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Dear RegaDear Rega

For sale: Ben-Gurion’s letters to his young lover

At 47, the man who would become the first leader of the State of Israel had an extramarital affair with a 26-year-old medical student

David Ben-Gurion at home (GPO)
David Ben-Gurion at home (GPO)

Love letters penned by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and the man who declared Jewish statehood in 1948, to a student more than 20 years his junior are set to be put up for auction on December 2 with an opening bid of $20,000.

The collection, which is to be auctioned off by the Kedem Auction House, includes 38 letters and nine telegrams — five in Yiddish, the rest in Hebrew — from the former prime minister.

At the time the letters were sent, Regina (Rega) Klapholz was a 26-year-old medical student in Vienna. Ben-Gurion, then 47, had been married to his wife, Paula, for 15 years, and the couple had three children. Ben-Gurion met Klapholz in Vienna in the early 1930s. The two proceeded to correspond and meet on various occasions for over four years.

“Dear beloved Rega… I have just received your letter… It’s hard for me to accept the fact that I am in Europe, and so far away from you,” he wrote in September 1934. “However much you want me to come to Vienna, maybe I want it more. Apparently, you still do not know how dear to me is the ‘young and foolish girl,’ and how much I would like to see and be with her.”

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In some of the other letters, Ben-Gurion suggests a Vienna rendezvous, and asks her to find a location. In others, he urges her to move to Israel.

Klapholz was not Ben-Gurion’s only lover, according to historian Michael Bar-Zohar. “They had a long romance, and I would say a very fiery one at that. Afterwards he had a girlfriend in New York, and after that he had a girlfriend in London. Ben-Gurion, in other years when he had a different girlfriend, was far more reserved in his letters. The [newly published letters] are definitely more emotional and romantic — from a young man.”

The four-year affair ended in 1934, according to the auction house, when Klapholz moved to Israel and showed up at Ben-Gurion’s door, only to be greeted by his wife. Paula Ben-Gurion, who knew about the affair, pointedly handed Klapholz three photographs of her and Ben-Gurion at the Dead Sea and signed them “to Rega – from Paula, 9.7.35.”

Klapholz died in 2007 at the age of 100.

“Overall good condition,” the description of the letters reads. “Folding marks, stains and tears on some of the letters.”

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