Thursday, April 26, 2007

Center Bulletin, Volume 3, Number 28

Center Bulletin, Volume 3, Number 28

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 276,401

60 Years Later:

Feinstein's Bible Returned to Family

The setting was unusual. The night was unusually cold. The audience was unusual. The ceremony was unusual.

It was all taking place in an open courtyard of the old Jerusalem prison in the Russian Compound, which is now a museum of underground heroism. The audience comprised mainly the families of those young men who were hanged by the British in the last years of the struggle for the creation of the State, as well as former Underground members themselves who had been incarcerated in that prison.

It was exactly 60 years to the day and the hour that two of those young heroes defied the hangman and blew themselves up in their cell by crudely created grenades placed in two oranges which had been smuggled into their cell by their comrades.

This was the night to remember Meir Feinstein of the Irgun and Moshe Barazani of Lechi.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that he had grown up hearing their heroic tale. "Their images are deeply engraved in my memory. They who were in fact so young became the heroes of our youth." He then recalled the story of Meir Feinstein's illustrated Bible which he handed to the British guard who was a "decent fellow" minutes before they died. "Today the wife and son of the guard, Thomas Henry Goodwin, are here with us to return the Bible to the Feinstein family. ; One cannot help but be moved."

Harry Hurwitz, Head of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, stressed that Menachem Begin was so proud of these two young men that he requested in his Will that he be buried next to them on the Mount of Olives—and so it is. Mayor Uri Lupoliansky said that Jerusalem was honored that the ceremony was taking place in this ancient, holy city which is the capital of the modern State of Israel. Meir Feinstein's nephew, Eliezar, received the Bible on behalf of the family an d recalled his uncle's youth in the city of Jerusalem, his enrollment in the Irgun and his great heroism. The head of the Underground Prisoners' Museum, Mr. Yoram Tamir, told of the Goodwin's family appeal to them and their instant response and readiness to host the ceremony which was arranged in cooperation with the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and the Finance Department of the World Zionist Organization, represented by Mr. Dubi Bar El. The event was largely planned and organized by Moshe Fuksman-Sha'al, head of the Events Department of the Begin Center.

In his speech, Dennis Goodwin, the son of the late Thomas Henry Goodwin, said that his father treasured the Bible and was very proud of it. "It was his wish that if he died before my mother, she should try to return the Bible to them."

Herzl Makov, Director General of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, presided over the whole event with great ability and much feeling. Mr. Benjamin Barazani, brother of Moshe Barazani, recited Kaddish and the Chief Cantor of the Army, Lt. Col. Chaim Weiner intoned the El Malei Rachamim.

Pictures can be seen here.

Holidays at the Begin Center

Close to 500 persons visited the Menachem Begin Museum on Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day). They came from abroad and from all parts of Israel and many had made prior reservations. The people from abroad needed the use of the highly sophisticated, technological translation system which gave them the translations of the commentaries in English, French, Spanish and Russian. Many expressed gratitude for this most advanced facility.

* * * * *

On Yom HaZikaron (Remembrance Day), the staff and volunteers of the Begin Center, joined by an important group of visitors from the United States who had just completed their tour of the museum, were gathered around the olive tree and the Yizkor candle in the Hurwitz Family entrance hall as the two-minute siren was sounded and the country stood still.

The Head of the Center, Harry Hurwitz, welcomed the tourists and explained the ceremony to them on this day which was "the saddest in the life of the nation. The 22,305 people who had died in the underground struggle and the State's wars, each had families and close friends which meant that several million might have been affected by their passing. This is the price Israel pays for her liberty, for the State's security and for its citizens' safety."

Herzl Makov, speaking in Hebrew, spoke of the significance of remembering and recalled his own earliest memories until the time he was losing comrades in the armed services and close personal friends and family members. Gaby Mizrahi read a poem by the poetess Zelda called Every Man Has a Name.

Soldier Day at the Begin Center

Last Sunday the Begin Center was filled with IDF soldiers, cadets of the Officers’ Training School, who participated in an all day program that included tours of the museum, the archeological site, nearby locations of Yemin Moshe and the King David Hotel, visits and lectures in the Reuben Hecht Auditorium, the Hasten Library, and some of the lecture rooms.

The lectures were given by Herzl Makov, Bruria Romanov-Ben Senior, Yisrael Medad and Snir Zaidel. A very interesting lecture, supplemented by slides and video clips, was presented by Moshe Fuksman-Sha'al about Jews in the Polish Army from the beginning of the eighteenth century until World War II.


Henry and Carol Kaganoff, originally from South Africa (Germiston and Durban) and now Sydney, Australia, thoroughly enjoyed the tour of the Begin Museum and their meeting with Harry Hurwitz.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Yossi Sarid Responds to Kollek's Role in the Saison

From Yossi Sarid's op-ed in Haaretz, "Free peoples in their Own Lands":-

A month ago, Yedioth Ahronoth published classified MI5 documents that had recently been made public. They revealed that Teddy Kollek, later mayor of Jerusalem, had given the British security service information about the activities of the Etzel and Lehi underground movements. The newspaper published this and there was an outcry, as if by conditioned reflex. Since then, not only those involved, but also numerous infuriated talkback participants have had their say, and there were suggestions that Teddy's name be removed from the Jerusalem stadium that bears it and replaced with that of Lehi leader Avraham ("Yair") Stern.

Indeed, it is not nice to be a teller of tales and not fitting to pass such information to the British, and we all know what happens to an informant under Jewish religious law. But there are times when such behavior should not necessarily be criticized. In his autobiography, Kollek wrote: "I was always opposed to the anarchy among our people. It was vital that the Jewish Agency, our government at the time, take action against terrorist groups who took the liberty of making their own decisions and endangering policy ... I was opposed to the Etzel and the Lehi, just as after the Yom Kippur War, I was opposed to those who set up settlements against government policy."

Kollek was right, and whoever wishes to be convinced of this is invited to take a look at Israel's position toward the Palestinian Authority. Israel categorically demands that the PA assert control over its rebels and impose the central government's authority on them. Israel also praises any sign of Palestinian cooperation with it. But every nation under a foreign yoke has the tendency to consider its dissidents as heroes, and those who collaborate as traitors. History teaches us that lawbreakers bring disaster upon movements of national liberation.

Had the Palestinians stopped their indiscriminate violent opposition and turned it into civil disobedience, they would have been rid of the occupation a long time ago. Terrorism is harming their justified struggle for independence; every terrorist attack merely delays the end of their subjugation. The violent underground activities of the Etzel and Lehi, which were also stained with terrorist acts, did not further Israel's independence, and possibly even held it up.

From time to time, the argument flares up over who really expelled the British from here - the organized Yishuv (Jewish community) or those who did their own thing - and it seems that there is still no more burning argument than this one, which brings all the bears out of the forest. According to historian Yehuda Bauer, "no one expelled them; they decided to go because they considered this in their best interests after they lost the support of the Americans, and this was lost because of the impact of the Holocaust." And Haim Guri once said to me that one "Exodus" - a ship overflowing with refugees - at sea was worth as much as all the campaigns on land, from the attempt on Lord Moyhinan's life to the attack on the King David Hotel.

David Ben-Gurion, Kollek and their colleagues in the Haganah understood that Britain had made up its mind to fold up the flag of the empire and that the Yishuv must prepare for its real war of liberation, against the Arabs, and not waste its strength in a war against the rearguard of an imaginary enemy. Following World War II, it became clear that the empire was a liability rather than an asset, and United Kingdom citizens were more interested in how to heat their homes than whether the sun would ever set over India and Ceylon. Palestine was as interesting to them as last year's snow. England saved itself when it shed its colonies; the burden of control was too large for its democratic measurements and vital needs. The other colonial powers followed suit, throwing colony after colony and mandate after mandate off the deck so that they would not sink.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Another Yehuda Avner Article on Menachem Begin

Independence 1948

As the Sabbath noon of May 15, 1948 turned to afternoon, and afternoon into evening, the mood in downtown Jerusalem grew from excitement to tumult. Despite the siege and the threat of shelling, people roamed the streets rejoicing. Revelers from an inglorious bucket brigade of trench diggers and hackers, I among them, frolicked down Jaffa Road to Ben Yehuda Street, whose upper section had been blasted by truck bombs.

A bonfire was ablaze in a giant crater, and youngsters were spinning around it in a feisty hora folk dance. One young man in red shorts, overwhelmed by the thrill of the hour, cartwheeled over to where some of us were standing, and hugged each in turn.

In Zion Square an old man with a trombone and a girl with a guitar were playing a spirited "Hava Nagilla" and, spying the violin case of one of our crowd called Leopold Mahler - a professional violinist and Holocaust survivor who never ever wanted to play again - persuaded him to unpack his instrument and join in. Picking up the rhythm, Mahler began reworking it into wildly spiraling variations, his notes fluttering this way and that, improvisation upon improvisation, as if man and instrument were rediscovering each other in shared delight after a long separation.
At the bottom of Ben Yehuda Street, Cafe Atara, its blasted windows sealed with corrugated iron sheets upon which a defiant "Business as Usual" sign was splashed in fresh white paint, was offering a free glass of wine to all comers. Inside, candles and hurricane lamps cast a yellow glow over the rowdy crowd of fighters crackling with post-underground fever, it being their first truly free out-and-about since the British departure the day before.

IN ONE corner four dusty-looking fellows were fiddling with a battery-powered radio, frantically searching for a station. "Keep the noise down everybody," one of them yelled, "Menachem Begin's going to speak." "To hell with him!" shouted somebody vehemently, with a hard look. "We don't need to hear that warmonger tonight, of all nights!" The man had a pistol at his belt, sign of a Haganah officer.

"What did you say?" asked a burly fellow detaching himself from the group around the radio. "Begin will stop at nothing now to seize power by force!" snapped the Haganah chap. "Is that so?"

The burly man elbowed his way through the crush, leaned over the Haganah man so close that their noses almost touched, and in a thin whisper, rasped. "I think I know you. We've met before. You're the one who turned me and my Irgun friends over to the British in 1944. They beat us up and confiscated our weapons. We were all jailed because of you.

"But Begin wouldn't let us take revenge. 'Oh no, he said - there must be no civil war. A Jew must never lift a finger against another Jew,' he said."

A deep-buried ember of resentment and wrath smoldered and seethed in his eyes as he spoke.

"Could be it was me," answered the other man without a flinch, voice unflustered. "You Irgun terrorists were bringing total ruin on the rest of us because of…"

"Stop calling us terrorists," shouted an incensed fellow by the radio. "Freedom fighters, that's what we were - still are. We never deliberately targeted civilians."

"Is that so?" bellowed the Haganah man in a sudden sharp declaration of war. "Because of your terrorist antics, the British were wringing the necks of the rest of us. Ben-Gurion had no choice but to stop you, otherwise the British would have crushed us all. We had a bigger war to fight, remember? We had to defeat the Nazis before taking on the British.

"But no - your Mr. Begin knew better. Your Mr. Begin had to jump the gun. Your Mr. Begin couldn't wait until the war was over."

"Damned right he couldn't wait," retorted the burly man, poking a finger into the other fellow's chest. "By 1944 the Allies had all but won the war - remember?" Poke. "The Nazis were exterminating hundreds of thousands of Jews by the day - remember?" Poke. "And the British still wouldn't allow a single Jew into Palestine - remember?" Poke.

"So yes, damned right Begin declared a revolt against the British. Without that revolt the British would still be here right now." Poke.

"Shtuyot! - Fiddlesticks!" barked the Haganah officer, thumping the other man's hand away.

"Begin's speaking," cried a fellow by the radio.

THERE WAS a silence, broken only when somebody asked, "Where from?"
"From the Irgun's secret radio station in Tel Aviv."
"He's going to declare a putsch, you'll see," scathed the Haganah man.
"Shut your trap or you'll get this in your face," spat his burly challenger, fist clenched, features distorted with anger.

A husky voice, rising and falling through the crackling airwaves, began solemnly to talk:

Citizens of the Jewish homeland, soldiers of Israel, Hebrew youth, sisters and brothers in Zion: After many years of underground warfare, years of persecution and moral and physical suffering, the rebels against the oppressor stand before you with a blessing of thanks on their lips and a prayer in their hearts. The Jewish revolt of 1944 has been blessed with success.

"Hurray!" many yelped. "Boo!" others snorted.

The State of Israel has arisen in bloody battle, the voice went on. The highway for the mass return to Zion has been opened. The foundation has been laid - but only the foundation - for true independence. One phase of the battle for freedom, for the return of the whole people of Israel to its homeland, for the restoration of the whole Land of Israel to its God-covenanted owners, has ended. But only one phase…
Scoffing, the Haganah man interrupted, "You'll see, he's about to launch his second revolt, this time against his own people."

Thoroughly exasperated, the burly man roared back, "I'm going to get you," and he struck out to rush him, but was forcibly restrained. Now the whole place exploded into an uproar, drowning out what Begin was saying. When the yelling subsided, we heard him state:

We are surrounded by enemies who long for our destruction. Our one-day-old state has been established in the midst of the flames of battle. And the very first pillar of our state must, therefore, be victory - total victory - in the war which is raging all over the country.

A storm of radio static suddenly drowned him out, causing those crowding the receiver to groan in frustration. The burly man angrily banged the set without effect, while another fiddled with the knob until, out of the quivering airwaves, the voice reemerged, stronger than ever:

Ships! it thundered. For Heaven's sake, let us have ships. Let us not mouth empty words questioning our capacity to absorb immigrants. Quickly! Quickly! Our nation has no time! Bring in hundreds of thousands of Jews now…

Again, a sharp crackle submerged the voice, and a loud buzz droned around the cafe. It instantly faded when Menachem Begin resurfaced to declare, with such compelling vibrancy and conviction that the whole of the Atara sat up:

The Irgun is now leaving the underground. We Jews now rule ourselves over a part of our Homeland, and in that part the law of a Jewish government prevails. This law is the law of the land; it is the only law. Hence, there is no longer a need for an armed underground. From now on we are all soldiers and builders of the State of Israel. And we shall all respect the government of the day, for it is our government.

Almost everybody cheered, but not the Haganah officer. He jumped up, made for the door and, shooting a glance at the men by the radio, barked, "I don't believe a word he says. Do you lot really think Begin's going to disarm his Irgun and knuckle under a democratically elected Ben-Gurion government? Not a chance!" and off he strode, antagonism written all over his face.

That was on Israel's first day of independence, 59 years ago. How wrong could a man have been, one wonders? How misguided could David Ben-Gurion have been in persuading so many into thinking what that man thought?

Agree or disagree with Menachem Begin, when one peers at him through the telescope of Israel's sovereign history, one sees in sharp focus a fierce democrat, a great commoner, an unsurpassed parliamentarian, a humble spirit, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and, most famously, a quintessential Jew - the most Jewish prime minister the Jewish state ever had.

Pictures from the Feinstein Bible Ceremony

Harry Hurwitz, head of Center, addressing the assembled

Herzl Makov making the introductions as emcee

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski

Dennis and Mrs. Goodwin receive a present of recognition

Sunday, April 22, 2007

PM Ehud Olmert's Speech at Feinstein Bible Ceremony

Distinguished Guests,

The sound of the explosion which emanated from the death row cell on that night of the 1st of Iyar 1947 echoes in our national memory.

We are a people who remember, and in the tapestry of our lives there are moments which are eternal. Such a moment was that in which Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barzani chose to take their fate into their own hands.

At that moment, it is as if Jewish history held its breath, looked at both young men drawing the improvised grenades closer to their bodies, and listened in great pain to the pounding of their final heartbeats.

Like many others, I too grew up hearing the heroic tale of Feinstein and Barzani: their images are deeply engraved in my memory – the determined and powerful look of Moshe Barzani, and the calm and confident look on Meir Feinstein’s handsome face. They, who were in fact so young, became the heroes of our youth.

Feinstein, a member of the Irgun, and Barzani, who was a member of the Lehi, were caught by the British when they fought for our freedom. They were taken captive as fighters, and faced court martial – predatory, cruel and merciless. Despite their youth, they would not be deterred. “You will not frighten us with hangings and you will not succeed in destroying us,” Moshe Barzani stated before the court.

“A regime of hanging trees is the regime you wish to use to rule this country, which is meant to serve as a beacon for humanity as a whole,” said Meir Feinstein, “and in your idiotic villainy,” he continued, “you assume that, through this regime you will succeed in breaking our people’s spirit, the people for which this entire country was a gallows. You were wrong. Realize that you have encountered steel, steel which was forged with the fire of love and hatred, love of the homeland and freedom, and hatred of slavery and of the invader.”

The strength which they radiated was immense. There is a reason that the poet Natan Alterman wrote of them the following lines:

“In hours such as these, the battle is lost by
the enemy.
Who gnashes his teeth.
For such an hour, that burns for a reason,
were designated the two dead.”

Distinguished Guests,

The life stories of Feinstein and Barzani ended in the darkness of a death row cell in the Central Prison in Jerusalem. However, even through the darkness, when the evil wind of the end of the Mandate Period blew through the Jewish yishuv in the Land of Israel, a ray of light pierced through. Because underneath the story of the national and heroic struggle, a personal story was also woven, a human story of mutual respect, almost friendship, between Feinstein and Barzani, the condemned, and Sergeant Thomas Henry Goodwin, the British guard who was charged with watching them.

They liked him, and even planned to fulfill Samson’s cry, “Let my soul die with the Philistines,” through the grenades which were smuggled into to their cell. They eventually decided not to harm him – since they were not acting out of hatred for their fellows.

Mere minutes before their deaths, Meir Feinstein gave the British guard a Bible, illustrated with etchings by the French artist, Gustav Doré. In the inscription, under the title, “In the shadow of the gallows,” he wrote:

“To the British soldier as you stand guard. Before we go to the gallows, accept this Bible as a memento and remember that we stood in dignity and marched in dignity. It is better to die with a weapon in hand than to live with hands raised.”

Today, Sergeant Goodwin’s son is fulfilling his father’s wish to return the Bible to the Feinstein family. One cannot help but be moved.

We are a people who sanctify life; we love the good in the world and its beauty. We are not a vengeful and vindictive people; we are not out for blood. However, on one thing we cannot compromise – on our freedom, on our basic right as a people to be ourselves, on our freedom to continue to believe in the human spirit and live in accordance with our world view and in the light of our culture. This was the desire of Feinstein and Barzani, what they fought for. And within the storm of the battle in which they were, under the shadow of the gallows, when they sang in their last hours of life Adon Olam [a Hebrew prayer], and our national anthem, they also spread seeds of hope – of faith in the goodness of people.

This day, when the Bible is being returned to the State of Israel, proves that not only the sounds of explosion remain from that night of the new month of Iyar. This day proves that hope also echoes.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

On the "Good Jailer"

The good jailer
By Yair Sheleg

In two weeks, the Bible that a condemned member of the Irgun gave to his British prison guard minutes before he and a fellow militia member blew themselves up will be returned by the guard's son in a state ceremony in Jerusalem, exactly 60 years after the events.

Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barazani actually gave the guard, Thomas Goodwin, two gifts: By asking him to step out of their cell, the members of the pre-state militias Irgun and Lehi also spared his life.

The ceremony will be held at the Museum of the Underground Prisoners. The Bible, which Feinstein kept in his cell, contains about 115 woodcut illustrations by Gustave Dore. The son of Sergeant Thomas Henry Goodwin, the guard, will hand the volume to Feinstein's nephew, Eliezer. Goodwin's son does not wish to reveal his full identity due to his work in the British gas industry, which entails a close relationship with several Arab countries. Subsequently, the book will be presented for safekeeping to the museum, which is located in the same building in the Russian Compound that housed the Mandate-era prison where Feinstein and Barazani took their own lives rather than be executed a few hours later.

Goodwin kept the book at home. "I knew about this Bible my whole life and saw it once," his son says. "But my father didn't say much about his service in Palestine." When he found the book, after his father's death in November 2005, the son remembered that his father always wanted to return to the Bible to the family. "My mother said he told her that if he died first she should try to contact the family and return the Bible."

Goodwin Jr. e-mailed the Prime Minister's Bureau. His message was forwarded to the museum, which is dedicated to perpetuating the memory of Olei Hagardom ("those who ascended the gallows" - members of the pre-state Jewish militias who were arrested by British Mandate authorities and sentenced to death by hanging). The museum, which maintains regular contact with the prisoners' families, had no difficulty locating Feinstein's nephew, and thus the circle was closed.

Feinstein wrote a dedication in the Bible to the guard, in Hebrew and English, which was in effect his last testament: "In the shadow of the gallows, April 21, 1947, to the British soldier as you stand guard, before we go to the gallows, accept this Bible as a memento and remember that we stood in dignity and marched in dignity. It is better to die with a weapon in hand than to live with hands raised. Meir Feinstein." There is a hint ("to die with a weapon in hand") that the prisoners might be in possession of a weapon but the words apparently did not arouse Goodwin's suspicion.

The son recounts his father's description of how he obtained the Bible: "[Feinstein and Barazani] called him to their cell and asked to speak with him in private. Feinstein handed him the Bible. Then they told him they wanted to say a few prayers in private and asked him to step away. He went into the corridor and they blew themselves up. Apparently they sent him away because they didn't want him to be hurt." Feinstein and Barazani detonated two booby-trapped oranges they had hid in their cell.

The story of Feinstein and Barazani became one of the most famous tales of heroism in the history of Zionism. Feinstein, of the Irgun, was sentenced to death for his part in the bombing of the train station in Jerusalem. Barazani, of Lehi, was apprehended four months after Feinstein's arrest with a grenade in his pocket and accused of attempting to assassinate the military commander of Jerusalem. Condemned prisoners were usually held in separate cells, but according to museum director Yoram Tamir, "Feinstein was put in Barazani's cell because he needed assistance as a result of the injuries he sustained during his capture, which led to the amputation of his left arm."

Tamir says the Lehi had envisioned a suicide operation during the hanging of one of their men prior to this incident: "They called it Operation Samson, in an allusion to the suicide of the biblical figure." Eliezer Ben-Ami, who prepared the makeshift orange grenades while he was imprisoned along with the two men, confirms that the plan was to turn their ascent to the gallows into an action that would harm the British authorities.

"Of course, we needed the condemned men's approval," Ben-Ami recalls. "Moshe agreed right away, but since there was an Irgun man with him we had to request their approval, too. We asked the person responsible for Irgun prisoners in the jail, Yehoshua Tamler, what he thought, and he said they needed the consent of the top command. We had to wait a few days, despite fearing that they would be taken to the gallows in the meantime, until approval arrived from the commander of the Irgun, Menachem Begin."

The original plan was to hide the explosives in the set of tefillin brought to the jail by Rabbi Aryeh Levin ("the father of the prisoners"), who ministered to the underground prisoners throughout the period. (Levin, of course, knew nothing about the phylacteries' intended use.) When Ben-Ami opened up the boxes of the tefillin he realized they were too small to hold the required amount of explosives. One day at lunch in prison, he looked at the oranges that were served for dessert and had the idea of scooping out the flesh and replacing it with explosives. Two booby-trapped oranges were smuggled into Feinstein and Barazani's cell. Ben-Ami kept a third for himself, "to see how long it takes for the peel to dry out and fall off, exposing the explosive."

To Ben-Ami's dismay, he found that within a few days, before the date was set for the men's execution, the peel of the orange in his cell had begun to detach. "We passed [Feinstein and Barazani] an order to dismantle the grenades, but that day they were informed that they were to be hanged the following day," Ben-Ami recalls.

The announcement of their imminent execution came from Rabbi Yaakov Goldman of the Jewish Agency, who had been asked to be with the condemned men in their final hours and to recite with them the vidui, the confessional prayer recited by Jews before death. Goldman's involvement was out of the ordinary, since this was usually Levin's role.

Tamir says Goldman replaced Levin after Feinstein, a student of Levin's, asked for his opinion on the anticipated suicide. When Levin rejected the idea, Goldman was brought in instead. "[The switch] was an intelligence failure on the part of the British," Feinstein's nephew Eliezer says. "They should have realized that something unusual was about to happen."

Goldman's involvement also caused a change in the plan. He told the condemned men that he insisted on escorting them right up to the gallows. Tamir: "Goldman told them that he wanted the last face they see to be that of a Jew. He repeatedly rebuffed their request that he not escort them, missing their hints." His insistence caused Feinstein and Barazani to kill themselves in their jail cell rather than on the gallows, since Goldman as well as the British guards would have been killed.

According to contemporary newspaper reports, Goldman left the cell and went to the officers' room in the prison to wait there until the men were brought out for their execution, which was scheduled for 2 A.M. But at 11:40 P.M. a loud explosion shook the prison. The guards who rushed to the condemned men's cell found their bodies. Ben-Ami, who was in his own cell at the time, remembers hearing first the traditional song "Adon Olam," with all the militia prisoners joining in, and then the explosion. Goldman's account is slightly different: He recalls Feinstein and Barazani singing "Adon Olam" while he was still with them, followed by "Hatikva" (which became the Israeli national anthem), but does not remember hearing singing right before the explosion.

This story begs the question of why the men did not blow up Goodwin together with themselves. After all, if the original plan was to take as many British guards as possible with them when they died, then why not at least make sure that Goodwin was killed? One possible answer comes from Goldman. The rabbi relates that he spoke with the two prisoners from the corridor outside their cell.

"A British sergeant stood there guarding them," Goldman recalls. "They told me, 'We want you to thank the sergeant. He's a good fellow, he treated us well.'" Goodwin's kindness was also apparently the reason Feinstein decided to give him his Bible.

Ben-Ami confirms this: "In our secret correspondence with the two, when the gallows suicide operation was still the plan, they said that they had two guards, one who was a bastard and one who was nice, and they said that if the 'good cop' was there when they ascended the gallows they would try not to hurt him."

The ceremony in two weeks will mark not only the return of the Bible to the Feinstein family but also the 60th anniversary of the entire Olei Hagardom episode. In 1947, the hangings of members of the Jewish underground reached a peak, with the execution of nine of the 12 who were eventually hung.

Irgun and Lehi prisoners refused to recognize the legality of British rule in Palestine, including a rejection of the courts' authority to judge them. Naturally, they refused to ask for clemency, even when it was hinted that such a request could lead to a more lenient sentence.

This policy aroused a public debate in the Jewish community, even among Irgun and Lehi sympathizers: Were terror operations justified? Was it right to insist on non-recognition of British rule even at the price of the condemned prisoners' lives? The equivocal stance in relation to the underground's terror activities was perhaps best expressed by the "national poet" of the time. After Feinstein and Barazani's suicide, Natan Alterman published "Lail Hit'abdut" ("night of suicide") in his regular "The Seventh Column" in Davar. The poem was mainly a paean to their heroism. But after commending the men's bravery, it concludes with three stanzas condemning the stupidity and arrogance of their commanders.

According to political scientist Dr. Udi Lebel of Be'er Sheva's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who has researched the role of the executed Irgun and Lehi fighters in the national memory, during the term of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, there was a deliberate effort to suppress the memory of Olei Hagardom.

"There was no mention of them in the school curriculum," Lebel says. "The most blatant examples of the attitude toward them was the speed with which Acre Prison, where most of the underground prisoners were hanged, was converted into a mental hospital and the prison in Jerusalem, where Feinstein and Barazani committed suicide, into a book warehouse - all to prevent them from becoming heroic sites and pilgrimage destinations," Lebel states.

Ben-Gurion's successor, Levi Eshkol, was more conciliatory. Lebel says he ordered the Acre psychiatric hospital moved, although this did not take place until after 1977, when Begin became prime minister. By total coincidence, in 1963, when Eshkol formed his first government, Am Oved published "Bekolar Ehad" (English title: "The Gallows"), by Haim Hazaz, which was devoted to the suicide of Feinstein and Barazani, treating it as a tale of exceptional heroism. (In order to maintain literary freedom Hazaz changed Feinstein's name to Menachem Halperin and that of Barazani to Eliahu Mizrahi in the novel.)

Hazaz, like Alterman, was identified with the Labor movement, although he was not a party member. "Their story attracted him from the beginning," his widow, Aviva Hazaz, says. "He stressed that it was not about the Irgun and the Lehi or the issue of the undergrounds, but about kiddush hashem (sanctifying the name of God, used to describe Jewish martyrdom). This subject appealed to him since his bar mitzvah, when his father taught him what Maimonides wrote about kiddush hashem. He even looked for a way to connect with the people from the undergrounds to get to know the story from up close, but they weren't very receptive to him," Aviva Hazaz recalled.

According to Hazaz's widow, it was a random meeting with Rabbi Aryeh Levin that brought the writer back to the story. "In 1958 Haim was very ill and in hospital. Another patient was put in his room, it was Rabbi Aryeh Levin. They formed a special bond and naturally they also talked about the men of the underground. There were two elements at that time that made him go back to the story: the attempt to stand up to death and the compassion that Rabbi Aryeh Levin showed for the underground prisoners."

Eshkol sent Hazaz a warm letter after the book's publication. "Some say that book was a factor in the decision to bring Jabotinsky's bones to Israel," Aviva Hazaz says. She says her husband was horrified by the conversion of the site where Feinstein and Barazani took their lives into a storeroom for the Bialik Institute. As a member of the institution's board of directors he actively tried to have the books moved.

In the early 1970s, the status of Olei Hagardom changed again, when streets throughout the country began to be named for them. The most prominent instance is in Jerusalem's Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, which was built after the area was captured in the Six-Day War. In a gesture of "historic vengeance," its main street in the neighborhood, not far from the mansion in which the British high commissioner lived during the Mandate, was called Olei Hagardom. Other streets were named for individual prisoners, including Feinstein and Barazani.

The change in status reached its peak when Begin came to power. Instead of following the tradition of giving his Memorial Day speeches at the country's main military cemetery, on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Begin went to the cemetery in Safed, where the first Oleh Hagardom, Shlomo Ben-Yosef, is buried. It was during Begin's term as prime minister that the prisons in Jerusalem and Acre were converted into national museums. Stamps were also issued in memory of the underground prisoners.

Lebel notes another interesting and significant step taken by Begin: "He 'annexed' to the list of Olei Hagardom others from other periods, such as Na'aman Belkind and Yosef Lishansky from Nili (the underground that aided the British during World War I, whose members were hanged by the Turks); Eli Cohen, the spy who was hanged in Damascus; and even Mordechai Schwartz from the Haganah, who was hanged by the British after he killed an Arab policeman in 1938."

The Haganah leadership refused to acknowledge Schwartz as a casualty from its ranks, let alone an Oleh Gardom. Not until 1987, after repeated appeals from Schwartz's fiancee, did the organization of Haganah members agree to have Schwartz's picture in the museum's exhibit of Olei Hagardom members, with a notation that he was from the Haganah.

"Begin acted as he did in order to embarrass the Labor movement," Lebel said, "which in its disavowal of the Irgun and Lehi Olei Hagardom was in effect disavowing all the others, including its own."

Begin's identification with Olei Hagardom culminated in his will. He, and his wife Aliza before him, asked to be buried not in the area on Mount Herzl reserved for the nation's leaders but rather on the Mount of Olives, next to the graves of Feinstein and Barazani.

On the Return of the Feinstein Bible

The writing on the wall

Batsheva Pomerantz, THE JERUSALEM POST
Apr. 19, 2007

One of the best-known stories of heroism leading to the creation of the State of Israel is that of Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barazani, who took their lives hours before they were to be hanged at the British Mandate prison in Jerusalem. Recently, a Bible belonging to Feinstein resurfaced after 60 years, shedding light on the courage of these young men, who were often inspired by biblical heroes.

Last night a ceremony took place at the Museum of the Underground Prisoners with the participation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Mayor Uri Lupolianski. Feinstein's Bible was returned to his nephew, Eliezer Feinstein, at almost the same time Feinstein and Barazani exploded themselves on the second of Iyar in 1947.

The event, organized by the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, was attended by former underground members and prisoners, members of the British Goodwin family, and families of the Olei Hagardom (those sentenced to death by the British Mandate and executed on the gallows). Feinstein's Bible, with engravings of French illustrator Gustave Dore, was given to the British warden Thomas Henry Goodwin as a token of appreciation for his kind behavior.

The Defense Ministry's Museum of Underground Prisoners is located in the Russian Compound on the premises of the Russian pilgrims' center, which converted into the central jail of the Mandate between 1917-1948. By the end of the Mandate period the prison held over 550 prisoners. The number of Jews among the criminal prisoners was small, but they comprised the majority of the political prisoners. Many were members of the Etzel and Lehi underground groups that avenged Arab attackers and fought the British rule by attacking their army and government centers.

"The British preferred to hang the Jews in Acre Prison rather than in Jerusalem, because Acre was then an Arab city," says Yoram Tamir, the museum's director. "Feinstein and Barazani were the first who were scheduled to be hanged in Jerusalem."

Feinstein, born in the Old City in 1927, was an Etzel operative who was wounded and caught during an attack on the Jerusalem railway station in October 1946. As a result of his injury, his arm was amputated.

Iraqi-born Lehi member Barazani came as a child to the Old City. He was caught in March 1947 with a grenade, intending to assassinate a senior British officer. The two were sentenced to death on the gallows.

Although prisoners awaiting death were in solitary confinement, an exception was made for Feinstein because of his maimed arm. He shared his cell with Barazani. They received a note from underground members about a plan to take their own lives while killing some British policemen during the moments preceding the hanging. [actually, it was they who conceived of the plan] It was termed "Operation Shimshon" after the biblical Samson who brought down with him the crowded Philistine temple, claiming "let me die with the Philistines."

Barazani and Feinstein were eager to carry out the plan. Eliezer Ben-Ami, an imprisoned Lehi member, assembled hand grenades from pieces that were smuggled into the prison separately. Two grenades were concealed by orange peels without arousing suspicion since the prisoners regularly received oranges.

Rabbi Aryeh Levin, affectionately known as "Reb Aryeh," was a regular visitor to prisoners for 20 years during the Mandate. His personal interest in their plight and his encouragement to their families were deeply appreciated.

"Reb Aryeh was distraught and shaken by the verdicts of Feinstein and Barazani," relates his grandson Rabbi Benji Levine. "He was asked to smuggle in grenades for them. He was willing to do anything for them, but that."

He heard about their plan from an Etzel commander and refused to do it. Asked to remain with them for the vidui (confessional prayer before death), he felt weak. "He eulogized the two at the funeral on the Mount of Olives and said kaddish. He then walked back home and observed the mourning period," says Rabbi Levine.

Rabbi Yaakov Goldman replaced him in the final hours. In 1946, Rabbi Goldman was appointed by the National Council as rabbi of the prisons and detention camps abroad, not before ascertaining that Reb Aryeh would continue his visits.

Tuvia Goldman, the rabbi's son, a teenager in those years, heard the following story from his father immediately after it happened and many times since.

Barazani and Feinstein were to be hanged towards dawn on the second of Iyar. "For three hours the night before, the three discussed lofty ideas, about Jewish history and the concept of Kiddush Hashem."

Being traditional, they sought rabbinical approval for their plan in a roundabout way. "Feinstein asked my father if the fact that they didn't appeal their sentences could be seen as committing suicide, since there was a chance to perhaps save their lives. He was supposedly asking my father retroactively, when his intention was the imminent future."

Rabbi Goldman answered that not every instance of ending one's own life is considered suicide by Halacha. For example, King Saul fell over his sword, rather than at the hands of the Philistines. King Saul was praised for this by the Sages. "My father would recall the smiles of Barazani and Feinstein when they heard this. It gave them courage."

Rabbi Goldman insisted on being with them at the gallows a few hours later so the last person they would see would be a Jew. "They tried unsuccessfully to persuade him not to return, without letting on to their plan," says Tuvia Goldman.

They changed their plan to avoid killing Rabbi Goldman. The two condemned men sang Adon Olam as the rabbi left. They told him to "thank the Sergeant. He's a fine fellow, he treated us fairly."

They were referring to their warden, Goodwin. At this point Feinstein gave Goodwin his inscribed Bible and told him to quickly go down the corridor. "Goodwin was trembling as he met my father, relating that he had never seen men condemned to death singing like that. My father's reply was that people face their death like this when they are at peace with their conscience."

A minute later, two explosions were heard from the cell. Barazani and Feinstein embraced, the grenades concealed in the oranges were held between them, at the level of their hearts. One-armed Feinstein ignited the fuses held by Barazani with a cigarette.

"Feinstein's inscription was thought out," maintains Tamir. "In Hebrew he addressed Goodwin as the 'British soldier' rather than 'policeman.' Feinstein saw himself as a soldier, not a criminal prisoner. In addition, he rewrote the last sentence a few times. He then wrote it in English. The sentence 'It is good to die with ammunition in your hands than to stay alive surrendered' is a special declaration."

The inscribed Bible and the name of the British policeman were unknown in Israel until three months ago when the Prime Minister's Office received a request to locate the Feinstein family to return the Bible. The request from the Goodwin family came about a year after Thomas Henry passed away. The Prime Minister's Office contacted the Museum of Underground Prisoners which quickly located nephew Eliezer Feinstein.

"It came as a total surprise. It was shocking to have this step out of history," says Eliezer, a resident of Armon Hanatziv, where street names commemorate the Olei Hagardom. "I received a copy of the inscription, and compared the handwriting to other notes from my uncle. I recognized the handwriting."

Eliezer's father would tell him about the two wardens who guarded Feinstein's cell. One was kind, while the other was nasty. "Goodwin was the kind warden, and the two condemned men wanted to spare his life. My uncle's dedication shows determination and courage, something extraordinary during one's final moments."

Eliezer Feinstein decided to lend the Bible to the Museum of Underground Prisoners for educational reasons. "Many young people visit the museum. This Bible is proof from a generation that is passing on. It is another aspect of what transpired moments before the heroic act."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The "Memory War"

The article of April 19, 2007 on The war for memory by Yair Sheleg

The Gelbgiser family lost twin sons, Shlomo and Menachem, in the War of Independence. Both were members of the Irgun, the pre-state underground militia. Shlomo was killed before the Irgun was incorporated into the Israel Defense Forces, and Menachem was killed afterward. And so Menachem was included in the official Yizkor memorial book of IDF fallen soldiers, whereas Shlomo, an Irgun fighter at the time of his death, was not.

Yaakov, their father, angrily returned the condolence postcards he received from prime minister David Ben-Gurion over the loss of his son Menachem. He wrote in a letter to the Defense Ministry: "I lost two beloved sons in the War of Independence, and the respect for the memory of one alongside the boycotting of the memory of the other cannot be considered genuine sharing in the sorrow of bereaved parents, nor even understanding for their aching souls, but rather adds anguish to the anguish they already feel."

This incident is cited by Dr. Udi Lebel, a political science lecturer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, as an example of the Ben-Gurion era state's intentional omission of the fallen soldiers from the Irgun and Lehi militias. Lebel has written a book, "Haderech el Hapantheon: Etzel, Lehi Ve'gvulot Hazikaron Hayisraeli," (The Road to the Pantheon: The Irgun, Lehi and the Limits of the Israeli Memory) about this phenomenon. It is now being published jointly by Carmel Publishing, Sapir College and the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation.

Lebel argues that the case of the Gelbgiser brothers represents a broad phenomenon. Other notable cases relate to the Irgun's Altalena weapons ship, sunk on order of the State of Israel in June 1948. Zvi Reifer, a Givati brigade soldier originally from the Irgun, went AWOL to assist his comrades on the Altalena. Reifer was killed in a clash with IDF soldiers on his way to the ship. At first his mother, Miriam Reifer, was recognized as a bereaved mother and received the standard compensation, but then the newspaper Herut published an obituary and an invitation to a memorial service for the boat's casualties, including Reifer. Following the notice, the Defense Ministry stopped paying compensation, claiming Reifer had not been killed in his capacity as an IDF soldier. His mother decided to submit an appeal and won. Haya Lifshitz, the widow of Itamar Lifshitz, an IDF soldier who was among those killed on the boat itself, filed a similar appeal and won.

Lebel says the Service Law, which determined who is an IDF soldier - and therefore who is an IDF casualty - was intentionally worded to exclude Lehi and Irgun members. So, for example, the law stipulates that pre-IDF military service will be considered "service in the Haganah and any organized activity against the Arab gangs and invading armies from November 30, 1947 (the day after the UN Resolution to establish the state - Y.S.) to December 31, 1948.

"The law specifically defined soldiers only as Haganah members," says Lebel. "It defined the war with dates that omitted most of the Irgun and Lehi members who earlier fought the British (they demanded recognition for anyone who fell in the war against the British, starting from the White Paper of 1939 - Y.S.); it defined as a soldier only those who fought the Arabs (and not the British - Y.S.), and only those who did so as part of an 'organized operation,' i.e., one under the auspices of the authorized institutions of the Yishuv."

Lebel notes another aspect that he believes highlights the omission of Irgun and Lehi members: "The cutoff date chosen also excluded many Haganah members from receiving recognition. In order to prevent this, the law included a special amendment authorizing the defense minister to decide to include people who fell before the cutoff. In practice, this amendment was used to retroactively enlist all the Haganah members and grant them rights. These were rights that of course were not granted to Irgun and Lehi members."

In 1954, when the handicapped persons law was revised to include compensation for those who were injured before the outbreak of the War of Independence, it specifically stated that the beneficiaries would be only those who served "in accordance with a call-up from the national institutions of Eretz Yisrael," that is, not in the Irgun or Lehi.

Ben-Gurion's statehood

Lebel attributes this policy of omission to one man: David Ben-Gurion. In Lebel's view, this was not just the continuation of the historical hostility, but political manipulation intended to minimize and suppress the status of the political parties then identified with "the breakaways" (primarily, Menachem Begin's Herut party).

"Ben-Gurion was a genius at cultural engineering, and understood very well the significance of the culture of memory in creating political status," says Lebel. "It was clear to him that if the right was not part of the national memory, then its political standing would also be affected."

Lebel even questions Ben-Gurion's entire view of statehood: "In my opinion, even 'statehood' is a form of manipulation. It's an ideology that takes the basic value of nationalism and cuts it according to the fabricated criteria of statehood. Anyone defined as 'statist' is in, and everyone else is left out."

Prof. Yehiam Weitz, an expert on the history of the Herut movement, confirms Lebel's arguments. Weitz, referring to a master's thesis written by his student Dr. Amir Goldstein on a similar subject, also raises an interesting theory regarding Ben-Gurion's motives: "Ben-Gurion knew the Mapai was a strong movement, but that it was gray and lacking an aura. He was also worried about the aura of underground fighters from the right and Palmach fighters on the left. Therefore, it was also very important to him to get the writer S. Yizhar on the Mapai slate of Knesset candidates. Yizhar was the literary symbol of the Palmach generation, and having him on the party slate gave it the lacking cultural aura."

On the other hand, former Palmach member Dr. Meir Pa'il does not understand why Irgun and Lehi members are complaining: "All in all, it's fairly natural that those who fought separately are memorialized separately and even buried separately. No one dishonored them, they were buried properly, and in the end, they have more monuments and more memorial books than they deserve relative to their actual contribution. They certainly knew how to commemorate themselves."

Entering the pantheon

In response to the establishment's intentional omission, Begin commissioned a special Yizkor memorial book for Irgun and Lehi casualties designed to look just like the official state book. He also set up an organization called Shelah (Rehabilitation for Freedom Fighters) to commemorate and aid Irgun and Lehi members. Herut MKs contributed every third salary to the organization, and Begin donated all his earnings from the publication of his book "The Revolt."

Of course, a sizable part of the fight for the national memory relates to the monuments. Irgun and Lehi members very much wanted such monuments, especially for the 12 who were hanged, but Lebel says the state tried to thwart private efforts to build them. "Only in cities that were not controlled by Labor members could such monuments be built locally," he says. So, for example, in 1954 a monument in memory of Dov Gruner was built in Ramat Gan, a city controlled by the General Zionists.

Lebel refers to the time between Ben-Gurion and Begin as the "ambivalent period" for fallen members of the Irgun and Lehi. They were no longer omitted, but various official authorities still alienated them in practice. The dramatic change came after Begin joined the national unity government in 1967. In 1968, the government started commemorating all "casualties of Israel's wars" on Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers, with the intention being the unstated inclusion of underground fighters and all those who fell prior to the establishment of the state.

That year, the Chief Rabbinate changed the wording of the Yizkor memorial prayer to include the fighters in the underground. From that point, Memorial Day also included official ceremonies beside the graves of the 12 Irgun members who were hanged. An agreement was reached on the "retroactive drafting" of the Irgun casualties, and an IDF insignia was affixed to their graves. However, Lebel relates that there were disputes with local branches of the Yad Labanim organization, which refused to commemorate fallen underground fighters.

Begin's rise to power in 1977 changed things for good. New laws applied IDF casualty status and the right to be buried in military cemeteries to those who fell in the fight to establish the state prior to November 30, 1947, and the name of Memorial Day was officially changed from Memorial Day for the Fallen of the War of Independence and the IDF to Memorial Day for the Fallen of Israel's Wars. The Irgun and Lehi museums were transferred from the private organizations that operated them to the Defense Ministry, a step that definitively brought the fallen of the Irgun and Lehi into the national pantheon.

Center Bulletin - Vol. 3, Issue 27

Volume 3, Issue 27
April 19, 2007

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 274,324

Begin Center Beflagged for Yom HaAtzmaut

Once again the Begin Center is beflagged from end to end and as the flags flutter they can be seen even across the valley at the foot of Mt. Zion and near David's citadel. In the evenings, the building is illuminated. All this is to mark the great national holiday of Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel's 59th Independence Day). The Center is full of activities that bring hundreds of people to it every day.

Yom HaShoah Ceremony

As the siren sounded at 10:00am on Yom HaShoah (Heroes and Martyrs Remembrance Day), the staff, volunteers, students, and some visitors stood on the upper terrace at attention before entering the Ben and Rose Milner Seminar Room for a short memorial service for the 6 million Jews who were murdered by the Germans.

Yisrael Medad recited the El Malei Rachamim. Gaby Mizrahi read an excerpt from the booklet by Rav Menachem Hacohen, The Silver Platter, and Harry Hurwitz introduced the playing of a recording of the Hatikva sung by the remnants of survivors upon their rescue by British Forces. Chap. Rev. Leslie Hardman invited the inmates to sing in the first hours of their freedom. This recording was recently discovered and circulated. (To listen please click here.)

A Small World, Indeed: A Hero Remembered

The story of Virginia Tech engineering professor Liviu Librescu has now appeared all over the world where tribute is paid to his courage in saving his students from the mass killer who took 32 lives, including Prof. Librescu's.

His two sons live in Ra'anana, Israel, and they arranged for his body to be flown here. He is to be buried in Ra'anana. In addition to the many details that have appeared in the world press, it has now been revealed that he was kept in restriction by the Romanian authorities and only when Prime Minister Begin visited Bucharest in 1977 to meet Nicolae Ceauşescu he presented a list of Jews and asked for their release. Librescu was among them, according to Marlena, Librescu's wife, who will now be returning to Israel from the US where the professor worked for a number of years. According to his son, Prime Minister Begin intervened to get the family an immediate exit permit. They moved to Israel in 1978.

Tammuz Premier Packed to Capacity

Last Friday, close to 1,000 people crowded the Begin Center as hundreds moved out of the Reuben Hecht Auditorium while others moved into fill the seats again. Several hundred more filled the large seminar room. All this for three screenings of the film Tammuz, produced by Nir Toib, which was also screened on TV last night.

The documentary details the planning, preparation and execution of Prime Minister Begin's decision to destroy Iraq's atomic reactor at Osirak near Baghdad erev Shavuot, 1981. The pilots who took part in the operation speak about it in the documentary. "There is only one hero of the operation—Prime Minister Menachem Begin."

Singer Family Celebration

Carole and David Singer of Sydney, Australia and members of their family who live there and in Israel celebrated the Bar Mitzvah of their grandson Sam Weiss at a lunch in the Asper Grand Foyer of the Begin Center on Wednesday. Sam is the son of Debbi (the Singer's daughter) and Greg Weiss. The grandparents, children and their friends first attended the Bar Mitzvah service at the Kotel and then came to the Begin Center for the festive lunch.

Haifa High School Reunion

Ruth Borman and her husband, Prof. Joe Borman, hosted thirty friends on their visit to the Begin Center. They were all together at school in Haifa with Ruth Borman. They were received and addressed by Harry Hurwitz, the founder and head of the Begin Center, and Herzl Makov, its Director General who accompanied them part of the way in the museum and met them again as they exited at the end of the tour. They were then shown the Reuben Hecht Auditorium and the Beit Midrash Menachem.

Publishing Committee Makes Plans for 2007-8

The Begin Center Book Publishing Committee, chaired by Basil Gamsu, gathered to discuss a plan for publishing or participating in the publication of a number of books in 2007-2008, which marks thirty years after Menachem Begin led the Likud in the successful Knesset election in 1977.


Hart Hasten, President of the US Friends of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, who with his family spent Pesach in Israel, had a meeting with Harry Hurwitz and Herzl Makov at the Center. They discussed plans for extending various activities in the US.

* * * * *

Dr. Ra'anan Dinur, Director General of the Prime Minister's Office, and Yisrael Maimon, Secretary of the Government, were in the Begin Center for discussion with its heads on various topics.

* * * * *

Yossi Achimeier, Director of the Jabotinsky Institute, and Ephraim Evan, recently elected Chairman of the Irgun Veterans Association, held a meeting with the heads of the Begin Center on Tuesday. They discussed a detailed program of events in which the three organizations will cooperate.

* * * * *

Floyd and Shula Berman of Birmingham, Alabama, who spend some time every year in Israel, came to the Begin Center where they met with Harry Hurwitz. They visited the Menachem Begin Museum and were greatly impressed by it.

Visitor Comments:

v Fantastic, new, nice, interesting museum! In Dutch you say "Geweldig!" – Holland

v We enjoyed a very informative and interesting experience. We wish the Museum much success in its work. – Melbourne, Australia

v An astonishing experience—very powerful and informative. Wholly worthwhile. – Cape Town and Durban, South Africa

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Feinstein, Barazani, Begin and His Famous Speech

Menachem Begin's famous "Tzachtzachim" Speech has been credited with turning around and winning for the Likud the 1981 elections. (for background, see here)

But it did more.

We found this item:-

...A major watershed in this development was the speech delivered by local media personality Dudu Topaz at a Labor election rally in 1981, in which he memorable said: "The [Mizrahi] riffraff are in Metzudat Ze'ev [Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv]. They are barely good enough to serve as guards on a base, if they even enlist. The soldiers and commanders of the combat units are right here."

Topaz's remarks followed the crude analysis, in a 1978 newspaper interview, by then chief of staff Mordechai (Motta) Gur, of what he called the "Arab mentality": "The Mizrahim will not be able to close the gap for another 20 or 30 years. All the money Israel has invested in the Mizrahim has yielded only partial results."

Levy largely attributes the subsequent profound change in the IDF's ethnic composition to Herut leader Menachem Begin. In his responses to Topaz and in his campaign speeches, Begin legitimized, for the first time, the contribution of Mizrahim to the state, from those hung by the British to those who fought in the Yom Kippur War. Begin's consistent approach laid the foundations for a new ethos for those who were competing with the old elites over the birthright.

On the speech:-

June 27, 1981. A few days before the elections, Dudu Topaz spoke at a rally for the Ma'arach party (which later changed its name to Labor) at Malchei Israel Square in Tel Aviv (in later days, Rabin Square). Tens of thousands of people turned out for the rally and Topaz had what he thought was a funny, heartfelt greeting for them.

"It's nice to see this crowd tonight," Topaz started. "Those tchakhtchakhim over there in Metzudat Ze'ev [the Likud headquarters]. Those guys barely serve in the guard booths in the army, and that's if they serve at all." Pointing to the crowd, he continued, "Here are the fighters and the commanders. Here is the beautiful Israel."

...tchakhtchakhim (pronounced TSHACH-tshach-eem). I wasn't able to ascertain the provenance of the term (it might be Yiddish). It's a pejorative which refers to low-rent criminal types and usually refers to Mizrahim. In 1981 terms, tchakhtchakhim was a little less offensive than the Yiddish word for Sepharadi Jews, frenkim...These days, nobody other than utter racists would use either term. Back then, tchakhtchakhim wasn't quite the N word, but it certainly was the kind of term that any mildly intelligent politician would know to avoid.

Unfortunately, Topaz was a clueless comedian rather than a politician. His use of the word, coupled with his statement about Ma'arach supporters representing the "beautiful Israel", turned the speech into political nitroglycerin. To many Mizrahim, Topaz voiced what they felt the old Ashkenazi establishment thought of them, that they were a bunch of greasy lowlifes.

Now, Begin was one of the greatest orators in Israeli history. He hurried to take advantage of the tchakhtchakhim speech. The following night, Begin took to the same podium in Malchei Israel Square. In his speech he attacked "This so-called comedian, this Dudu Topaz" (intentionally mispronouncing his last name) for making a racial epithet. As he spoke, he worked himself up into a climax of rage and defiance. "Back in his days fighting with the Etzel, they didn't know tchakhtchakhim. They were all comrades in arms. With both fists raised in the air he declared, "Back then, we all fought together in the underground -- Ashkenazis, Sepharadis, JEWS! TOGETHER!!" The crowd was electrified. Likud voters turned out in big numbers for the election and helped re-elect Begin.

It would be wrong to say that Dudu Topaz swung the elections...Although he quickly apologized for his speech, Topaz became a cultural outcast. He spent most of the '80s rebuilding his career.

Menachem Begin and Liviu Librescu

There was a connection between Liviu Lebrescu, the professor who was killed by the Virginia Tech gunman, and Menachem Begin:-

Holocaust survivor killed in Va shooting

Liviu Librescu survived the Nazi Holocaust. He died trying to keep a gunman from shooting his students in a killing spree at Virginia Tech — a heroic feat later recounted in e-mails from students to his wife.

Librescu, an aeronautics engineer and teacher at the school for 20 years, saved the lives of several students by using his body to barricade a classroom door before he was gunned down in Monday's massacre, which coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Librescu, 76, had known hardship since his childhood. When Romania joined forces with Nazi Germany in World War II, he was first interned at a labor camp in Transnistria and then deported along with his family and thousands of other Jews to a ghetto in the Romanian city of Focsani, his son said.

After the war, Librescu became a successful engineer under the postwar communist government and worked at Romania's aerospace agency. But his career was stymied in the 1970s because he refused to swear allegiance to dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's regime, his son said, and he was later fired when he requested permission to move to Israel.

After years of government refusal, according to his son, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin personally intervened to get the family an emigration permit. They moved to Israel in 1978.

An Article of Appreciation

An article of appreciation:-

Begin’s Leadership Legacy

It is fifteen years since Menachem Begin’s death and many hold him up as a different kind of leader —the kind now lacking in Israel. A succession of decisions displaying political vision, historical awareness, and personal sensitivity explain why we miss Begin

Ran Porat (2/28/2007)

Fifteen years after Israeli prime minister, the late Menachem Begin, was gathered to his fathers, many in Israel consider him a leader of a caliber and character sorely missed in Israel today. The following highlights some of the leadership qualities seen in Begin, a man who embodied Jewish historical memory, the courage to act under the most intolerable pressure, national responsibility, and Jewish sensitivity.

Bombing of the Iraq Reactor

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After twenty-five years, many in Israel and around the world praise Menachem Begin’s decision to bomb Iraq’s nuclear reactor (June 7 1981). At the time, a chorus of voices joined in opposition to the strike. Shimon Peres admonished Begin that Israel would be isolated if the attack went ahead. After listening to Peres, Begin postponed the strike, but was undaunted from carrying it out. Ten years later, the US, which imposed a six-month arms embargo after the bombing in Iraq, acknowledged its importance. This recognition was officially referred to in a letter sent by the American Secretary of Defense at the time, Dick Cheney (and today the Vice President), to the Shamir government.

This operation coined the concept, the “Begin Doctrine”—a consistent policy of preemptive action using every means to ensure that Israel’s enemies would not acquire weapons of mass destruction and endanger the existence and wellbeing of its citizens. Israel should now reintroduce this policy in light of the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel that has emerged out of the blue.

It is also important to understand that what shaped Begin’s policy was his memory of Jewish history. Forty years after the Shoah he refused to countenance any likelihood of Jewish genocide recurring.

“Never” to Civil War

As a skilled orator, Menachem Begin was adept at incorporating the motif of Jewish unity between the different sections of the nation in his speeches. In his famous speech regarding the two Irgun fighters, Moshe Barazani and Bernstein, who were hanged by the British, Begin asked rhetorically “Were they Ashkenazi? Were they Mizrachi? They were Jews!!! to thunderous applause. However, Begin’s rhetoric went hand in hand with action.

In the early days of the state, the ship the “Altalena” reached the Israeli coast carrying a shipment of arms. The leader of the Irgun, Begin, told the government that the arms were not intended to undermine Ben Gurion’s government, but to be used as part of the growing IDF. Orders, however, were given to fire on the ship which sank. In response, Begin gave explicit orders not to return fire. Even when Palmach forces fired on men from the ship who had jumped into the sea after Begin had flown the white flag, the decision to show restraint still held; consistent with Begin’s belief that there should never be a civil war between Jews. Thus, Begin wrote in his book, The Revolt: “To avoid internal bloodshed and strife, this principle, which was forged in the agonies of the “Saison” (code name for the hunt against Irgun fighters by the Hagana in the 1940s which included delivering them to the British — RP) was upheld during the test of fire and blood of the Altalena”.

The People’s Leader

Despite his Ashkenazi background (he was born in Bielorussia), Menachem Begin is one of the most admired leaders by Israel’s Mizrachi community, and not in vain. Begin worked untiringly to make the public feel he was everyone’s leader, a leader who spoke to everyone as equals, without condescension. In his controversial speech prior to the 1981 elections, Begin proved his ability to be close to all sections of the population.

Begin homed in on a “slip of the tongue” by comedian Dudu Topaz, scorning the “riffraff” following of the Likud. Before an assembled crowd of supporters in Kikar Malchei Yisrael, Begin roared that all were brothers in his eyes: “Ashkenazis? Iraqis?-- Jews! Brothers! Fighters!” Even if there were accusations later that Begin had “ridden” the ethnic demon, those close to him bore witness that he did this out of a pure and genuine spirit and desire to unite the Jewish people.

This explains the love Begin is shown by the “masses”. This affection was also evident at his modest funeral on the Mt of Olives, when thousands of Israelis from every ethnic group and country of origin reluctantly said their farewells. He will also be remembered as the prime minister who introduced the social Urban Renewal project.

Withdrawal from Sinai

Menachem Begin’s decision to relinquish all of Sinai in return for a peace treaty with Egypt in the Camp David Agreements (1979 was an outstanding act of leadership. We should bear in mind that with this move Begin established a precedent for Israeli withdrawal and acceptance of the principle of “Land for Peace”, which part of the Israeli public regards as the mother of all the sins of withdrawal that followed (the Oslo Agreement). However the treaty was also perceived as a positive strategic move which split the hostile Arab world and heralded the first recognition of Israel within it. It is fair to say that there are those who believe that Israel could have reached an agreement with Egypt without relinquishing the whole of Sinai and that Begin was under terrible pressure, which he could not withstand. On the other hand, Begin succeeded in legislating a treaty without the country being wracked by civil war. It was the force of his national presence that enabled this.

Annexed the Golan in a Day

On December 14 1981, Begin proved his political dream when he pushed the “Golan Heights Law, applying Israeli law to the Golan, through three Knesset readings in a single day. Like the bombing of the Iraqi reactor, this was a short, resolute move to achieve diplomatic and security ends.

With the passage of this law, Begin avoided being put in a bind internationally and at home which might have prevented it. In Israeli political terms, in one fell swoop, Begin transformed the discussion on the status of the Golan from one of “occupied” territory to Israeli territory in every sense. In other words, territory, that even if it is returned as part of a peace treaty with Syria will be regarded by the Israeli consensus as withdrawing from Israeli territory. By this move, Begin acted as a national, not just a sectarian leader.

One explanation given by Begin for relinquishing the Sinai was that it is not part of Eretz Yisrael, in other words, it did not appear on the map of Eretz Yisrael of Jabotinsky his revered mentor. But, the Golan doesn’t appear on that map either. In his speech that day in the Knesset, Begin saw things differently “… we won’t find anyone ... who knows the history of Eretz Yisrael who will deny that for generations, the Golan Heights was an integral part of the country”.

Here too, America’s reacted with condemnation, and the Washington administration announced that would not recognize the Golan. The Americans also decided to cancel a purchase from Israel. To this Begin replied furiously: “Are we your vassal state? Are we a banana republic? In saying this, he was expressing something which is so rare nowadays, a willingness to stand up to American opposition to Israel’s strategic policy; an expression of the fact that Israel still has a modicum of independence. Begin also proved his strength of mind in his determination to settle Judea and Samaria despite American opposition.

Vietnamese Refugees

Begin’s first decision as prime minister (June 20 1977) was an act of humanitarian Jewish leadership and historical memory typical of him. Begin decided to taken in hundreds of Vietnamese refugees floating on refugee ships who no countries would agree to accept. This brought back memories to Begin of the world’s indifference to the suffering of Jews during and after the Shoah. As prime minister of a Jewish state, Begin decided to act differently. Conscious of symbols, Begin’s first speech as prime minister, broadcast live, focused extensive attention around the world on his decision. He thus took both a moral and humanitarian step while publicizing Israel’s humanitarian image to the rest of the world.

Besides being a giant of Zionism, a leader for whom the concept of fighting for the country and willingness to sacrifice his life for it was an incontrovertible fact, he also possessed qualities of character hardly visible in Israeli leadership today (anywhere across the political spectrum) — modesty, gentlemanliness, and true, not fake liberalism.

It is clear that the caliber of leadership which Begin embodied when he made his historical and decisive decisions like bombing the Iraq reactor, are sorely lacking today. In a generation where image and media consultants have too much impact on the images of leaders, there is a yearning for authentic people from the past such as Menachem Begin.

It was the same Jewish sensitivity and real democratic awareness that defeated him in the end. Begin could not bear the suffering of the bereaved families in the Lebanon War. Broken hearted from the politicians around him and from his personal and private pain over the fallen soldiers, he withdrew to his home and stayed there in retreat until the day he died. He even instructed to leave the sign erected outside his home bearing the daily toll of the fallen in the war. Thus, even in his last decision as prime minister, Began set a standard so high that none of those after him have managed to reach —of human sensitivity and personal responsibility.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Dedication in the Bible Meir Feinstein Presented His Jailer

The Bible is being returned to the Jerusalem Central Prison Museum in a ceremony scheduled for Thursday.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Excerpts from Amotz Asael's Piece on the Begin Revolution

Middle Israel: The degeneration of the Begin revolution

Apr. 12, 2007

On the face of it, the scandals involving our defense minister, finance minister and president...all are products of a revolution that dawned three decades ago, then degenerated and is now ending. It was the Menachem Begin revolution.

The spring of 1977 first became memorable thanks to...Labor's ouster by Begin after 29 years as opposition leader...Rabin's resignation symbolized Labor's moral deterioration, as it followed a slew of corruption revelations, most notably Bank of Israel governor-designate Asher Yadlin's embezzlement verdict.

Begin's victory, however, represented much more than a backlash to this or that scandal, or the fading of ancient acrimony. It was a revolution.

THE BEGIN revolution was first of all social, as it embraced all those Labor had marginalized, from the haredim, who became pivotal coalition partners, to the non-Ashkenazi masses, whose representatives increasingly populated all corridors of power, from municipalities, consulates and religious councils to ministries, utilities and state-company boards, not to mention the Knesset.

It took Labor leaders time to understand the power of this revolution, if not for any other reason than simply because it was news to them that they had hurt anyone, let alone entire populations. Now they too tried to join the trend, searching for attractive, "authentic" non-Ashkenazim of their own...Whether or not it was deliberate, the fact is that prior to the Begin revolution Israel was run pretty much exclusively by Ashkenazim. Now ethnicity is no longer relevant.

With self-made non-Ashkenazim like Yitzhak Tshuva and Haim Saban dominating the energy and telecom industries, and with the IDF having had, since the Begin revolution, four non-Ashkenazi chiefs of General Staff, there is no longer a sizable swing-vote fueled by ethnic considerations. Today no one even notices that, say, Yossi Bachar, the Treasury director-general who executed the Netanyahu reforms, is Sephardi; he was hired due to his abilities, and judged regardless of his origins.

That is a lot more than can be said of either President Moshe Katsav or Defense Minister Amir Peretz, whose rise to political prominence was part of the Begin revolution's misinterpretation and degeneration.

THE BEGIN revolution, besides its social side, had its ideological side, and here - from both the Right's and the Left's viewpoints - the decadence began with Begin himself.

In producing the Camp David Accords, Begin not only legitimized the land-for-peace formula which had been anathema to him, but also the abandonment of settlements, which was abominable to many Labor leaders, as former farmers raised on a Russian-inspired attachment to reclaimed soil. Begin's subsequent carpeting of the West Bank with suburbs changed none of this; the public had lost its admiration for the very act of settlement, which came to be seen less as Zionism and more as part of Orthodox observance. Ariel Sharon's subsequent abandonment of settlements for non-peace was, from the Right's viewpoint, but an extension of this momentum.

Meanwhile, on the economy, Likud leaders often preferred - until Netanyahu's takeover of the Finance Ministry - populism to their pre-'77 capitalistic commitment. It too was a form of ideological betrayal. The more this ideological striptease evolved, the less the Likud demanded of its followers...the less Likud leaders believed in the power of ideas, the more they became addicted to the idea of power.

That is how they also took the party's central committee, which Begin used innocently to popularize the political process, and turned it into a colossal Tammany Hall that forgot its original purpose as an ideological compass and became instead a public-sector employment agency. The same thing happened, in the aftermath of the Begin revolution, to Labor's central committee.

...Now, with the Begin revolution as spent as the Labor era that preceded it, Israeli politics is begging for an era of ideological restoration.

Natalie Portman Read Begin's White Nights

Natalie Portman: How studying psychology helped her in her latest role

"I don't think there's a message about terrorism in the film. It creates a complicated story and I think it's all about what the audience brings to it," insists the Jerusalem-born actress who plays Evey, a young woman rescued from gang-rapists by V, whose disfigured face is concealed beneath a curiously creepy Guy Fawkes mask. Set against the futuristic landscape of a totalitarian Britain, the pair become unlikely allies in a battle against tyranny.

"I literally begged for this part. I flew out to San Francisco and read for the role. And thank God I got it," she says earnestly. "I just think its so rare to find a movie that's really entertaining and really fun on a big scale and on an impressive visual scale, that's also really so interesting and is going to give you something to think about afterwards. I've not seen a movie like this - that's this big and this interesting - in at least the past 20 years. Not since the Sixties and Seventies has there been some evidence of a big studio movie being compelling and visually exciting, entertaining, smart and interesting and something you could fight about afterwards. Big, big Hollywood movies have been disappointing until this. James McTeigue and the Wachowskis have made something incredible," she says, referring to V for Vendetta's notoriously elusive screenwriters Andy and Larry Wachowski, who were also responsible for the $3bn-grossing Matrix franchise.

The daughter of the Israeli fertility specialist Avner Hershlag and the American artist Shelley Hershlag, Portman enjoyed a relatively normal upbringing, growing up in suburban Syosset, New York, and adopting her grandmother's maiden name to protect her family's identity.

But now, as one of a handful of Hollywood's openly political Jewish actors, she has no problem debating terrorism, having studied 'the anthropology of violence' in graduate school.

"Being Israeli has become a much bigger part of my identity in recent years because it's become an issue of survival," says the actress. "I am personally sort of a pacifist and I am against violence. My gut feeling is that hurting other people is wrong, whether or not it is state-sanctioned. It's all violence and I don't make distinctions. All violence is wrong in my mind. I don't like it but I also know that it's sort of the way the world is. My reason sort of goes against my idealism and my optimism about the potential of people to live without violence and obviously people saying, 'oh it's natural for people to be violent'. So obviously I understand why it exists, but personally that is my stand and it's very hard for me to agree with any sort of violence."

She recalled the sufferings of her grandparents during the Holocaust when she filmed V for Vendetta's concentration-camp-style torture scenes. "Fortunately my grandparents escaped, but their whole family perished in the Holocaust," she explains. "There were stories in the house of what had happened to them and it wasn't that much talked about. I had to go on a website to read my grandfather's descriptions of what happened to the family, but it is absolutely something I have lived with and have grown up with.

"I loved that this film is an abstract thing because, after the Holocaust, people said it would never happen again but now we have Rwanda and Bosnia. Maybe V for Vendetta can remind us to stand up against such despotism."

Portman was discovered in a New York pizza-parlour, aged 11, and made her film debut in 1994's Leon, opposite Jean Reno.

Today she has no regrets about her four years at Harvard followed by a further year's Hebrew and film studies in Jerusalem. "My parents have always stressed education over success, over money, over everything," she says, "and I think college was great in terms of how it has made me want my career to be as interesting as school. And with fascinating material like this, its all about finding the questions that don't have answers.

"I don't want to ever be working just for money because then you are no different than a prostitute," says Portman, who not only shaved off her hair for V for Vendetta but also voraciously researched her role despite the fact it is a work of fiction. "I read Antonia Fraser's book. It's a great background to the whole Guy Fawkes story - which is not even really the Guy Fawkes story, like there were several other people involved and Guy Fawkes was the first one caught, becoming the poster boy! I also looked at lots of other things like Menachem Begin's book, White Knights, [sic! It's White Nights] plus Macbeth!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Begin Center Bulletin, Volume 3, Issue 26

Volume 3, Issue 26
April 11, 2007

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 272,931

Full House Over Chol HaMoed Pesach

Hundreds and hundreds of visitors—many of them from overseas—filled the Begin Center on all the days of Chol HaMoed Pesach. They were anxious to see the building and to visit the museum and other features of which they had heard. Among them were also several hundred soldiers from different units who are soon to receive ranks and to advance in their military careers. When they came out of the museum, they said it was a moving experience and very exciting.

Three of the Top Ten!

In an article by Ehud Asheri, published in Haaretz on the eve of Pesach, various rhetorical skills of Israeli personalities was discussed and Asheri, a noted critic, listed the 10 most outstanding speeches in the history of the state. Menachem Begin was included three times for his Reparations Speech in 1952, his White House Lawn Peace Treaty Speech in 1979 and the "Tzachtzachim" Speech in Kikar Malachei Yisrael in 1981. The others were David Ben-Gurion announcing the proclamation of the State, Moshe Dayan's eulogy of Ro'i Rutenberg in 1956, Levy Eshkol's "Stammered" Speech in 1967, Yitzhak Rabin's Mt. Scopus speech, 1967, Rabbi Shach's "Rabbits and Pigs" speech, 1990, Rabin's Oslo Peace speech, 1993 and Haim Ramon's "Whales" speech, 1994.

Tammuz Premier at the Begin Center

The Jerusalem premier of an exciting documentary movie entitled Tammuz about the Israel attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor in Osirak near Baghdad is to be shown in the Begin Center on Friday morning, April 13. So great has the interest been in this event that there are three showings—in the Reuben Hecht Auditorium, in the seminar room and a second showing in the afternoon.

The movie outlines the preparation for what Abba Eban described as the "most remarkable decision of the atomic age." One of the persons appearing in the film says that it was one of the most important decisions by Israel since the creation of the State. The decision was made by Menachem Begin after he came to the premiership in 1977. He had every aspect of the problem posed by Iraq at that time thoroughly investigated and after he decided to proceed with the act, he called the heads of the military and secret services to put it into effect.

Ten years later, he received a letter signed by 100 members of the Knesset thanking him for what he had done.

The event will be presided over by Herzl Makov, Director General of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.

Meir Feinstein's Tanach

A unique occurrence will be marked at the Underground Prisoners Museum in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem next Thursday evening, April 19, when the memory of the two heroes, Feinstein and Barazani, will be honored at a gathering headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The Head of the Begin Center, Mr. Harry Hurwitz, will speak on behalf of the Center.

It has now been revealed that when the two heroes, Meir Feinstein (of the Irgun) and Moshe Barazani (of the Lehi/Stern Group) were to be executed by the British, Feinstein gave his Tanach, with a suitable inscription, to the British guard—Sgt. Thomas Henry Goodwin. He had kept it in his home until he passed away in 2005. Now the family has sent the Bible back and entrusted it to the Underground Prisoners Museum.


Leo and Susan Noe of London England and members of their family who were in Jerusalem for the whole Pesach holiday visited the Begin Center and its museum on Chol HaMoed Pesach. They were greeted by Harry Hurwitz who accompanied them on the tour. Then they were shown the Reuben Hecht Auditorium, the Junior Knesset and the Beit Midrash Menachem, which is the source of the Rohr Family Parashat HaShavua program. All the group was greatly impressed by what they saw.

* * * * *

Members of the Falic family from Florida, USA, were very impressed by the Begin Center and its museum and its other facilities. They are friends and neighbors of Mrs. Sisel Klurman of Miami, Florida, who asked them especially to visit the Begin Center. They were shown the Samuel Aba and Sisel Klurman Research Department in the building.

* * * * *

David and Ronit Zwebner brought two couples to the Begin Center this week. They were Mr. and Mrs. David Kornbluth, the Israeli Ambassador to Unesco in Paris, and Mr. and Mrs. Pinhas Rothem of London (brother of Knesset Member David Rothem). They were very impressed by everything they saw in the building and in the museum.

Moshe Arens on the "Saison"

Add them to the Pantheon

By Moshe Arens

Sooner or later the truth will out. Although long suspected, it is now official. Teddy Kollek informed on fighters of the prestate Irgun underground to British intelligence during the waning years of the Mandate, and many of those Etzel fighters
who languished for months in British concentration camps in the wilds of Africa were there based on information provided by Kollek to the British. One of them was Yaakov Meridor, Menachem Begin's second in command, who eventually succeeded in escaping
from the Gilgil concentration camp in Kenya in March 1948.

Kollek did not act on his own. The leaders of the Labor movement, led by David Ben-Gurion, decided on cooperation with the British authorities toward the end of 1944 in an attempt to crush the underground movement that was fighting the British. The period that followed has been named the Saison, or the hunting season, when Etzel and Lehi members were hunted down and turned over to the British. Not everybody in the Labor movement was prepared to implement the decision of the Labor leadership.
A notable exception was Yigal Allon, then a senior commander in the Palmach.

Anita Shapiro writes in her book "Yigal Allon: Spring of His Life" that in October 1944, at the convention of the Ahdut Haavoda party, Yisrael Galili, one of the leaders of the Haganah, insisted that the need to act against Etzel and Lehi
fighters stemmed from the fascist nature of these organizations. The convention united around a declaration that the "the terrorist gangs are a Jewish transmigration of world Fascism."

Labeling Jabotinsky and his adherents as fascists was nothing new. What might seem surprising in retrospect is that this slander was still being used against a rival Zionist movement toward the end of World War II. As a matter of fact, under German occupation in the Warsaw Ghetto, the Socialist Zionist movements considered Betar, the Revisionist youth movement, as fascist. Mordechai Tenenbaum, one of the founders of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the ghetto, wrote in a publication of Dror, the Socialist Zionist youth movement, led by Antek Zuckerman and Tzivia Lubetkin, that both the Italian Socialist Giacomo Matteotti and Chaim Arlosoroff had been the victims of Fascism. "Matteotti was murdered by killers hired by Italian Fascism: Arlosoroff - by men sent by the Fascist organization that has arisen among Jews. The death of the martyrs, Matteotti and Arlosoroff, cries out for retribution." This was written when news of the mass murder of Jews by the Germans in Vilna, Lublin, and other places had already reached Warsaw, and only a month before the transport of Warsaw's Jews to the Treblinka gas chambers began.

It is little wonder that the Revisionists in the ghetto were not included in the ranks of the Jewish Fighting Organization, together with representatives of all other political groups, and that the two fighting organizations that led the uprising, the Jewish Fighting Organization, commanded by Mordechai Anielewicz, and the Revisionist-led Jewish Military Organization, commanded by Pawel Frenkel, did not fight the Germans as a united force.

Sadly, the story does not end here. The fact that Pawel Frenkel and his fighters fought the main battle of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising at Muranowski Square has been obscured for more than 60 years. A deliberate and effective effort has been made to
ignore, or at the very least minimize, the participation of Frenkel's fighters in the uprising, while adopting the Warsaw Ghetto uprising as a creation of the Labor movement.

The hunting season of underground fighters in Palestine occurred a year and a half after the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The Labor party leadership at that time was not about to give credit to the comrades of Etzel who fought in the Warsaw Ghetto. As a
matter of fact, it took years before the contribution Etzel and Lehi made to the establishment of the State of Israel in fighting British rule in Palestine began to be recognized, and their fighters who went to the gallows were acclaimed as national heroes.

Today there is hardly a town in Israel that does not have a street named after the Etzel and Lehi. For that matter, there is hardly a town that does not have a street named after Mordechai Anielewicz. And rightly so. But Pawel Frenkel is still missing
from the national pantheon.

David Landau, one of Frenkel's fighters who survived the uprising, wrote in his book "Caged" that shortly before the uprising began, Frenkel, in an address to his fighters, said: "Comrades! We will die before our time but we are not doomed. We
will be alive as long as Jewish history lives." It is high time that Pawel Frenkel and his comrades become part of Jewish history.