Thursday, November 22, 2007

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 6

Volume 4, Issue 6
November 22, 2007

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 341,877


Recalling Sadat's Historic Visit and Begin's Talks with Him

19 November 1977

The Menachem Begin Heritage Center is the focus of activities marking 30 years after the visit to Jerusalem of President Anwar Sadat of Egypt at the invitation of Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Unfortunately, neit her the government of Israel, nor the Knesset did anything to mark the occasion. Sadat's appearance in the Knesset and his address at the time was a rare event and should have been recalled by that august body.

Against this background, the initiative was taken from the beginning by the Menachem Begin Heritage Center which brought the event to the attention of the Israel media and the international media and organized two initial events to mark the occasion.

The first took place on Sunday evening, 18 November, in the Reuben Hecht Auditorium where a select audience of diplomats, Israel Foreign Office personnel, academia, and members of the Boards of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation and Center. Many media people from Israel and abroad were present. The audience also included the Israel Government Fellows whose program has been planned and organized by the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.

In opening the evening, Herzl Makov, Chairman of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, spoke of the great significance in world history of what Menachem Begin had done to invite Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem and the Egyptian leaders courage in coming here.

Harry Hurwitz, founder and president of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, said that what was most remarkable about Anwar Sadat's visit was that it took place at all since Egypt and Israel were still in a state of war at the time. Vi sionary leaders, strong men, experienced statesmen had found the key which was to agree on the termination of this state of war and so it was written in the preamble of the treaty.

"From my own contacts with him, I know that on numerous occasions in private and in public, Menachem Begin said that 'when I shall, with G-d's help be elected Prime Minister, I will invite the President of Egypt, the King of Jordan and the President of Syria to meet with me here in Jerusalem or in their capitals to start negotiating for real peace.'"

Hurwitz pointed out that the US was not the initiator of peace between Israel and Egypt, but a facilitator at best. He quoted the well-known journalist, Yoel Marcus, who recently wrote "it is not an accident that the Nobel Prize committee gave the prize to Begin and Sadat, but skipped over Carter."

Thinking aloud, Hurwitz said that if the Almighty had granted these two historic figures 5 or 10 years more to work together, the peace between Egypt and Israel which has held for 30 difficult years would be consolidated and would serve as an imperishable example for the region and the strife-torn world.

Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni spent half her speech on Sadat's visit and its consequences and implications. The second half was devoted to the forthcoming Annapolis talks that will take place in an entirely different setting and in entirely different conditions.

Because of illness, the Egyptian Ambassador Mr. Mohamed Assem Ibrahim cancelled his appearance at the last minute, but sent the Consul General Dr. Sameh al-Suwayfi to represent the Arab Republic of Egypt. In his address, Dr. al-Suwayfi recalled the courageous steps of President Anwar Sadat and of Prime Minister Menachem Begin—two men who between them have taken action to change the picture of the Middle East. He then spoke about the current situation and the need to fulfill Sadat's complete vision, which was for a comprehensive peace in the area involving the Arab States and especially the Palestinian people.

Following the addresses and some appropriate musical pieces by Gadi Shtern, on piano, and Adam Weingard, on the oud, the audience viewed the impressive exhibition marking Sadat's visit, which has been mounted on the second floor of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.

Impressive Exhibition

The exhibition takes up most of the foyer outside the Reuben Hecht Auditorium on the second floor of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. The viewer travels along a series of panels that trace the events of the peace process through time, starting from the first murmurs of the possibility of Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem and continuing on to the signing of the Peace Treaty itself on the White House Lawn and the famous three-man handshake. The exhibition culminates in a film showing archival footage from that time and highlighting the main turning points in the process. Another element of the exhibition is a number of panels introducing the viewer to Sadat, the statesman. The exhibition is in Hebrew, English and Arabic.


The Exhibit, "No More War: 30 Years of the Peace Process", is open for viewing for the next few months. It is not part of the regular museum tour and is free to the public during Center hours.


King David Hotel Hosts Reception

On Monday evening, 19 November (exactly 30 years after Sadat's arrival) another very special event was hosted by the King David Hotel management whose director Mickey Federmann recalled with pride that Sadat had stayed at the hotel and he held his main talks with Prime Minister Begin and other dignitaries at the hotel. The main guest was former President Ephraim Katzir who had welcomed Sadat on his arrival and accompanied him on the drive to Jerusalem.

President Katzir, in a wheelchair, spoke movingly about Menachem Begin's modesty, integrity, and love of the People of Israel and the Land of Israel. He referred to his conversation with President Sadat and the Egyptian leader's enthusiasm and joy on entering Jerusalem and seeing the flag-waving crowds welcoming him up to the King David Hotel.

Mr. Yechiel Kadishai, who was Begin's private secretary and Bureau Chief, used the occasion to quote from a Begin statement about his vision of the relationship between Israel and the Arab world.

Among the guests, as on the previous evening, were Hart Hasten, President of the US Friends of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, and Mrs. Hasten, as well as Begin's two daughters, Chassia and Leah, representing the Begin family. The audience was comprised of people who were active in many capacities before and during Sadat's visit—Israel Air Force pilots who accompanied his plane; the Army; the police; the bands; the flag bearers, the drivers, the photographers; the management of the King David Hotel; Begin Center personnel and others. Special reference was made by Herzl Makov, Chairman of the Begin Center, to persons (now deceased) who played a major role in organizing Sadat's visit—Dr. Eliyahu Ben Elisar, who was at the head of the organization committee as Director General of the Prime Minister's office, and General Efraim "Freuke" Porat, who controlled all the security and other logistics.

High tribute was paid to Mr. Moshe Fuksman-Sha'al who planned and organized much of these two events.

Media Takes Note

The Israel media—TV, radio and print—had a field day with the 30th Anniversary of President Anwar Sadat's visit to Israel. All Israel's television channels had specially prepared programming including footage from the time and interviews with personalities of today. The heads of the Begin Center and Begin Foundation were interviewed over and over again by TV and radio programs and in the press.

A moving article by Yehuda Avner appeared in the Jerusalem Post on Sunday, November 18, [and can be accessed on our Blog here] described the night Sadat arrived reporting that before he stepped down from the plane, there were all kinds of speculation that something untoward was afoot.

"Notwithstanding, Prime Minister Menachem Begin stood solidly at the foot of the ramp looking at the sealed door with no hint of restiveness. His face was as impassive as a sphinx. Unbeknownst to most, it had been he, Begin, who had initiated the steps, overt and covert, that brought Sadat to Israel and he knew it was no ruse.

"A week later, in an address to the Knesset, Prime Minister Begin summarized his personal initiatives which led to Sadat's 36-hour historic visit and which would, in time, culminate in a peace treaty. Elucidating why eight o'clock was deliberately chosen as the hour for the Egyptian President's arrival he explained:

"President Sadat indicated he wished to come to us on Saturday evening. I decided that an appropriate hour would be eight o'clock, well after the termination of Shabbat. I decided on this hour in order that there would be no Shabbat desecration. Also, I wanted the whole world to know that ours is a Jewish state which honors the Sabbath day. Deeply moved, I read again those eternal biblical verses, 'Honor the Sabbath day to keep it holy…' These words echo one of the most sanctified ideas in the history of manki nd, and they remind us that once upon a time we were all slaves in Egypt.

"Mr. Speaker: We respect the Muslim day of rest—Friday. We respect the Christian day of rest—Sunday. We ask all nations to respect our day of rest—Shabbat. They will do so only if we respect it ourselves."

In an article on, Eitan Haber said:

"It should be noted again: The Egyptians don't love us, and I guess they have several reasons for that (wars, casualties, the ruined Egyptian economy as a result of the war, the unending Palestinian problem). So what?

In a country that, on average, fought Egypt every 10 years or so (1948, 1956, 1967, 1973) there have been no casualties on our side for 30 years now (and no casualties on their side either). About 30 Israelis were killed in terror acts, not by the Egyptian government. Or in other words: Thousands of Israelis (and Egyptians, of course) who are alive and well at this very moment, breathing and eating and working and having fun, owe their lives to Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin. Thousands of others (at least 6,000 on the Israeli side) were not so fortunate and today they lie under headstones at military cemeteries.

The bottom line: The Egyptians don't love us and are not coming to Tel Aviv, and still, we're very satisfied. Thank you Egypt, for this flawed peace agreement. Thank you.

Double Mazal Tov

We extend our hearty congratulations to Sharon (Hurwitz) and Dr. Jay Wohlgelernter on the birth of their second son, brother to Boaz. The baby is the second grandson of Dr. Hillel and Jennifer Hurwitz of Ra'anana and of Dr. Yossi and Debbie Wohlgelernter of Toronto and the great grandson of Freda and Harry Hurwitz of Jerusalem and Rhona Maisels of Johannesburg, South Africa. The baby has already visited the Menachem Begin Heritage Center! ! !

Just before the baby was born, his mother Sharon passed the Law Society Bar Exams—written and oral—and is now a full-fledged lawyer.

Israel Defense Seminar Day for IGF

The Israel Government Fellows, who are on a special program under the auspices of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, were privileged to hear a number of top level lectures last week on subjects related to Israel's strategy and security.

The lecturers were very free and open with the young students and encouraged questions and discussions. The lecturers who spoke were: Prof. Yochanan Manor, President of the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace; Major Gen. (res) Eitan Ben Eliahu, Founder and CEO of Sentry Technology Group, congratulated the Begin Center on its important programming and concepts and wished it great success; and Mr. Uzi Rubin, an Israeli defense engineer and analyst, one of the pre-eminent analysts of missile defense systems in the Middle East. Mr. Rubin opened his remarks by saying that both his parents had been active in the Irgun Zvai Leumi. His wife is the daughter of the late Dr. and Mrs. Wolfgang Von Weisel, prominent Revisionist leaders from the '20s through the '50s.


Milton (Mickey) and Frimette Snow of Toronto and members of their family who were on a visit to Israel included the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in their Jerusalem program.

On arrival, they were received by the Founder and President of the Foundation, Harry Hurwitz, and paused at the entrance to the Nathan Silver Boardroom. At that point they related how closely they were connected with the Silvers from the time Nathan Silver arrived in Canada from Poland. They were partners in various construction ventures.

During Hurwitz's briefings to the family, Mr. Snow related that when Menachem Begin visited Toronto in the first years after the establishment of the State of Israel, he, Milton Snow, was one of his drivers and aides in Toronto.

The family was much impressed by the Center, the museum and everything they learned about it.