Levi Eshkol, the 3rd Israeli prime minister, was born in 1895 in Ukraine. He had a traditional Jewish upbringing, and belonged the Zionist group, "Tzeirei Tzion" in his youth. In 1914, at the age of 19, he immigrated to Palestine, then still a part of the Ottoman Empire, where he worked as an agricultural laborer and political activist.
During World War I, he volunteered for the Jewish Legion of the British Army, and joined the group which founded the settlement of Degania Beth. Eshkol later worked in the Histadrut Labor Federation's Agricultural Center. He participated in the establishment of "Mekorot," Israel's water utility, in 1937, and served as its chief executive until 1951.
In 1940, he joined the Haganah, and in 1947 he organized the recruiting drive for what became the Israel Defense Forces. With the establishment of the State he became the first Director¬General of the Ministry of Defense. In addition, he became head of the World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency's Settlement Department in 1948. In 1951 Eshkol was appointed Minister of Agriculture and Development and later served as Minister of Finance. Eshkol is largely responsible for obtaining funds to develop the country, absorb massive immigration waves and equip the army.
In June 1963, Eshkol assumed the post of Prime Minister. The high point of his premiership was the Six Day War of June 1967. When Egypt and Syria precipitated the crisis, Eshkol established a Government of National Unity, relinquishing the Defense portfolio to Moshe Dayan and bringing Menachem Begin of Herut into the Cabinet. Eshkol found other sources of military supplies for the Israeli armed forces, after France began its military boycott of the Jewish state before the 1967 war. The war itself was a vindication of his efforts at the Ministry of Defense to provide the IDF with the best equipment available. In just six days, Israel succeeded in liberating Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan Heights, reuniting Jerusalem, and capturing the Sinai peninsula.
Eshkol remained in power until his death, from a heart attack, in 1969.