Saturday, March 31, 2007

Begin and the Carter Book

In a report inn The Forward on the controversy over former President Jimmy Carter's book accusing Israel of apartheid, the rivalry between him and former President Bill Clinton is discussed.

These sentences appear there:-

Carter, in describing the historic peace talks at Camp David that culminated in the groundbreaking Israeli-Egyptian peace deal, has portrayed the late former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat as a visionary and heroic statesman who gave his life for peace, and the late former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin as a difficult interlocutor less prepared to transcend his past as an underground leader of Jewish nationalists.

In sharp contrast, Clinton developed a close personal relationship with Yitzhak Rabin before the Israeli prime minister was assassinated. Years later, after marathon talks at Camp David failed to produce an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Clinton blamed the stalemate on Yasser Arafat, essentially casting him as a guerilla leader unable to embrace the role of statesman.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Teddy Kollek's Role During the 'Saison'

Newsreports are in about Teddy Kollek's role during the 'Saison' period, 1944-1945, when members of the Irgun, mainly, were handed over to the British:

1. JTA

The late Teddy Kollek reportedly spied for Britain against the hard-line Jewish underground in British Mandate Palestine. Citing declassified documents, Yediot Achronot reported Thursday that Kollek, who is best remembered as Jerusalem's longest-serving mayor, had spent much of the 1940s passing information to the British authorities that helped them crack down on Etzel and Lehi fighters. At the time Kollek was a senior figure with the Jewish Agency, which was largely aligned with the more moderate Zionist movements Haganah and Palmach.

One of Etzel's leaders, Menachem Begin, topped Britain's wanted list, eluded capture and went on to become Israeli prime minister. According to Yediot, Israeli diplomats asked Britain's government archives to keep the files on Kollek sealed while he was still alive. Asked about the report, Kollek's son Amos told the newspaper, "Dad never spoke of his activities during that period."

2. Israel Insider

MI5: Teddy Kollek served as informer for British against other Jews
By: israelinsider staff and partners
Published: March 29, 2007

Yediot Aharonot reporter Ronen Bergman uncovers the unsavory news that an Israeli hero, recently deceased, was in fact an informer against Jewish patriots on behalf of the British occupiers in pre-State Palestine, and even tried to rat out future prime minister Menachem Begin.

Teddy Kollek, the legendary mayor of Jerusalem, lent a hand to the British authorities in their 1940s crackdown against the underground movements that sought to drive the British out of Palestine, secret MI5 documents have shown.

Kollek, who died three months ago, supplied the British intelligence agency with information about the activities of the Irgun and Stern Gang.

Beyond intelligence about the clandestine activities of the two groups, Kollek tried to help the British capture one of their most wanted men: Irgun leader and future Prime Minister Menachem Begin.


Kollek was British informer

Former mayor of Jerusalem helped British troops in their 1940s crackdown against right-wing underground Zionist groups, Irgun and Stern Gang

Ronen Bergman Published: 03.29.07, 12:54 / Israel News

Teddy Kollek, the legendary mayor of Jerusalem, lent a hand to the British authorities in their 1940s crackdown against right-wing underworld movements that sought to drive the British out of Palestine, secret MI5 documents have shown.

Kollek, who died three months ago, supplied the British intelligence agency with information about the activities of the Irgun and Stern Gang.

Beyond intelligence about the clandestine activities of the two groups, Kollek tried to help the British capture one of their most wanted men: Irgun leader Menachem Begin.

Begin commanded the Irgun from 1944 to 1948.

According to the newly released files, Kollek was instrumental in leading to the arrests of dozens of Irgun and Stern Gang members, the confiscation of arms, and the thwarting of numerous attacks against British interests.

Kollek's collaboration with the British came in the framework of a campaign waged by the Jewish Agency against the Irgun and Stern Gang, whose violent activities it deemed harmful to its political plans.

Leaders of the Yishuv, the Jewish population in Palestine, were keen on building bridges with the British to seek approval for their plans to bring thousands of refugees to Palestine from Europe.

The British mandate cashed in on Kollek's position as the deputy head of intelligence in the Jewish Agency to gain access to sensitive information about the Irgun and Stern Gang.

The scorpion

During a meeting with an MI5 officer on August 10, 1945, Kollek disclosed the location of a secret Irgun training camp in an abandoned building near Binyamina [Shuni].

British forces raided the training camp soon after, arresting 27 Irgun members, including three women and a handful of commanders who topped Britain's list of most wanted underworld figures.

"It will be a great idea to raid the place," Kollek is quoted as telling his British contact during one of their meetings.

The British contact wrote in one of his briefings that success against "Zionist terror" depended on Kollek and his men.

Last year the British government opened its extensive intelligence library on MI5 activities in the '40s to the public.

The Israeli Embassy in London was particularly interested in file number 66968, which documented Kollek's collaboration with MI5.

The Foreign Ministry however asked that Britain freeze the release of Kollek's file so long he was alive.

Although many of Kollek's testimonies were omitted, his name appeared on the file in which he is referred to as "the source." His codename was Scorpion.

Kollek never admitted to having collaborated with the British against Zionist underground groups but in his autobiography he said that he was against the violence exhibited by the Irgun and Stern Gang, referring to their attacks as "anarchy."

Kollek served as the mayor of Jerusalem from 1969 to 1993 when he lost to Ehud Olmert.

Letters to the Editor of the Canadian National Post

Canada's National Post newspaper published an item (see below) about a new choral production portraying Samson as an Irgun fighter about to blow up the King David Hotel in 1946.

But he will be attired with an explosive's belt, a la Arab suicide bombers.

The following two letters were published today.


'Bomber' Samson not appreciated

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Re: Choir to depict bible hero as a suicide bomber, March 28.

The choice of Simon Capet -- musical director of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir -- to portray Samson as a suicide terrorist is perhaps a legitimate literary licensed decision. However, it is nevertheless invidious to link the Zionist Irgun resistance underground in 1946 to the Arab terror in Israel today. Mr. Capet is not reinterpreting the Bible, he is attempting to apply a moral equivalency: Jews in the 1940s were no better than Arabs today. That parallel is mendacious and malicious.

Irgun fighters took up arms against a regime that didn't belong to the country, as it had reneged on reconstituting the Jewish national homeland as charged by the League of Nations in 1922. They never purposefully attacked targets that were civilian.

Arab terrorists, on the other hand, are active almost exclusively against Israeli citizens. They had been killing Jews even before the 1967 war, before a presumed "occupation," their excuse for their actions.

Mr. Capet's real intention, I fear, is not a perversion of history but the maligning of Israel.

Yisrael Medad, Shiloh, Israel.


'Bomber' Samson not appreciated

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Menachem Begin's Irgun gave advance warning before its attack on the King David Hotel in an effort to avoid loss of human life. Its target was not people, but information which could have been used to destroy the resistance movement. The distortion and degradation of Jewish biblical and contemporary history does not render a performance depicting Samson as a suicide bomber "relevant." It does, however, permit the use of the performance for the demonization of Jews, on the one hand, and the excuse of contemporary suicide bombers and terrorists, on the other.

What can be the motivation for that?

Lloyd Hoffer, Toronto.


Choir to depict bible hero as a suicide bomber
Samson to be a Zionist terrorist
Sarah Petrescu, CanWest News Service
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

VICTORIA - In the Bible, Samson is a hero who used his superhuman strength to do God's will by pulling down pillars in a Philistine temple, killing thousands and himself in an act of vengeance.

But in what's sure to be a controversial interpretation of the story, a Victoria choir will next month present Samson as a suicide bomber.

Simon Capet, music director of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir, says he wanted to update Handel's Samson oratorio to be relevant to today's audiences by drawing comparisons to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

While the music will not change, the setting of the oratorio will be 1946 Jerusalem. Mr. Capet says he chose the period to draw comparisons to the bombing of the British headquarters at the King David Hotel by the militant Zionist group Irgun in that year. Menachem Begin, who ordered the attack, would later become Israel's prime minister and win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr. Capet says presenting Samson as a terrorist is not meant to offend anyone or point the finger at one group, but to challenge our notions of what a terrorist is.

"Is there any difference between pulling down a pillar or blowing a bomb?" asks Mr. Capet.

"Samson killed thousands of people. To show him in the traditional mythological sense does a disservice," Mr. Capet says.

The choir would not be the first to drawing comparisons between Samson and terrorism.

"There's a large focus on this right now, with Israel being presented as the Samson figure," says Andrew Rippin, dean of humanities at the University of Victoria and a specialist in Islamic studies. American journalist Seymour Hersh coined the term "the Samson option" in his book about Israel's development of a nuclear arsenal.

Shadia Drury, a philosophy professor and Canada Research Chair for Social Justice, recently compared Samson to World Trade Center bomber Mohammed Atta in a talk at UVic. In her book, Terror and Civilization: Christianity, Politics and the Western Psyche, she argues that terrorism is a biblical problem.

"The concept of a collective guilt is a flawed morality," she says. "The idea that 'We're on the side of God and everyone else is evil' has and always will be disastrous."

Ms. Drury says she thinks the choir's modern interpretation of Samson -- scheduled to run April 5, 7 and 8--is heroic.

But local Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein says comparing Samson and the Irgun bombing will offend Jews and Israelis.

"It's an inappropriate comparison that promotes a shallow understanding of history," says Rabbi Marmorstein. "Israelis never supported Irgun or that kind of terrorism. They weren't heroes ... and Begin went into politics legitimately decades later. He wasn't some crazy terrorist."

One man who is already uneasy about the performance is Samson himself, played by Vancouver Island tenor Ken Lavigne.

"I'm really struggling with this," says Mr. Lavigne, 33. "I can't help but feel that a number of people will not enjoy this rejigging of a biblical hero."

Mr. Lavigne says he has warmed up to the idea of putting on an Irgun uniform and wearing a bomb-belt to sing the emotionally charged part since discussing it with Mr. Capet.

"Simon wants to get people talking about music and its relevance today," Mr. Lavigne says. "In the end I've had to accept that whoever I thought Samson was, what he committed was an act of mass murder."

Screening of the Film "Tammuz"

On Friday, April 13, the Begin Center will be screening the new documentary (in Hebrew) on the bombing of the Irqi nuclear reactor.

The invitation:

Monday, March 26, 2007

Peace Treaty Commemoration on BBC

Go here and see and hear various videos and audios, including that of Menachem Begin on the occasion of the signing of the 1979 Peace Treaty with Egypt on the BBC's "On This Day" section.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Government Fellows Program

Menachem Begin Heritage Center
Government Fellows Program
Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the Program intended for?

The Government Fellows Program has been developed to train the future leaders of the Jewish people. The program is looking for Jewish individuals ages 21-30 who hold at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited academic institution. Applicants must show an interest in studying the political and governmental structure of the State of Israel and be prepared to work within its various institutions. The program is seeking applicants who see themselves in future leadership roles, who are active contributors to their respective communities, and who demonstrate a general involvement and commitment to improving the society in which they live. Applicants must also identify themselves strongly with the Jewish people, and recognize the centrality of State of Israel to the Jewish people.

Do I need to be fluent in Hebrew in order to participate in this program?

Most of the seminars, classes, tours and extra-curricular activities with take place in English, and a functional familiarity of English is required. Participants from non-English speaking countries will be required to take an English fluency test. Hebrew fluency is not required except for participants who do not speak English as a first language. The program includes weekly Hebrew language courses (Ulpan).

How long does the Program last?

The Government Fellows Program lasts six (6) months, from September 2007 to February 2008.

What exactly does this program consist of?

At the heart of the program is the placement of participants in internships in various offices of the Israeli Government. Interns will work Sundays to Wednesdays from 8:00am to 4:00pm, and placements will be based on the manpower needs of the Government and the skills and requests of the interns. The remainder of the program consists of extracurricular seminars and activities in various subjects, including government, democracy, history, Zionism and culture. Weekly tours and hiking trips, along with joint programs with Israeli youth are also included in the program.

Can you please provide some more details about the program’s social and extracurricular activities?

During the course of the program, interns will participate in a wide range of programming outside of their specific internships. These programs include leadership training seminars, first aid courses from Magen David Adom, and weekly Bible classes. Participants will travel and hike throughout the country and in Jerusalem, and will even participate in an archeological dig. Interns will also receive media and public relations training, and will visit and meet with members of the Knesset. Further, meetings and seminars with parliamentary assistants and journalists will also take place. Volunteering, tree planting, cultural seminars and joint activities with Israeli counterparts are also included in the program. .

What does the application process consist of?

Applicants must fill out the program applications and submit it along with several written essays and a US$100 non-refundable registration fee. The staff at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center will review all applications, and qualified applicants will be interviewed, either by phone or in person by one of our representatives.

What are the application requirements?

The Government Fellows Program is open to all Jewish, post-baccalaureate individuals aged 21-30. Applicants must have a background in communal and social involvement and must express an interest in governmental affairs. A flow chart outlining the application process can be found on the website of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, .

How much does the program cost?

US$6,500 consisting of US$6,400 (Price prior to the “Masa” Grant) plus the US$100 non-refundable registration fee. Details regarding accreditation are at the outline document.

Are there any scholarships or other types of financial assistance available for this program?

Scholarship and financial assistance requests for this program can be directed to the Masa Israel Journey project (

What are the starting and ending dates of the program? Is the more than one session per year?

The program will begin on September 1, 2007 and will conclude at the end of February 2008. The next six month session will begin in September 2008.

Do participants receive any health insurance while the program?


Where will we be living?

Participants will live in their own apartments in the center of Jerusalem, within walking distance from the Old City and many of Jerusalem’s main tourist and shopping locations.

Are participants required to pay for apartment expenses?

Apartment bills, including water and electricity, will be paid by the Begin Center, up to a predetermined amount. In the event that expenses exceed this sum, the difference will be paid by participants.

Will we be paid for the work we will be doing?

There are no arrangements for interns to be paid. However, travel expenses (within a predetermined framework) will be covered by the Ministry for which you will be working.

When is the application deadline? What is included in the application form?

Application forms can be found on the Center’s website, We will be informing applicants whether or not they have been accepted to the program by June 1, 2007, so all applications must be received before this date.

How many people will be accepted to the program?

We will be accepting 18 applicants for the September 2007 program.

Will participants receive any certificates from the program?

Upon completion of the program, the participant will be awarded a certificate of the Government Fellow Internship program by both the Civil Service Commission and the Begin Center.

Good luck,

Hadasa Greenberg-Yaakov
The Menachem Begin Heritage Center
Tel: 972-2-5652027
Cell: 972-57-5791608


Government Fellows Program - Outline


The Menachem Begin Heritage Center is the national commemoration project dedicated to Israel’s sixth prime minister and operates by virtue of the "Begin Law" passed by the Knesset in 1998.

The Begin Heritage Center, located on Jerusalem’s Hinnom ridge overlooking Mt. Zion and the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, is open to the public and regularly holds informational events highlighting research activities and educational programming, all dealing with the deeds and heritage of Menachem Begin as a leader, a statesman and a fighter for the freedom and the secure future of the Jewish people in its land. Academic research and educational themes include diplomacy, leadership, security and social, cultural and economic issues all reflecting the special vision of Menachem Begin. In addition to the Research Institute, there is a reference library and Mr. Begin’s personal archives

Government Fellows Program

Educational principles - the Center’s outlook is value-driven, with an emphasis on leadership and the inculcating of parliamentarism through experiential activities viewing the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in which one will find personal liberty, social justice and equality for all, supremacy of law and governmental ethics.

The core element: acquainting students with the ministerial and parliamentary democratic system through internship programs at various government offices.

The goal: strengthening the links between Jewish youth--the leaders of tomorrow--the State of Israel and the Zionist idea.

Additional educational themes: providing a basic knowledge of Israel’s governmental structure, local councils, work methods, tools available to the citizen that enable him or her to have a voice in the democratic process; learning about outstanding individuals and events in the country’s history, its parliamentary system and the political and party reality; transferring comprehensive, deep and broad knowledge regarding the history of the State of Israel, its geography and its elected and appointed regime structure; studying the practices of government ministries and the division of authority between them; understanding the basic fundamentals of the democratic system, its political and party processes.

After completion of this program, the participant will appreciate and understand the values of the State of Israel and because of having been personally involved in the inner workings of government, the participant will have a foundation on which to build a leadership role in the Jewish community and as a Zionist.

Participants and Target audience

The target audience is Jewish young people, post-baccalaureate, who are active in their communities and are interested in events in Israel and its political life who are prepared be involved and to undergo a working experience in the governmental system. It is anticipated that participants will include young adults who intend to work with a commitment to the society in which they live and within a variety of frameworks and who are members of the Jewish community who recognize the central importance of Israel and the status of the Jewish People.

This program has been developed to train the Jewish leaders of tomorrow.

Acceptance Criteria:

Age: 21 – 30 with a Bachelor's degree from a recognized academic institution.

Language: fluent English, as well as a fair level of spoken and written Hebrew. For non-native English speakers, an English fluency test will be administered.

Experience: (Preferred) previous experience in public and community involvement with a desire to continue in the field of public and community affairs.

Skills: Good inter-personal communication, positive outlook and personal initiative, computer literate in a variety of applications

Please include in your application:

Letters of recommendation from academic staff, personal acquaintances and employers, if relevant.

Two short essays: 1. describing two or three challenges facing Israel and the Jewish people at this time, in regards to Jewish identity, connection to the Land of Israel. (500 words max.) 2. Outline your hopes and aspirations for the future, emphasizing your own personal Jewish identification, connection with the land of Israel, description of your own Jewish community activity and future aspirations. (500 words max.)

In addition, the participant should include a writing sample he/she has written so that his/her writing and explanatory skills can be judged.

A photo, Resume.

Upon acceptance, a short biographical outline will be submitted.

Other Details:

Housing: Housing is included - the participants will live in several private rented and furnished apartments in central Jerusalem (bedding is not included), no more than two to a room, and will maintain an independent existence. The apartment expenses, including electricity and water bills, will be paid by the Begin Center, up to a pre-determined maximum sum. If bills and expenses that exceed this sum, the difference will be paid by the participants.

Each apartment will be supplied with a guide containing information on all facets of running the apartment and its equipment as well as travel instructions, maps, cultural and entertainment facilities, et al. During trips, accommodations will be either in hotels, youth hostels, field schools or at camp sites.

Food: participants are responsible for their own eating arrangements except during group trips where there will be kosher catering.

Travel: for intra-urban purposes, the participants will travel on their own. On excursions, transport will be arranged.

Participants will sign the affidavit confirming their agreement to abide by all the security and safety procedures throughout the course of the program.

Participant Obligations and Privileges: The participant must attend all theoretical and practical lectures, assure proper time requirements, and fulfill counselors’ instructions and internship needs. He/she must take care to maintain prudent and cautious behavior and a general sense of awareness. A theme will be selected by him/her which will be studied or a project that will be completed and a presentation will be made at the program’s conclusion as well as to the home community.

Sponsor’s Responsibilities: the Begin Center will define the specific task the participant will assume and will aid him/her to fulfill his/her responsibilities and to help with job acclimatization. The Center will coordinate with the ministry office the task delineation as well as participate in pre-training workshops, etc. and will fill out all required post-program forms and provide recommendations and program summaries. The Begin Center will be a resource for all kinds of support throughout the study/work abroad experience

(Conduct arrival orientation)

Cost of the Program: US$6,500 (Price prior to the “Masa” Grant)

Terms of Payment:
Non-refundable Registration Fee US$ 100
Upon Acceptance:
First payment, due July 1, 2007 US$1,000
Balance due US$5,400
Full payment by August 31 receives a discount of 5%
Payment Options:
1. Payment in Cash (payment plan available)
2. Payment by Credit Card
3. Checks are not accepted
The registration fee is non-refundable even in the case of your cancellation.
Tuition will not be refunded, or any portion thereof, in the case of your cancellation of participation.

The price includes residency accommodations, all activities connected with the program, books, learning booklets, tours including transportation, site entry and meals, etc. (Electricity and water bills will be paid up to a certain fixed ‘ceiling’ and it is the responsibility of the fellows to pay the sum that has exceeded that ‘ceiling’.) Medical insurance is included as well. Not included are flight expenses and everyday living expenses, excluding joint activities as mentioned above.

Accreditation: upon completion of the program, the participant will be awarded a certificate of the Government Fellow Internship program by both the Civil Service Commission and the Begin Center.



 US$100 Application Fee (non-refundable)
 Application Form
 A Photo
 Transcripts
 Resume
 Volunteer Activities
 Personal Biography
 Two Essays
 Writing Sample
 3 Letters of Reference
 Health Insurance Form
 MASA Grant Form

Registration Deadline for September 2007: 31 May 2007
Registration Deadline for September 2008: 31 May 2008

Good Luck!


Application fee: US$100 (non-refundable)

Israel Government Fellows Application Form

1. Personal Information:

First name ____________ Last name ____________________

Home address _______________________________________

Country of residence _________________________________

Present address ___________________________________________

E-mail __________________@__________________________________

Date of Birth ________________ Telephone number ___________________

Single / married Gender _______________

Passport Number __________________________________

2. Educational Background

Degree Major Date of Graduation School

Please include a copy of your transcript(s)

3. Work Experience

Date of Employment Place of Employment Type of Employment

Please also attach a resume.

4. Briefly describe any communal or volunteer work in which you have been involved

5. Briefly outline your personal biography (250 words or less)

6. Write two short essays:
1) Describe two or three challenges facing Israel and the Jewish people today in regards to Jewish identity, connection to the Land of Israel. (500 words max.)
2) Outline your hopes and aspirations for the future. (500 words max.)

7. Please include a writing sample (i.e. press release, short academic paper, short article, etc)

8. Computer Skills:

9. Language: [level: mother tongue, high, medium, weak]

Language Writing Reading Speaking







10. Have you ever been to Israel before? Y/N

11. If so, in what framework? (Relatives, Tourism, Short/Long-term program)

12. Do you (or either of your parents or both) belong to a synagogue? Y/N

13. If yes, what is your (or their) synagogue affiliation? __________

14. How did you hear about the "Israel Government Fellows" program?


15. Letters of recommendation: (Please, include at least one name in each of the following categories: (a) employer, (b) teacher or academic advisor (c) Shaliach or community leader) Letters can be sent directly via email or regular mail, but please list them here.

Name Relation Telephone e-mail



16. What are your preferences for internship? For general information go to:
After acceptance to the program, together we will refine your internship experience.

17. Preferences for adoptive family in Israel (religious affiliation) _________

If you feel there is any additional relevant information that you would like us to know, please include it with your application submission.

Please mail the application form and all necessary documents with a US$100 non-refundable application fee to the following address:

Menachem Begin Heritage Center
Israel Government Fellows program
6 Nahon St. Jerusalem 94110

If you have any questions please e-mail them to

A confirmation of receipt of your application will be sent by email.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Center Bulletin - Volume 3, Issue 22

Volume 3, Issue 22
March 14, 2007

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 266,304

A Glimpse Ahead at 2007

Multiple Anniversaries, Special Events: Where were You when…?

As announced last week, attention is now being focused on four major anniversary events in 2007, during which will be marked:

1. Menachem Begin's dramatic election as Prime Minister in 1977;

2. The visit of Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem and the start of the Peace Process in November 1977;

3. Menachem Begin's service in the government of National Unity from the eve of the 6-Day War in 1967 and for three years thereafter including the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem.

4. 60 years after the execution by the British of Dov Gruner and the remarkable escape from the Acre Prison.

Various departments of the Begin Center are already collaborating with Universities and other bodies to create very interesting programs.

For a start, this News Bulletin is asking YOU to recall and tell us where you were on the day Menachem Begin was elected Prime Minister of Israel, May 17-18, 1977. How did you react? What was your family's feeling, etc.?

Annual General Meetings of the Boards

A very successful gathering of the Boards of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation and the State appointed council of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center was held on Sunday 11 March.

The Boards heard a brief analysis of the main achievement of the Begin Memorial Project and future plans from the founder and head Harry Hurwitz. He urged the Board to approve intense efforts for an Endowment Fund to add to the State's budget for the running of the Center. Herzl Makov, the Director General, highlighted some of the major activities. Hon. Treasurer "Smoky" Simon presented a Financial Report.

The meeting was preceded by a luncheon provided by the White Nights restaurant at which Prof. Moshe Arens was an honored guest.

Nathan Silver z"l Anniversary

On the tenth anniversary of the death of Nathan Silver, the first president of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, members of the Silver family and friends gathered with Board members of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation and Center in the Nathan Silver Executive Boardroom for a memorial tribute. In his remarks, the head of the Foundation, Harry Hurwitz, said that Nathan Silver was one of the first people with whom he discussed the establishment of a living memorial to Menachem Begin. He recalled that Begin had, after the 1977 election, paid high tribute to Nathan Silver as one of the people whose efforts has helped his electoral success. Yechiel Kadishai also spoke on Begin's great appreciation of the Silver family's help in 1976.

At that point, a sculpture created by Silver's daughter Debra was unveiled by the family in the Boardroom.

Earlier that day the Nathan and Lily Silver Community Center was dedicated at the Menachem Begin elementary school in Rehovot. At that ceremony, Dr. Z.B. Begin spoke of the close relationship between the families and Mr. Shoel Silver spoke of the great admiration and friendship which his parents had for the Begins.

On Monday family and friends gathered at the Eretz HaChaim cemetery in Beit Shemesh to honor Nathan Silver's memory. This was followed by a reception at the Lily Silver Educational Center in Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem.

Featured in the Jerusalem Post

Following the appearance of an important article by the Op-Ed editor of the Jerusalem Post, Elliot Jager, about the life and background of Menachem Begin, Harry Hurwitz submitted the following letter which was published in full by the paper.

The important article by Elliot Jager that appeared in the Jerusalem Post on March 6 was a vivid reminder of an experience I had in the US in July 1979.

At the time, I was Prime Minister Menachem Begin's advisor on External Information and he had sent me to the US to explain the Settlement program of his government to Jewish and general audiences. The Embassy in Washington, DC and consulates in different parts of the US organized the tour, meetings and interviews on TV, radio and in the print media.

In New York, I had a meeting with the editorial board of Time magazine whose editor-in-chief was Henry Grunwald. A short while earlier, full page advertisements had appeared in the New York Times and other papers denouncing the settlement policy of Begin over the signatures of about forty prominent Jewish personalities including Nobel Prize winning author Saul Bellow, composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein, violinist Isaac Stern and, of course, Leonard Fine, who was a well-known Leftist.

Grunwald welcomed me to the meeting and asked whether the Prime Minister was not concerned that the leaders of the American Jewish community were against his policy. I asked to which leaders of the American Jewish community he referred. He then pointed to the New York Times advertisement and mentioned some of the signatories. I responded by saying that while we highly admired Leonard Bernstein, for example, as a great musician, he was no "leader" of the American Jewish community. Who elected him? On what platform? What policy does he represent? And the same applied to the others. "While we take account of the opposition of our friends in the Jewish community, the guiding principles that have to influence the government of Israel are the interests of the people of Israel, their security and safety."

The discussion continued. Grunwald was rather more subdued than when he opened. I then proceed to tell the group that my barber in Jerusalem had a sign on the wall which said that he had an agreement with the bank. "I don't change checks and they don't cut hair!"

"The same could apply to this discussion," I said. "We don't play the piano or the violin or conduct orchestras and they, these great virtuosos, cannot lead the nation of Israel as the Prime Minister and government do, who were elected by the majority of the people of Israel."

The discussion then switched to other topics and we ended as good friends.

In the following weeks, Time magazine reported on this discussion and quoted some of the above remarks.


Pastor Ulf Eckman of the Word of Life organization in Sweden and his wife Birgitta, who were on a brief visit to Israel, took time out from their program to spend a few hours at the Begin Center with Mr. and Mrs. Hurwitz. They had wide ranging discussions, including the subject of programs to bring more groups from Sweden to the Begin Center.

* * * * *

Eli Reef and a friend from South Africa, Shirley Smith, visited the Begin Center on Monday to renew acquaintance with Harry Hurwitz and to visit the museum and other features in the building. They were greatly impressed by all they saw and heard and said that never before had they seen such a hi-tech Institution. Eli Reef and Harry Hurwitz had worked together for many years in the ZRO (Zionist Revisionist Organization) of South Africa.

Visitor Comments:

v I'm privileged to visit the Begin Heritage Center 68 years after I boarded an immigrant ship, the Astor, from Romania. The tour was exciting and brought back memories of all that happened in the country from the days we planted the eucalyptus avenues in Netanya. – Netanya, Israel

v I was one of the happy crowd who first saw Menachem Begin in Zion Square 57 years ago in Jerusalem giving an unforgettable speech. No other leader is comparable to Menachem Begin. We all miss him. – Israel

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Elliot Jager's article on Begin

Power and Politics: Breaking Begin

This Friday marks the 15th anniversary of the death of Menachem Begin. He died of a broken heart on March 9, 1992, vilified as a warmonger by the Left and cast off by right-wing purists after he traded the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979. The purists also berated Begin for his 1978 Camp David offer of five years of limited self-government to the Palestinian Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, to be followed by final-status negotiations between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian negotiating team - a proposal the Arabs rejected.

Begin would have been my hero even if he had never become prime minister, never ordered the destruction of Iraq's nuclear reactor, in June 1981, and never negotiated Israel's first peace treaty with an Arab neighbor.

I admired him for commanding the Irgun during the revolt against the British; and for navigating a course midway between the moderation of the Hagana and the militancy of the Stern group. Perhaps most of all, I respected his reaction to David Ben-Gurion's unforgivable order that the Hagana attack the Irgun arms-ship Altalena: Begin prevented the tragedy from deteriorating into a Jewish civil war.

After 1948, with the system stacked against him, Begin became leader of the loyal opposition. A principled ideologue and fiery orator, he campaigned forcefully in 1952 against Israeli acceptance of financial reparations from Germany - and lost. He had every reason to challenge the legitimacy of a political system in which the allocation of virtually all resources was monopolized by Mapai, but he didn't.

Granted, Begin was no saint. He didn't encourage opposition to his leadership inside Herut. But he was an honest politician, lived modestly and preserved the philosophy of Ze'ev Jabotinsky.

MOST OF THE world had never heard of Menachem Begin until May 1977, when he was elected as Israel's first non-Labor premier. But from that day until he resigned in September 1983, his spirit broken by IDF losses in the war in Lebanon and the 1982 death of his wife and life-long companion Aliza - and ultimately, I would argue, by an unparalleled five-year campaign spearheaded by Peace Now and its allies abroad to force his government to embrace dangerously accommodationist policies toward the Arabs - Begin wasn't given a moment's respite.

Never before had an Israeli premier been so beleaguered, so vilified, so undermined by an alliance of left-wing domestic opponents, the Jewish Diaspora establishment, an implacable White House led by Jimmy Carter and a spiteful international media.

His foes found him "too Jewish," and his idea of trading "peace for peace" a non-starter. Thomas L. Friedman, who reported for The New York Times, first from Beirut and then from Jerusalem during the Begin years, later thus encapsulated the left-wing attitude toward Begin: "What made Begin… dangerous was that his fantasies about power were combined with a self-perception of being a victim… Begin always reminded me of Bernhard Goetz, the white Manhattanite who shot four black youths he thought were about to mug him on the New York subway… [Begin] was Bernhard Goetz with an F-15."

Even mortal threats to Israel had to be belittled because the Left was determined that Israel withdraw from Judea, Samaria and Gaza, captured 10 years earlier in the Six Day War. Failure to do so, leftists convinced themselves, would obliterate the possibility of a rapprochement with the Arabs. No matter how blood-curdling Arab deeds were, the Left discerned intimations of Palestinian moderation which needed to be encouraged by substantive Israeli concessions.

For Begin, this was anathema. First off, he believed Jewish claims to the West Bank and Gaza were rock-solid - far superior to those of Palestinian Arab nationalists. To a media that wouldn't give him the time of day he sought to make the legal, historical and strategic case for calling the territories Jewish. And, anyway, he didn't think sacrificing the West Bank and Gaza would bring peace; he was convinced that the Arabs had not accepted the idea of a sovereign Jewish state anywhere in the land.

WHAT REALLY unified and outraged his opponents - at home and abroad - was Begin's heart-felt embrace of the settlement enterprise. By the time he took office, some 24 communities had been established under Labor governments, according to Lords of the Land by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar (though Gershom Gorenberg, in The Accidental Empire, claims there were nearly 80). Whatever the specifics, the first settlements included Kfar Etzion, Alon Shvut, Ma'aleh Adumim, Kiryat Arba, Elazar and Ofra. In fact, the first yishuv to be re-established after the Six Day War was in Gush Etzion, just south of Jerusalem, in September 1967.

For strategic reasons, as well as to solidify Israel's claim to the capital, Labor governments were eager to build in and around metropolitan Jerusalem and over the Green Line. But Labor only reluctantly allowed Gush Emunim's Orthodox settlers, who were inspired by a combination of theology, messianic zeal and nationalism, to build "non-strategic" settlements.

On May 19, 1977, just after his election, Begin (accompanied by Ariel Sharon) drove to Elon Moreh (Kaddum) outside Nablus. Here is the scene as described by Gorenberg:

"Begin, with a ring of thin black hair and heavy glasses that magnified his eyes, looked exhausted. His two bodyguards could not hold off the crowd. People kissed him, embraced him. Yeshiva students danced around him. After a brief tour, he stood in the square between the mobile homes and took the velvet-covered scroll in one arm, putting the other around Ariel Sharon's shoulder. Four men took the corners of [the] prayer shawl and held it over his head; a band prepared to play.

"Before the ceremony, Begin made a statement to the crowd. 'Soon,' he said, 'there will be many more Elon Morehs.'"

Begin was not going to "tolerate" settlements; he was going to make building them government policy. And this the US administration could not tolerate because it went against bedrock US policy: Israel would trade land for peace, and if there was no West Bank to trade - somewhere down the line when the Arabs would presumably be willing to take it - there would be no possibility of peace.

Nor would the Israeli Left tolerate settling the biblical Jewish heartland. It had a very different vision of Israel - a Western-oriented consumer society on the Mediterranean; the fewer Arabs, the better; the less traditional, the more cosmopolitan, the better.

For the Left it was inconceivable - simply beyond belief - that the Arab-Israel struggle would go on ad infinitum. As humanists, they couldn't abide the notion of an Israel ruling over hostile Arabs or settling land claimed by them. And, anyway, how were all these settlements going to be paid for, and at whose expense?

WHAT FOLLOWED was a scenario of political manipulation aimed at forcing Begin to change his policies or, better yet, returning the government to Labor. It was to be a multi-pronged effort: The White House would signal that the US-Israel relationship was jeopardized by Begin's election. The American Jewish leadership would radically "disassociate" its support for Israel from Begin's West Bank policies. And inside Israel, a campaign of street demonstrations and newspaper ads would create the impression that Begin's ideas were outside the mainstream.

The foreign press portrayed Begin as a former terrorist. Time magazine helpfully instructed its readers to pronounce Begin's name by rhyming it with the Dickens character Fagin. Newsweek labeled Begin a zealot and a fundamentalist.

Carter's White House immediately issued a "Notice to the Press" to set the "historical record" straight. Based on what we now know about Carter, his initial response to Begin's election is telling. You have to remember that in 1977 the Palestinian leadership wasn't even pretending to compromise. The possibility of cutting a West Bank deal with Jordan was still out there. No one was pushing a Palestinian state, and only the Arabs and the extreme Left embraced the "right of return."

But the White House engaged in a psychological campaign against Begin. If he had the hutzpa to claim that the West Bank was disputed, the White House would remind the world that Israel itself was disputed. And so it recalled: "UN General Assembly Resolution 181… [which] provided for the recognition of a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine, and UN GA Resolution 194… [which] endorsed the [Palestinian Arab] right to return to their homes or choose compensation for lost property…"

I'll leave a fuller description of the appalling treatment Begin received at the hands of Carter, the prestige media, and much of the American Jewish leadership for another time. Suffice it to say that the president routinely pressured US Jewish leaders (who anyway were hankering for the good old Labor days) to lobby Begin to change his West Bank policies. The insinuation was that if all they did was echo the Likud platform, the community might be open to regrettable charges of dual loyalty.

IT TOOK about two months, but in July 1977 the shock of Begin's victory galvanized a group of IDF reservists, many of whose leaders happened to be associated with Jerusalem's Van Leer Foundation, to issue an open letter to the new prime minister calling on him to pull Israel back to - what amounted to - the 1949 Armistice Lines.

No thanks to Jimmy Carter, just six months after Begin came to power, in November 1977, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat accepted Begin's invitation to address the Knesset.

Peace Now took the Sadat visit as a call to arms. By January 1978, the group was pressing Begin for a more conciliatory Israeli negotiating approach.

On March 11, 1978, Fatah terrorists infiltrating by sea from Lebanon carried out what became known as the coastal road massacre. They murdered 35 Israelis and wounded another 100. Begin ordered Operation Litani to go after PLO strongholds in Fatah-controlled southern Lebanon.

None of this weakened Peace Now's resolve. By April 1, 1978, it was able to muster a rally of some 20,000 supporters in Tel Aviv. From then on, demonstrations - outside his office, home, and along the highway to the airport - would be coordinated every time Begin went to Washington to see Carter.

Peace Now took an increasingly confrontational approach to the settlement enterprise. Activists blocked roads to communities; one group marched on the Jewish enclave in Hebron. Yuval Neriya, one of Peace Now's founders, explained: "Our idea was to show the prime minister that he did not have the nation behind him when he refused to negotiate [with Sadat and Carter] over Judea and Samaria to get peace."

Tzali Reshef, another movement founder, reiterated that Peace Now opposed retention of the West Bank and Gaza; opposed the confiscation of West Bank land (whether private or not); and opposed "on moral grounds"… "colonization [which] would lead to apartheid."

Israel's resources, Reshef argued, should be invested inside the Green Line, not on settlements.

Meanwhile, in the Diaspora, in April 1978, Peace Now had captured the imagination of 37 famous American Jews, who signed a letter supporting the Israeli activists. They wanted the world to know that they too opposed a Jewish presence in the West Bank and Gaza, and urged Begin to show greater "flexibility" in negotiating with Sadat. The New York Times was instrumental in playing up the letter, putting the story on page one.

Signatories included the No. 2 man in the Reform movement, Albert Vorspan (No. 1 was Rabbi Alexander Schindler, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations); political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset; Ira Silverman of the American Jewish Committee; Saul Bellow, the Nobel Prize laureate; literary editor Leon Wieseltier; Rabbi Joachim Prinz, a former chair of the Presidents Conference; and professor Leonard Fein of Brandeis.

A LENGTHY and difficult negotiating process - complicated by Palestinian intransigence - between Cairo, Jerusalem and Washington finally culminated in the March 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty.

The signing of the treaty took some of the steam out of Peace Now, though it did manage a few big rallies. Behind the scenes, however, it was very much in operation. For instance, by 1981 activists Yuli Tamir and David Zucker broke new ground by meeting with Yasser Arafat's liaison to the Israeli peace camp, Issam Sartawi, in Austria.

But Peace Now didn't really take off again - and become the powerhouse it is today, openly funded by a host of foundations and foreign governments - until the outbreak of the June 1982 Lebanon War.

Operation Peace for Galilee, as that war was first called, was not a war of necessity, whatever its arguable merits. Janet Aviad, who had been a Peace Now leader, told me:

"There was an atmosphere in Israel that one does not dissent, especially during a war. We had to break those taboos, and it was our responsibility to do it. It was a very hard decision. Peace Now didn't go out during the first days of the war. It took three weeks to get people to realize that there was no choice."

The Left thus broke the taboo against holding anti-government rallies during wartime.

The media embraced the Peace Now complaint against Begin full-throttle. Leading the pack was The New York Times, which reported growing "dissent" within the US Jewish community. Meanwhile, its magazine fomented the "dissent" with, for instance, a cover story by Amos Oz entitled "Has Israel Altered its Vision?"

Nevertheless, the government managed to hold firm against extraordinary pressures until it expelled Arafat from Lebanon in September 1982.

AND THEN all hell broke loose. Israel's ally, the Phalangist leader Bashir Gemayel, was assassinated on September 14, 1982, in a massive explosion at his Beirut headquarters. In bloody retribution, on September 16-17, his Christian Arab militia massacred many hundreds of Palestinian Arabs in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla.

No Israeli soldiers were involved, nor were any even aware of what was going on. Peace Now, however, argued that the slaughter could not have happened absent IDF "sponsorship" - after all, Israel was in military control of the area. Of course, this begged the question of why Israeli "military control" hadn't saved Gemayel from assassination in the first place.

But it was Peace Now's big moment. It organized a gigantic Saturday-night rally on September 25, 1982, in Tel Aviv, which drew over 250,000 anguished Israelis. Begin's Lebanon policies were in shambles.

Peace Now harassed Begin without letup. Protesters stood outside his windows with signs calling him a killer; others hoisted the tally of IDF soldiers killed in action. Then, on February 11, 1983, as Peace Now was holding yet another march through a hostile Jerusalem heading for the government compound near the Knesset, where Begin's dispirited cabinet was meeting to agonize over the Kahan Commission report, tragedy struck again.

As the rally was breaking up, a troubled man, a right-winger named Yona Avrushmi, lobbed a grenade; it killed 33-year-old Emil Grunzweig, a Van Leer Foundation staffer. In denouncing the killing, Begin was grief-stricken: "God forbid that we should go the way of heinous violence," he mourned. "God forbid."

Begin would hold on just seven months longer.

LOOKING BACK all these years later, neither Begin nor Peace Now got the Israel they wanted. In the very year Emil Grunzweig was killed, and despite all of Peace Now's marches, all the newspaper ads and all the foreign support, construction began on the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev - over the Green Line. Renovation of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem's Old City was also completed.

Peace Now was never able to mainstream its contention that Israelis could live securely within the - more or less - 1949 armistice lines, or that the Palestinians had genuinely accepted the idea of Jewish sovereignty within a truncated Israel.

Begin, for his part, was never able to sell Israelis - especially the non-Orthodox majority - on the idea that the settlement enterprise was a practical answer to Israel's West Bank dilemma.

We'll never know how things would have played out had Begin's strategy of marginalizing the PLO's intransigent external leadership not been undermined.

What if Begin's idea for genuine Palestinian autonomy, tantamount to nation-building, had been widely embraced by Israel's Left and the international community? What if autonomy had been nurtured by the resources the US and EU subsequently channeled into the Palestinian Authority? Wouldn't West Bankers and Gazans have been better off? With a political infrastructure and a history of competent self-government, wouldn't Palestinian demands for statehood today be more viable?

Begin was never given a chance, so we'll never know.

Center Bulletin - Volume 3, Issue 21

Volume 3, Issue 21
March 7, 2007

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 264,016

2007: A Special Year

Now that the observation of the 15th anniversary of the passing of Menachem Begin has been very successfully completed, attention has turned to the next major series of events to be observed in 2007.

The first two are the famous political "Earthquake" that took place 30 years ago on 17 May 1977—the Knesset election that was won by the Likud party and changed the political make-up of Israel. This was the first time in 29 years that Labor lost its power and the pendulum swung over to Likud. In the last 30 years there have been four Likud Prime Ministers. At times Begin's party shared office with Labor in Unity governments and at times, as now, it is in opposition.

The most important lesson of the 1977 election was that in Israel, too, it as possible to change peacefully from one political grouping to another as democracy provides.

It is already known that one of the leading universities is planning a major symposium on the 1977 political "Upheaval" and the Begin Center is considering a series of events on that election and the premiership of Menachem Begin.

Final Events Marking 15 Years

Two more events to mark the 15th anniversary of the passing of Menachem Begin, the sixth Prime Minister of Israel, will take place within the next fortnight. This will conclude the elaborate program of organization and spontaneous events that have marked the occasion.

The two additional programs will be a symposium at the Haifa University on the subject of "A Second Look at Menachem Begin." And the last event will take place at the Hebrew University, Mexico Hall. It will be presented by the Student Union on the subject of "Ethics in Government."

Last week's main symposium, which started in the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and continued at the Bar Ilan University, was well-supported in both places. The lectures and comments which were recorded will be transcribed and eventually a booklet will be published on various aspects of the life and "World View" of Menachem Begin.

Ministry of Justice Celebrates at the Center

The Ministry of Justice once again held its annual "Outstanding Workers" event at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. This year's prestigious occasion was attended by the new Minister of Justice Daniel Friedman, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and other luminaries. The formal program was preceded by a lavish cocktail reception catered by the White Nights restaurant.

Hundreds of workers and members of their families thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.


The new printing of the historic document first published in 1951 on the Weltanschauung of Menachem Begin has become a talking point all over the country. It has been quoted by Ministers, judges and other academics ever since the first copies were distributed.

The on-going dispute between the Minister of Justice Daniel Friedman and Attorney General Mazuz was highlighted in the press when Mazuz added an unusual comment to his weekly Cabinet report. According to the HaAretz newspaper, Mazuz chose to include quotes from the "well-known speech of Menachem Begin of 1951" regarding the role of the Court in the State of Israel. His words had "not lost in importance or relevance 55 years later." At the time, Begin had said, "we should not be satisfied with the mere independence of the Court, but we must consider the supremacy of the Court our cause."

Later, the new Minister of Social Affairs, Isaac Herzog of Labor, said: "It is particularly symbolic that there are statements made by Menachem Begin who was identified as the leader of the right and the quotations from his 1951 speech are of high moral value."

Because of the interest created by the publication of the Hebrew booklet, the leaders of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center have given serious consideration to its translation into English and its early publication in that language. We are hoping to make an announcement on this possibility at an early date.

Nathan Silver z"l Anniversary

Next Monday, 12 March, it will be ten years since Nathan Silver, the first president of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, passed away. The family will participate in a series of events connected with his well-known philanthropic work.

In this connection, a small ceremony will take place at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center where the Executive Board Room bears the name of Nathan Silver. His daughter Debra Silver Karta, who is a well-known sculptress, created a special sculpture which will be unveiled in the Board Room at the ceremony.

Visitor Comments:

v Keep the passion alive! – Denver, Colorado, USA

v A proper tribute to a man of vision and integrity for whom the Jewish state, Israel and the Jews of the world owe a great debt.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

The Television Version of the Junior Knesset

If you go here and click on the photo with the young lady at the speaker's podium, you can view the Channel One TV version of the Begin Center's Junior Knesset educational program.

Channel One TV was broached by the Center to air the final session of the program which is an exercise in the legislative procedure. They took our idea and altered it a bit to fit the TV need of action and fast-pace and produced "Noar LaShilton" - Youth to Power.

Six sessions were filmed and broadcast.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Begin's Living Memorial

Harry Hurwitz's article in The Jerusalem Post on February 27:-

Last week marked the anniversary, on the Hebrew calendar, of the death of prime minister Menachem Begin, who died on March 9, 1992. On this 15th anniversary of his death the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem republished, in Hebrew, a booklet that first appeared 56 years ago and has been out of print for years.

"Menachem Begin - Worldview, National Perspective and Fundamental Principles" contains the philosophy and political program as outlined by the then leader of Herut at his party's second convention, held on February 26, 1951 in Netanya.

As party chairman, Begin began his address by dealing with current affairs, then stopped and said he wanted to discuss the fundamental problem of the Jewish state in its homeland. A few weeks later, the speech was serialized in Herut, the party newspaper, and then published as a booklet.

Remarkably, a strong consistency runs through the booklet, most of which is as relevant today as when it was published. A copy of the original booklet is on display in the Begin Heritage Center.

IMMEDIATELY after Begin's death I advocated the establishment in Jerusalem of a living memorial along the lines of American presidential libraries which I had visited during my three years at our embassy in Washington, DC. I invited a number of key people, like Yaakov Meridor, Eliyahu Lankin, Yechiel Kadishai, Nathan Silver and "Smoky" Simon, to whom I presented the concept of a "presidential library" commemorating Menachem Begin. Begin's son, Benny, was also present at the early discussions.

The idea appealed, though not everyone knew or understood what a presidential library actually was. I elaborated and the idea became more attractive, but then arose the question of funding and I agreed to make two or three trips abroad to test the waters.

The rest is history.

Over the years almost the entire amount required to build our modest but impressive four-floor structure was raised in Israel and abroad. It took several years to secure the magnificent location on which the Begin Center stands. Much help was provided in this effort by the then-mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, and by the then head of the Israel Lands Authority, Ariel Sharon.

Eventually, the ground-breaking ceremony was held in June 1998, and the center was officially opened in 2004. By that time, Herzl Makov was already functioning for a number of years as its director-general.

WE CAN NOW say that the institute is a splendid success. The number of visitors in our first two years compares most favorably with the US presidential libraries, in actual or relative numbers, and our multifaceted activities have made it a dynamic, living institution. The center's fame has spread far and wide and people abroad make reservations weeks ahead to be sure they get in, especially during the crowded holiday periods.

Our main educational program, the junior Knesset, is now being featured on Israel Television Channel 1 in a six-week series, and the Thursday evening lectures on the weekly Torah portion attract hundreds of excited devotees across the Israeli social and religious spectrum. There is also special interest in our archeological garden, featuring excavations dating back to the First and Second Temple periods.

Israel has reason to be proud of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. But the handful of Begin devotees who created it, myself included, are disappointed that few leaders of this nation, irrespective of party affiliation, ministers, Knesset members, mayors and professors have thus far made the time to come and see for themselves what has impressed, moved and inspired more than a quarter of a million visitors who have experienced, through the center, Menachem Begin's life, deeds, words, leadership, integrity and modesty.

Center Bulletin, Vol. 3, Issue 20

Volume 3, Issue 20
February 28, 2007

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 262,454

Israel Government Honors Menachem Begin

In his opening remarks at the last Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recalled and paid tribute to Prime Minister Menachem Begin on the 15th anniversary of his death. The head of the Begin Center, Mr. Harry Hurwitz, and its Director General, Mr. Herzl Makov, had been specially invited for that part of the meeting. The Prime Minister spoke of Menachem Begin's great contribution to the Jewish People, the struggle for freedom, the internal political debates and Begin's great contribution as Prime Minister of the state.

In a few remarks, Herzl Makov spoke of Begin's unique leadership and his influence on generations of young people. He thanked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his role as mayor of Jerusalem in enabling the Begin Center to be built on the marvelous location where it now stands. He announced that 260,000 persons had already visited the Begin Center and invited all member of the government to visit at an early opportunity.

A few days earlier, Begin was recalled in the Knesset by MK Gidon Sa'ar of Likud, who said:

"We sense the fondness that wide-spread groups of the public feel for Menachem Begin…When was the last time we heard a public official say, as did Menachem Begin, that it is incumbent to serve the people?...This dimension is missing today…All the behavior, the humility, that you come to public service not to improve your own standing but as a way of life.

"Politics, when it breaks down, when the ideological element disappears, becomes a combat zone between interests and nothing more. The willingness to pay a price for your beliefs and opinions and to serve in the Opposition as a result…the charisma that comes not from power or force but from one's personality and from the belief in an idea that you represent…"

MK Sa'ar went on and discussed at length a 1961 article by Begin on democracy, emphasizing the immediacy of his analysis of the workings of parliament, a free press, elections and the supremacy of law and the civilian echelon of society over the defense forces and police. He also noted that Begin's social-political coalition has actually survived all these years, that of the national-religious, the Haredi and the Sephardi communities.

Mr. Ruby Rivlin, the former Speaker of the Knesset, added:

"Please take note, 15 years after the death of my mentor Menachem Begin, there is not one media outlet, television and radio, that is not devoting multiple programs of all kinds, creating a unique public echo. Should we not contemplate why? Is it perhaps because of the longing, even on the part of his opponents, for a leader who knew what he wanted, who knew how to lead, how to act in peace and war with the correct moderation of knowledge and wisdom, or how to alter positions, these and others?"

Minister Edri recalled that Begin broke through the walls of animosity and made peace with the largest of Israel's enemies. He especially stressed Begin's contribution in assuring the internal socio-economic solidarity of Israel's citizens.

Beloved By All

One of the special articles that appeared on the 15th anniversary of Menachem Begin's death was by Anshel Pfeffer of the Jerusalem Post entitled Suddenly Begin is Beloved by All who said:

"At times like these the media and public begin to feel nostalgic and cast back to a time when we remember real leaders… Menachem Begin, though vilified for almost all his political career by the establishment, is suddenly the prime minister whose reputation is most widely agreed upon. He has something for everyone… He wasn't the kind of leader whose followers lose confidence after one failure. They followed Begin through thick and thin, from the years in the underground and in eight electoral defeats. They were prepared to die for him… Even for ideological opponents, it is a bracing memory with no parallel since. But above all, it was Begin's personal humility and simplicity [that endeared him to the nation]."

In the Footsteps of Menachem Begin

Scores of people in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv found the walking tours that the Menachem Begin Heritage Center arranged on Friday, 23 February, most interesting. The people moved about by bus and walked from place to place connected with the life and work of Menachem Begin. They saw where he lived in the days of the Underground and they saw the building in which he lived in Tel Aviv before moving to Jerusalem and the official residence of the Prime Minister.

Such tours had been organized previously but the leaders of the groups noted that this year's participants were, in the main, new to the program. They were younger, individuals who had not previously visited these sites. They were very grateful to the Begin Center for having made it possible for them to have such an experience.


Dr. Gerald Glick, a retired cardiologist, and his wife, Sharon, from Chicago visited the Begin Center with their daughter, Caroline, the well-known journalist whose important articles appear in the Jerusalem Post. They were greatly impressed by the building and museum and congratulated all responsible for this rare institution.

* * * * *

One of the oldest people ever to visit the Begin Center came last week accompanied by his daughter and son-in-law. They saw the impressive building and were greatly moved by the museum. 98-year-old Rabbi Yaakov Nayman of Long Island, who had grown up in Brisk and was in cheyder with Menachem Begin, who was a few years younger than he. Rabbi Nayman told Harry Hurwitz that he remembered Menachem Begin as a very bright young man who was already a passionate Zionist in those days.

Visitor Comments:

v This was a superlative documentation that I shall suggest to all those I know who come to Israel. – Fort Meyers, Florida, USA

v I appreciate what I've learned about Menachem Begin from this presentation. – Spring Valley, New York, USA

v Exciting, impressive, most important. This museum is worthy of this leader who will never be forgotten. An important layer in the history of Israel. – Moshav Tikuma, Israel