Levi Eshkol, 3rd Prime Minister of Israel

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Levi Eshkol, 3rd Prime Minister of Israel

Hebrew: לוי אשכול, 3rd Prime Minister of Israel
Birthdate: (73)
Birthplace: Orato, Oratov, Kiev, Haute-Normandie, Russia
Death: February 25, 1969 (69-77)
Jerusalem, Israel (Heart attack)
Place of Burial: Jerusalem, Israel
Immediate Family:

Son of Yosef Shkolnik and Dvorah Shkolnik
Husband of Elisheva Eshkol and Miriam Eshkol
Ex-husband of Rivka Ma'arshak
Father of Noa Eshkol; Devorah Rafaeli; Tami Shohat and Private User
Brother of Lipa Shkolnik; Ben Zion Shkolnik; Emanuel Shkolnik and <private> Shkolnik

Occupation: 3rd Prime Minister of Israel
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Levi Eshkol, 3rd Prime Minister of Israel

לוי אשכול

Levi Eshkol, 3rd Prime Minister of Israel

Levi Eshkol (Hebrew: לֵוִי אֶשְׁכּוֹל‎, born Levi Školnik (Hebrew: לֵוִי שׁקוֹלנִיק‎) on 25 October 1895, died 26 February 1969) served as the third Prime Minister of Israel from 1963 until his death from a heart attack in 1969. He was the first Israeli Prime Minister to die in office.


Levi Eshkol (Shkolnik) was born in the village of Oratov, Kiev Governorate, Russian Empire (now Orativ, Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine). His mother came from an Hasidic background and his father came from a family of Mitnagdim. Levi received a traditional Jewish upbringing and education. At the age of 16 he entered a Jewish high school in Vilna and joined the "Tzeirei Zion" movement. In 1914, he immigrated to Eretz Israel, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

During World War I, he joined the Poalei Yehuda Federation on behalf of the "Hapoel Hatzair" party and fought for the economic welfare of farmers who suffered hardship as a result of the war and Ottoman rule. At the end of the war, he enlisted in the Jewish Legion of the British Army.

He was a member of the group which founded the settlement of Degania Beth in 1920.

He participated in the establishment of the Histadrut, the National Federation of Jewish Laborers in Israel, and later joined its agricultural center. In 1930 he participated in the founding of Mapai. During the 30's he was sent on long missions to Nazi Germany and was active in the "Ha'avara" project which raised capital and equipment for Jewish settlement in the land of Israel. In 1937 he participated in the establishment of "Mekorot", the Jewish Community's water utility, and served as its chief executive until 1951.

At the end of 1944 he was elected Secretary of the Laborers Council in Tel Aviv, a post which he held until 1948. Simultaneously, he fulfilled many public and economic duties.

From 1921-1923, and 1940-1948 Eshkol was a member of the "Hagana" Command. He was mainly in charge of purchases, equipment and mobilization.

With the establishment of the State he became the first Director General of the Ministry of Defense and in effect the supplier of the equipment which kept the Israeli army in the field. It was during this period that he changed his name to Eshkol. At the end of the year he was appointed Director of the Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency. He stayed in this role until 1963. He initiated the establishment of approximately 400 new settlements in the first 4 years of the State, and from 1949-1952 served as the Jewish Agency treasurer, confronting great financial difficulties caused by the massive immigration waves and the country's limited resources.

Political career

After the establishment of the State of Israel, Eshkol was elected to the Knesset in 1951 as a member of Mapai party. He served as Minister of Agriculture until 1952, when he was appointed Finance Minister following the death of Eliezer Kaplan. He held that position for the following 12 years. During his term as Finance Minister, Eshkol established himself as a prominent figure in Mapai’s leadership, and was designated by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion as his successor. When Ben-Gurion resigned in June 1963, Eshkol was elected party chairman with a broad consensus, and was subsequently appointed Prime Minister. However, his relationship with Ben-Gurion soon turned acrimonious over the latter’s insistence on investigating the Lavon Affair, an Israeli covert operation in Egypt which had gone wrong a decade earlier. Ben-Gurion failed to challenge Eshkol’s leadership and split from Mapai with a few of his young protégés to form Rafi in June 1965. In the meantime, Mapai merged with Ahdut HaAvoda to form the Alignment with Eshkol as its head. Rafi was defeated by the Alignment in the elections held in November 1965, establishing Eshkol as the country’s indisputable leader. Yet Ben-Gurion, drawing on his influence as Israel's founding father, continued to undermine Eshkol’s authority throughout his term as Prime Minister, portraying him as a spineless politician incapable of addressing Israel's security predicament.

Prime minister

Eshkol’s first term in office saw continuous economic growth, epitomized by the opening of the National Water Carrier system in 1964. His and Finance Minister Pinchas Sapir's subsequent "soft landing" of the overheated economy by means of recessive policies precipitated a drastic slump in economic activity. Israel’s centralized planned economy lacked the mechanisms to self-regulate the slowdown which reached levels higher than expected. Eshkol faced growing domestic unrest as unemployment reached 12% in 1966, yet the recession eventually served in healing fundamental economic deficiencies and helped fuel the ensuing recovery of 1967-1973.

Upon being elected into office, Levi Eshkol fulfilled Ze'ev Jabotinsky's wish and brought his body and of his wife to Israel where they were buried in Mount Herzl Cemetery.

Eshkol worked to improve Israel’s foreign relations, establishing diplomatic relations with West Germany in 1965, as well as cultural ties with the Soviet Union which also allowed some Soviet Jews to immigrate to Israel. He was the first Israeli Prime Minister invited on an official state visit to the United States in May 1964. The special relationship he developed with President Lyndon Johnson would prove pivotal in securing US political and military support for Israel during the "Waiting period" preceding the Six Day War of June 1967. Today, Eshkol’s intransigence in the face of military pressure to launch an Israeli attack is considered to have been instrumental in increasing Israel’s strategic advantage as well as obtaining international legitimacy, yet at the time he was perceived as hesitant, an image cemented following a dismally stuttered radio speech on 28 May. With Egyptian President Nasser's ever more overt provocations, he eventually succumbed to public opinion and established a National Unity Government together with Menachem Begin's Herut party, reluctantly conceding the Defense portfolio to war hero Moshe Dayan, a close ally of Ben-Gurion’s and a member of his Rafi party. Israel’s overwhelming victory allowed Eshkol to remain Prime Minister despite never receiving recognition for his role in achieving it.


In the years following the war he slowly receded due to ill health, and died of a heart attack while in office in February 1969.


Eshkol married Rivka Maharshek in Deganya Bet. They divorced in 1927 after the birth of their daughter, Noa, in 1924. Eshkol's second wife was Elisheva Kaplan (died in 1959), with whom he had three daughters, Dvora, Tamar and Ofra. He is survived by his third wife, Miriam.


The Eshkol National Park near Beersheba has been named after him as well as the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood in Jerusalem.

Roles in the Government

*Knesset 2

  • Govt. 3 - Until 25/06/1952 - Minister of Agriculture; from 25/06/1952 - Minister of Finance
  • Govts. 4, 5 & 6: Minister of Finance

*Knesset 3

  • Govts. 7 & 8: Minister of Finance

*Knesset 4

  • Govt. 9: Minister of Finance

*Knesset 5

  • Govt. 10: Minister of Finance
  • Govts. 11 & 12: Prime Minister & Minister of Defense. From 31/05/1965 - also Minister of Housing

*Knesset 6

  • Govt. 13, (until 26/02/1969): Prime Minister; Until 05/06/1967, also Minister of Defense.

Public Activities

- During his studies he joined “Youth of Zion”

- A founder of Degania “Bet”

- Leader of Mapai and then Labor Party, 1963-1969

- Established and managed institutions and companies within the framework of the Histadrut

- Director of Mekorot Water Company, 1937-1951

- Secretary of Tel Aviv City Council, 1944-1948

- Member of Directorate of the Jewish Agency: it’s Treasurer, 1949-1951; and Head of Settlement department, 1948-1963

- Director General of Defense Ministry under David Ben Gurion during the Independence War: in this function he organized the Ministry and promoted the development of Israel’s Armaments Industry

- A Member of Knesset from 1951 until his death

- As Finance Minister had a great influence on Israel’s economic development

- In 1963 Ben Gurion designated him as his heir to the office of Prime Minister but soon became his opponent and accused him of failed policies in general and in regards to the Lavon Affair in particular

- In 1964 Eshkol authorized the internment of the remains of Jabotinsky in Israel, thus beginning a process of reconciliation with the Herut Movement and its leader Menahem Begin

- From 1963-1967 he served as Defense Minister but public pressure forced him to give this position to Moshe Dayan on the eve of the Six Day War

- In June 1967 he expanded his Government into a National Unity Government which continued to govern after his death in February of 1969


“The Birth Pangs of Settlement” (Heb) (1958)

“The Covenant of the Land” (Heb) (1969)

About לוי אשכול, 3rd Prime Minister of Israel (עברית)

לוי אשכול (שְׁקוֹלְניק) (25 באוקטובר 1895, ז' בחשוון ה'תרנ"ו – 26 בפברואר 1969, ח' באדר ה'תשכ"ט) היה ראש הממשלה השלישי של מדינת ישראל. היה חבר בכנסות : 2 עד 6 , וחבר בממשלות: 3 עד 13. בכנסת היה חבר בסיעות: מפא"י, המערך הראשון, העבודה, המערך השני. תפקידים בולטים: * ראש הממשלה, * שר הביטחון, * שר האוצר, * שר החקלאות, * שר הפיתוח, * מנכ"ל משרד הביטחון

נולד בדרום האימפריה הרוסית (אוקראינה) בשנת 1895. עלה לארץ ישראל בשנת 1914 במסגרת העלייה השנייה. בימים שלפני קום המדינה היה פעיל בחברת מקורות ובסוכנות היהודית, כמו גם במטה הארצי של ההגנה. כן עסק, במסגרת חברת "העברה", בשליחויות לגרמניה שהייתה תחת שלטון המפלגה הנאצית.

במשך שנים רבות היה אשכול דמות מפתח במשק הישראלי, ושימש אף בתפקיד שר האוצר. עבודתו קירבה אותו אל דוד בן-גוריון, וברבות הימים הפך ליורשו המיועד. עם פרישתו של בן-גוריון מתפקיד ראש הממשלה בשנת 1963, הביא בן-גוריון למינויו של אשכול לראשות הממשלה. בשנת 1964 פרץ סכסוך גלוי בין שני האישים על רקע דרישתו של בן-גוריון להקים ועדת חקירה משפטית לפרשת ריגול שהסתבכה וידועה בשם "העסק הביש". הסכסוך הביא לפרישתו של בן-גוריון ממפא"י ולהקמת רפ"י. הבחירות לכנסת השישית הביאו את ניצחונו הגדול של אשכול על בן-גוריון ואנשי סיעתו. בבחירות לכנסת השישית זכתה רפ"י ל-10 מנדטים בלבד, ואשכול המשיך להחזיק בכהונת ראש הממשלה, בימים קשים של מתיחות ביטחונית ומיתון. במהלך תקופת ההמתנה שלפני מלחמת ששת הימים, פרץ משבר מנהיגות, ואשכול נאלץ למנות את משה דיין לשר הביטחון. לאחר מלחמת ששת הימים הוסיף להחזיק בתפקיד ראש הממשלה עד מותו מהתקף לב בשנת 1969.

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Levi Eshkol, 3rd Prime Minister of Israel's Timeline

October 25, 1895
Oratov, Kiev, Haute-Normandie, Russia
February 29, 1924
Age 28
Deganya Bet, Israel
August 13, 1930
Age 34