David Ben Gurion and Canada are two words that perhaps do not seem as fitting as one would like, yet it was in the Great North at the age of 32, wishing to serve the Jewish people around the world, that he enlisted in the Jewish Legion of the British Army. Very few people know that he first trained in Nova Scotia, an unlikely place for a Zionist, especially one who go on to become the first Prime Minister of Israel.
The Jewish Legion, which was 5000 strong by 1917, was a full fledged military branch of the British army that trained in Europe, but mostly North America. Its main purpose was to liberate Palestine from Turkish rule. The makeshift army was made up of Jews, most of which were Zionists, from all over the globe. The Canadian army, then partially under British command, allowed all enlisted Jews to move from the Expeditionary forces to the Jewish Legion. (Source)
Yet Ben Gurion’s stay in Canada did not commence with the Legion, rather he first began travelling across North America with Ben-Zvi in the hopes of recruiting Jews to serve in the pioneer army in Palestine. Yet, their trek proved abounding, as some quote that they only managed to convince as little as 7 men in places such as Hamilton. In 1918, both decided to join the Legion.
Further Reading: Canada’s Jews: A People’s Journey by Gerald Tulchinsky
Published in The Art of Polemics, Issue 2, on Sept 9th, 2014.