Billy Graham first met Golda Meir when he was visiting Jordan and Israel in 1960 following his monumental tour of Africa. When he first met her, she was foreign minister at the time under Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
Rev. Graham recalls his first meeting with her in his autobiography, Just As I Am:
“A deputy official from the Israeli foreign office intercepted me, welcoming me nervously. He said that the foreign minister, Mrs. Golda Meir, wanted to see me immediately—before I talked to the press. I agreed, but I hated to leave the reporters more or less standing outside wondering what was happening as I was whisked away to her home. I found Mrs. Meir to be one of the most knowledgeable and delightful people I have ever met. Hopeful (I suspect) that I would have a fuller understanding of their views before meeting with the press, she and her associates briefed me on the situation in Israel.”
Over the years, Billy and Ruth Graham continued to correspond and meet with Mrs. Meir, and they became friends. Mrs. Meir once wrote, “Billy Graham is a great teacher in all the important matters to humanity, and a dear friend of Israel.” In July 1973, she sent this letter to Rev. Graham in anticipation of seeing him again soon:
The letter reads:
Dear Reverend Graham,
Thank you for your letters of 20 June. I was deeply touched by your beautiful and meaningful Salute to Israel.
Your attitude towards the State of Israel as an historical phenomenon and as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, and your readiness to be of help to Israel at all times, are a source of joy and comfort to me personally and to all of us.
I am so glad that your forthcoming visit to Israel will enable us to meet again.
With warmest personal good wishes,
Following Mrs. Meir’s death in December 1978 from lymphoma, Billy Graham sent a telegram offering his condolences. The telegram reads:
Am deeply saddened over the death of my longtime friend Golda Meir. She will go down in history, along with Esther and Deborah, as one of the great women of Israel. It was my privilege to visit with her on many occasions both in Israel and in America. She once brought me a Bible from Israel as a gift. Even those who profess to be enemies of Israel admired her. Please convey to her family, and to the Israeli people, my sympathy and condolences.
In the Library’s newly-updated Journey of Faith tour, you can learn about how Billy Graham inspired many world leaders during the course of his ministry.