Treasure Trove: David Matlow revisits an older terrorist attack from Gaza—and explains why David Ben-Gurion is upside down

David Ben-Gurion was Israel’s first prime minister who served from 1948 to 1953 and again from 1955 to 1963. For a period of time in 1955, he served as defence minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Moshe Sharett.  

The two men had a heated argument about how best to respond to a terrorist attack launched from Gaza in March 1955 that killed one person and wounded 19 at a wedding celebrated at Patish, a moshav near the border with Gaza.

Concerned that the moshav residents would leave over fears for their safety, Ben-Gurion advocated that Israel should occupy Gaza and expel the Egyptians then controlling it. Sharett believed this was a terrible idea, fearing that the world’s response would be economic sanction, delegitimization and isolation.  

When Sharett referred to the role of the United Nations in the creation of Israel and the need to stay on its good side, Ben-Gurion responded: 

“Only the daring of the Jews established the state, not some decision by that Oom-shmum.

Oom is the Hebrew acronym for United Nations, and saying Oom-shmum showed Ben-Gurion’s disappointment with the bias and discrimination that the organization displayed against Israel at the time. Sadly, Israel’s treatment by the United Nations has not changed in the intervening 70 years, as has been especially apparent during Israel’s war with Hamas.

Patish remains a moshav. One of its residents, Rami Davidian, saved scores of partygoers at the Supernova Festival by shuttling them in his car out of the attack zone on Oct.7.

This Ben-Gurion doll was made by Yohanan Dolls in the late 20th century.  It is designed so that Ben-Gurion can stand on his feet or on his head, the latter reflects that he was a patient of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais whose method to treat back pain involved doing head stands.

Ben-Gurion’s head stand may have another significance, as we often feel the world is turned upside down when it comes to Israel too.