Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Murdered of Brisk Reburied

Remains of Holocaust victims laid to rest in Belarus 

MINSK, Belarus — Remains of more than 1,000 Holocaust victims were laid to rest on Wednesday in a Belarusian city on the border with Poland after a mass grave was discovered on a building site earlier this year.

Belarus was home to a large, vibrant Jewish community before World War II, and the discovery of remains of at least 1,214 people in January shocked many still scarred by memories of the Holocaust.

To the dismay of some Jewish leaders, officials stopped short of canceling the building permit on the site where remains of other victims might still be found, instead offering to bury the bones that were initially discovered.

The remains were buried in 120 coffins emblazoned with the Star of David in a ceremony at a cemetery outside town attended by city officials, Jewish community leaders and diplomats.

Among famous Brest natives is late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who won a Nobel Peace Prize with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1978. His father was among those rounded up and killed.

Regina Simonenko, head of the local Jewish community Brisk, criticized authorities for rushing to bury the remains and continue with the building project instead of running DNA tests to establish identities. “We were told that DNA tests are expensive and take a long time,” Simonenko told The Associated Press.

“We’re talking about a large ghetto,” she said. “We’re not sure that there won’t be other burial sites discovered there.”

New York Times story.

Commentary by Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Dreary Dreadful Independent

Some British newspapers cannot forgive.

For example, The Independent:

There is a dreary inevitability to the way in which the most dreadful creatures turn up at Downing Street or Buckingham Palace. Archbishop Makarios, Jomo Kenyatta, Menachem Begin, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, Robert Mugabe, Nicolae Ceaucescu and Vladimir Putin to name a few. 


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Menachem Begin Recalled to VP Pence

From the transcript of the conversation conducted by President Reuven Rivlin with US Vice-President Mike Pence:

As a Jerusalemite — and I am a Jerusalemite, son of Jerusalemite, son of the son of Jerusalemite — I am here born as seventh generation to my family. We have come to Jerusalem 210 years ago. One hundred years we have lived with our neighbors and our cousins, the Arab community in Jerusalem, in harmony. Unfortunately, we are now in a sort of tragedy for both of us. They are — most of them refuse even to recognize the very existence of the State of Israel.
But we are so very proud as Jerusalemites about the decision of President Trump, about recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
You have to know, my tutor, former Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the time had said the obvious should be said from time to time, even be written down. And the obvious was said, and we appreciated very much. And we see it as a real gift for the 70th anniversary of the state of Israel.


Comparing VP Mike Pence and PM Menachem Begin

Mr. Pence threaded his remarks with references to Scripture, a rhetorical technique Knesset audiences have rarely heard from a political leader since Menachem Begin resigned as prime minister in 1983.

Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik


When Begin Countermanded Sharon

In a story by Ronen Bergman in the New York Times, detailing various attempts to eliminate PLO head Yasser Arafat, you can read this on Menachem Begin:

On Aug. 5, 1981, Prime Minister Menachem Begin appointed Ariel Sharon as defense minister of Israel. Begin, a hero of the underground movement in Israel’s prestate era, had a deep admiration for the former general — “a glorious commander of armies,” he called him — but he was somewhat apprehensive about Sharon’s unwillingness to accept the authority of his superiors. “Sharon is liable to attack the Knesset with tanks,” one of Begin’s deputies half-joked two years earlier.

Sharon quickly raised the stakes. He put a renewed focus on Arafat and gave the greenlight for Ben-Gal and Dagan to carry out an operation that, if it succeeded, would change the course of Middle East history. Operation Olympia called for Israeli agents to plant a massive set of bombs under a V.I.P. dais under construction in a Beirut stadium where, on Jan. 1, 1982, the P.L.O. was going to celebrate the anniversary of its first operation against Israel. With the push of one button, they would achieve the destruction of the entire Palestinian leadership.

Everything was ready, including powerful explosive charges already secreted beneath the dais, as well as three vehicles loaded with explosives that were supposed to be parked on the streets around the stadium; these were to detonate about a minute after the dais exploded, when the panic was at its height and the survivors of the initial blast were trying to flee the scene. The resulting death and destruction were expected to be “of unprecedented proportions, even in terms of Lebanon,” in the words of a very senior officer of the Northern Command. But a group of worried AMAN officers, as well as the deputy defense minister, went to Begin and demanded that he order Dagan to call it off. “You can’t just kill a whole stadium,” one officer recalled telling Begin. “The whole world will be after us.” Begin shut down the operation.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Recalling Begin

From ECONOMIC FABLES by Ariel Rubinstein

I had already encountered Begin’s rhetorical style when I was a child. My father took me to a soccer game only once, but many times to election rallies. At Menorah Square in Jerusalem and at the entrance to the Mea She’arim neighborhood, I heard Begin speak vehemently against the ruling Mapai semi-socialist party. My father would make fun of Begin, but still admired him enough to take me to shake his hand at a barmitzvah celebration where Begin was among the guests. When I was a child, I thought Begin’s rhetoric made him look as if he were playing the fool or clowning. Fifteen years later, in 1977, I was amazed to watch him enthrall the masses. I felt helpless and frustrated by the reactions of many of my friends, who extolled Begin for his rhetorical prowess and in the same breath criticized the rhetorical poverty of our own forces. I, who believed in the power of level-headed argument, did not regard Begin as a role model.

35Begin often explained his decisions in terms of carrying out duties and honoring rights: ”We must all make an effort to… We have to… But we are also obliged…” He would start by saying ”We must make sure that…” and ask ”What should we have done?” In a meeting with President Carter on 19 July 1977, Begin reached new heights of rhetoric:

Mr. President, in your country there are many cities with biblical names. You have eleven places with the name Hebron; five with the name Shiloh and seven with the name Bethlehem. Can you imagine a governor in one of these states prohibiting Jews from living in these cities? The Israeli government also cannot prohibit Jews from living in Hebron, Bethlehem or Beit El. It is our duty to…

36Begin’s arguments were generally based on ”our rights” and ”our duty.” One could think that there is room for discussion and disagreement regarding rights and duties. Did our forefathers command us to settle in Beit El in 1977? Why are we bound by the wishes of our forefathers? Are there other obligatory commands that contradict this ”duty”? However, in Begin’s rhetorical realm, there was no room to examine the limits of the possible and to identify the desirable. The preferred status of an action derived from its being considered part of our rights and our duties and not from its being the best action in light of the limitations of the possible, according to our worldview...

...As years went by, I realized that I think more like Begin than Rabin in regard to the occupation and the occupied territories. My unconditional opposition to ruling over another people did not derive from my formulation of the objectives that the State of Israel is supposed to achieve or from asking myself which possible policy would generate the best result in terms of these objectives. I simply feel an absolute duty not to be on the side of the occupier and oppressor, even if the occupation is economically beneficial and brings peace closer. Nonetheless, I do not have a shred of sympathy for Begin. Even his signing of the peace treaty with Egypt and the fact that he was subject to periodic bouts of depression did not soften my anger over his demagogic antics. Like the times when I was a child and wanted to use a book of logic to prepare myself for asserting irrefutable arguments against evil, I still find myself looking for ways to understand rhetoric and long to defeat demagoguery.


The Steps Needed to be Narrow

After many years of negotiations and planning, the Archaeological Garden above the Menachem Begin Heritage Center is taking shape.

One aspect was puzzling.

The entrance is odd as it starts very wide and then narrows.  It seems inadequate for the groups who will be coming to see ruins of a Byzantine church, Roman remains, Second Temple burial caves and  Ottoman elements.

I asked and the reason is that to the left as one ascends in a portion of the wall of the church:

and to the right is a pit or perhaps a cave (where the wood poles are):

In other words, to preserve these remains, an adjustment need to be made to the design of the steps.