Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 11

Volume 4, Issue 11
December 26, 2007

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 353,290

On the Road to Jerusalem

Those entering Jerusalem these days from various directions can see on the side of the roads large posters portraying Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat to advertise the NO MORE WAR exhibition which is currently on display at the Begin Center.

It has already attracted a large number of visitors who have come especially to view it and to study it.

The exhibition opening coincided with the 30th anniversary of the visit to Jerusalem of Anwar Sadat at the invitation of Prime Minister Menachem Begin on Saturday evening November 19, 1977. This started the unique peace process which concluded with the signing of the first ever Peace Treaty with an Arab State, in this case the largest, most populous and strongest which had been at war with Israel five times with large numbers of casualties on both sides.

The Peace Treaty proclaims in its Preamble "the termination of the state of war" between the two countries.

The Begin Center has planned various activities over the next few years to highlight the peace process at special events and with special publications of books and brochures.

To Your Health

This has been a health week at the Begin Center. At the end of last week, the Ministry of Health held an all-day seminar in the Reuben Hecht Auditorium to deal with current problems in Israel's health services.

This week the Refuah Institute is holding a 2-day seminar on Torah Psychology and Medicine at the Menachem Begin Conference Center, as they describe it in their announcements.

The conference will be opened by Prof. Joshua Ritchie to be followed by Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau. Among 36 outstanding speakers who are doctors and rabbis will also be Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D. of Harvard University.

The Reuben Hecht Auditorium where the seminar will be held is expected to be full with doctors from Israel and abroad.

Mazal Tov

We heartily congratulate Eric and Suzy Graus, who, with many members of their family, were in Jerusalem to celebrate the wedding of their granddaughter, Leora to David. Following the wedding, the Grauses celebrated a sheva brachot festive dinner in Jerusalem where a number of their long-time friends from various stages of the Herut movemen t's life were present.

In Memoriam—Shia Gartner

We deeply regret to record the death in Antwerp last week of Mr. Shia Gartner, life-long member of the Jabotinsky movement and staunch supporter of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. In fact, he was of the same age as Menachem Begin. They grew up together in the Betar movement in Warsaw and were close personal friends for many years.

When the Begin Center was built, Shia Gartner, his family and friends made a significant contribution and dedicated the Warsaw section of the museum telling the story of Menachem Begin's life. Speaking for a minute on the video in the museum (in Yiddish) Gartner said that from the beginning he felt that Menachem Begin was "a young man with great charisma who w ould go far in the movement and in the history of the Jewish People."

Gartner had been ill for a number of years and died last Thursday at the age of 94. He is survived by his wife, Adele, his daughter Kouky and her husband Armand Frohmann, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

May his memory be a blessing.


Mr. Mort Zuckerbrod of Cedarhurst, New York, friend and partner of Mr. Harry Taubenfeld in their law office, visited the Begin Center this week and was most impressed by the architecture of the building and the cultural and educational content. In various capacities he has visited a number of the Presidential Libraries in the US and he considered the Begin Center to be much superior to them. He was received by Harry Hurwitz, Founder and President, who briefed him on the present state of the Begin Center and future plans.

* * * * *

Dov and Lara Mowszowski of Sydney, Australia, and their four daughters visited the Begin Center and judged the museum a very special and important feature. Dov is the son of Zalman and Aviva Mowszowski who also live in Sydney. The four daughters Talia, Rachel (who recently celebrated her Bat Mitzvah), Nadia and Nicci found the museum tour most interesting.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Gracias to Granados

Following the mention a a previous Center Bulletin of Garcia Granados, we wihs to highlight his activity by reprinting a small portion of his questioning of the then Mandat officials regarding immigration:-

Mr. GARCIA GRANADOS (Guatemala): What does the Palestine Government understand by illegal immigration? Are they those who enter contrary to the provisions of the White Paper of the United Kingdom Government, or those who enter in contravention of the Mandate given to the United Kingdom Government by the League of Nations which we understand binds the United Kingdom Government?

Sir Henry GURNEY [Secretary of Mandate Government] : We, like every other country, control immigration.

Mr. GARCIA GRANADOS (Guatemala): The United Kingdom Government has a Mandate from the League of Nations. Are illegal immigrants those who enter in contravention of the Mandate?

Sir Henry GURNEY : The Mandate is not a law. The Mandate is a document.

Mr. GARCIA GRANADOS (Guatemala): There was a Covenant. Is it illegal to violate the Covenant?

The CHAIRMAN : What do you understand by an illegal immigrant?

Sir Henry GURNEY : They are people who attempt to enter Palestine contrary to the laws of Palestine, and the laws of Palestine are made under the Order in Council which set up the Government to administer Palestine in execution of the Mandate.

Mr.GARCIA GRANADOS (Guatemala): I understood that the Mandate, instead of forbidding immigration, tried to encourage it.

The CHAIRMAN : You have got the answer. It is immigration which takes place against the laws of Palestine.

1 Mr. BLOM (Netherlands): In the immigration figures for 1946, there are 2,800 neither Jews nor Arabs but classified as "others" on Page 17 of the Supplement.

Sir Henry GURNEY : Those are Armenians, Greeks, Egyptians, British, French, Americans.

Mr. LISICKY (Czechoslovakia): Temporarily?

Sir Henry GURNEY : Yes.

Mr. BLOM (Netherlands): What is the policy in giving certificates for immigration? I mean, have the Jews any priority over Greeks or any other nations?

Sir Henry GURNEY : The policy is that a monthly quota is fixed by the Government under the immigration laws, and the monthly quota at the moment is 1700, of which 1500 certificates go to Jews and 200 to others, including Arabs, Americans, British, etc. There are 200 permanent immigration certificates open to everybody.

The CHAIRMAN : We read that there were 1,439 in 1945 and 2,800 in 1946 classified as "others". That is above the figure of 200 just mentioned.

Sir Henry GURNEY : I am talking about the , present rate.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Article on Avi Shilon's New Begin Biography

From rabble-rouser to recluse
By Gidi Weitz

The portrait of a lean man with an overbite and thin hair, self-described as "ugly," was circulated throughout the Yishuv, the pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine. The "Season," as it was dubbed, was at its height - the "hunting season," in which the organized Yishuv pursued activists of the underground organizations Irgun and Lehi. And the most-wanted man, Menachem Begin, commander-in-chief of the Irgun, was hiding out on Habashan Street in Tel Aviv, disguised as a rabbi named Yisrael Sassover. With him in the small apartment were his wife, Aliza, their firstborn son, Benny, and the Irgun operations officer, Eitan Livni, father of the current foreign minister.

The two fugitives whiled away the time playing chess. The year was 1944, and across Tel Aviv the Haganah - forerunner of the Israel Defense Forces - and the British security forces were rounding up Irgun members. Some of them were turned over to the British, who exiled them to East Africa; others were incarcerated in detention rooms that had been prepared on kibbutzim. Eliahu Tavin, the Irgun's chief intelligence official, was being held in a cave in Kibbutz Mishmar Haemek, where his Haganah captors pulled out his teeth, forced him to sit in his own excrement and pretended they were going to hang him. Those who escaped urged Begin to carry out potent reprisals. He refused vehemently: "I will never lend a hand to a war of brothers," he said.

Livni did not like the commander's passive stance. Four months after the start of the Season, he reported to Begin that members of Irgun were planning to abduct the head of the Jewish Agency's Political Department, Moshe Sharett, and one of the top people in Shai, the Haganah intelligence service, Ephraim Krassner.

"We have them under surveillance," Livni said. "We have suffered enough. The people can't take it." Begin, who had not been informed about the surveillance, was taken aback. He realized that his leadership was being challenged. It was an acute dilemma. If he refused, his revenge-hungry comrades were liable to revolt against him.

"It will not end well," he said to Livni, in an effort to dissuade him. "There will be no containing the passions and the cruelty." To which Livni replied, "If we don't decide to act, someone will do it on his own."

Begin suggested that Livni put the matter to a vote among the ranking Irgun commanders. The operation was rejected by a majority of one. Livni, though, kept pressing, until Begin offered a compromise: "I suggest we collect a hundred people, seize part of the Old City of Jerusalem, and raise our flag. We will fall there to the last man, but no one will be able to say that the Irgun did not fulfill its mission."

The suicide initiative stunned Livni. He took it as positive proof of the chief's unstable mental state. "I will refuse to carry out that command," he told Begin.

"Eitan," Begin retorted, "will you disobey me? Will you receive a command from me and refuse to execute it?"

"It is no simple matter to refuse you," Livni said, "but in any case you will never be able to collect a hundred people."

After that, the relations between the two palled somewhat, and Livni found a different place to hide. Begin remained faithful to his principles. Four years later, his cohorts wanted to take revenge for the sinking of the Irgun weapons ship Altalena. One of them suggested assassinating the nascent country's leader, David Ben-Gurion, who had given the order to fire at the ship. Begin went to the man's home and told him, "If you want to kill Jews, shoot me first."

"Begin bears tremendous responsibility for the success of the Zionist project," says the journalist Avi Shilon, who has just published a thick biography, ("Begin, 1913-1992," Am Oved publishers) the first comprehensive account of Begin's life (in Hebrew). "Let's take the last event that could have led to a civil war, the disengagement [from Gaza]. The settlers talked about the Altalena and about a new Season. What is Begin's ethos in this context? It is perfectly straightforward: there must not be a civil war. If someone different had headed the opposition on the eve of the state's establishment, things might well have slid into serious violence. Amid this, you can see how the suicide initiative that Begin suggested to Livni illustrates his flirtation with death."

Shilon, 32, is the editor of the op-ed section in the free paper "Yisrael Hayom" ("Israel Today") and holds an MA in the history of the Jewish people. He spent five years working on the complicated biographical project. In the history of Israeli politics, there does not seem to have been a more complex and multifaceted personality than Begin. "I come from a home with a deep Zionist consciousness," Shilon explains, "and when I was studying Jewish history, Begin's story riveted me, because it had not yet really been told from start to finish. I think Begin was the last ideological leader. Already in his own time he was a rare story, alluring in his peculiarity. The paradox between the orator to the masses at his peak and the thundering silence in his declining years is enough by itself to pique one's curiosity. The drama surrounding him is tremendous."

Isn't this too weighty a task for a young fellow?

"When you're serious, being young is just an advantage. At my age, Begin was already commander of the Irgun. For the biography, I made use of journalistic tools and was also meticulous about the academic tools and rules I acquired. As one who belongs to a generation that is supposedly non-ideological, I came to understand what a highly charged subject Begin remains. Precisely because of that, I felt I had an unalloyed perspective, a clearer view than the heavy, obscuring freight that is carried by Begin's contemporaries and their written materials."

The book is a first attempt to trace Begin's life from his childhood in Brest-Litovsk, Russia (now Belarus) to his enigmatic, self-imposed isolation on Tzemach Street in Jerusalem. Much of the book is devoted to the young Begin, particularly the period when he led the Irgun. For the section on Begin's period as prime minister, Shilon did not have access to the minutes of the cabinet meetings, which are still classified. He tried to complete the picture by means of interviews, some of which he conducted himself and others that were conducted for him by the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. He also consulted books, newspapers and other archival material. One of his achievements is an interview with Benny Begin, Menachem Begin's son, who since leaving politics has shunned the media.

Two years ago, Dr. Ofer Grosbard's book "Menachem Begin: Portrait of a Leader," infuriated Benny Begin with its psychological interpretation of his father. In response, he decided to cooperate with Shilon. "Benny Begin is an honest person," Shilon says. "He helped me shed light on other intimate aspects of his father's life, even though the conversation with him was confined to concrete matters. This biography in no way represents his opinion. I know that he was offered a million dollars to write his version, but is unwilling. He says that history should be written by historians and that members of the Begin family have no prerogatives."

Enhanced Immage

The passage of time has only enhanced Menachem Begin's image. In a poll conducted by the daily Maariv this year, he took first place, ahead of Ben-Gurion, in the ranking of Israel's prime ministers. In light of the protracted failure in negotiations with the Palestinians, the peace treaty with Egypt stands out as one of the wisest political decisions made by an Israeli leader, if not the wisest. His successors have also helped glorify his reputation. In contrast to Sycamore Ranch and the real estate transaction on Cremieux Street, it is refreshing to recall a prime minister whose confidants discovered that he did not have enough money to buy a home of his own after his retirement. Instead of political appointments in the civil service made by cabinet ministers, we have Begin's admirable response to the demands of his loyalists when he became prime minister: "I did not come to power in order to dole out jobs to members of the Irgun."

"Begin's pattern of leadership was the total opposite of Olmert's, say," Shilon notes. "He said: I am taking the entire burden on myself, and if I fail, I will flagellate myself as punishment. Begin would certainly have resigned in light of the findings of the Winograd Committee [examining the handling of the Second Lebanon War], and he would not likely have called on a battery of lawyers. It's not by chance that there has been a positive transformation about how he is regarded."

In the early days of the country, Begin's image was radically different. In December 1948 he was given a cool reception on his first visit to the United States as leader of the Herut party. An open letter published in The New York Times and signed by such luminaries as Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt, asserted that Herut resembled "Nazi and Fascist parties." Begin responded to the assault with humor: "It's true that Einstein is a genius of a type that is revealed once in a thousand years, but even so, I know more about mathematics than he does about politics."

In Israel, too, Begin encountered a similar attitude, as Shilon shows. "His eyes dart about and his thick upper lip trembles like an animal that is about to make an intoxicated charge at the blood," the publicist Arye Gelblum wrote in Haaretz, which at the time often likened Begin to Mussolini. In the 1960s, Ben-Gurion wrote to the poet Haim Gouri: "Begin is a saliently Hitlerite type, racist ... For him, all means justify the sacred end: absolute power ... The first time I ever heard a speech by Begin, on the radio, I heard the voice and the ranting of Hitler."

The abusive characterization was accompanied by special treatment, Shilon says. Begin claimed that the Shin Bet - the secret service - had him under surveillance. "On one occasion, when he was delivering a speech in the Knesset, he pointed up to the gallery and said, 'You, you who are following me.' People thought he was a bit off his rocker, but I believe he really was followed. It's true that he overdid it a little during a demonstration in the 1950s, when he pointed to a passing plane and said to the crowd, 'Let's wave hello to it.'"

It is not clear what the authorities feared. "Begin made an immense contribution to the crystallization of parliamentary democracy in Israel," Shilon maintains, and illustrates this extensively in the book. In the 1950s, when Ben-Gurion was going to order the Shin Bet to arrest the muckraking journalist and peace activist Uri Avnery, Begin warned Shin Bet head Isser Harel that he would "raise an outcry" if a journalist were arrested because of his opinions. When Prime Minister Golda Meir sent Shin Bet agents to the offices of cabinet ministers in an effort to find out which of them was leaking information to the press, Begin unceremoniously kicked them out. "In a democracy, the secret services do not have the right to supervise the government," he said. When he was elected prime minister, he told the Shin Bet chief, Avraham Ahituv: "I forbid you to use torture."

Even during the turbulent demonstrations against him during the Lebanon War, he adamantly rejected the importuning of the interior minister, Yosef Burg, to order the police to remove Peace Now activists, who posted a daily body count of Israeli soldiers outside his residence. "It is their democratic right," he said. During his years as a recluse, he urged his protege, Dan Meridor, who was then the justice minister, to complete the enactment of the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom.

Shilon: "He coined the phrase 'the holy ballot' in the first Knesset elections, in reaction to Ben-Gurion's term 'the holy cannon' for the weapon that fired on the Altalena. Israel Eldad [a right-wing ideologue] ridiculed Begin: 'How can you attribute holiness to a ballot?' After the state's establishment, Begin, who was then in a certain sense the leader of a gang - ideologically, that is - brought about immediate participation in the democratic game. In 1963 he suggested the annulment of the Military Government over Israel's Arab population, and he later called for the territories to be annexed and citizenship to be granted to the Palestinians. For dramatic decisions such as the bombing of the reactor in Iraq he had a majority in the cabinet, but he waited for a bigger majority. He waited in Lebanon, too.

"He had deep respect for the judicial system," Shilon continues. When he was prime minister and the High Court of Justice rejected construction at [the proposed West Bank settlement] Elon Moreh, his reaction was 'There are judges in Jerusalem.' It was not by chance that what broke him was the conclusions reached by the Kahan Commission of Inquiry after the Lebanon War. He took it very seriously when judicial accusations were hurled at him. There was none of the Yitzhak Rabin thing of 'Without the High Court and without B'Tselem,'" referring to the human rights organization.

Would he have appointed Daniel Friedmann justice minister?

"No way. One of Begin's most intrinsic traits was respect for the law and for the judicial system."

If he was so democratic, why did everyone call him a fascist?

"Drama was built into Begin's rhetoric and mannerisms, and the dramatic rhetoric made it possible to depict him as a fascist. Of course, his fiery speeches and the violent demonstration in the wake of the Reparations Agreement [with Germany] also played a part in creating that image." The demonstration Shilon refers to, held at the beginning of 1952, shows that the image was not groundless. On that occasion, as in his rabble-rousing speeches in the 1981 election campaign, Begin did not demonstrate exemplary civic behavior. "Ben-Gurion, the little dictator and the big maniac ... Based on reports we have just received, Mr. Ben-Gurion has stationed policemen with grenades and tear gas, which suffocated our forefathers, and he has prisons and concentration camps!" Begin shouted to a crowd of thousands in the center of Jerusalem. Hundreds of demonstrators then ran to the Knesset building - at the time located close by - and threw stones that smashed windows and landed in the plenum chamber. Yosef Burg urged Ben-Gurion to run for his life. Ben-Gurion refused: "If I leave, it will be the end of the Israeli parliament."

Shilon believes that precisely that demonstration, which at the time appeared to have the potential to end Begin's career (he was suspended from Knesset activity for three months after that), was actually the first step toward his achievement of power a quarter of a century later.

"Paradoxically, that demonstration shaped Begin as a serious opposition force who challenged Mapai [the ruling party, forerunner of Labor]," Shilon says.

Truth and responsibility

Before his victory in 1977, Begin had run for prime minister eight times. Of all the reasons that brought about Labor's removal from power after 29 years - the Yom Kippur War, the abhorrence of Mapai, the awakening of the Mizrahim (Jews of North African and Middle Eastern origin) - Shilon casts the spotlight on the Six-Day War a decade earlier. The fact that the scorned opposition leader was brought into Levi Eshkol's government as a minister without portfolio on the eve of the war, softened his public image. Begin in fact displayed restraint and judiciousness as war loomed.

Shilon: "He suggested sending an emissary of the Mossad [espionage agency] to Europe in order to try to delay the war a few days. Now, on the eve of the battle, Begin, who from the first years had preached that Israel must conquer the territories on both sides of the Jordan, did not dare push for war. This is another example of the polarity between rhetoric and practice."

Begin was always a man of grandiose ideas, some of which were somewhat surrealist, to say the least. Shilon reveals that in the Yom Kippur War, Begin suggested to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, of which he was a member, that the IDF invade Damascus "with tanks flying the Israeli flag, load all the members of the Jewish community on them, and bring them to Israel." Part of the secret of his charm lay in the fact that behind the personality of the larger-than-life leader, whom many admired and just as many reviled, lay a simple, modest Pole, an ordinary Jew. It wasn't just the fact that he was the commander of the Israel Military Organization (the Irgun), yet did not know how to fire a pistol. When Egyptian President Anwar Sadat declared to the parliament in Cairo that he was ready to go to the Knesset, Shilon discloses, Begin and Aliza were watching a movie on television, as they did every Saturday evening. (Begin was also an avid fan of the long-running series "Dallas" and even hosted its stars in the Prime Minister's Bureau.)

A leader led

Some analysts believe that Begin was cajoled into signing the peace treaty with Egypt by his foreign minister and his defense minister, Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weizman, respectively. "I don't accept that," Shilon says. "In 1975, at the Herut convention, Begin stated explicitly, 'We will be able to make concessions in Sinai.' And in any event, the ground for the agreement with Egypt was paved earlier. After all, Sadat had wanted to meet with Golda Meir, too, but she refused, and a similar attempt was made through [Romanian ruler Nicolae] Ceausescu. At the same time, it seems to me that in some cases Begin, perhaps because of his psychic makeup, wanted to be led. After the peace treaty, the Foreign Ministry prepared a document to mark the event, stating that the Begin government had decided to dismantle settlements. He saw the official document, had it stopped, and said, 'No, it was the Knesset that voted to dismantle the settlements.' What is the Knesset? It is him. In the same way he chose Dayan and Weizman as foreign and defense ministers. He knew what they wanted and where it would lead. The fact is that after the treaty with the Egyptians, when he wanted to prevent an agreement with the Palestinians, he brought about the departure of Dayan and Weizman. He knew when he wanted to be led and when he didn't."

In place of the moderate duo, Begin appointed two extremists, Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon, as foreign minister and defense minister, respectively. The songs of peace were abandoned in favor of the guns of Lebanon, and Begin's second term, in marked contrast to his first, was a failure. Still, there were moments of pure fantasy. Shilon quotes a conversation that Begin had with the GOC Northern Command, Avigdor Ben Gal, in 1981, in which he proposed a solution for the problem of the Katyusha rockets that were being fired into Israel from Lebanon: "We will go in, seize the bearded one [Yasser Arafat], remove him from the bunker and put him on trial in Jerusalem, just like Eichmann."

Asked whether Sharon deceived Begin in the Lebanon War, Benny Begin and Begin's longtime personal secretary, Yehiel Kadishai, offered conflicting replies. Kadishai is convinced that Begin was not misled by Sharon, whereas Benny Begin believes there is no doubt that Sharon deceived his father. Shilon is inclined to adopt a dialectical approach: "Sharon did deceive Begin, if you view it like Benny - in other words, literally. Begin wrote to [U.S. President Ronald] Reagan that the operation would be halted after Israel advanced 40 kilometers into Lebanon, he made a similar statement in the Knesset, and he also told his wife, on the first day of the war: 'I am going into the bunker for 48 hours and then coming back home.' On the other hand, if you examine the development of the Lebanon War like a lawyer, you will find it very difficult to prove that Sharon deceived Begin, because Sharon made sure to get authorizations for all the operations - except that he got some of them after the fact and also on the basis of military constraints which he claimed were due to developments on the ground."

If your theory about Begin's awareness of being led by others is correct, then clearly he understood what Sharon was up to.

"Begin knew who Sharon was when he appointed him. He was warned: Sharon will drag you into Lebanon, be careful of him. Moshe Dayan told him that as he lay dying of cancer, in their last meeting. Simha Ehrlich [a senior cabinet minister] told him so, and Begin himself said it: 'This man is dangerous; he will end up surrounding my office with tanks.' He agonized over whether to appoint Sharon defense minister. So the question here pertains to responsibility and not to truth, and here my feeling is that this was the answer Begin gave to himself. Someone with a sense of responsibility as highly developed as Begin's could not give himself any other answer. In his years as a recluse, when he was willing to talk about Sharon, he said, 'You know, Sharon was afraid of me.' By which he meant that Sharon was afraid of him when he entered politics. In other words, Sharon was once afraid of me, but was not afraid of me in the Lebanon War."

The downfall

The Lebanon War vanquished Begin and threw him into a deep melancholy from which he never emerged for the rest of his life. Shilon traces the depressive elements in Begin's personality back to his period as head of the Irgun. Even in the 1940s, Eliahu Lankin, who was the commander of the organization in Jerusalem, described Begin's mood swings. Israel Eldad related that in periods of pressure, Begin went into a "decline, and then he would grow insular and want to leave and resign."

A case in point is Begin's behavior after the sinking of the Altalena off the coast of Tel Aviv in June 1948. Begin disappeared from the area and wandered about the streets of Tel Aviv, silent, without his eyeglasses, which were lost in the sea, but "with the outcries of the wounded and the chaotic scene resonating in his ears," as Shilon writes. Again, after his defeat in the 1951 elections he became deeply gloomy, resigned as leader of the movement and went to Italy for a few weeks. This is a mysterious episode in his past, and Shilon, too, is unable to solve the riddle; he only mentions the rumor according to which Begin was hospitalized in a Swiss sanatorium for depression.

Was it the death of his beloved wife, even more than the Lebanon war, that finally broke him? Aliza is portrayed in the book as a figure who provided the equilibrium for her husband's mental fluctuations. As early as the 1940s, when Begin would tell her about his path from childhood in Brest-Litovsk to command of the Irgun and ask with great emotion, "Did you read in the paper what they wrote about us?" she would interrupt him: "Menachem, someone has to clean the house." "She was very familiar with the fall that followed the leap," Shilon says.

The coupled lived a modest life, and monasticism was evident in their personalities as well: both found it difficult to speak intimately about themselves. "Those around him noticed that when he found himself in a personal conversation, he tended to become bored quickly and retreat into himself," Shilon notes. "Aliza was no different. She never expressed weakness to her guests and acquaintances, and like her husband preferred to focus in conversation on the nation, the ideological path and the 'fighting family'" - meaning the Irgun.

Begin was on an official visit to the United States when Aliza died. He never forgave himself for not having been at her side. "When he got the news, I said to my wife immediately, 'This is the end, he will not be same person,'" recalls Begin's adviser, Harry Hurwitz. Batya Eldad, the wife of Israel Eldad, said Begin's decline was due to the fact that "Aliza wasn't there to push and tell him, 'Don't cry for yourself.'"

Was it Aliza's death that made his last bout of depression so acute?

Shilon: "In my opinion, the depression was not caused by Aliza's death. After the mourning period, he resumed vigorous activity. I think the conclusions of the Kahan Commission, after the Sabra and Chatilla massacre [perpetrated in September 1982 in two Beirut refugee camps by Israel's Christian allies with IDF troops stationed in the area], was the major catalyst in his decline. At the beginning of the war, Begin justified it on moral grounds: I am going to save the Christians, he said. He didn't talk only about the Katyushas and about liquidating the PLO.

"In the final analysis, the Kahan Commission's conclusions can be understood as imposing responsibility for the massacre on his government. The commission likened the massacre to the pogroms perpetrated against Jews. You can imagine what a comparison like that, and made by judges, did to someone like Begin, whose historical consciousness was based so powerfully on the perception of the Jews as victims. That was the start of the breaking point."

Shilon has much to tell about the period in which Begin was a "present absentee" due to his depression. In discussions he led, it was evident that "only his body was in the room," Yosef Burg said. Begin's military secretary, Azriel Nevo, related that when he sent him classified material it would "return without a reaction. Sometimes I needed concrete things, so I would phone him, and he would say, 'Listen, use your judgment. If it looks all right to you, then it's all right.' In practice, we did all the work."

His condition was kept secret from the Israeli public, but Washington suspected that something strange was going on in Jerusalem after Begin repeatedly postponed an urgent meeting with Reagan. Kadishai, Begin's secretary, who did all he could to restore Begin's spirits, suggested that he hold a few rallies, believing that the love of the masses would cheer him up. Begin refused. "You can't force someone to laugh," he said.

His condition worsened apace. At a meeting of Northern Command officers he fell asleep before the discussion began, and the embarrassed officers tried to wake him up. Even the state president, Yitzhak Navon, was appalled. "One day he comes to give me a report," Navon told Shilon, "and I hear him mixing up dates and people and events, with Yehiel Kadishai constantly correcting him: 'No, it's not like that, it's like this, do you remember?' But there was no way to hide it. I said: The man is not functioning and is not focused; he is mixing up dates and mixing up events. Afterward, this was confirmed by ministers."

"He was in a state of total apathy," Shilon sums up. "I am not a psychologist, and I don't want to get involved in defining what it was, because he was never examined. The most accurate description is: Begin was a paralyzed prime minister. He sat in his office and ate crackers with tea and lemon and did not speak, simply did not speak. The cabinet secretary at the time, Dan Meridor, relates that Miriam Gross, the mother of the captured soldier Yosske Gross, came to Begin's office, lay down on the floor and cried: 'Start talking with the PLO. Start talking with the PLO already.' Begin was in a hurry to get to another meeting and didn't know what to do. He didn't want to leave the room with the woman on the floor, crying. He went into a state of paralysis. It reached a state in which [Moshe] Arens, the defense minister, called him and he didn't want to talk to him - to the defense minister!"

On one of his last days in office, Begin read an op-ed piece by Yoel Marcus in Haaretz stating that the country was in a catastrophic situation. Meridor entered, and to his surprise Begin said, "What to do, Marcus is right." Not long afterward he resigned, unable even to muster sufficient energy to meet with the president and give him the letter of resignation. Shilon: "That was a shock to Dan Meridor - that Begin was not capable of going to the president."

In August 1983, two years into his second term, Begin went home, leaving a badly conflicted country, bleeding from a war he had initiated, worn out from a social clash he had cultivated between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, and groaning under spiraling inflation and an out-of-control economic policy.

"Begin had wanted to resign earlier, but was dissuaded," Shilon reveals. "There is testimony by Kadishai that Begin said to him, 'Enough, enough,' and Kadishai replied, 'What's the rush?' Dan Meridor felt what was happening, but asked himself, 'Who could be better than Begin?' When Begin was supposed to travel to Washington to meet with Reagan but was simply unable to, Meridor came to him and said, 'Listen, prime minister, you have to go, it is out of the question not to go.' Begin replied, 'That's right, it is out of the question for a prime minister not to go to meet with the president of the United States,' and said no more. In retrospect, Meridor understood that what Begin had told him was: That's right, I can no longer be prime minister."

Did Meridor regret trying to persuade him to stay on?

"No. Meridor says, and with much justice, that when he looked around he saw no one of Begin's stature. Meridor and Kadishai truly lived the Begin myth. I asked Aryeh Naor [Begin's first cabinet secretary]: You see a man who is done for, paralyzed, and you don't tell him, 'Mr. Begin, take a holiday, you look a bit down to me?' Naor replied: 'There is no such thing as talking to Begin like that.'"

His confidants rented a place for him on Tzemach Street in Jerusalem's Yefei Nof neighborhood, and Begin lived a reclusive life there until his death nine years later. Shilon: "In the first years, Begin was very depressed. He did not get out of bed for whole days. He received people who were close to him in pajamas in bed and he read a great many books. Mostly he listened. When his former military secretary, Azriel Nevo, came to update him about Operation Moses [which brought thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel], Begin asked two or three questions and that was all. Nevo had prepared himself and wanted to talk to him about his depression, but Begin said, 'Thank you very much for coming.' That was a basic sentence in those years."

Did he leave anything in writing from those years?

"Nothing - even though he had promised he would. He said he already knew the number of pages - 2,000 - of the book he was going to write, to be entitled 'From Holocaust to Revival.' People tried everything. They told him, 'Someone else will write it instead,' 'Just speak into a tape recorder.' He never said no, he always said, 'Soon, in a bit, this isn't the time.' I would say that this is self-reproach underpinned by integrity: I will not write the history now, when I don't have a happy ending, when I don't have my plan, when I know I faltered."

Haim Lazar''s Diary entries from HaUmmah

Tom Segev's article in Haaretz:

Begin's betrayal

Abba Kovner was a poet and a Mapam party activist who was admired by
many, one reason being his activity as a partisan commander in World War II. In May, 1961, Kovner appeared as one of the witnesses for the prosecution in the Eichmann trial. His testimony left a strong impression and was one of the formative moments in shaping the memory and the legacy of the Holocaust.

But Kovner's testimony also reflected a struggle that was entirely a matter of passions and politics - the struggle over historical glory. The prime minister was David Ben-Gurion; the opposition leader was Menachem Begin. Kovner, as well as Zivia Lubetkin and Yitzhak Zuckerman, were allowed to give the Labor Movement credit for heroism, including the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The role of the Revisionists was

During Kovner's testimony, one of the veterans of the Herut movement, Haim Lazar, who was also one of the partisans, was present in the courtroom. Upon his return home he wrote in his diary: "Abba Kovner's testimony, as could have been expected, was a song of praise to himself and his associates. He turned the entire underground into a family-party issue. He did everything: wrote the 'first poster in the world' calling for resistance, organized the underground and headed it, stood at the head of the partisan brigades in the forests and carried out innumerable acts of heroism. And of course - I and I alone." Lazar considered Kovner's testimony a show.

Lazar and Kovner were in the Vilna Ghetto. According to Lazar, the underground organization was prepared for an uprising and was awaiting Kovner's order: "The order was delayed and in the end was not given at all because he, Kovner, had to remain alive for the sake of history."

Lazar made a living as director of the central committee of the Leumit health maintenance organization. He promoted his worldview as a historian: In his books he restored to the right-wingers their part in the nation's glory. His complaints can be found among thousands of diary pages. His daughter, historian Sarah Lazar, is now publishing several of its pages.

The emotional turmoil in Lazar's diary is not directed only against the left, but also against the leader of his party, Menachem Begin: Begin is portrayed as an opportunistic politician, who did not mean what he said even when he spoke about the Holocaust. Lazar says that he also took no interest in efforts to engrave in the Israeli memory the part played by the members of Betar in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising,
because he did not participate in it. Begin left the city a few days after the Nazis invaded Poland in September, 1939, and Lazar never forgave him for that:

"I once again mentioned the fact that all the leaders fled from Poland with the outbreak of the war and left the masses, both those who were organized and ordinary Jews, to the sighs and reversals of fate, without any guidance and advice in those difficult times. I particularly criticized the leaders of the Zionist Revisionists and Betar, who more than anyone else, thanks to the education they received, should have understood the situation thoroughly and remained with their masses of proteges, rather than saving themselves only."

From May, 1942, Begin lived in Palestine. Lazar: "From Palestine nobody tried to reach the ghettos or the camps. This would certainly have encouraged the masses and aroused them to many rebellions." But most of all Lazar is angry about the fact that Begin did not do his utmost to oppose the ties between Israel and Germany. Isaac Remba, the editor of the newspaper Herut, told Lazar that the party leaders had
instructed him to moderate the position of the paper on this issue, because most of the public was not opposed to ties with Germany, and the party leaders were afraid that their position would harm them in the elections. According to Lazar, this was "a group of typical wheeler-dealers who were interested only in seats, honor and enjoying themselves, and self-praise and parasitism, without any exalted background and without any idea and without considering the good of the nation."

It is interesting that the pages from Lazar's diary are appearing in the periodical HaUmma (The Nation) of all places, which is publishing "Misdar Jabotinsky" ("The Jabotinsky Order"). The diary is worth studying. It can confirm a thesis that historian Yehiam Weitz suggests in his new book about the Herut movement ("Hatzad harishon lekes hashilton"; "The First Step to Power: The Herut Movement, 1949-1955,"
published by Yad Ben-Zvi, in Hebrew): Begin's attitude toward the question of ties with Germany was that of a pragmatic politician; as opposed to the impression he tried to create, he did not see it first of all as a moral question. Lazar therefore felt that Begin betrayed his vow to boycott Germany. Weitz says that Lazar is right.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 10

Volume 4, Issue 10
December 19, 2007

Attendance Number Now 351,053

On Monday, December 17, the number of visitors to the Begin Center since its inception exceeded 350,000. This averages out at 110,760 per year—a most impressive number that is higher per annum in actual terms than most American Presidential Libraries and in relative terms it is a higher figure than all the Presidential Libraries. Our latest information is that the attendance numbers at Presidential Libraries in the US continue to fall while in the case of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center the number are constantly rising.

Parashat HaShavua Attendance Strong

With the end of the holiday season here in Israel the Rohr Family Parashat HaShavua program is back to normal with attendances of between 400-500 persons every Thursday evening.

When the present series of lectures by Dr. Micha Goodman ends next week, the program will continue with another very well known and popular lecturer, Dr. Shelly Goldberg, who was one of the lecturers for the Hoshana Raba all-night study session at the Begin Center. Dr. Goldberg is a professor in the Department of Jewish Studies in the Bar Ilan University and her expertise is in Kabbalah and Chassidic studies. She will be covering most of the Book of Exodus for the Parashat HaShavua lectures.

Junior Knesset Resumes After Teacher Strike

Now that the teacher's strike is over, the Junior Knesset program, which had to be suspended for nearly two months, has resumed. The Educational Department, headed by Snir Zaidel is working extra hard to work with schools—including 10 new schools—to compress the ten-month program into the shortened school year. They expect to be able to bring all the participating schools to the year-end Knesset simulation day at the Begin Center in the specially designed mini-Knesset.

New Edition of White Nights at the Printer

All the technical work on the new English edition of Menachem Begin's book White Nights has been completed and the publishers expect copies to be available within a month. The new version includes English translations of extracts from the NKVD (the precursor to the KGB) files of their interrogation of Menachem Begin in the Lukishki prison where he was held on a charge of being an "agent of British imperialism." He was sentenced to eight years in a correctional labor camp and released in September 1941 when Germany invaded Russia earlier in June. Russia reached an agreement with the Free Polish Government in London (headed by General Sikorsky) facilitating the release of citizens in Russian prisons if they joined the Free Polish Army commanded by General Anders. Menachem Begin did so and he traveled south through then Persia and then west as a Polish soldier until he reached Palestine. His friends and co-leaders of the Polish Betar who were already in Palestine urg ed him immediately to get out of Polish uniform and join the Underground leadership of the Irgun Zvai Leumi. He refused to do so unless he was given an official discharge from the Poles as otherwise he could be listed as a deserter. He was allowed to leave in late 1943, and Menachem Begin began his underground career which led to his command of the Irgun till the conclusion of the struggle in 1948.

* * * * *

By coincidence and related to the above story is the fact that the Archives of the Begin Center has just received the text of a book by Josef Mermelstein called The Six Years in the Soviet Union of Josef Mermelstein. He was in the Soviet labor camp with Menachem Begin and assisted him in various ways. Now a man in his 90s, he released the typed version of his book which ends with a letter he wrote to Prime Minister Menachem Begin on 2 November 1978 after the announcement that Begin was to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace on 10 December of that year.

He apologizes for possibly overstepping the boundaries with the Prime Minister, but he felt that he had to write.

"…this Nobel Prize for you has its roots from 37 years ago, when we were on a wooden shop on the Pechora river on the way to Warkuta, to the coal mines.

We were squeezed together about 800 'people' in sub-human conditions. The squeeze was of such magnitude, that a group of young boys, the majority Jews, placed themselves on the deck, enduring rain and cold in the nights.

Finally the authorities resolved that at a certain place they would bring another ship.

It was more than correct that those who were on the deck should pass first to the other ship.

When they put the planks between the two ships, a group of Polish criminals wanted to be the first to pass. There was a group of strong Jewish boys that didn't want to permit it. It didn't take long for a fight to break out. Then at the exact moment, with the speed of a deer, you placed yourself between the two factions and let loose a strong shout: "Panowie" (Gentlem en) and they all became quiet. I don't remember exactly your words to them, but I remember the content of your splendid Polish. You explained to them simply the absurdity of what can happen and that Polish, Russians, Jews, Rumanians are all in the same abyss and that this incident could serve only as a spectacle for our guards.

The Poles recognized the truth of your words, and like with a magic stick, the Poles remained quiet, and the Jewish boys passed over the "bridge" and prevented the waves of the Pechora to wash the blood of Jews and non-Jews, then you won a prize…

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Begin Prize 2007

Ariel University Center was awarded the prestigious Menachem Begin Award last week in tribute to its groundbreaking academic achievements. The Award, presented by the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, is granted annually to individuals and institutions deemed by the Begin Center to have made unique and exceptional contributions to Israeli society.

Additional awards were presented to Justice Meir Shamgar, former President of Israel's Supreme Court and to the Bnei David Pre-Military Yeshiva Academy in Eli.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Menachem Begin Speaking About the Lubavitcher Rebbe

At this site.

And this excerpt from a Yehuda Avner article:-

SOME TIME later, on a balmy July day in 1977, Menachem Begin was similarly confronted. A bushy-haired reporter in a baggy suit asked him with Village Voice effrontery, "You are the newly elected prime minister of Israel, so why have you come to see Rabbi Schneerson? Surely, protocol requires he come to you."

This altercation took place on the steps of the Lubavitch headquarters, where the Rebbe was welcoming Mr. Begin amid a blaze of photo flashes. "Why, indeed?" the prime minister began with easy rapport. "A good question."

And then, with an air of deep reverence, "I have come here because I am en route to Washington to meet president Jimmy Carter for the first time. So it is most natural for me to want to seek the blessings of this great sage of the Jewish people. Rabbi Schneerson is one of the paramount Jewish personalities of our time. His status is unique among our people. So yes, certainly, his blessings will strengthen me as I embark on a mission of acute importance for our future."

"Would the rabbi care to comment on that?" asked the reporter.

He said, "Only to reiterate my fullest blessings. And to add, I accept the honor of the prime minister's visit to me not on my own account but in recognition of the Lubavitch movement's dedicated work in spreading the love of God and His Torah among our fellow Jews, wherever they be."

The two men had been friends for years, and they closeted themselves for a good hour, at the end of which Mr. Begin informed Rabbi Schneerson that I would return to New York from Washington to brief him on the White House talks.

THUS IT was that five days later I found myself ensconced alone with the Rebbe in his wood-paneled chamber, its simple furnishings antique with time-worn distinction. Dog-eared Talmud tomes and other heavy, well-thumbed volumes lined his bookshelves, redolent of centuries of scholarship and disputations conducted by generations of swaying, chanting, thumb-stabbing, skull-capped learners, inhabiting an academic world in which students don't study and teachers don't teach. Everybody learns.

We spoke in Hebrew – the Rebbe's classic, mine modern. And as he dissected my Washington report, his air of authority deepened. It came of something beyond knowledge. It was in his state of being, something he possessed in his soul, something given to him under the chestnut and maple trees of Brooklyn rather than under the poplars and pines of Jerusalem – to which, mysteriously, he had never journeyed.

The presentation, interrogation, and clarification had taken close to three hours. It was now after two in the morning, and I was exhausted. The Rebbe, full of vim and vigor, asked me to communicate the following message to Mr. Begin: "By maintaining your firm stand on Eretz Yisroel in the White House, you have given strength to the whole of the Jewish people. You have succeeded in safeguarding the integrity of Eretz Yisroel while avoiding a confrontation with the United States. That is true Jewish statesmanship: forthright, bold, without pretense, or apology. Be strong and of good courage."

He dictated this in a voice that was soft but touched with fire.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

On the Altalena - From Ireland

We received this email from friends in the UK:-

From Dublin to Tel Aviv - the role of an Irish veteran & politician in averting Israel's Civil War

At the Ireland-Israel Friendship League meeting tonight, Joe Briscoe [himself a 48-year veteran reserve officer of the Irish Defence Forces - enlisted under age at 15] recalled that his late father, Fianna Fail TD and Dublin Lord Mayor, Bob, 1894-1969, had probably positively influenced what I had just called in my talk on Irish-Israeli historical parallels, - the One-day Jewish Civil War.

In June, 1948, at a Tel Aviv beach, the new Israeli Defence Forces, in an echo of the new Irish Free State Army 26 years earlier, on June 28, 1922 at the Four Courts, had shelled the MV Altalena, loaded with arms for the dissident Irgun/Etzel, and commanded by the Irgun leader, Menchem Begin. 5,000 rifles, 5m rounds, 250 Bren Light Machine Guns, 50 bazookas, and over 900 Irgun Volunteers were on board. Begin choose the democratic, political path, did not retaliate, and so, unlike the similar Irish situation, did not precipitate a disastrous Civil War in the newly independent state, but bowed to the determination of Ben Gurion that there be one Army, accountable to one Government, in the new Jewish state.

Joe revealed that in 1947, or possibly early 1948, his father, Bob Briscoe, a veteran of the Irish Volunteers in the Irish War of Independence, and involved in weapons procurement for Collins, and a friend of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, had met Begin in Paris, reminded him of the savage Irish Civil War, of 1922-1923, and strongly advised him to avoid any such outcome in Israel. Begin, who it is known was very aware of the role of Mick Colllins in the Irish struggle, took this warning seriously.

Bob also told Begin that it might take 30 years to get into government - which is exactly what happened - in 1977, but Bob himself, who had died in 1969, did not live to see that. He did see his other son, Ben, 1934-, succeed him in parliament in 1965 where Ben served until 2002 - a remarkable combined father-son service in the one Dublin City constituency totalling 75 years. Ben was also Lord Mayor in 1988 as Bob had been in 1956 and again in 1962 - Dublin's first Jewish Lord Mayor. Ben was also a City Councilllor for 32 years - from 1967 to 1999, and Bob had become a City Councillor in 1930. It only took Bob and his Fianna Fail comrades under De Valera, 5 years from finally taking their seats in 1927, to become the Irish government in 1932, initially with Labour Party support, holding office to 1948, and also become [and remain] the largest political party on the Island.

If only the Arab world today, and not least Palestinian Arabs, especially Fatah, would also listen to the Irish story and its lessons, turn their swords into ploughshares, also remember how Sean Lemass broke the Irish stalemate by visiting the Northern Ireland Stormont Parliament in Jan 1965, and at last recognise the simple and unconditional right to existence of their democratic neighbour, Israel, and engage constructively with it on that basis, to their mutual enrichment and security.


Center Bulletin Vol. 4, No. 9

Volume 4, Issue 9
December 13, 2007

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 349,331

Menachem Begin Prize 2007

A large, distinguished enthusiastic audience filled the Reuben Hecht Auditorium on Tuesday night for the ceremony to award the Menachem Begin Prize to the Bnei David Pre-Army Yeshiva and citations to former President of Israel’s Supreme Court and to the Ariel University Center in the Shomron. Among the guests were a number of retired and current Supreme Court Justices as well as former Minister of Defense and former Foreign Minister, Prof. Moshe Arens.

All this took place against the backdrop of the lighting of the 8th candle of Chanukah by Yosef Wittelson, who is a member of the International Board, with musical accompaniment by a multi-piece klezmer-fusion style band, HaTizmoret HaAmamit. The evening was emceed by Herzl Makov, the Chairman of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.

Harry Hurwitz, founder and president of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation opened the proceedings and made remarks about each of the honorees and took the opportunity to recall the three young Israeli soldiers who were abducted and are still in captivity—Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

"I pray that they will return home soon, strong, and in good health." He congratulated the Ariel University on the change of its status and expressed the hope that one day, when it is a full university, its leaders will give it the name of Ze'ev Jabotinsky or Menachem Begin.

When he spoke about Meir Shamgar, he said that this was "the time to recall the role of the late Chief Rabbi Louis Isaac Rabinowitz of South Africa, who had traveled in and out of the Gilgil Camp in Kenya carrying documents pictures, passports and other material to assist Ya'acov Meridor and his five associates to escape from the camp. Tonight is a good opportunity to recognize the Rabbi's distinguished role and to salute him."

A greeting was also given by Gershon Stav, the Chairman of the management committee, of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. "By giving the Begin Prize over the last decade, as well as tonight, we are promoting the deeds of individuals and organizations whose activities will be 'a foundation for educating the young generation about all that is good and magnificent in huma n life' as Begin said."

Preceding the award of scholarships to students who are part of the PERAH program and have undertaken to tutor a child from a disadvantaged area, Yechiel Kadishai used the occasion to stress the importance of the Hebrew language to the people of Israel and the Jews of the world. He and Chassia Milo, daughter of Menachem Begin, awarded the prizes.

After accepting the citation for the Ariel University Center, its president, Prof. Dan Meyerstein spoke of the growth of the Center to University proportions. They expect more than 10,000 students this year and the number is constantly growing. Their academic departments are of a high standard and it will indeed be a valuable addition to the complex of universities in Israel. The prize was presented by the president of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, Zvi Harry Hurwitz.

The fathers of Major Ro'i Klein and Lt. Col. Emmanuel Moreno, the two heroes who died in action in the second Lebanon War, were called upon to present this years Menachem Begin Prize to the Bnei David Pre-Army Yeshiva Academy. In accepting the prize, its founder Rabbi Eli Sadan spoke of the miracle of Chanukah and said that in the life of this nation it was not only weaponry that decided its security, but the strength, spirit, faith and patriotism which the academy has taught to thousands of students.

General Iddo Nehushtan, the head of the planning division of the Israel Defense Forces, spoke briefly about the make-up of the IDF and spoke on the subject of the contribution made to Israel by highly motivated soldiers. He said that the most important weapon in Israel's army is its human resources and therefore, a great deal is invested in education and ways to inspire the men and women in the ranks of the IDF. He paid tribute to the Bnei David Yeshiva, the Ariel University Center and to all other institutions that perform this vital role. He and Herzl Makov had served together in the Israel Air Force and shared some of their military expe riences.

The individual prize this year went to Meir Shamgar who, as a young member of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, was exiled to Gilgil prison in Kenya. There began his legal studies, the start of his distinguished legal career, culminating in the highes t position in Israel's system of justice.

Judge Shamgar spoke of Menachem Begin's devotion to the Court, the "supremacy of the law" and his frequent remark "there are judges in Jerusalem." He added that Menachem Begin contributed to and was dedicated to the idea of a constitution for Israel and that Begin was completely committed to the principle of the Law being supreme in the land. He also spoke of his own dedication to serving the supremacy of the law and justice. Judge Shamgar said that he wished to honor his comrades in the camp and was proud of his days in the Irgun, and recalled especially his two friends who fell in action, Avram Avramovitch and Shmuel Levy.

Begin's Writings Still Relevant Today

In an important article in last Friday's Yediot Ahronot about the Supreme Court in Israel today, the Israel Prize-winning journalist Nahum Barnea used a 200-word excerpt from Menachem Begin's recently republished booklet "World View and National Outlook" from the chapter which deals with the supremacy of the law.

This lead to widespread discussion in legal circles and the library of the Supreme Court called the Begin Center to ask for copies of the booklet.

"World View and National Outlook" is available in both English and Hebrew and is for sale at the Begin Center.

Rare Material Donated to the Archives

The Archives of the Begin Center received a gift of a rare treasure from the Begin family this week.

They are a number of audio tapes carrying the voice of Menachem Begin spoken after his retirement from public office. His children and grandchildren had asked him to tell the story of the Peace Process and he did so for 40 minutes—from the beginning to the signing of the Peace Treaty. The other tapes are recordings of his rare interviews on Israel radio after his retiremen t. This invaluable material will be used in the near future in appropriate radio programs or at public events in the Begin Center.

The heads of the Begin Foundation and Begin Center are grateful to Dr. Ze'ev Binyamin Begin and his sisters Chassia and Leah for this rare gift.

Begin Honored at Rishon L'Tzion Park
At the end of November, a ceremony took place in Rishon L'Tzion where a garden honoring national leaders was opened. It contains six large statues Israel's national leaders: Theodor Herzl, Chaim Weizman, David Ben Gurion, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin.


Judge Alfred Clayman of New York visited the Begin Center last week with his granddaughter who lives in Jerusalem. He is a prominent, long-time leader of the ZOA.

* * * * *

Naomi and Uzi Landau brought some overseas guests to the Begin Center on Wednesday afternoon.

* * * * *

Ariela Cotler of Montreal visited the Begin Center at the beginning of the week. Her husband, Prof. Irwin Cotler is a former Minister of Justice in Canada and is now a Member of Parliament.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Begin's Governments and Jerusalem

Excerpted from an article by Nadav Shragia, Yet another decision about Jerusalem

What happened to the more than 330 decisions on Jerusalem that Israeli governments have made over the past 30 years? With the Annapolis conference behind us and negotiations on Jerusalem in the offing, along with the big dispute over the division of Israel's capital, there seems to be particular interest in a new study by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, which attempts to answer this question.

Reuven Merhav, a former Foreign Ministry director general, and Guy Galili, a research assistant, visited the government archives to find all such decisions from the years 1975-2005. Not surprisingly, they found that alongside the decisions that were implemented, many other decisions that could have changed Jerusalem's status were left to gather dust on the shelves.

...The record-holder for decisions on Jerusalem was the first government led by the late Menachem Begin, which served from 1977 to August 1981. It made 74 such decisions, averaging 17.5 a year. The second Likud-led government (August 1981-October 1983) made fewer decisions on Jerusalem than any other government during the period examined, averaging only five per year.

Even so, numbers are no indication of content, importance or implementation. In order to analyze the 330 decisions, Merhav and Galili divided them into sub-categories: declarative decisions; decisions on the status of Jerusalem; decisions on the Old City and East Jerusalem; decisions on land development, construction, industry, financial incentives, tourism, education, culture and welfare; and decisions on security matters.

The most decisions in any category - 122 - concerned development, land use, construction and incentives. Another 97 decisions addressed the status of Jerusalem. These hovered between being declarative and having a practical impact, such as transferring budgets or setting clear objectives. Several decisions in this category concerned the transfer of government offices to Jerusalem. These ostensibly could have affected hundreds of employees, who would then live in Jerusalem, strengthen the population and improve the Jewish side of the demographic balance, but Merhav and Galili call these decisions a "continuing saga."

In January 1977, for example, the government decided to bring all national ministry offices to Jerusalem. In late 1977 and early 1978, the Begin government demanded a timetable for the move, which would include shutting down Hebrew University dormitories in order to turn them into offices. Students are still living there to this day.

In February 1983 the second Begin government voted to act immediately to implement previous decisions on transferring national government ministries and government company offices to Jerusalem.

Begin Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, Issue 8

Volume 4, Issue 8
December 5, 2007

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 345,874

60 Years Ago: The Inevitability of the Jewish State

The festive State celebration of the 60th anniversary of the UN resolution regarding the future of Palestine which was adopted on 29 November 1947 recalls the remarkable meeting in Tel Aviv between the Chairman of the UN Committee on Palestine, Judge Sandstrom, Dr. Victor Hoo, the Assistant Secretary General of the UN Organization, and Dr. Ralph Bunch, Secretary of the UN Organization Trustee Council, with Menachem Begin, Commander of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, Chaim Landau and Shmuel Katz. The details of the meeting were desc ribed by Begin in his first book, The Revolt.

In the course of the meeting Menachem Begin said, "What we wish is complete evacuation of the British, the removal of British rule, the setting up of a provisional government and the creation of a Jewish State."

He stated that the Irgun consider themselves lawful fighters engaged in a legitimate fight and that they considered the British to be here illegally. He said that the Irgun is absolutely convinced that it fights not only for the independence of Palestine, but for the rights of all free men.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Dr. Sandstrom said: "I am sorry that the other members of the Committee could not hear you. We shall report to them, but there is always a difference in effect in what you hear for yourself and what you hear second hand." Dr. Hoo left saying, "Au revoir, in an independent Palestine." And Dr. Bunch was the warmest of all. Shaking Begin's hand he explained feelingly. "I can understand you. I am also a member of a personal minority."

A few days later, it was revealed that the British were angry that such a meeting took place. "We have been looking for him for five years!" It was pointed out. "And we have not succeeded in getting anywhere near him. Yet, it appears that the Chairman of the UN Committee found him with the greatest of ease."

The Irgun leader subsequently met the South American members of the Committee, Dr. Granados of Guatemala and Prof. Fabregat of Uruguay. Both had been in exile and underground while fighting against tyranny in their own countries.

When, at the end of the meeting, they learned with whom they had been speaking, they were overcome with emotion. Fabregat put his arms around Begin's shoulders and hugged him and declared "We are brothers in arms." Begin replied, "All the world's fighters for freedom are one family."

All this is recalled to stress that it was not the UN vote that created the State of Israel, but the Zionist struggle of many years which terminated in the struggle of the underground movements that obliged the British to hand back the mandate for Palestine to the UN. The meeting on 29 November gave recognition to the inevitability of the rise of the Jewish State.


Chag Chanukah Sameach!

from the Menachem Begin Heritage Center


Leonard Asper Stops by the Begin Center

Mr. Leonard Asper, President and CEO of CanWest Global Communications Corp., came to the Begin Center on Monday for a meeting with the Fo under, Harry Hurwitz and the Chairman of the Center, Herzl Makov. He was accompanied by the Director of his office, Mr. Michael Woollatt.

In the morning, he had made a deep impression at the Ariel University Center of Samaria where he was the keynote speaker at an all-day conference on "The Media and the Middle East," which is held annually in memory of the late David Bar Illan.

In his 40 minute address, Asper spoke of Israel's PR battle and analyzed some suggestions and failures that he had in defending Israel's position. His late father, Izzy Asper, had fought a valiant battle in this area on television, radio and the print media. It was he who had initiated strong roots in Israel by his connections with various important institutions such as the Menachem Begin Heritage Center of which the family is very proud.

Leonard Asper was shown several new features in the building which were not yet completed at the time of his visit several years ago.


The mayor of Haifa, Mr. Yona Yahav and his wife came unannounced at the beginning of the week to the Begin Center. They viewed the "30 years after Sadat's visit" exhibition and then went into the Menachem Begin Museum, which impressed them very much. They said afterwards that they hoped to arrange a visit for their children to such an important and impressive place.

* * * * *

Benny Raphael, who presently lives in Ohio, but is originally from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, visited the Begin Center where he met briefly with its Founder, Harry Hurwitz.