Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dov Troy & Family Visit

Dov (Bernard) Troy, USA Betar leader in late 1940s and early 1950s, visited with his family upon the occasion of his granddaughter's Bat Mitzva and was greeted by Harry Hurwitz, Center Head.

He was also presented with a copy of a newspaper photo taken in 1950 when Betar demonstrated the arrival of a German soccer team in New York.

Sarah Honig on the Altalena

Another Tack: The 'Altalena' sequel

On the (Hebrew calendar's) second anniversary of the callous sacrifice of existential security interests for political expediency, Uri Yarom's Kenaf Renanim is must reading. It puts into context the viciousness of disengagement, the ongoing demonization of its victims and the indifference to their anguish.

Yarom - the decorated commander of Israel's first helicopter squadron - is the salt of this country's earth, especially as he suitably hails from the left side of its great and definitive political divide. That lends him ultra-respectability and credibility.

In 2001 he included in his autobiographical book (p. 71) an eyewitness account of what he saw on June 22, 1948, as the IZL arms ship Altalena blazed off Tel Aviv. The men on board - mostly idealistic Holocaust survivors intent on joining their reborn nation's struggle for independence - dove into the sea under a hail of gunfire. Some were hurt, but the bullets still kept coming, even though the boys flailed desperately among the waves.

Yarom was a youthful Palmah soldier under the command of Yitzhak Rabin, who eagerly orchestrated and diligently oversaw the attack on the Altalena. Yarom, who cannot be suspected of pro-Revisionist bias, recalled: "The wounded were being lowered off the boat. From the shore people started swimming toward them to offer help, but from the hotel and nearby houses indiscriminate shots were aimed at the helpless wounded and at those who swam to rescue them! I'll never forget that fellow wearing a blue shirt done up with a white cord [the Hashomer Hatza'ir uniform], who directed the snipers to their targets and pointed to each head that bobbed above the water's surface. His eyes flashed with hatred as he egged the sharpshooters on with his shouts, spotted their quarry and encouraged them to get the swimmers. My heart shuddered within me. Before my eyes was waged a war between brothers! Jews are shooting Jews - in order to kill!"

A MERE three years after these lines saw print, another Hashomer Hatza'ir fellow smelled blood - once more of reviled political rivals. Outspoken Meretz Knesset member Avshalom Vilan told Haaretz on August 20, 2004 - exactly one year pre-disengagement, when the catastrophic scheme was already in high gear - that "we must fight extremist settlers by all possible means... if need be we'll open fire... we'll shoot to hit... the sovereign authority must announce that in order to preserve itself, it too is ready to kill."

His was a request for an Altalena reenactment. When Israel was little more than a month old, besieged by genocidal enemies and fighting for its very physical survival, its founding fathers subordinated everything to settling political scores and ridding themselves of domestic competition, even if it meant destroying vital, irreplaceable weaponry. Fifty-seven years later, their successors would put settling political scores above fighting implacable terrorists. The expulsion of 9,000 settlers (still mind-bogglingly not resettled) could only be countenanced and perpetrated against those pronounced beyond the pale of political tolerance. It's the mindset which rendered the harrowing Altalena tragedy possible.

The analogy was drawn by none other than those who fervently clamored for an Altalena sequel. On January 21, 2005 would-be Labor Party leader Ami Ayalon - excessively conciliatory toward hostile Arabs - hectored against the settlers and advocated resorting to physical force. He menacingly declared that "in the life of every state and nation there's more than one Altalena."

The threat was flagrant. The murder of Altalena's 16 innocents had been justified by the same mantras about "upholding the rule of law and the government's democratic legitimacy" that were brandished - just as tyrannically and ruthlessly - against Gush Katif.

The official anti-Altalena line harped on the bogus pretext of an insurgency-that-never-was, consistently omitted to mention that on June 1, 1948 the IZL signed an agreement to disband, that on June 15, 1948 it informed the government of the Altalena's (delayed) arrival, that negotiations ensued (though not completed) about how the extraordinarily valuable arms the Altalena carried were to be distributed within the IDF, that the government directed the ship to dock at Kfar Vitkin, that the Altalena followed instructions, but that its men were surrounded, entrapped and attacked.

Several neutral mediation attempts and compromise proposals bordering on IZL capitulation were scornfully rebuffed by David Ben-Gurion. The Altalena, now ferrying Menachem Begin, escaped the violent Kfar Vitkin siege. It ran aground in Tel Aviv. From shipboard Begin called out by megaphone: "Soldiers of Israel, cease fire! We brought you weapons. Come and take them." The answer was a shower of bullets in what soon emerged as an elaborately contrived assassination attempt.

Yet the establishment's account depicted the cannon which defeated the Altalena as "holy, worthy of being stationed at the entrance to the Third Temple," in Ben-Gurion's words.

Like today's vilified right-wingers, Begin already then hankered after left-wing acceptance. He believed, with schlemiel naivete, that he won governmental cooperation and backing - just like the settlers sent to Gush Katif by none other than Rabin. Precursor Altalena and its Gush Katif replica were crushed by antagonists disdainfully undaunted by the specter of civil war.

Decades post-Altalena, Shimon Peres told Begin that Ben-Gurion had been misled in the affair. Grudging contrition is already audible post-disengagement, but exhortations for another Altalena/disengagement remain ever-strident and ever-dangerous because Israelis remain gullible and their memory malleable.

Hagana commander Eliahu Golomb prophetically warned Begin, pre-Altalena, when they conferred on October 31, 1944, that "it doesn't matter who fires the first bullet in a civil war. The propaganda apparatus is in our hands. We will direct history's chroniclers. You will always be singled out as the instigators of civil conflict."

Like the Altalena, disengagement incontrovertibly proves Golomb's perceptive astuteness. The more things change the more they stay the same.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Yehuda Avner Writes of the Gallows' Marytrs at Acre Gaol

Bygone Days: They went to the gallows singing 'Hatikva'

Jul. 25, 2007

The 12th day of the Hebrew month of Av, which falls this year on Friday July 27, marks the 60th anniversary of the execution by the British authorities in Palestine of three members of the Irgun underground - Avshalom Haviv, Yaakov Weiss, and Meir Nakar. This column is dedicated to their everlasting memory.

As 1947 dawned, the more judicious counsels in Whitehall cautioned that the death knell of Britain's 30-year rule of Palestine was within earshot. "The sands of time are running out," warned the British high commissioner. But most in Whitehall were either blind or hard of hearing. Some even asserted that the existing political order in the Holy Land was established by the Almighty and, therefore, eternal.

Had they given the matter deeper thought they might have foreseen the inevitable. But thinking ahead is given to statesmen and chess players, not to autocrats and bureaucrats, and certainly not to a man of such anti-Semitic bent Ernest Bevin, the British foreign secretary of the day, who famously warned the Jews "not to push to the head of the queue" in their demand for the imperative opening of Palestine's gates.

LED BY Menachem Begin, the Irgun revolt against the British hardened. The governing authorities, driven by an irresistible hubris of self-interest and colonial blindness, and embracing the delusion of decaying imperialists in every age that punitive brutality will cow the rebels into giving up their resistance, began sentencing captured Irgun fighters to the most severe forms of capital punishment: flogging for relatively minor offenses, and hanging for relatively major ones.

The executions were frequently carried out in the Acre fortress, a Crusader citadel restored by the Turks and considered impregnable. In May 1947, in what was probably the Irgun's most daring exploit, a wall of this great bastion was breached, allowing for a mass escape. Three of the attacking party - Avshalom Haviv, Yaakov Weiss, and Meir Nakar - were captured, tried and condemned to death.

ON THE DAY of the execution, July 29 1947, the district commissioner of Galilee visited the Acre prison accompanied by the commissioner of prisons, to ensure the gallows were readied and all other necessary arrangements in place.

It would be wrong to think of these men as in any way vindictive or malevolent. They were, as we shall see, British bureaucrats doing their job. Their writ did not extend to pondering the iniquity of destroying healthy, conscious men or the unspeakable wrongness of cutting lives short when they were in full tide; or meditating on the significance of pulling a lever, causing a living person to drop through a hole, neck broken, rope twisting on itself, the body slowly revolving. Their task was to see to the formalities and the practicalities of the hangings, aware that if anything went wrong their superiors would wring their necks.

So imagine their astonishment when, upon their calling on the Acre prison superintendent at his quarters, he told them in no uncertain terms that he would not carry out the executions.

WHAT TRANSPIRED subsequent to that was meticulously documented in a number of top-secret and confidential reports to the higher authorities, quoting what each of these officials said and did on that day. Their names and functions were: Mr. Thorne - district commissioner of Galilee, Mr. Hackett - commissioner of prisons, and Mr. Charlton - superintendent of the Acre jail.

The following is a redaction of their exchange:

Charlton [prison superintendent]: I suppose you know that I am not going to carry out these executions.

Hackett [commissioner of prisons]: You are the officer detailed to carry them out. I have here the warrants.

Charlton: I do not agree with the policy of Government regarding these hangings. The whole thing stinks. Why can't Government carry out the executions in a normal manner, giving the prisoners and relatives proper warning as usual? I want no part of it. I am unhappy about the whole affair. Please send me home. I've had enough of this.

Hackett: Do you absolutely refuse to carry out the death sentences?

Charlton: Yes. I have carried out 44 executions during my service in this country and I have not raised any objections before. But now I'm adamant. I had a definite promise from Mr. Bromfield when he was acting Commissioner of Prisons that secret executions such as that carried out in the hanging of Dov Gruner [a prominent Irgun commander (actually ordinary soldier of the ranks)] will under no circumstances occur again. I will not preside under the circumstances you have outlined. I am ready to execute the men on Friday of this week [August 1] or next Tuesday [August 5] provided the proper open procedures are followed, meaning that the date is announced in advance and that the relatives are given the opportunity to visit the condemned men prior to the event.

Hackett: But the lawyer of the accused and their relatives will be informed prior to the event.

Charlton: I am not satisfied. Why can't Government carry out the executions in a normal manner, giving the prisoners and their relatives proper advance warning, as is usual procedure? The whole prison will be upset. It will be impossible for me to keep order or discipline if the executions are performed in a secretive manner. I am not going to carry out these executions, not because I am afraid, but solely because it is against my conscience. If the executions are postponed as I suggest, and done later in a proper and regular manner, I will certainly do as ordered.

Thorne [district commissioner of Galilee] to Hackett: The time now is 4.15 p.m. The intention to execute the three men will be made public in an hour-and-three-quarters, at 6 p.m. By that time the relatives will have been informed in Jerusalem. [To Charlton]: Unless you have someone else to carry out the executions, someone whom you can rely upon, we have to inform Government what is happening. I need hardly point out the political and other consequences if the executions are postponed because an Officer of the Crown refused to carry them out.

Charlton: I'm expecting Mr. Clow [superintendent of the Nablus jail] at five o'clock, and I'll ask him if he will carry out the executions. I cannot guarantee that he will.

Thorne: Under the circumstances, and in view of the fact that Clow may not get here in time, and given the importance of the time factor, I'm going to Haifa immediately and inform Government of the situation. [Haifa was the nearest place with a secure telephone line].

LATER, THORNE phoned Hackett from Haifa:

Thorne: Government confirms the executions must go forward as arranged. If Charlton still refuses to carry them out, either you or Clow must do so under all circumstances. Even if Charlton has a change of heart, he has become so excited he won't be in a fit state to carry them out, so there is no use in pressing the matter further.

At 5.30 p.m. Clow, the superintendent of the Nablus prison, arrived at Acre.

Hackett by phone to Thorne: Clow is here. He will carry out the executions if that's Government's final instruction. He is pressing for a postponement, though.

Thorne: A postponement is out of the question. The executions must be carried out as ordered. You have confirmed that the warrant is made out to "the superintendent of Acre prison" [and not to Charlton by name]. So I have relieved Mr. Charlton of that post and have appointed Mr. Clow as superintendent in his stead.

Hackett to Thorne [at midnight]: The tensions have relaxed. There will be no hitch in the executions.

AND, INDEED, there was none: Avshalom Haviv was hung at four in the morning, Meir Nakar at 4.25, and Yaakov Weiss at 5.00.

No one in the Acre jail slept that night. One prisoner, whose Irgun name was Natan but whose real name was Chaim Wasserman, was in a nearby cell, and he smuggled out a letter to Irgun commander Menachem Begin, describing what he saw and heard. He wrote:

"Early this morning our three comrades went heroically to the gallows. We were already aware of what was going to happen between four and five in the morning, and pressed against the bars with bated breath watching helplessly what was going on around the cell. The prison superintendent, Major Charlton, had left the place yesterday afternoon and was not seen again. Toward evening a party of hangmen arrived.

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

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

"At two a Sephardi rabbi whom we could not recognize from afar [it was Rabbi Nissim Ohana] was brought and stayed in the cell 15 minutes.

"At four in the morning Avshalom began singing "Hatikva," and we joined in loudly, pressing against the bars. At once armed police came up to the visitors' fence near our cell. At 4.03 Avshalom was hanged. At 4.25 we were shaken by the powerful singing of Meir. Hardly able to breathe, we nevertheless joined in. He was hanged at 4.28. At five o'clock the voice of Yaakov, this time alone, penetrated our cell, singing "Hatikva." Again we joined in. Two minutes later he was hanged. Each of the bodies was left hanging 20 minutes before being carried off, one by one.

"The chief hangmen were Hackett, inspector of prisons, and Clow, superintendent of the Nablus jail.

"At dawn we informed the prison officers through an Arab warder that we would not be responsible for the life of any Englishman who dared enter the jail yard. We declared a fast and prayed. Later in the morning we found the following inscription on the wall of the cell of the condemned: 'They will not frighten the Hebrew youth in the Homeland with their hangings. Thousands will follow in our footsteps.' Next to it was the Irgun insignia and their three names in the order they were executed."

May the memory of Avshalom Haviv, Meir Nakar, and Yaakov Weiss be forever blessed - yehi zichrom baruch.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Two Altalena-connected Stories

Tales from the underground

Jul. 18, 2007

With the green lawns of the Charles Clore Park on three sides and the azure waters of the Mediterranean on the fourth, the stone and black glass Etzel Museum building on the Tel Aviv shoreline is certainly impressive. A blue cloudless sky and attractive layered Jaffa skyline in the near distance are additional factors making the museum building stand out - while at the same time somehow blending in with its surroundings.

An enormous Israeli flag flaps high in the sea breeze above the museum, built over the ruins of a former Ottoman-period building. The museum is dedicated to the memory of operations officer Amihai (Gidi) Paglin and 41 fighters of the pre-state paramilitary Etzel (an acronym for Irgun Zvai Leumi, or National Military Organization) who fell in the campaign to conquer the nearby Arab town of Jaffa, and also documents other battles that Etzel members fought in during the 1947-8 War of Independence.

Active in Palestine from 1931 to 1948, the Jewish underground organization retaliated against attacks by Arabs on the Jewish population and rebelled against the British government's "White Paper" policy that imposed restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine.

The integration of the Etzel fighters into the newly-formed Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was brokered in an agreement signed between then-I.Z.L. Commander-in-Chief Menachem Begin and Israel Galili on behalf of the government of Israel. But even after the agreement was signed, there remained a great deal of bitterness between Begin and Ben-Gurion and their supporters, much of which centered around the June 1948 Altalena affair when Palmah soldiers attacked an arms-carrying Etzel ship close to the Tel Aviv shore.

The Etzel Museum on the Tel Aviv beachfront belongs to the Museums Unit of the Ministry of Defense, which explains the four girl soldier-guides manning the reception desk. The day Metro visited, the museum was empty, apart from the soldiers and a young security guard - which on the one hand was useful as nobody got in the way of photographs or obliterated the prolific texts alongside exhibits, but on the other was a little eerie.

The first portion of the museum deals with the organizational structure of the Etzel. A map of Israel according to the UN partition resolution of November 29, 1947 is displayed on one wall, alongside another map with the boundaries of Israel following the armistice agreements of July 1949.

The map is accompanied by explanations and documents of the Etzel's response to the partition plan and the hostilities that broke out after the plan was announced.

A model of steel helmeted soldiers defending their post, surrounded by sandbags and barbed wire, greets the visitor on the first corner turned in the museum, set out in serpentine fashion. An electronic map serves as an introduction to the entire exhibit showing Etzel positions, attacks and raids and the capture of Arab villages during 1947 and 1948, including the infamous attack on the village of Deir Yassin in the Jerusalem corridor. Maps, documents and photographs are on display as well as a diorama presenting the heroism of two Etzel women fighters, who chose death over
surrender, in the battle for Yehudiya.

Up on the next floor one finds a description of the attack on Ramle. Fifty-one Etzel fighters died in the battle and many were wounded. On the same floor an area focuses on the fighters' training and purchase of arms, as well as somewhat tongue-in-cheek details of the "requisitions" of British ammunitions, which included 20,000 81mm mortar bombs swiped from a British train transporting ammunition to Arab fighters in Gaza.

Following the infiltration of a British army camp near Pardess Hanna, Etzel fighters also "requisitioned" weapons, ammunition and an armored vehicle from the British paratroopers stationed at what is today a large IDF training base known as Mahane 80 on the main Wadi Ara highway.

A large exhibition is dedicated to battles waged in the liberation of Jerusalem, and operations with the pre-state Haganah and Lehi militias. Two interesting dioramas deal with a stronghold of the British in the city, Zion Gate and in the background, the Old City of Jerusalem.

Another section concentrates on operations in the north such as the battle at Mishmar Hayarden, cooperation between forces of the Haganah and Etzel in the defense of Safed, and the taking of the Wadi Nisnas Arab neighborhood in Haifa - in present times the venue for an annual co-existence festival of art, music and culinary delights held during the month of the Hannuka, Christmas and Ramadan holidays.

The last section of the museum deals with the Altalena incident. The Etzel's
armaments-carrying ship had embarked from the port of Marseilles. Upon arrival at the shore of the newly-founded State of Israel opposite Kfar Vitkin, Ben-Gurion's demands that the armaments be handed over to the unified Jewish forces were refused. An attack on the ship was ordered, and a massive explosion set off by a shell destroyed the ship and cargo.

The exhibit dealing with the Altalena is the last section of the museum. A large encased flag of Israel, flown on the deck of the Altalena, hangs on the wall. In the accompanying text one reads that the flag was saved minutes before the ship blew up, an Etzel fighter risking life and limb in an effort to rescue it.

Under a model of the ship, photographs and additional text, a large white lifebelt from the ship is propped up against the wall, the name ALTALENA silently shrieking of the tragic circumstances that brought Jews to battle Jews in the State of Israel -appropriately memorialized in a museum just meters from the sea.

New immigrants shape their identity around the Altalena story
By Lily Galili

On June 22, about 100 people climbed aboard the ship Sababa in Jaffa port, and sailed toward Tel Aviv. On board were veterans of the prestate Etzel underground and Russian-speaking new immigrants. They were sailing to the point where the arms-laden Altalena sank 59 years ago after being fired on by order of prime minister David Ben-Gurion. Etzel (the Irgun Zvai Leumi) had bought the arms and was led by Menachem Begin.

While Etzel veterans have learned to keep to their stories circulating among the their few thousand still-living members, the initiative for the voyage this June came from the Russian-speaking contingent: The new immigrants took upon themselves to widen the circle and even to create their identity as Israelis around the story.

The shipboard ceremony was beautiful, albeit a bit strange. In a heavy Russian accent, a member of the group invited his friends to cast a wreath of sunflowers into the water where the Altalena had sunk. Another proclaimed: "This is a memorial wreath to our brethren who were butchered by Cain."

The state is almost 60 years old, and still it is Cain and Abel.

Red, heart-shaped balloons were released. There was the sense of an elite unit not only preserving a memory of the past, but also seeking to shape the future.

A few days later, we met at the Etzel Museum on the Tel Aviv beach. Representing the veterans was Yoske Nahmias, 82, a sixth-generation Israeli and an Etzel company commander who was on board the Altalena; representing the immigrants was Dr. Mark Radotzky, 50, who came to Israel 17 years ago and thought up the idea of the commemoration voyages.

They explained the surprising alliance, filling both with new energies.The Etzel people say their new immigrant supporters are the fresh Zionists who have sprung from roots that have withered. The new immigrants say that like in a family, when one member is tired or busy, another straightens things out for him.

"My heart is still bleeding," Nahmias said as he remembered every second, every bullet fired, every order Menachem Begin gave not to return fire. "Sixteen of my friends were killed. The hate has gone down, but the wound has not healed. Then, I hated very much. If I would have met Ben-Gurion I would have strangled him with my bare hands. Today I am angry, but I don't hate."

Radotzky sees that day as the beginning of the destruction of civil society in Israel. He learned about it after he came to Israel. "History defined which political side I would take here," he said, explaining his rightist tendencies. "It I were looking for the brotherhood of nations, I would have stayed in Tashkent," he added. "I came to live in a Jewish state, and in the ideological search I came to [Ze'ev] Jabotinsky," he said, referring to the right-wing prestate leader.

When Radotzky went to buy the wreath for the Altalena ceremony, he said the florist challenged him: "But you weren't there." Radotzky answered: "Were you at the Exodus? But you mark that event every year."

It all began when Rabin was assassinated, Radotzky said, and he was put off by the collective response to the murder, which he said reminded him of the Former Soviet Union. Then he heard for the first time about the Altalena and Rabin's role in giving the order to open fire on the ship.

He experienced a moment of truth when he came across the monument on the Tel Aviv beach to those killed and it bothered Radotzky that the place was so neglected and forgotten.

"On the Altalena, not only people were killed, so was the Israeli democracy; Israeli civil society ended." Radotzky said. "We have not come to rebuild it again," he added.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Center Bulletin Volume 3, Issue 40

Volume 3, Issue 40
July 18, 2007

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 312,292

Foreign Minister of Nepal at Begin Center

The Foreign Minister of Nepal, Mrs. Sahana Pradhan, and her entourage were guests at the Begin Center last Thursday when she lectured before the Israel Council of Foreign Relations of the World Jewish Congress. The event was chaired by Amb. (ret.) Dr. Moshe Yegar, senior editor of the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, who gave a personal insight of Israel's standing in Asia where he had served for a number of years.

At the end of her address on the situation in Nepal the Minister announced that her country will open an embassy in Tel Aviv very soon to promote trade and tourism and also to attend to the needs of the many citizens of Nepal who are working in Israel.

Harry Hurwitz, the Founder and President of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, welcomed the Minister and all the guests to the Begin Center and also the Israel representatives to Nepal. He then described Prime Minister Menachem Begin who is honored and recalled in this living memorial. He spoke of Begin's striving for democracy, justice and peace and said that Begin was Israel's first statesman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize (together with Egypt's Anwar Sadat).

"Our small nation," said Hurwitz, "has been at war 120 years and it is still continuing." The day of the Foreign Minister's visit was exactly twelve months after the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, which started the second Lebanon War. Hurwitz asked the distinguished guests and the audience to rise and called for Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit to be released and brought back alive and well to their families, their comrades and the nation.

Rise in Begin Center Numbers

The number of visitors to the Begin Center rose dramatically this week following the inclusion the total number of patrons who attended film screenings in the Reuben Hecht Auditorium during the Jerusalem Film Festival. Numbers were given to us by the organizers of the festival who had records of the tickets sold per day.

Some of the patrons first toured the Begin Museum and then went to see the movie of their choice or vice versa.

At any rate, the number now stands at 312,292.

Israel Government Fellows Program

Starts in September

The Israel Government Fellows (IGF) program is a new long-term 'MASA' initiative of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. The program is unique in that it is backed by the Israeli Government and the Government Secretary.

IGF Fellowships offer interns firsthand experience working in Israel's government, and is the first program that opens the door for non-Israelis to intern in the core of Israel's policy-making method, while offering extensive educational programming.

Our inaugural session has eighteen college graduates from the US, Australia, Switzerland, Hungary and England. For the six-month session, participants will work at their internships four days a week and will use their additional time for other educational programming such as Hebrew classes, seminars in leadership training, Israel's history, Israeli society and the governmental system and an understanding of the basic values of the Israeli democratic system. In additional to all this, participants will go on trips all over Israel. The Israel Government Fellows will leave this program with a solid base to be strong, well-informed Jewish leaders.

Israel Government Fellows Program is to be launched in September and will be based in the Begin Center where Tamar Darmon, who directs the program, can be reached.

Rohr Family Parashat HaShavua

Starting the Fifth Book

A new series in the Rohr Family Parashat HaShavua Lectures will open this Thursday when Ari Alon, the third brother of the well-known Alon family, will deliver the first lecture and will continue throughout the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy).

Following his lecture there will be two short talks to mark the launch by Dr. Micha Goodman and Danny Segal.

Begin Center T-Shirts Available Soon

Among the activities during Emunah's two-week art display held at the Begin Center was the presentation of prizes for the designs for a Menachem Begin Center T-Shirt, which will be on sale in the souvenir shop.

First prize was awarded to Esther Zisman for her design which was a play on words in Hebrew. "Not by right of power, but by power of right." In second place was Odelia Nechamny who designed a shirt that said "Peace". The "A" is an Egyptian pyramid. In third place was Ortal Sheetrit with a t-shirt that used the Begin Center logo and listed the address.

The prizes were presented by Herzl Makov, Chairman of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.

Important Facts of History

An interesting, little-known episode in the early life of Menachem Begin was revealed in the HaAretz weekend magazine, which claimed that in the years following 1948, Israel had destroyed more than 100 mosques in local Arab villages incorporated into the State. On Friday, July 13, a letter to the editor was published in HaAretz from a Yossi Renart of Tel Aviv.

He made the point that mosques and their minarets were used as sharpshooter's posts and over 1,000 Tel Avivians had been either wounded or killed by sniping until the Irgun conquest of Manshieh. Nevertheless, when one of the Irgun commanders suggested that the Hassan Bek mosque in Jaffa be blown up, Menachem Begin, upon hearing of the plan, informed the officer and others in strict terms that no holy site of any religion was to be harmed by the Irgun in any of its operations.


· Mr. Hart Hasten, President of the US Friends of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation held discussions in the Begin Center with the President of the Foundation, Harry Hurwitz, and Chairman of the Center, Herzl Makov. He was also interviewed by Iris Berlatzky, the chief archivist for the video records of the archives.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

NYTimes Op-ed Praises Begin-Sadat Peace

Mark Helprin, a fellow at the Claremont Institute, author of, among other works, “A Soldier of the Great War”, published an op-ed in today's New York Times.

Unfortunately, it minimizes the part played by Menachem Begin in the 1977-79 peace process with Egypt.

Here are the relevant excerpts:-

July 19, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
Forced to Get Along
Charlottesville, Va.

WHEN considering President Bush’s new plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, it would be wise to bear in mind that because political initiatives in the Middle East are cursed with such a high failure rate analysts sometimes use the odds as a substitute for craft. After Anwar Sadat’s spectacular trip to Jerusalem in November 1977, the press, mistaking cynicism for wisdom, was skeptical. After all, in the first 25 years of its existence, Israel had had to fight Egypt four times. But the past was no guide to the future, for in the last 30 years the peace of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat has been unbroken.

Yet, at the time, few people were able to see the way ahead even as it was clearly illuminated by the facts. Educated opinion was attentive to the vicissitudes of negotiation rather than to the structural imperatives that would eventually prevail. Nearly bankrupt, its population swelling, recently divorced from the Soviet Union, irrelevant to the third world and having reclaimed its honor by partial success in the 1973 war, Egypt was predictable. So were its rivals: a front of radical Arab states and the Palestinians.

Israel and Egypt, knowing their interests and set upon their course, formed, as it were, the innermost of three concentric circles. Surrounding them was a second circle, the Arab rejectionists, which were divided, militarily weak, geographically separated and economically impotent. Except for the Soviet bloc, which did not have the agility to make up for its lack of position, the major powers that formed the outer circle were overwhelmingly in favor of rapprochement. And in the end, they used their combined strengths to break the middle circle of rejectionists against the solid center formed by the principals. A similar metaphysics has now emerged in the Middle East...

...If Israel and the Palestinian Authority can pursue a strategy of limited aims, concentrating on bilateral agreements rather than a single work of fallible grandeur, they may accomplish something on the scale of Sadat’s extraordinary démarche of 30 years ago. The odds are perhaps the best they have been since, and responsible governments should recognize them as the spur for appropriate action and risk.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Center Bulletin, Volume 3, Issue 39

Volume 3, Issue 39
July 11, 2007

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 301,167

Begin Center Reaches 300,000 Visitors

Last weekend, visitor number 300,000 entered the Begin Center and, in all probability, visited the museum. The Rohr Family Parashat HaShavua Program was in full swing with lecturer Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun teaching the Parasha. The Jerusalem International Film Festival had opened in the Sultan's Pool and the program started in the Begin Center and will continue throughout this week. Other events big and small were taking place in every available lecture room and seminar room. Large numbers of museum visitors were waiting to be ushered in to the main attraction of the building.

New Booklet Published By Begin Center

A very interesting and important new booklet (in English and in Hebrew) written by Ziv Rubinovitz, a research assistant at the Begin Center, was released last week. It is now on sale at a nominal price at the souvenir shop of the building.

"The Menachem Begin Heritage Center and Its Vicinity" tells the story of the unique, magnificent location on which the living memorial to Menachem Begin is built. It gives the historic background of the area, which goes back to the time of the First Temple, describes its roles in the days of the Second Temple and through the various phases of history, including the liberation of Jerusalem in September 1917 by the British forces led by Field Marshall the Viscount Allenby, and then of course the present time, when the magnificent building stands proudly in this historic vicinity. The booklet describes some of the features within the center. It was written a few years ago before other features were added. These will be included in subsequent editions.

Emunah College Fills The Center With Student Art

Emunah College, an art school in Jerusalem for religious women, is currently exhibiting the final projects of its Graphic Arts students. The projects range from a design for a youth club in Judea to labels for wine bottles to illustrations for poems, and will be on display until July 19.

Emunah College was involved in a project at the Begin Center earlier in the year, in which students were invited to design t-shirts relating to Menachem Begin. The designs were displayed in the Center's lobby, where visitors were invited to vote on their favorite design. The winner of the contest, which received coverage in Israeli newspapers like Makor Rishon, will be announced tomorrow, and a t-shirt featuring her design will be available in the souvenir shop at the Begin Center.

A Visit From Tel Aviv VIPs

A small group of distinguished public figures from Tel Aviv visited the Begin Center last Friday. The visit was initiated by Mr. Etan Haber, a well-known journalist who was the director of the bureau of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. The group included Mr. and Mrs. David Kolitz, Mrs. Tal Lipkin-Shahak, Mr. Reuben – son of the famous painter Reuben Reuben – and Mrs. Esther Reuben, and several others. Although in their private lives some of them had disagreed with Menachem Begin, they were impressed by the building and the representation of the life and works and achievements of Menachem Begin. The group was received by the Founder and President of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, Harry Hurwitz, and by the Chairman of the Center, Herzl Makov.

In Memoriam

Samuel Rothberg, the distinguished American Jewish leader, who played a major role in the establishment of the Israel Bonds organization and the development of the Hebrew University over many years, died last Saturday in Peoria, Illinois at the age of 97.

For many years, he served as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University. He established the Rothberg International School, the School for Overseas Students, and provided living accommodation for thousands of students.

Samuel Rothberg was a founder of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, and was a member of its International Board. Prime Minister Menachem Begin appreciated his devotion to the Jewish people in all respects, and told his associates time and again: "Whatever Sam asks, please do for him."

Samuel Rothberg is survived by his wife Jean, his children Heidi, Kathy, Michael and Patrick, and his six grandchildren. We extend our heartfelt condolences to all the family.


· Mr. David Moffson from Johannesburg and his assistant\companion Solly and Mr. Moffson's son Mike from New York toured the museum and met with Harry Hurwitz.

· Professor Kenneth Stein of Emory University, Atlanta, who had been among President Carter's close assistants and participated in the development of the Carter Center, paid a brief, private visit to the Begin Center last Friday. He is today a foremost critic of Carter's policy and attitude to Israel, Zionism and Begin.

· Mr. Benni Penzig of Ramat HaSharon and a friend visited the Begin Center and met with Harry Hurwitz. They then toured the Menachem Begin Museum. The Penzig family was very active in the Zionist Revisionist Organization in Pretoria, South Africa for many years.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Center Bulletin 3 No. 38

Volume 3, Issue 38
July 4, 2007

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 298,655

Begin Center Hosts Film Festival

The 24th Jerusalem International Film Festival opens at the Sultan's pool on Thursday July 5, and will continue until Saturday July 14. Hundreds of films from Israel and abroad will be screened in different venues around the city, including the Reuben Hecht Auditorium of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, which, in recent years, has proved to be a popular venue. There are specific facilities for entry to the auditorium without having to go through other sections of the building. Around the auditorium there is ample lobby space for pre-screening time and intervals.

This year, about 40 films will be screened in the Begin Center Auditorium.

An Evening Of Poetry By Uri Tzvi Greenberg

On Monday, July 2, an anthology of poetry by Uri Tzvi Greenberg was launched in the Reuben Hecht Auditorium of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. Over 200 people, including renowned poets Chaim Guri and Meron Isaacson, attended the launching of the book, which features previously unpublished poems by the man who was once considered Israel's national poet.

The event began with opening remarks by former Minister of Education Aharon Yadlin, who spoke of his admiration of Uri Tzvi Greenberg as one of Israel's greatest poets and praised his connection to Judaism and the national spirit of Israel.

The audience was greeted on behalf of the Begin Center by Herzl Makov. Geula Cohen, director of the Uri Tzvi Greenberg Institute, told of the great friendship between the poet and Menachem Begin, calling them "the prophet and the leader." She praised the combination of the Begin Center and Greenberg's poetry, saying that Begin would have approved of using his Center as a place of culture.

In addition, Dr. Ariel Hirschfeld, Professor Dan Meron and Dr. Aliza Korev addressed the audience, discussing the Uri Tzvi Greenberg's influence on modern Hebrew poetry and Israel's cultural life. Poetry was read by Dan Kanner, and musical interludes were played by Yonatan Niv and Asaf Kleinman.

L-R: Aliza Tur-Malka Greenberg, the poet's widow; Dr. Ariel Hirschfeld; Dr. Aliza Korev; Aharon Yadlin, Head of Mossad Bialik Publishing House; Mich Yinon, Head of Ministry of Education's Cultural Directorate.

and part of the evening's audience:

ACLJ Visits the Begin Center

Last week, a group of 300 activists from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a prominent evangelical lobby headed by J. Sekulav, visited the Begin Center as a part of their mission to Israel. The group saw a movie about Menachem Begin and was addressed by Harry Hurwitz, founder of the Menachem Begin Memorial Project, about Begin's role in history.

Mr. Hurwitz told the visitors that the best tourist guidebook for Israel is the Bible. "Every step of the way, one realizes that this is for real," he said. He told them that minutes away from the Begin Center are the roads to Bethlehem and Hebron, with their deep historic meaning, and across the valley is David's tomb and tower, as well as Mt. Zion and all of the thousands of years of history in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The activists also heard a lecture by Brigadier General Relik Shafir, one of the pilots sent to destroy the nuclear reactor in Iraq. He told them about the flight and its dangers, and showed them a video clip filmed from the plane, which shows the destruction of the reactor.

"A Jewish Child Shall Not Lack For Bread"

Once again, there are strong indications that the price of bread will be increased in Israel by 8%, as the state budget is reduced. This prompted a number of TV radio and print commentators to recall the attitude of Menachem Begin as leader of the Opposition and as Prime Minister. The well-known economic expert, Oded Shachar, said on a previous occasion when such an increase was contemplated, that Menachem Begin always opposed raising the price of bread.

"This especially reminded me," Shachar explained, "that the late Menachem Begin opposed raising the price of bread even during the years of inflation. He said 'A Jewish child shall not lack for bread,' and he did not permit the price of bread to be raised. He was very firm on this matter."

In the Menachem Begin museum, a brief commentary in the presentation of his years in premiership says that Begin's approach to the economy was based on the common man: "He may not have known the price of a motor-car or of an apartment, but he certainly knew the price of a loaf of bread."

Louis H. Reich Honored

The Beit Midrash Menachem at the Begin Center was full with members of the staff and some visitors to the building last Wednesday morning, when the yahrzeit of the late Louis H. Reich of Scranton, PA was observed. The founder of the Menachem Begin Memorial Project, Harry Hurwitz, spoke meaningfully of Louis H. Reich and his wife, Anna Reich, who had survived him by a number of years, the parents of Al Reich, who particularly wanted the annual memorial prayers to be recited in the Beit Midrash Menachem. Hurwitz said that Al Reich was truly fulfilling the commandment to "honor thy father and thy mother."

Yisrael Medad, the director of information and educational resources at the Begin Center, recited the appropriate prayers for the departed and led the congregation in the public presentation of Kaddish.

In Memoriam

We deeply regret to record the death at the end of last week of Mr. Maurice Wohl, husband of the late Vivienne Wohl. They were originally from London and Geneva, and lived in Jerusalem for some time. He was president of the Great Synagogue in the capital city.

Mr. and Mrs. Wohl were early members of the International Board of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation. They admired Israel's great Prime Minister very much.


Mr. and Mrs. Jack Carlin of Jerusalem and their son Ira Carlin of New York visited the Center and were briefed by its founder, Harry Hurwitz.