Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Center Bulletin, Volume 4, Issue 18

Volume 4, Issue 18
February 13, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 375,432

Hurwitz Responds to Sarid in Ha'Aretz

For weeks the media have been trying to stir up a controversy over the new Begin "biography" by a young writer, Avi Shilon. The Begin Center has reacted promptly and strongly to its many errors and misrepresentations.

The HaAretz monthly book section published a lengthy commentary by Yossi Sarid which appeared in an English translation in the HaAretz magazine. The Founder and President of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, Harry Hurwitz decided to respond at once and sent a letter to HaAretz who published it in full.

Yossi Sarid is one of the most unsuccessful left-wing Israel politicians. He broke away from Labor, joined Meretz, led it to a disastrous electoral defeat, resigned and left the political scene altogether. Yet he has the impertinence to criticize Menachem Begin for his failure in eight elections only to achieve a brilliant victory in 1977 to become Israel's 6th Prime Minister and to remain in office until he resigned in 1983.

Sarid, in his review of Avi Shilon’s inadequate biography of Begin, grants Begin faint praise but offsets his words with nasty expressions and comments. Begin, he writes, was a model of "personal integrity, modest lifestyle, democratic principles” and adds, "Begin was noble, gracious, charming and, unlike other leaders, Begin left behind him a rich legacy." However, he maintains that these attributes must be balanced by "verbal aggressiveness, theatricality, crowd-inciting oratory and other dangerous traits." Are there no other leaders who do not have such mixtures in their make-up, starting with Ben Gurion down to the current ones?

Sarid touches on Begin's alleged illness, treated superficially in the book, but Begin was not the only national leader to suffer from medical conditions. Others headed the government while under severe treatment for a diagnosed disease, while some military leaders were limited by illness. In all fairness, Sarid should have stated that when Begin felt that he could not go on anymore, he resigned, which others were not prepared to do until this very day.

Sarid makes no mention of Begin's great socio-economic revolution known as Project Renewal which affected more than half a million people in Israel. In the period in which he was supposed to have been incapacitated, he initiated the Peace process with Egypt, which came to fruition on March 26, 1979 and for which Begin received the Nobel Prize for Peace jointly with President Sadat.

Begin's decision to attack the nuclear power station in Osiraq is one of the most remarkable acts in the nuclear age. Anyone reviewing the list of the 100 members of the Knesset who signed the letter that was handed to Begin a decade after the bombing, thanking him for his action and the wisdom and courage demonstrated at that time will find Yossi Sarid’s name missing.

For sure many were upset by Begin's physical appearance in his last year in office but a key event is ignored —the death, and the circumstances surrounding it, of his beloved wife Aliza while he was in the United States. Her death weighed heavily on him to the end of his life.

As for Sarid’s sarcastic criticism of Begin's “theatricality”, ignoring his own foibles, it has been said during the recent American primaries that anyone who aspires to be President must have a degree of acting experience. Considering world leaders from Churchill to Ben Gurion and DeGaulle, this trait can be regarded as a positive element in Begin's unique personality.

White Nights: Best Prison Literature in the World

The appearance of the new version of White Nights by Menachem Begin, which includes extracts from the NKVD record of their interrogation of their prisoner Menachem Wolfovich Begin, recalls comments on the original book. The Times of London published a review by Patrick Cosgrave on February 13, 1978 on the occasion of an earlier edition being published. It was headed "The Making of Menachem Begin." In it he says "more than anything else, the narrative and the warning are fused together in what is, at the end, nothing less than one of the best pieces of prison literature in the world." Review copies of the book are being sent out to various newspapers and periodicals to elicit their attention.

Inaugural Session of IGF Ends; New Session Begins

The closing ceremony of the inaugural session of the Israel Government Fellows program, that was directed by the Menachem Begin Heritage Center together with MASA, will come to an end on 25 February when the Fellows and their hosts will hold a farewell event.

The next group of Fellows will arrive next week and will be present at the above event.

Last week, the group was privileged to hear an address and answers to questions on the current security situation by Dan Meridor, former Member of Knesset and Minister, who is a well-known authority on defense matters.

Conference Fills the Center

On Monday of this week, over 250 participants of the annual Conference of the Jerusalem District’s Youth and Social Unit of the Ministry of Education was held at the Begin Center. The Conference was devoted to “Education as a Foundation for a Strong Society”. Informal educators from the area from Shiloh in the north to Hebron in the south, from Jordan Valley communities to the east and Jerusalem Corridor communities to the west convened for a full day’s program. The highlight of the day was the appearance of former Chief-of-Staff Moshe "Bogie" Yaalon. The nine seminars and workshops were devoted to the theme: “The Educator at the Center of Educational Activity”. This is the fourth year that the Youth and Social Unit has held their professional conference at the Center and the organizers expressed their satisfaction with the way the Center, with its many rooms, provides them with the best place for such an event.


Mr. Benzion Givoni, who was head of the World Betar in the early 1970s, and his wife visited the Begin Center together with their son and daughter-in-law on Sunday. This was his first visit to the living memorial to Menachem Begin and they were all highly impressed by the building and its many features. After their tour of the museum, he told Harry Hurwitz and Herzl Makov, Chairman of the Center, how deeply moved they all were by the experience.