Thursday, June 25, 2009

Center Bulletin, Vol. 5, No. 35

Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Jerusalem Volume 5, Issue 35 | June 25, 2009


TOTAL NUMBER OF VISITORS SINCE OCTOBER 2004: 499,279


HAPPENINGS

The Israel Government Fellows Program will be conducting today, Thursday, June 25, its conclusion ceremony for the Third Session. A total of 18 graduates will be receiving gifts and certificates of participation.
The Begin Center continues to provide the public events of a cultural nature as well as those of a professional nature, both sponsored by the Center or in cooperation with other bodies. For example, on Wednesday, June 24, the Center hosted a conference on Psychology and Judaism which featured as its main speaker, Israel Prize Awardee Prof. Mordechai Rothenberg. The conference, “Bereavement and Loss – Between Separation and Continuity”, is jointly sponsored, in addition to the Center, by Beit Moreshet and the Rothenberg Center for Jewish Psychology. Another conference on Jewish education, promoted by Atid, was also conducted recently at the Center.

A researcher, Dr, Meir Zamir of Ben-Gurion University, published a background article, in preparation for a major academic essay on relations between France and the Yishuv. His subject in the article, which appeared in Haaretz this past Friday (see here), was the Altalena and the French arms transfers to the Irgun.

The selling of Begin Center books in Tel Aviv with a special joint booth with the Jabotinsky Institute during the annual Hebrew Book Festival was a success.


VISITORS


The President of Yeshiva University, Dr. Richard Joel, and his assistant, visited the Center last Tuesday. They were escorted through the Museum by Yisrael Medad and were greeted by Begin Center Head, Herzl Makov. Coincidentally, a family from Chicago joined their tour and, as “Jewish geography” would have it, a connection was discovered between Dr. Joel and the family! Dr. Joel, who came at the express request of Hart Hasten, Chairman of the American Friends of the Begin Center, as well as that of his wife who visited the Center some two years ago and was impressed, called the Center a “hidden gem”. He was informed of previous activity with the YU office in Jerusalem and the hope is that future joint programs will result for the benefit of YU students and others who are spending a year in Israel.


The archives aided a doctoral candidate from the United States who is researching the activity of right-wing intellectuals and their connections, among others, with the Begin governments. Next week, the Center expects the visit of an independent film producer who is researching material for a film based on Menachem Begin’s “The Revolt”.


CORRECTION


The name of the person who donated the picture of Menachem Begin on his trip to Colombia is Alter Ben-Tziyon who resides in Mevasseret Tziyon.


EVENTS


On the 29th of Tammuz (Tuesday, July 21), the Yahrtzeit day for Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the Center will be the venue for a special memorial assembly following the official State ceremony at Mount Herzl.

Center Bulletin, Vol. 5, No. 34

Menachem Begin Heritage Center Bulletin, Jerusalem | Vol. 5, No. 34, June 18, 2009


TOTAL NUMBER OF VISITORS SINCE OCTOBER 2004: 497,692


EVENTS

On Sunday evening, June 14, the World Jewish Congress Research Institute, in cooperation with the Begin Center, conducted a seminar on “Reevaluating America and the Shoah”. Greetings were made by Matityahu Droblas, Co-chairman, World Jewish Congress–Israel and Herzl Makov. Dr. Rafael Medoff, Director, David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, Washington, DC spoke on "Abandonment and Rescue: American Christian and Jewish Responses to the Shoah" and Dr. Ofer Schiff, Head of the Israel Studies Program, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Be'er Sheva spoke on "Abba Hillel Silver: An American Zionist Leader and the Shoah". (Pictures here)

On Wednesday afternoon, June 17, the Professors for A Strong Israel held their Annual General Meeting which included presentations of Israel’s Academic Monitor as well as a lecture by physicist Nahum Shahaf on his investigation, as requested by Daliah Rabin, on the murder of her father.

That same Wednesday evening, Bnai Brith International conducted its annual Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage for 2009. The award winner was Jacky Hugi of Ma’ariv. A Certificate of Merit was given to Haviv Rettig Gur of the Jerusalem Post and the Lifetime Achievement went to Dov Judkowski. Introductory Remarks: Dr. Haim V. Katz, Adv., Chairman, B'nai B'rith World Center. Guest lecture was delivered by Fran├žois Zimeray, French Ambassador for Human Rights on “Reconciling Human Rights Standards of the 20th Century with the Age of War and Terrorism”.

Senior Begin Center staff are planning for two notable future events, Menachem Begin's birthday close to Shabbat Nachamu at the end of July and the marking of the Center's 5th anniversary since its opening at the end of August.


ACADEMIC ASSISTANCE AND GUIDANCE

IN ADDITION TO PROVIDING LIBRARY AND ARCHIVAL RESEARCH FACILITIES, STAFF OF THE BEGIN CENTER ARE AUTHORIZED BY THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION TO SERVE AS COUNSELORS FOR HIGH SCHOOL PUPILS WHO ARE WRITING TERM PAPERS IN LIEU OF THE BAGRUT EXAMINATION IN HISTORY. EVERY YEAR, UP TO THREE 11TH AND 12TH GRADERS ARE PROVIDED WITH CLOSE ATTENTION ASSISTANCE TO ENABLE THEM TO FOCUS ON PROPER RESEARCH METHODOLOGY, OBTAINING INTERVIEWS AND BEING DIRECTED TO THE RELEVANT RESOURCES. SOME OF THE PUPILS HAVE MERITED AWARDS AND PRIZES FROM THE ZALMAN SHAZAR CENTER AS WELL AS THE JABOTINSKY INSTITUTE FOR THEIR ACADEMIC PRODUCTS.

THIS PAST WEEK WE WERE INFORMED THAT LIDOR BEN-HAMU, WHO WROTE A SEMINAR PAPER ON "THE IDEOLOGY OF LEHI - A COMPARISON BETWEEN THE PERIOD PRIOR TO AND AFTER THE DEATH OF YAIR STERN", RECEIVED A GRADE OF 98 AND WE WISH HER MUCH SUCCESS IN HER FUTURE ENDEAVORS.


ARCHIVAL UPDATE

THE MENACHEM BEGIN HERITAGE CENTER, TOGETHER WITH THE JABOTINSKY INSTITUTE, HAS FINISHED THE DIGITATION PROCESS OF THE HERUT DAILY NEWSPAPER PUBLISHED BY THE HERUT MOVEMENT BETWEEN OCTOBER 1948 AND DECEMBER 1965. THIS INFORMATION TRANSFER FROM HARDCOPY TO COMPUTER-FRIENDLY WILL MARKEDLY INCREASE THE CENTER’S ABILITY TO SERVE RESEARCHERS AND TO LOCATE ARTICLES, NEWS STORIES AND OTHER JOURNALISTIC ELEMENTS SO THAT THE HISTORY AND THOUGHT OF MENACHEM BEGIN AS WELL AS HIS POLITICAL ACTIVITIES CAN BE TRACED AND INVESTIGATED.

Soon, the Revisionist daily, HaMashkif, will also be digitized with the assistance of the Central Zionist Archives.

A visitor submitted a picture of Menachem Begin visiting a Jewish day school in Columbia in 1949 and it can be viewed here.

Center Bulletin Vol. 5, No. 33

MENACHEM BEGIN HERITAGE CENTER, JERUSALEM VOLUME 5, ISSUE 33 JUNE 11, 2009

TOTAL NUMBER OF VISITORS SINCE OCTOBER 2004: 496,160

BOOK LAUNCHING

THE REUBEN HECHT AUDITORIUM WAS, ONCE AGAIN, FILLED TO OVERFLOWING FOR ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL BEGIN CENTER EVENT. ON SUNDAY EVENING, JUNE 7, A BOOK LAUNCHING WAS HELD FOR THE LATEST LITERARY ACHIEVEMENT OF HAGGAI SEGAL. ENTITLED, "NO CIVIL WAR PLEASE", IT RETELLS THE STORY OF THE KILLING OF SEGAL'S UNCLE, YEDIDYAH SEGAL, AN IRGUN MEMBER KIDNAPPED BY THE HAGANA IN EARLY 1948. TORTURED, HIS BODY WAS LEFT NEAR AN ARAB VILLAGE AND THE CLAIM WAS MADE THAT HE HAD ESCAPED DETENTION AND FALLEN AFOUL OF THE ARABS.

THE EVENT WAS MODERATED BY AMIT SEGAL, HAGGAI'S SON, WHO IS THE KNESSET CORRESPONDENT FOR CHANNEL TEN NEWS. CENTER HEAD, HERZI MAKOV, OPENED THE EVENING FOLLOWED BY KNESSET SPEAKER RUBY RIVLIN WHO MADE TWO SPEECHES, ONE PERSONAL AND EMOTIONAL AND THE OTHER AS PART OF HIS OFFICIAL STATE CAPACITY. NEXT, AN EDITOR AT THE MAKOR RISHON NEWSPAPER, WHERE SEGAL WRITES AND WHICH PUBLISHED THE BOOK, TOGETHER WITH SHILOH/BARKATZ, AMNON LORD, CONTRIBUTED HIS APPRECIATIONS. THE MAIN SPEAKER WAS FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER AND CURRENT HEAD OF THE OPPOSITION, MK TZIPI LIVNI. DESPITE ATTEMPTS TO MAINTAIN DECORUM, HER REMARKS WERE INTERRUPTED SEVERAL TIMES, AN INCIDENT WHICH WAS WIDELY BROADCAST IN ISRAEL'S ELECTONIC AND PRINT MEDIA. AS THE JERUSALEM POST REPORTED:

IN A SIGN OF THE EVER-EMOTIONAL TIMES IN ISRAEL, KADIMA OPPOSITION LEADER TZIPI LIVNI WAS REPEATEDLY HECKLED AND BOOED SUNDAY EVENING AT A JERUSALEM EVENT MARKING THE LAUNCH OF A BOOK IRONICALLY ENTITLED "NEVER AGAIN CIVIL WAR" WHICH DEALS WITH THE PRE-STATE ETZEL UNDERGROUND MOVEMENT. THE EVENT AT THE CITY'S BEGIN CENTER, WHICH WAS ALSO ATTENDED BY KNESSET SPEAKER REUVEN RIVLIN OF THE RULING LIKUD PARTY TURNED ROWDY ALMOST AS SOON AS THE FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER, WHOSE PARENTS BELONGED TO THE RIGHT-WING PRE-STATE ZIONIST ORGANIZATION, BEGAN SPEAKING.

"SOME OF YOU ARE LIKELY ANGRY THAT I LEFT THE TRADITION AND BASE WHICH I WAS PERHAPS EDUCATED IN," LIVNI OPENED. "IF THERE IS ONE THING THAT PREVENTS A CIVIL WAR IT IS THE ABILITY TO LISTEN TO EACH OTHER AND TO DIFFERING OPINIONS."

THAT, HOWEVER PROVED TO BE TOO HARD FOR THE AUDITORIUM-PACKED AUDIENCE OF PREDOMINANTLY SENIORS, MANY OF WHOM WERE AFFILIATED WITH THE ORGANIZATION - ESPECIALLY WHEN AN UNREPENTANT LIVNI, WHO SUPPORTED THE 2005 GAZA PULLOUT, QUICKLY FOCUSED HER TALK TO THE PRESENT AND BEGAN TALKING ABOUT THE NEED FOR TERRITORIAL COMPROMISE.

Other participants included Tzvi Barzel, an Irgun fighter who had also been kidnapped by the Hagana during the Saison period and Alizah Forkosh, Yedidya's sister. Leor Yaini provided musical accompaniment. Haggai Segal addressed the crowd at the end and explained why he wrote the book and what were his goals in doing so.


ADDITIONAL EVENTS

ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL EVENING WAS THE PROGRAM ON SONGS OF THE HALUTZIM, PART OF THE SERIES PRESENTED ON ZIONIST AND ISRAEL SONGS BY ISRAEL PRIZE WINNER NACHUM HEIMAN, WHICH WAS CONDUCTED ON TUESDAY EVENING.

ON THURSDAY EVENING, THE SECOND SHOWING IN THE NEW SERIES, “ZIONIST CINEMA”, WILL BE HELD. THIS TIME, THE DOCUMENTARY, “DUBECK”, ON THE LATE SECURITY CHIEF FOR THE GUSH ETZION DISTRICT, WILL BE SHOWN AND THE DIRECTOR WILL SPEAK.

ALSO ON THURSDAY, THE BEGIN CENTER FACILITIES WERE RENTED BY “ISRAEL’S MEDIA WATCH” FOR ITS ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING WHICH FEATURED PHILLIPE KARSENTY. MR. KARSENTY INITIATED A LIBEL SUIT IN FRANCE IN CONNECTION WITH THE INFAMOUS MUHAMMED AL-DURA FILM CLIP. MR. KARSENTY HAD ALSO ADDRESSED THE GUESTS OF THE BNAI BRITH WORLD CENTER ON WEDNESDAY WHO RENTED THE EXECUTIVE BOARD ROOM.

GUEST AT THE ARCHIVES

THE ARCHIVES THIS PAST WEEK WAS VISITED BY A WOMAN, Zehava Beiber-lacks, WHO ARRIVED IN ISRAEL ON THE ARMS SHIP, THE ALTALENA IN JUNE 1948. SHE ONLY RECENTLY THOUGHT OF DOING PERSONAL RESEARCH AND, INFORMED BY A RELATIVE OF THE BEGIN CENTER RESEARCH FACILITIES, DECIDED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE. SHE WAS QUITE SURPRISED AND ALSO SATISFIED AT THE ASSISTANCE PROVIDED TO HER IN HER PERSONAL QUEST.

HEBREW BOOK WEEK

IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE JABOTINSKY INSTITUTE, THE BEGIN CENTER WILL MAN A BOOK STALL AT THE ANNUAL 10-DAY LONG HEBREW BOOK FESTIVAL. THIS YEAR, THE STALL WILL BE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC IN TEL AVIV FOLLOWING LAST YEAR'S SUCCESSFUL JERUSALEM STALL. BOOKS RELATING TO ZE'EV JABOTINSKY, MENACHEM BEGIN, THE UNDERGROUNDS AND NATIONAL ZIONISM CAN BE PURCHASED AT DISCOUNT PRICES.

Ilana Brown is on holiday and this bulletin and those of the coming few weeks will be produced by others in the Begin Center. If there are any problems, we expect your gracious consideration.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Begin at Bet El; Begin Recalled

Begin Visits Pisgat Yaakov in Beit El

Minister Benny Begin visited Pisgat Yaakov (Artis Hill) in Beit El Tuesday and met with the Mayor of Beit El to discuss the possibility of developing the young community. Mayor Moshe Rosenboim told Begin that the freeze on housing construction is making life very difficult for existing residents in Beit El and for young families wishing to join.

Rosenboim told Begin that his late father, Menachem Begin, approved the construction of Beit El when he was Prime Minister. In addition, Rosenboim told the minister, Menachem Begin took part in the dedication of the local Torah Study Hall (Beit Midrash), and said that it was “the greatest day of my life.”

Benny Begin was moved by the story and promised to do his best to assist in the development of Pisgat Yaakov.

On The Altalena

A burning ship on Jerusalem Beach

By Meir Zamir, professor in the Middle East Studies department at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. An extensive article by him about France's part in the Altalena affair is forthcoming.

The ship Altalena, which was sunk 61 years ago today, brought arms and ammunition provided to the Irgun Tzvai Leumi underground militia by the French army. Documents revealed here for the first time attest that France's Foreign Ministry believed that helping the Irgun (the National Military Organization, known also by its acronym Etzel), would prevent Jerusalem from falling into Jordanian hands, which would strengthen the position of France's rival in the region: Britain. But France failed to take one element into account: David Ben-Gurion.

One of the most important documents is testimony the French deputy chief of staff, General Henri Coudraux, gave to France's Defense Ministry during an internal inquiry into the affair. Coudraux, who had played a key role in transfering the arms to the Irgun in June 1948, said in his testimony on November 15, 1949, that France "reached a secret agreement with the Irgun, which promised it advantages if it were to come into power (in Israel)." He described the Irgun's representative in the negotiations, Shmuel Ariel, as "a terrorist who did not represent a legitimate organization and acted to take power by force."

The next day Ariel testified,confirming that the Irgun signed a secret agreement with the French government whereby the latter would "provide arms to the Irgun to fight the Arabs." These arms ultimately arrived at Israel's shores aboard the Altalena, which was sunk on June 22, 1948, off Tel Aviv at the order of acting prime minister David Ben-Gurion.

The deep political and historical controversy this affair provoked has not waned even after more than 60 years. Ben-Gurion and the left accused Irgun head Menachem Begin of an attempted putsch in the midst of an existential fight by the nascent state. Begin and his supporters, for their part, claimed that Ben-Gurion had fomented a cynical plot aimed at harming a political rival seeking to bring arms and fighters into Israel, to strengthen the army in its war against the Arabs. Had Begin not evinced national responsibility, his supporters believe, there would have been a bloody civil war.

The writer of these lines recently discovered in a French archive the report written about 60 years ago by France's Ministry of Defense and the testimonies used in it. The documents cast light on the French motives in the affair, and indicate that a secret agreement concerning the arms supply included stipulations which, Coudraux said, were aimed at the provisional government in Israel. The Irgun representative said the targets of these political provisos were the Arabs.

The written agreement has not been found, but from the documents one concludes that foreign minister Georges Bidault deeply feared occupation of Jerusalem by the Jordanian Arab Legion, with British support; in the second half of May 1948, the Legion had damaged French Catholic institutions and France's consulate in Jerusalem. Years later Ben-Gurion hinted that the French gave the Irgun the arms in return for a commitment to protect the Catholic institutions in the city. On May 24 the French Foreign Ministry sent communiques to Jordan's King Abdullah, Israel's government and British and Arab legations in Paris, demanding that they avoid attacking religious and diplomatic institutions in Jerusalem. Irgun representatives in Paris received a similar notice.

According to the partition plan approved by the UN General Assembly, Jerusalem was an international zone; meanwhile, both the Irgun and the Lehi (Lohamei Herut Yisrael - Fighters for the Freedom of Israel) continued to operate there separately, even after the establishment of the Israel Defense Forces. In the agreement of early June 1948, integrating the Irgun into the IDF, its leaders insisted on receiving one-fifth of the arms slated to arrive on the Altalena for their Jerusalem battalion.

Britain's 'double game'

Thus, the Irgun's campaign against the provisional government, demanding Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, deepened the rift between the two rival camps. Ben-Gurion suspected that Irgun's leaders wanted to establish a separate power base there. Testimonies from French sources indicate the possibility that Ben-Gurion knew about the details of the agreement between Bidault and the Irgun before he gave the order to sink the Altalena.

Bidault decided to provide arms to the Irgun, an organization that opposed the interim government, and which was receiving clandestine aid from France, not only to protect French institutions in Jerusalem from the Arab Legion. He also knew this move would anger the British Foreign Office, which was closely following the Altalena's course.

On May 14, Princess Elizabeth arrived in Paris on a state visit reflecting the good ties between Britain and France. Nevertheless, Bidault decided shortly afterward to give arms to the Irgun - gratis. According to various documents, he may have had another to thwart a British-Jordanian move to control Jerusalem.

In the summer of 1944, French intelligence succeeded to recruit an agent in the Syrian government, who subsequently provided information about clandestine British activity in Syria and other Arab countries. As foreign minister in Charles de Gaulle's provisional government, Bidault witnessed the efficiency of the British secret services, which played a major role in expelling the French from Syria in 1945. Bidault, a devout Catholic, attributed great importance to maintaining Jerusalem's status as an international city, and saw a vital French interest in the creation of the state.

According to the French documents, Paris suspected that Britain had adopted a "double policy," which it used effectively in Syria: Alongside the declared policy about ending the Mandate and evacuating British forces from Palestine on May 15, 1948, the French believed that Britain's secret services sought to prevent establishment of a Jewish state, or at least to limit its size.

The siege of Jerusalem in April 1948, in which the Arab Legion with its British commanders played a major role, led the French to suspect a British plot; reports received afterward about Britain's military and diplomatic moves reinforced this suspicion. For example, the British prevented Palmach underground forces from occupying Sheikh Jarrah in northern Jerusalem, and allowed companies of the Legion to deploy in British camps in the city just before they were evacuated; also British officers of the Jordanian Legion were stationed in the British consulate. On May 12, the Legion attacked the Etzion Bloc in one of the worst defeats suffered by the new state in the War of Independence.

Confirmation of Britain's "double game" was reflected in its diplomatic efforts to thwart a proposal for a general cease-fire in the Security Council on May 19. After many years of following King Abdullah's intrigues in Syria and Lebanon, the French were convinced the Hashemite king was acting on British instructions in certain instances. The Legion concentrated its efforts in the international zone of Jerusalem, and the French were convinced that Britain hoped to enable Abdullah to gain control of all of the city.

Ben-Gurion shared these suspicions. He, too, believed, in contrast to some of his generals, that the war would be determined in Jerusalem. The last week of May, he ordered two attacks on the Latrun police station, then held by Legion soldiers, in an attempt to break through the siege of Jerusalem. The attacks failed and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City fell on May 28.

Reports of these developments were received in France during negotiations with the Irgun, whose strength was overestimated by the Quai d'Orsay. This reinforced Bidault's fears that the provisional government couldn't prevent Jerusalem from falling into Abdullah's hands. Bidault and his aides were also worried by the Legion's bombardments of the French consulate in Jerusalem. The consul and officials in Paris believed British agents were behind the attacks, in which several staff members were wounded. Demands by the French that the British and King Abdullah stop shooting were ignored.

Confirmed suspicions

In early June, France's Foreign Ministry ordered its consul in Amman to begin preparations to cut off relations. Reports the consul sent about his meetings with Abdullah reflect the latter's thinking in the midst of the battle for Jerusalem. Indeed, in a meeting on May 23, he was certain his forces would occupy Jerusalem within a short time and, wrote the consul: "He was determined to fight Zionism and prevent the establishment of an Israeli state in the borders of his kingdom." He scoffed at the Syrian army and said he expected that "the annexation of Palestine would be a step toward realization of his great aspiration in Syria."

The French saw these remarks as confirming suspicions that the British sought to exploit the war in Palestine to force Syria to join a Hashemite federation headed by Abdullah, which would take over parts of the land of Israel including the Negev, which had been allocated to the Jewish state in the partition plan. These suspicions were also shared by Arab leaders.

At the end of May, Bidault had reasons to fear a victory by Abdullah in Jerusalem, which would reinforce his status and enable Britain to realize its plans for a Hashemite union including Syria and Lebanon. From General Coudraux's testimony and from the Defense Ministry investigation, it emerges that Bidault decided to provide arms to the Irgun in the last week of May, due to the pressure of time, and not as part of a formal arrangement.

The strengthening of the Irgun's military and political power was aimed at achieving several goals: galvanizing the right wing vis-a-vis the left in Israel's provisional government; ensuring political, economic and cultural advantages for France if the Irgun seized power; protecting France's consulate and religious institutions in Jerusalem; and above all preventing Abdullah from controlling Jerusalem with British support. However, Bidault and his aides did not take into account Ben-Gurion's determination to prevent forcibly the strengthening of a political rival's military power. Even at the price of civil war.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

WJC Holocaust Seminar at Begin Center







Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dr. Laurence Weinbaum,
Matti Drobles,
Dr. Rafael Medoff

Menachem Begin Visit to Colombia, 1949


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Center Bulletin, Vol. 5, No. 32

Menachem Begin Heritage Center Bulletin Vol. 5, No. 32 | 4 June 2009

TOTAL NUMBER OF VISITORS SINCE OCTOBER 2004: 493,959


NEW ADDITION TO THE ARCHIVES

The archives of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center this week received a banner that was used at an Irgun Zvai Leumi rally during the Mandate period. The history of the banner is that it was used at the rally, was taken down by a British policeman who apparently took it home to Britain. After his death, his daughter gave it to Dr. Michael Bloch who lives in Germany. Dr. Bloch then gave the banner to the Begin Center. This interesting story caught the attention of Mekor Rishon which published the pictures.


ISRAEL GOVERNMENT FELLOW MENTIONED BY NETANYAHU

Jason Reinin, a participant in the Israel Government Fellows program this year, was mentioned by name in a speech given by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at a MASA event on 26 May. He said:

And it's up to you, Jason Reinin. Jason is a 27 year-old Californian who is now an intern in the Ministry of Finance. Jason, you'll be joining the best people in our Government and I want you to help us cut down the bureaucracy. You'll make a wonderful, wonderful official.
It's up to you, Eera, and it's up to you, Jason, and it's up to you, and it’s up to all of us. By participating in MASA, you have shown that you are ready to stand up with Israel, and do what's right to preserve our future.



NATIONAL MOVIES AT THE BEGIN CENTER

The launch of the National Movies series sponsored by the 12 Tribe Foundation and the Menachem Begin Heritage Center was attended by about 130 people who were emotionally moved by the movie and speaker on the topic of the fall of Jerusalem in 1948.

UPCOMING: The next movie, Dubik will be on Thursday, June 11 at 8:30pm, after the Parashat HaShavua. Dubik is a story about a settler whose son is murdered and he must find a way to go on. Afterwards will be a discussion with the producer, Yehuda Betam. The movie is in Hebrew with English subtitles and the discussion afterwards will be in Hebrew. The cost is 30NIS.



ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL SHAVUOT

The Begin Center hosted another successful Shavuot all-night study session. The auditorium was full all the time and the seminar room and study groups had a consistent number of people coming in and out. Altogether the evening had approximately 600 people through the evening.


UPCOMING EVENTS

Sunday, June 7, at 6:30pm – "Just not civil war" On the 61st anniversary of the sinking of the Altalena, the Begin Center is hosting, in cooperation with Mekor Rishon and Shilo, an evening in remembrance for Yedidiah Segel and the launching of the book written by his nephew, Hagai Segel, about Yedidiah's kidnapping and subsequent torture at the hands of the Hagana. Opening speakers will be Amit Segel, Herzl Makov, Chairman of the Begin Center, and Shlomo Ben Zvi from Mekor Rishon. The main speakers will be Speaker of the Knesset Reuben Rivlin who will speak about Historical Justice and Legal Justice and Leader of the Opposition MK Tzipi Livni who will speak about Relations between the Right and Left, Then and Now. There will also be a panel discussion with Shalom Yerushalmi of Ma'ariv, Tzvi Barzel who was also kidnapped by the Hagana, and Aliza Forkush, Yedidiah Segel's sister. Music will be provided by Lior Yayne. For more information and to make a reservation, please call (02) 565-2020.

Tuesday, June 9, at 8:00pm – Another evening of poetry and sing-a-longs with Nahum Heyman. This evening's poems and songs will feature BILU pioneers and the 4th Aliyah.

Thursday, June 11, at 8:30pm – The National Film Series at the Begin Center, showing Dubik.

Sunday, June 14, at 5:00pm – The Begin Center in cooperation with the World Jewish Congress Research Center will host a seminar on Reevaluating American on the Shoah. Introductory remarks will be given by Mattiyahu Droblas, Co-Chairman of the World Jewish Congress, and Herzl Makov, Chairman of the Begin Center. The speakers that evening will be Dr. Rafael Medoff, Director of the David S. Wyman Institute of Holocaust Studies, on Abandonment and Rescue: American Christian and Jewish Responses to the Shoah and Dr. Ofer Schiff, Head of the Israel Studies Program, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Be'er Sheva, who will speak on Abba Hillel Silver: An American Zionist Leader and the Shoah. This event will be in English. Please make reservations at (02) 633-3003.


CONDOLENCES

We extend our condolences to the family of Dr. Ephraim Katzir who passed away this week. Dr. Katzir was a former president of Israel, a researcher at the Weizmann Institute and a member of the International Board of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation.


VISITORS

Eric and Suzy Graus of London, England, stopped by the Begin Center for a visit this past week. Eric Graus is the Chairman of the UK Friends of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation and is also on the International Board of the Foundation.

Center Event Turns A Bit Unruly

Livni heckled and booed at Jerusalem book launch

In a sign of the ever-emotional times in Israel, Kadima opposition leader Tzipi Livni was repeatedly heckled and booed Sunday evening at a Jerusalem event marking the launch of a book ironically entitled "Never Again Civil War" which deals with the pre-state Etzel underground movement.

The event at the city's Begin Center, which was also attended by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin of the ruling Likud Party turned rowdy almost as soon as the former foreign minister, whose parents belonged to the right-wing pre-State Zionist organization, began speaking.

"Some of you are likely angry that I left the tradition and base which I was perhaps educated in," Livni opened. "If there is one thing that prevents a civil war it is the ability to listen to each other and to differing opinions."

That, however proved to be too hard for the auditorium-packed audience of predominantly seniors, many of whom were affiliated with the organization - especially when an unrepentant Livni, who supported the 2005 Gaza pullout, quickly focused her talk to the present and began talking about the need for territorial compromise.

"You've become an extreme leftist who is ready to give Jerusalem to the Arabs," an elderly man shouted.

"This is not a discussion," organizers said, as they tried to hush him out. "This is not deception either," he retorted.

After repeated attempts to drum out the catcalls temporarily restored quiet, Livni insisted that she did not hand over a millimeter of Jerusalem - even though she conceded she favors territorial compromises - and said such remarks were "cynical pre-electioneering."

Her subsequents remarks on the need for territorial compromise was enough to set off the next round of heckling.

"We came to hear about the Altalena. Why did we come?" someone shouted.

"Let us talk about that which binds us," Livni shot back to some applause in the audience.

She noted that the Hebrew book event, was meant to mark leaders who knew how to say no to a civil war.

But the palpable tensions in the hall were too raw to repair.

"It is you who are tearing the Jewish nation apart time after time," someone blurted out.

An embarrassed Begin Center Director then took to the podium noting that organizers had invited Livni to appear at the event.

"Why?" someone asked.

"Whoever does not have the will to stay should leave," he responded, calling the heckler rude, and prompting a small walkout.

An unabashed Livni tried to carry out with her address, but after noting that there were a few wild ones in the audience was loudly booed by the whole crowd.

"I will continue fighting for my principles so long as I can,"Livni swiftly concluded.

The emcee, Channel 2 TV reporter Amit Segal whose father Hagai authored the book, then took the podium and offered his personal apologies to Livni only to be heckled himself.

In an earlier address, Rivlin had cautioned that the current US diplomatic "whirlwind" regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could again foment domestic tensions.

"We must always keep the struggle honorable, like we did in the Gaza pullout" he said in his uninterrupted remarks.

Then Livni took the podium.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A 1915 Map of the Area of the Begin Center


At the lower-left corner, you'll see the Railway Station and slightly above to the right is the St. John's Hospice which is just across and south from the Center, on the other side of Hebron Road.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Begin's Words on Avshalom Haviv Recalled

Do you remember your 21st birthday? By Moshe Phillips

Do you remember how you marked your 21st birthday? Do you remember how you celebrated? Do you remember who was at the party? Do you remember the gifts?

Avshalom Haviv was making history on his 21st birthday. He was born in Haifa in the Holy Land of Israel on June 18, 1926. Haviv celebrated his 21st birthday in a British court. He was no common criminal though. Haviv was a young soldier of the Etzel, the Irgun Zvai Leumi. The Irgun was the Jewish underground army commanded by Mencahem Begin. Begin served as Israel's prime minister from 1977-1983. Avshalom Haviv was driven by the determination that his people needed him to fight for their homeland and for their honor.

The British arrested and detained hundreds of Irgun soldiers in the 1930s and 1940s and first executed an Irgun soldier in 1938. The Irgun was launched in the 1930s as a guerilla organization to defend Jews against Arab terrorists and prevent terrorist attacks through preemptive strikes. In 1944 the Irgun proclaimed a revolt against British authorities with the objectives of expelling the British, providing a haven for Jewish refugees from the Holocaust and establishing an independent Jewish nation.

Haviv was involved in one of the most heroic and significant operations the Irgun ever launched the May 4, 1947 Acre Prison operation. The Acre prison raid was forever immortalized in the 1960 film Exodus starring the late Paul Newman. Haviv fought selflessly to free his imprisoned comrades and was captured by the British during the attack. Acre Prison was the site of the executions of eight Irgun soldiers by the British.

At his subsequent trial Haviv challenged the British right to be in Eretz Israel rather than ask for mercy. "And this too you will probably not understand: I, a young Jew, facing the sentence of death, lift up my heart to G-d, and give praise and thanks for the privilege of suffering for my people and my country, and say with all my heart: [the traditional Shehecheyanu Hebrew blessing] Blessed are You, Hashem, our L-rd, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive and sustained us and enabled us to reach this time."

How did you spend your 21st birthday? Haviv spent his in a British court and his very life was in jeopardy. Avshalom Haviv was executed by the British in Acre Prison on July 29, 1947, the 12th day of the Hebrew month of Av. Irgun soldiers Yaacov Weiss and Meir Nakar were captured, tried and executed along with Haviv. Nakar was also 21 years old and Weiss was 23.

Here is an eyewitness account of the day from an Irgun prisoner named Nathan:

This morning our three comrades went heroically to the gallows... the (prison) officers went in and informed the condemned men that they were to be executed between four and five in the morning. Their reply was to sing "Hatikvah," "On the Barricades" other songs in powerful voices. They then shouted to us that the hangings would begin at four o'clock, in this order: Avshalom Haviv, Meir Nakar, Yaakov Weiss. They added: 'Avenge our blood! Avenge our blood!'

We shouted back, 'Be strong! We are with you, and thousands of Jewish youth are with you in spirit.' They replied, 'Thank you' and went on singing.

At two o'clock in the morning a Sephardi rabbi ... was brought and stayed in the cell for fifteen minutes.

"At four in the morning Avshalom began singing "Hatikvah" and we joined in loudly, pressing against the bars. At once armed police came up to the visitors' fence near our cell. At 4:03 Avshalom was hanged. At 4:25 we were shaken by the powerful singing of Meir. Hardly able to breathe, we nevertheless joined in. He was hanged at 4:28. At five o'clock the voice of Yaakov, this time alone, penetrated our cell, singing "Hatikvah." Again we joined in. Two minutes later he was hanged. Each of the bodies was left hanging 20 minutes before being carried off, one by one.

Just nine and a half months after Haviv sang "Hatikvah" for the last time the State of Israel declared her independence on May 14, 1948.

On the first anniversary of the deaths of Haviv, Nakar and Weiss the Irgun held a large memorial service at their graves. Menachem Begin spoke.

Begin closed his remarks by stating the following:

For the entire Land [of Israel] on both sides of the Jordan [River] is ours. It was and will be ours and our people will dwell in it forever.

O mountains of Galilee that have received the bodies of the heroic dead of Israel for seventy generations, let there be dew and rain upon you! We have liberated you forever. Because of this sacred blood, the summit of Mount Hermon will be ours.

Members and soldiers of the Irgun Zvai Leumi: Attention!

At the graves of our national martyrs let us all take the oath to Jerusalem, which as yet has not been fully liberated, and to whose liberation they dedicated their lives and their death.

"If I forget thee, Oh Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not make Jerusalem above my greatest joy." [Psalm 137]

Avshalom Haviv should have celebrated dozens of birthdays surrounded by his loving family and his loyal friends. His children and grandchildren should have been there to celebrate with him as well. There were no birthday parties for Avshalom Haviv after 1947. He left no widow and no children. And over half a century later we are still enjoying the gift of the State of Israel that he helped give birth to.

Haviv, Nakar and Weiss were the last Jews to be executed by the British in the Land of Israel.

If Haviv were alive today, with the horrible threats to the very survival of the Jewish State growing, what do you think he would be doing? Haviv gave his life for Eretz Israel. How many of us are even willing to sacrifice our free time?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dudu Topaz In Trouble - Again

From today's reports and also here:

Police on Monday were investigating suspicions that Dudu Topaz, one of Israel's leading television entertainers, had intended to harm Amos Regev, editor-in-chief of free daily Hebrew newspaper Israel Hayom (Israel Today).

On Sunday, Topaz was arrested and accused of ordering a team of goons to assault two senior TV network executives and an actor's agent.


and the connection with Menachem Begin:

Topaz is no stranger to controversy. He gained notoriety from comments he made during a Labor Party conference in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square (then called Malchei Yisrael Square) in 1981, when he said, "It's a pleasure to see the crowd here, and it's a pleasure to see that there are no chahchahim [a derogatory word alluding to Israeli Jews of Middle Eastern background] who ruin election gatherings. The Likud's chachchahim are at Metzudat Ze'ev [Likud Party headquarters]."

Topaz's comments prompted then prime minister Menachem Begin to famously remark during a speech to Likud supporters, "Until yesterday I did not know the word chachchahim, until I heard the entertainer Dudu Topaz call Likud's people chachchahim." Some observers believe Begin used Topaz's comments to help solidify Sephardi support for the Likud.


As you can read in this Hebrew video clip, and see and hear, too, in our museum, his actual words were:

the tzachtzachim of the Likud of the Metzudat Ze'ev are barely the gatekeepers [at the army bases] if they at all go to the Army. Here [at Kikar Malchei Yisrael] are those officers and other ranks of the elite combat units...




What bothered Begin even more than the blatant falsehood of the statement and its appeal to hatred and ethnic racism was that tens of thousands of Labor Party supporters applauded Topaz.