Anne Charles / Sun Staff Photographer

Alon Ben-Gurion's, "Israel's Top Hotelie," addresses the legacy of his grandfather on February 22.

February 23, 2018

‘Israel’s Top Hotelie’ Returns to Cornell to Praise His Grandfather, First Israeli Prime Minister

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Alon Ben-Gurion MPS ’82, grandson of founding father and first prime minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion, visited the School of Hotel Administration — his old stomping grounds — to explore his grandfather’s legacy and offer leadership advice to hotelies in attendance.

“If I knew that you wouldn’t be wearing suits and ties then I wouldn’t have worn one either,” Ben-Gurion told his audience.

The lecture, “From Vision to Creation: The Legacy of David Ben-Gurion,” offered a brief history of the establishment of the Jewish state, which is celebrating 70 years since its founding and over 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, the British government’s announcement of support for a Jewish home in Palestine, this year.

“My grandfather, David Ben-Gurion, more so than any other individual, was responsible for creating the State of Israel after 2,000 years of Jewish diaspora,” Ben-Gurion said. In fact, he was so influential in the process that he “has been ranked among the top 10 most impactful leaders of the 20th century,” he said.

Ben-Gurion talked about how David always dreamt of leaving the diaspora and moving to Israel. In anticipation of this move, his grandfather learned Hebrew by the age of three. He accomplished his dream of returning to Zion and participated in declaring Israel’s independence in 1948.

“This was a testament to my grandfather’s remarkable leadership skills and vision,” Ben-Gurion said.

Ben-Gurion emphasized the importance of dreaming big and having a unique, personal vision like his grandfather did and cited his grandfather’s statement: “In order to be a realist in Israel, one has to have dreams.”

The prime minister was not satisfied with Israel’s establishment alone, and throughout his career, sought to build upon the country’s success, Ben-Gurion explained. As David famously said, “in order to own the land, you have to work the land.” His grandson, given the nickname “Israel’s Top Hotelie,” shared that a takeaway from Israel’s first leader is that teamsmanship, taking responsibility and being virtuous are key.

“These are the recipes for a successful professional life. To those who intend to work in the hotel industry in particular, these lessons are invaluable,” Ben-Gurion said.

He also discussed Israel’s vibrant hotel and tourism industry, a field of which Ben-Gurion himself is a pioneer, having held high-level positions in world-class hotels including Hilton Tel Aviv and Waldorf Astoria New York.

“Israel is a highly attractive destination for luxury hotels. From the mineral baths of the Dead Sea to incredible food and drink, Israel is a top vacation destination,” Ben-Gurion said.

However, building hotels in Israel does not come without its hardships.

“Israeli hotels must have kosher kitchens and bomb shelters — that’s no easy task,” Ben-Gurion said.

“Israel is an international treasure. Not only for its great hotels, but also for its rich history, vibrant culture, and countless contributions to humanity. My grandfather would be proud,” Ben-Gurion concluded.