America has never had a female president. It will never have a person become president who was not born here, unless the law is changed.

Born Golda Mabovitch in Kiev in what was then part of Russia in 1898, Golda Meir went on to live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then made aliyah. She became Israel’s Prime Minister in 1969, after the death of Levi Eshkol. She passed away in 1978.


The new film Golda is not a traditional biopic, as it focuses on the days of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The movie shows how male military advisors told Meir they doubted an attack would take place. It soon became clear they were wrong, and sensing the war would begin in 10 to 14 hours, on October 6 – Yom Kippur – Meir chose to wait until attacked, fearing that America would not provide needed weapons days later if Israel fired the first shots.

Meir is played by British actress Helen Mirren, who won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2007’s The Queen. She has a shot to win again with this magnetic performance as a chain-smoking leader who is guilt-ridden for not calling up IDF forces to mobilize earlier.

Jewish actor Liev Schreiber may get a nomination for Best Actor for his impressive turn and spot-on accent in the role of Henry Kissinger, a Jew who served as Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon and is still alive at the age of 100.

There are some tension-filled scenes with Mirren and Schreiber, including when she convinces him to send phantom jets to Israel. When he visits her in the Holy Land, he tells her: “Madame Prime Minister, in terms of our work together, I think it’s important that you remember that I am first an American; second, I am Secretary of State; and third, I am a Jew.”

“You forget that in Israel, we read from right to left,” she responds.

Kissinger expresses concern toward Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for an embargo against America due to their supplying weapons to Israel. He also warns Israel that it must agree to a ceasefire and not take action against the Egyptian Army, lest Russia enter the war. Meir later harangues him in what is Mirren’s best acting in the film:

“Let me tell you about the Russians, Henry. When I was a child in Ukraine, at Christmas time, my father would board up the windows of our house to protect us from Cossacks who would get drunk and attack Jews. They would beat Jews to death in the street for fun. My father would hide us in the cellar, and we’d stay silent, hoping the killers would pass us by. My father’s face, Henry – I will never forget that look. All he wanted was to protect his children. I’m not that little girl hiding in the cellar.”

In May, numerous media outlets cited Kissinger denying that he had deliberately delayed airlifts of weapons to Israel during the war in an interview from an unspecified date where he said the American military shipment “saved Israel.”

With the beginning of the war going badly for Israel, a scene shows the eyepatch-wearing Defense Minister Moshe Dayan suggesting a nuclear attack. He is immediately shot down by Meir. Rami Heuberger is convincing as Dayan, a man who unravels under pressure and offers his resignation. Actor Lior Ashkenazi is excellent as David “Dado” Elazar, the IDF Chief of Staff, who is measured and courageous.

It may seem unimaginable for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or President Joe Biden to serve cake, but one scene shows Meir doing exactly that, with a big piece being eaten by General Ariel Sharon, while in another scene, she served borscht to Kissinger. Another moment shows her hair being covered in a kerchief while she is whisked into a hospital for treatment for lymphoma.

Sharon is played with proper swagger by Ohad Knoller, who some may recognize from the Israeli show Srugim as Dr. Nati Brenner. Sharon’s key move was to push through a gap area of the Egyptian line to cross the Suez Canal and encircle the Egyptians. Meir tells Sharon he will one day be Prime Minister; of course, that happened in 2001.

The film includes some archival footage, including Meir joking with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and giving him a small doll as a present for his new granddaughter. She jokes that Sadat called her an “old lady” which is true. There is also a scene where Meir is told that a listening system that would allow Israel to hear if its enemies were planning an attack was not used as it should have been, preventing Israel from knowing a week earlier that an attack was imminent. Meir would later resign from office after a report which called for the dismissal of IDF Chief David Elazar. It is estimated that 2,656 Israelis died in the war, and in a scene in the film, Meir says she will carry those deaths with her to her grave.

While we see Dayan observing a tank battle, the film would have been stronger if it had shown Sharon’s fight or even one scene of combat between Israeli and Arab soldiers where we could see their eyes and facial expressions. Instead, we hear the screams of soldiers under attack, but that is insufficient. The film is still full of tension and power, but a vivid visual would have made it even more memorable.

Golda is brilliantly directed by Guy Nattiv, who won an Oscar for his short film Skin, about a neo-Nazi. That eventually became a feature film starring Jamie Bell. Mirren’s chemistry with Ashkenazi and Schreiber is impressive and the film is potent, to the point, and without any fluff. It is the story of a pioneer, showing that a woman can have the skill, nerve, and temperament to be the leader of a country. The result of whatever makeup or prosthetics were used is that Mirren looks very much like Meir in the film, and she is believable in every scene.

The Fathom Events screening included a pre-recorded interview with Nattiv and Mirren.

Nattiv was born in 1973, and he said the younger generation doesn’t know enough about Meir.

“For me it was fascinating to dive into the Golda that took on herself so much responsibility and so much blame and was trapped in this bunker with all the commanders dealing with the worst war of Israel’s history,” he said. He said it was important to make the film authentic.

“For me, it as an homage to these veterans who gave their lives and some of them till today are just telling the stories and are in a state of post-trauma in a way,” he said. “Golda was not understood at all. I think her character now is more human than any Israeli even knows because people my age didn’t really know her. So, for me, shaping the script in a more narrow perspective of this war and war rooms in those ten days was the goal, and to dive under her skin, to understand what she really felt and went through, surrounded with all those dysfunctional commanders. And she took over and obviously, you know, she was the grown-up in charge.”

“As a woman in particular in a war room, [Golda Meir] had to take control of the situation and make them understand that her voice as going to be an important part of the whole thing and they should not sideline her,” Mirren agreed.

“Show me a politician today that will say ‘it’s on me’ and will resign because of the failure,” Nattiv said. “I don’t think there’s a leader today that will say that. The responsibility that she’s taking on herself, that was touching for me as a filmmaker.”


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Alan has written for many papers, including The Jewish Week, The Journal News, The New York Post, Tablet and others.