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.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Begin and the NYTimes Crossword Puzzle

SATURDAY PUZZLE — We happen to know that one of the most popular times to pick up The New York Times crossword for the first time and attempt to solve it is over a weekend and, on the surface, that makes perfect sense. Most people are off from work. They have downtime and seek to fill it. And what better time to take up a new hobby than when you have hours to devote to it?

What most people eventually find out is that there is a “trickiness curve” to the solving week, and that their best bet for learning how to solve comes from starting with the Monday puzzles. I suspect this is why some people feel that they can’t solve a crossword puzzle; it boils down to when they first meet up with it. If they pick up a puzzle for the first time on a Saturday or Sunday and take a peek at what’s in store for them, I wouldn’t blame them one bit for placing it gently back down and tiptoeing away, never to try again.

But you have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is at the beginning. Start with the Monday puzzles, and work your way through the week.

I’ll show you why that is: Take a look at the clue for 1A, “Begin at the beginning.” What a coincidence, and what a nicely written, misdirected, Saturday-level clue. On the surface, it sounds like my advice, doesn’t it? That’s not what it means at all, though, at least not on a Saturday. The answer is MENACHEM, as in the former prime minister of Israel MENACHEM Begin, and those of you who are just starting to solve are probably sitting there, wondering why Mr. Diehl and Will Shortz might do that to you.

The answer lies in understanding that this is very typical wordplay for a Saturday. They want you to rack your brains, and the trick to solving a clue like this lies in learning to understand what the clue is really asking you to do. It’s asking you to recognize that the word “Begin” is capitalized not just because it’s the beginning of a sentence; that’s an old crossword trick. It’s also capitalized because it’s someone’s name, and the “at the beginning” part of the clue is asking you to think of what might go before “Begin.” It’s an eight-letter entry, and the only Begin I know of whose first name contains eight letters is MENACHEM.

Quite a brain twister, isn’t it?

Now, if you’re just starting out, Mondays are a great place to strengthen that solving muscle. In a Monday puzzle, that same entry might be clued with a much more straightforward, in-your-face clue, like “Former Israeli prime minister ___ Begin.” It might not be quite that easy, but you get the idea; the clue would supply you with more than enough basic information to solve it and your brain just loves filling in missing information.