P. 271

over 12 years (from 1950 to 1962). Teddy Kollek, the Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, and Yitzhak Navon, Ben-Gurion's Personal Secretary, had a part in this matter.
Ben-Gurion knew that from 1944 and onward, the "Bialik Institute" – which was founded in 1936 by the Jewish Agency and which resided in the National Institutions Building for many years – published a series of exemplary translations. By 1958, 14 books were published. Every book that was translated was edited by experts and was accompanied by special prefaces and comments. Ben-Gurion believed that this framework was too narrow. Already in 1952, he wrote to Teddy Kollek, then the Israeli minister in Washington, that he was interested, in the first stage, in initiating translations of the writings of Plato and Spinoza, and consulted with him on whether there was a chance in getting funds to that end from the American Ford Foundation. "We will go for the big ones, and approach Indian and Chinese literature as well," he added. Over the following years, he did not let go of this issue and asked intellectuals on more than one occasion to send him lists of exemplary books that were worthy of translation.
In a memorandum sent to him in Autumn of 1957 by Professors Martin Buber, Ben-Zion Dinur and Simon Halkin on behalf of the "Bialik Institute", they propose that Ben-Gurion use the money of the American fund to translate and publish exemplary books. This drove him, toward Israel's 10th anniversary, to make the translation of exemplary books a national enterprise. He convened several of the young state's intellectuals in his office in the National Institutions Building, and laid out before them his creed on this issue.
On January 21, 1958, Ben-Gurion convened in his office Professors Martin Buber, Simon Halkin and Aharon Katzir, Minister of Education Zalman Aran, his two predecessors Zalman Shazar and Ben-Zion Dinur, the poet and translator Reuven Avinoam, Moshe Gordon the Director of the "Bialik Institute" and his closest assistants Teddy Kollek and Yitzhak Navon.
Ben-Gurion began: "The issue of the meeting is near and dear to all of you. We hold a respectable amount of money, the grant received from the special American fund for culture enterprises, which is the ING counterpart fund for books. There is also the promise of the 'Bialik Institute' to allocate a similar amount."
He proposed an initial list of books, which was itself a remarkable thing, especially since the Prime Minister was busy with a million other issues: The writings of Einstein, Spinoza and Philo of Alexandria; From Indian literature, a selection of Upanishads (part of the sacred Hindu texts) as well as a selection of Buddha's conversations; From Greek literature, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes and a selection of writings of Thucydides and Polybius; as well as a selection of Chinese literature. Ben-Gurion continued to raise additional proposals, from the Italian Boccaccio to the modern English and American literature.
The scholars argued with him and were testing him to see whether he was familiar with all the works he mentioned. Ben-Gurion displayed great proficiency. The following is a brief dialogue that took place between him and Prof. Buber:

   269   270   271   272   273