Award-winning Professor Who Served as Ben-Gurion's Secretary Dies Age 75

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Zeev Tzachor.
Zeev Tzachor.Credit: Tal Cohen
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Professor Zeev Tzachor, a historian who served as secretary to Israel’s first prime minister, died on Monday at the age of 75.

He will be buried on Tuesday at 3 P.M. at Kibbutz Ramat HaKovesh, where he spent most of his teens and young adulthood.

Tzachor was born in Netanya in 1941. His parents named him Zeev after Zeev Jabotinsky, as they were active in Jabotinsky’s Revisionist movement and the Irgun, the pre-state underground militia.

“As a member of [Israel’s] first generation, I was present at several moments that shaped the state that had just been established,” he wrote in his Hebrew-language autobiography, “Hayinu Tekuma,” published in 2015.

At age 14, Tzachor rebelled against his parents’ Revisionism and joined the Kibbutz Movement, spending the next several years at Ramat HaKovesh.

After his army service, he returned to the kibbutz and worked in its orchards.

In 1969, he left the kibbutz for the Sde Boker field school, and in 1969, he was hired as David Ben-Gurion’s secretary. Ben-Gurion, who was Israel’s first prime minister, was out of office by that time and writing his memoirs at his Negev home in Sde Boker.

“I was his research assistant, and I helped him write his memoirs,” Tzachor wrote.

“Contrary to his tough image, he was an easy, considerate boss,” Tzachor said of Ben-Gurion.

“I very quickly began to be fond of him, initially out of compassion for the man who had devoted his life to establishing the state but was abandoned, alone in the desert, in his old age. Later I learned that the inflexibility with which he related to his environment all his life stemmed from a deliberate, systematic suppression of feeling by a leader who had trained himself not to waste emotional resources on feelings.”

Tzachor completed his bachelor’s degree at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, then did his master’s and doctorate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, specializing in the history of the Jewish people. In the mid-1980s, he was appointed head of Ben-Gurion’s history department, and in 1993, he helped found Sapir College, near the southern city of Sderot, where he served as president until 2011.

Tzachor published 11 books and won several prizes, including the Yitzhak Sadeh Prize for military literature, the Yitzhak Ben Zvi Prize for Jewish history, the Herzl Award for activity on behalf of Israel and Zionism, and the Ben-Gurion Award for leadership.

One of his books, “When Jabotinsky and Trotsky Met,” described an imaginary encounter of the two revolutionaries, who never met in real life. Another, “Itzuv Hayisraeliyut,” dealt with leadership of the Zionist movement and Israel.

The Kibbutz Movement’s secretary general, Nir Meir, eulogized Tzachor as someone “who knew how to combine ideas and action,” strengthened the Negev and “made it his life’s work” to bring academic education to the periphery.