that she once said to a Cabinet Minister who had just been fired by her husband, "So how's it feel-no portfolio." She apparently hadn't meant it in a mean-spirited way, she just wanted to know.
This no nonsense frankness was on full display when an American woman went on about how great Israel was. "Even the air over here is better. It does something for me. I look 25 years younger than I did a few days ago."
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Paula replied, "If you scraped some of that gook off your face and took a look at yourself in a mirror you wouldn't say a thing like that."
Apparently, when Paula Ben-Gurion discovered she would need eye surgery to protect the sight of an eye, she didn't want to trouble the Prime Minister. She packed her bag, went to the hospital and told the maid to tell David Ben-Gurion she was on vacation. (as an aside, when they had time for a vacation, the Ben-Gurions went to a kibbutz.)
Legend also has it that a socially minded Israeli woman once said to Paula "I trust you and the Prime Minister are going to "The Marriage of Figaro" tonight. "No we can't make it," Paula said. "But we sent a telegram of congratulations."
Paula was also amused by her husband's interest in yoga and when his tutor, would show up she would say: "Here comes Mr. Hocus Pocus."
On a more serious note, there is an interesting article in Ha'aretz about the degree of influence that the spouse of a Prime Minister has on decision making.
According to the article, in December 1952, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion reprimanded Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi, the wife of newly elected president Yitzhak Ben-Zvi for speaking at a ceremony at Jerusalem city hall, not in addition to the president. That was improper, wrote Ben-Gurion. "You are not a partner to the presidency," he wrote to her in a subsequent letter. "The people choose only one president. And it is not your job to express this symbol." He gave an example from his own home, writing: "Paula is not a partner to this mission. She is not involved in those things ... because there's only the prime minister, and this position is not a family affair."
As for my P B-G bowl, I think it would make a good candy dish.
[To see a Paula Ben-Gurion Snuff box with the classic "P B-G " insignia being sold on E bay for $ 3,500.00 U.S.
click here : http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Paula-David-Ben-Gurion-Estate-Silver-Snuff-Box-1898-/330582363730
This box was part of the Paula & David Ben-Gurion estate which parts of it were sold recently in an auction in Tel-Aviv which raised a huge scandal in the Israeli media. The vendor of the estate was the granddaughter of Paula and David Ben-Gurion. ]