Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Begin Center Bulletin, Volume 4, Issue 21

Volume 4, Issue 21
March 5, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 379,786

The Aaronsohn Saga Book Launch

The Begin Center was the venue of a most remarkable event on Friday, February 29, when the book launching of Shmuel Katz's The Aaronsohn Saga took place. Sponsored by Gefen Publishing, headed by Ilan Greenfield, the event was highlighted by the presence of Sir Martin Gilbert, author of dozens of books and most importantly, the biography of Winston Churchill.

Some 140 guests took their seats at the Reuben Hecht Auditorium after first enjoying some refreshments. Present were, among others, Moshe Arens, the former Foreign Minister and Defense Minister; Caroline Glick, the Jerusalem Post columnist; Dr. Yehdua Lapidot, Irgun historian; Dr. Moshe Yegar, Foreign Ministry veteran diplomat and many others, including Hart Hasten, President of the American Friends of the Begin Foundation as well as Center Chairman, Herzl Makov and Tamar Eshel, former Labour MK, niece of Avshalom Feinberg, NILI hero.

Ilan Greenfield emceed the event and expressed his honor that such a book was published by his firm. Harry Hurwitz, founder and president of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, warmly greeted "Moekie" Katz and suggested that if Israel were to adopt the British tradition, then Moekie Katz would be one of Israel's knighted gentlemen. Sir Martin Gilbert then addressed the audience, first relating to Aaron Aaronsohn and his achievements. He noted that he was one of the three Zionists most responsible for the Balfour Declaration, along with Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Chaim Weizmann. He then went on to praise Shmuel Katz and reminisced about their 30 year relationship.

Shmuel Katz then took center stage, speaking from his wheelchair. He thanked the Center, Mr. Hurwitz and Sir Martin for their kind words and continued, touching on several topics including history, Zionism and the current prospects for Israel in a wide-ranging talk. He was closely listened to and received a standing ovation at the end of his remarks. The audience remained behind to talk with Moekie and many expressed their excitement at being privileged to have attended such an historic event.

Begin Center Neighborhood in the Jerusalem Post

In a wonderful article about the area in which the Begin Heritage Center is situated by Aviva Bar-Am, the story is told of St. Andrew's Church on the hill overlooking the valley, the old railway station 100 meters away and the Begin Center. The writer speaks of the archeological treasures in the area and says

"To reach the excavations, descend the driveway and turn right to reach the Begin Heritage Center. Ask when you can join a tour, and while waiting, have a cup of tea or a bite to eat on the balcony across from the Old City walls.

The unusual tour of the Heritage Center follows a young Menachem Begin from his hometown in Poland to his years in the Jewish underground, as leader of the Israeli opposition, prime minister and finally to his withdrawal from public life.

Begin, a passionate Zionist, activist and charismatic head of state, was prime minister during a particularly crucial time in Israeli history. Through multimedia innovations, films and pictures, an entire era comes to life before your eyes.

After you finish the tour exit the center through the glass doors leading to Derech Hebron. Then turn right and climb the steps at the edge of the building. You have reached part of a vast system of Jewish burial caves from the First Temple Period that contains nearly 150 rock-hewn caves.

In 1979, archeologists discovered an almost undisturbed tomb. Inside, along with arrowheads, ivory objects and gold and silver earrings, there were two small silver scrolls that may have been worn as good luck charms around the neck. The scrolls contained the words of the priestly benediction in Numbers 6:24-26 almost word for word: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you...."

The Begin Center also recently published a booklet entitled The Menachem Begin Heritage Center and Its Vicinity elaborates on the area. The booklet is available for purchase at the souvenir shop in the Begin Center.

Begin's 16th Yahrzeit

A large crowd is expected at the Evening of Remembrance of Menachem Begin at the Begin Center following the family graveside gathering. Brief remarks will be addressed during The Evening of Remembrance by people who were personally connected with Menachem Begin or are now involved in study and research of his life and work including Dr. Udi Lebel, the author of On the Road to the Pantheon, which has now appeared in its second edition, Yair Stern and Moshe Arens. This will be followed by some singing. The response so far to the notices shows a great interest in the occasion.

The event takes place on Tuesday, March 11, at 5:30pm. Reservations are absolutely necessary at (02) 565-2020 or via email at

"The Perfect Gentleman"

In a letter to the Jerusalem Post Prof. Monte Zion, who was at the time head of cardiology at the Sha'are Tzedek hospital, wrote about Menachem Begin's respect for people in high standing such as his senior doctors.

Prof. Zion wrote:

Shimshon Arad referred to Menachem Begin's being influenced by the Polish nationalist and militarist legacy, as exemplified by his standing up and saluting whenever a general entered the room. Based on personal experience, I would suggest that this was an example of his well-known gentlemanly behavior.

When Mr. Begin was a patient in Shaare Zedek Hospital for major surgery, I was the cardiologist responsible for overseeing his cardiac condition. I visited him twice daily, and on every occasion that I entered his ward, he stood up out of his chair and extended his hand to greet me.


Mr. David Krakow and his wife Miriam visited the Begin Center last week to present some documents to the archives which they brought from New York. They are copies of reports and documents from the early years of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, then under the command of Menachem Begin.

Mrs. Krakow is the sister of Prof. Moshe Arens and they are very impressed and moved by the Begin Center, its appearance and contents.

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Mr. Hart Hasten, the President of the US Friends of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, who was in Jerusalem on a short visit held discussions with the Founder and President of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, Harry Hurwitz, and the Chairman of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Herzl Makov.

Mr. Hasten also attended the unusual event on Friday morning, 29 February, at which the book The Aaronsohn Saga by Shmuel Katz was launched.