Helen Mirren and Golda Meir are (kind of) related
JTA – Helen Mirren will soon become linked with Golda Meir in the minds of many when she plays the late Israeli prime minister in a new film. But the award-winning actress has another, real-life connection to Meir: the two are related, according to Israeli genealogical researchers.
Mirren was in Jerusalem for the Israeli premiere of “Golda”, the dramatic film about Meir’s handling of the Yom Kippur War (when Egypt, Syria, and a coalition of their allies invaded Israel and made significant headway before ultimately being rebuffed).
At a press conference before the screening, researchers with MyHeritage presented Mirren with the evidence.
The connection is distant, stretching nine generations back through Mirren’s paternal Russian ancestry, and through marriage only. (The genealogy also connects Mirren to Israeli presidents Chaim and Ezer Weizman, and to the British royal family.) Still, Mirren – who isn’t Jewish – said the revelation offered an important lesson.
“It’s miraculous, isn’t it, really? It just goes to show that we are all one family actually,” she said. “In times of divisiveness and strife, as I know Israel is in right now, it would be a good thing to remember that fact.”
Israel’s political turmoil was a central topic of conversation during the press conference. Mirren and her Israeli collaborators – including director Guy Nattiv and co-star Lior Ashkenazi – reflected on the widespread protests against the right-wing government’s efforts to sap the power of the Supreme Court.
“I am not Israeli. I’ve watched it from afar these past weeks,” said Mirren. At the Berlin premiere of “Golda” in February, Mirren said that she thought Meir would be “utterly horrified” by the current government’s efforts.
“I’m personally moved and excited when I see those huge demonstrations,” she added. “I think maybe it’s a pivotal moment in Israeli history.”
Nattiv said he had been attending the demonstrations with his father “to stop this crazy thing from happening” and that he had encountered a veteran of the Yom Kippur War who compared the current moment to the existential threat that Israel faced – and overcame – then.
“In a way, we’re fighting to shape the future of our country,” he said.
The film portrays Meir being caught flat-footed by aggression from neighbouring Arab countries, then overseeing a military response that transformed from fumbling to triumphant, and eventually led to Israeli-Egyptian peace in 1979, years after Meir left office. It shows her struggling deeply with the deaths of Israeli soldiers who might have lived had she heeded warnings of war. In 1974, Meir resigned amid divisions within her party over where to assign blame.
“She understood that as the leader of the country she had to take responsibility, and she did – unlike many other leaders who, when things go pear-shaped, start pointing fingers at other people,” Mirren said. “I think that must have been incredibly painful.”