Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 36

Volume 4, Issue 36
June 18, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 408,641

Remembering the Altalena

This is the Altalena Week—recalling the arrival and fate of the arms ship which also carried 900 survivors from the camps in Europe who subsequently fought for the independence of Israel. It is the very sad tale of the order that was given by the head of the Provisional Government, David Ben Gurion, for the first Israel troops to fire on the ship and destroy its arms. The remains of the ship are at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, somewhere near the Frischman Street beach. Menachem Begin, who had boarded the ship in Tel Aviv, was forcibly removed from it by Irgun fighters, notably Yoske Nachmias.

After this episode, Menachem Begin went straight to the Irgun radio station and broadcast his version of the agreements between the Irgun, the Hagana and the Provisional Government. He mentioned to the broken agreements and referred to the unprovoked attack which destroyed the ship. He wept unabashedly as he spoke. Some mocked him for it, but those tears averted a civil war at a crucial moment in Jewish history. Later, Begin said that "sometimes it is better that one man should pour tears from his heart over an abomination committed in Israel, than that many, many should weep over its consequences."

Within weeks of his election as Prime Minister in 1977, Menachem Begin participated in a memorial service for the 16 members of the Irgun who died when the ship was attacked; he used the occasion to reveal that, some years earlier, 'one of the leaders of the State who is still an active member of the Labor Party, a figure occupying a central position in our national life, came to me on his own initiative to say that Labor officials had reinvestigated the Altalena incident and had come to the conclusion that Ben Gurion had been deliberately misled as to the Irgun's intentions when he ordered the shelling of the ship.'

Hurwitz Speaks to Pro-Israel Group

The Founder and President of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, Mr. Harry Hurwitz, and his wife, Freda, were guests of honor at a festive dinner that launched the 25th anniversary of the Swedish pro-Israel organization "Word of Life", established by Pastor Ulf Ekman. Their silver jubilee tour which brought 620 visitors from 27 countries to Israel for 10 days was very successful. In his address to the gather ing Hurwitz spoke of the 3,500 years history of the Jewish people and its present condition in Israel and abroad. "This is an eternal people that have given the world its moral code, its greatest values and richest traditions," he said.

Film Research at the Hasten Family Library

The Hasten Family Library had a recent guest who was impressed with the varied material on its shelves. Michael Winterbottom, prolific British filmmaker, was escorted through the library by Yisrael Medad, Director of Information Resources at the Begin Center.

Three of Winterbottom's movies, "Welcome to Sarajevo", "Wonderland" and "24 Hour Party People", have been nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. His 2006 film, " A Mighty Heart", tells the story of Marianne Pearl, wife of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl and stars Angelina Jolie.

Winterbottom is tentatively planning a film of the middle years of the British Mandate in Palestine, focused on the 1930s and early 1940s, although the outline is still not fixed. He was shown books by British officials, memoirs of former Jewish underground fighters, history books and other material in the library.

Recalling the Work of Hillel Kook

At a meeting at the Begin Center representatives of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and heads of the Begin Center held an interesting discussion on the work of Hillel Kook (Peter Bergson) and his group highlighting the fate of European Jewry and practical efforts to rescue them. The Wyman Ins titute was represented by Dr. Rafael Medoff, its director, Mrs. Nili Kook and Dr. Rebecca Kook. The Begin Center representatives were Harry Hurwitz, Herzl Makov, Yisrael Medad and Moshe Fuksman.


Dr. David Reagan, a leading Christian bible scholar from Dallas, Texas, visited the Begin Cen ter on Monday and was thrilled by all he saw and heard. "The Begin Museum is a marvelous portrayal of the greatest leader Israel has had," he said.

* * * * *

Mrs. Ariela Cotler of Montreal, Canada, brought a number of friends to the Begin Center on Monday and toured the museum with them. They had attended the wedding celebration of Prof. and Mrs. Cotler's daughter Gila to Elad Rosenfeld a few days earlier. We extend a hearty Mazal Tov to the family.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Who Killed Arlozoroff?

In an article in Haaretz, Tom Segev quotes a doctor who treated Haim Arlozoff as saying it was an Arab who killed him. Menachem Begin established a

The piece is entitled
The Makings of History / Whodunit:-

On the evening of Friday, June 16, 1933, Chaim and Sima Arlosoroff set out for a walk along the Tel Aviv beachfront. Chaim, one of the leaders of Mapai (the Land of Israel Workers Party - the predecessor of today's Labor Party), did not return home: He was shot and later died at Hadassah Hospital.

Seventy-five years later, the argument about who murdered him continues with the same political and emotional fervor that led to the establishment of an investigative committee in 1982.

This week, the Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies initiated one discussion; the Jabotinsky Institute initiated another. The first accuses the other of having done it; the other replies that the Arabs did it. Thus politics overshadows one of the most important details, which is that Arlosoroff died as a result of medical neglect: Had he received proper treatment immediately, it is quite possible that his wounds would not have been fatal. However, like the question of who pulled the trigger and why, there are also contradictory testimonies about the care Arlosoroff received at the hospital.

According to the report of the investigative committee, about two and half hours elapsed between the time Arlosoroff was shot and when he began receiving the appropriate treatment. The report quoted one of the doctors who performed surgery on him, Dr. Max Marcus: He said that had a blood transfusion been given to the wounded man earlier, he would have been saved.

When Arlosoroff was brought to the hospital, there was no doctor on the premises who could carry out an emergency operation, a major failure. The first people to arrive at the hospital were not doctors but rather all sorts of political figures. The doctors trickled in later one by one. During some of this time, Arlosoroff was still conscious; a nurse injected him with painkillers.

However, there is evidence the investigative commission was apparently not aware of, and this is the testimony of Mali Danziger, the sister of the first justice minister, Pinchas Rosen. This was recorded by Shimshon Chalfi, along with other testimonies of Tel Aviv veteran citizens, some of which were published in a book by his daughter Raquel. According to Danziger, a messenger arrived at her home to summon her husband, Dr. Felix Danziger, to the hospital. By the time he arrived, it was too late.

The investigation committee noted the names of five doctors who treated Arlosoroff, and Danziger's name was not among them. When she gave her testimony, Mali Danziger was 97 years old; her son Michael completed her statement: "My father came home that same night and he was so angry at what had happened he was unable to speak. Dr. Marcus, a surgeon who worked with my father and had been with him that night in the operating room, came home with him and told my mother and me: 'The medical equipment at Hadassah was faulty.' When Dr. Danziger gave the order for a saline drip - which should have been done three hours earlier - it emerged that the drip tube was leaking. The doctor in charge of Hadassah stopped the holes in the tubing with a handkerchief. Dr. Danziger performed the surgery and removed the bullet. When it became clear that Arlosoroff had died, Dr. Danziger stripped off his surgical gloves, flung the implements on the floor and cried: 'It wasn't the Arab who killed Arlosoroff, but rather this pigsty!'" At that time, Danziger was the proprietor of another hospital of his own.

The idea that Jews killed Arlozorff, and specifically members of the Betar and the Revisionist Movement, caused a deep split in Zionist ranks. Menachem Begin, once Prime Minister, appointed a state commission of inquiry.

Back in 2000, Tel Aviv University reported in connection with this subject:-

A forthcoming article by TAU Prof. Asher Maoz deals with two controversial issues: the ability of courts of law to ascertain truth and the role of judicial and quasi-judicial institutions in establishing historical facts. These questions are examined against the background of two painful episodes in Israel's short history: the pre-statehood murder of Mapai leader Haim Arlosoroff and the trial of Israel Kastner. The rival Revisionist Movement was accused of incitement against Arlosoroff, and two of its members were accused of murder and were acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence. Five decades later, Prime Minister Menachem Begin established a State Commission of Inquiry to investigate the accusations...The article criticizes such uses of legal institutions to arbitrate between conflicting historical narratives to create an official history. Even if "historical truth" is possible, the task of establishing it should not be left to legal institutions. History and philosophy should remain open to free public debate and disagreement.

The article can be accessed here.

And here is how a Hebrew University site relates to the issue:-

On a balmy Friday evening in June 1933, after his Shabbat meal, Arlosoroff was walking in the Tel Aviv streets near the ocean. Two men came up to him and asked him in Hebrew for the time. As he looked into his watch, a flashlight was shone in his face, followed quickly by two shots from a revolver. The two assailants ran away, leaving a thirty-four year old man dying in the arms of his wife.

Two men were arrested for the shooting and a third man for the plotting of the assassination. These men, who strongly denied the allegations, were followers of Jabotinsky. The subsequent trial brought out inter Jewish hatred that continues until this day. The men were finally acquitted for lack of evidence, but this brought a serious rift in the Zionist groups. Even today, there are various theories about the murder, was it Arabs from neighboring Jaffe in search of robbery or rape, or was it someone from inside the Mapai leadership that envied the young Arlosoroff's ability to reach the workers, or was it the opposition Revisionists? We will never know.

A decision from the Zionist groups was made to come together and much negotiations were needed to come to agreements that would heal the rifts and soothe the wounds of the various sides. Finally an agreement was reached, but at the last minute, David Ben Gurion, who was to become the first Prime Minister, refused to several demands. The Zionist unity scheme met a bitter death.

The Jewish Agency site has the incident described thus:-

In 1933, in the middle of his great work as a Zionist political leader and as a writer with great influence, Chaim Arlosoroff was murdered. He was killed while walking with his wife on a beach in Tel Aviv. Even today the mystery of who killed him has not been solved. Some think that other Zionists who disagreed with his views killed him; another opinion is that two Arabs did it.

Menachem Begin establsihed a State Commission of Inquiry and here's a reaction from Yossi Ahimeir in Azure:-

...Surprisingly, though, Hazo­ny makes no mention of the fact that in the 1980s [Rabbi Eliezer] Berkovits was one of the three members of the national commission of inquiry into the 1933 murder of the Zionist leader Chaim Arlosoroff. Prime Minister Menachem Begin appointed the commission in 1982, and it delivered its findings on June 4, 1985.

Unlike the two other members of the committee, the late justices David Bechor and Max Kenneth, Berkovits was not a judge. This did not prevent him, however, from writing a comprehensive twenty-four-page opinion at the end of the deliberations. The opinion’s opening paragraph tells us something about its author, and certainly strengthens Hazony’s characterization of him as a “Jewish moral theorist.” Berkovits writes:

There is no doubt not only that the accused, Avraham Stavsky and Tzvi Rosenblatt [members of Vladimir Jabotinsky’s Revisionist movement], had no part in the murder of Dr. Arlosoroff, but that there was no basis on which to charge them. Since the murder was a national tragedy, around which an entire episode in the history of the yishuv [Jewish community] in the land of Israel was woven--an episode that, unfortu­na­tely, has not until now come to a close--we must emphasize the main arguments that led us to our conclu­sion. My conclusion is founded on the examination of the witnesses who appeared before the commission, and a personal investigation of police files from the preliminary investigation and the records of the district court that at the time deliberated on the murder investigation prior to the trial of the accused.

At the conclusion of his report, he writes: “Stavsky and Rosenblatt, undoubtedly, had no part in the murder of Dr. Arlosoroff. Without question, the entire aim of the police investigation was to bury the truth. It is about cases such as this that the prophet laments: ‘And he hoped for justice, but behold, there was injustice.’”(Isaiah 5:7)

Berkovits, who passed away seven years later, was indeed a moral man. Just like Justices Bechor and Kenneth, and following in the footsteps of R. Abraham Isaac Kook, he drew his conclusions and expressed his opinion on the case not only on the basis of intuition and belief, but also on the basis of facts and their sound analysis. He is greatly to be credited for having taken part in the commission of inquiry and its unanimous verdict.

Yossi Ahimeir
Ramat Gan

Back in 2005, Sarah Honig wrote in the Jerusalem Post:-

the Discover Tel Aviv Walking Tours Center is today organizing a pilgrimage to "political assassination sites" around town. Its designated culmination is Kikar Rabin, but the spurious starting point is the beach where Haim Arlosoroff was shot.

The center's promo tendentiously defines that homicide as political. It mentions that "suspicion fell on those who were Arlosoroff's greatest opponents - the Revisionists."

Absent are the facts that in 1934 all three Revisionist defendants were acquitted (one, Avraham Stavsky, would 14 years later be slain on the Altalena by Rabin's unit); that in 1942 two Arab bandits confessed to the crime; that the 1973 publication of late police inspector Yehuda Arazi's 1933 investigation documents disproved all residual innuendo and that in 1982 a judicial inquiry commission cited evidence that the accused were framed.

The antiquated Arlosoroff libel remains a viable vehicle for the politics of incriminating insinuations. I wasn't the only one to identify the connection between one wrenching calumny and the other.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Way Things Were Done Then

Corruption charges abounded even in Ben Gurion's day

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent

Allocating land to political organizations in contravention of
regulations. Using military funding for non-security projects. Raising funds from rich American Jews for a sitting prime minister. Exploiting the residents of poor areas.

These activities may sound like they were ripped from the headlines, but they are not new trends. Recent research by historian Dr. Zvi Zameret indicates that all this dubious behavior can be attributed to Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, and dates back to nearly 50 years ago, when he worked to found an educational institution in the heart of the Negev that became Midreshet Sde Boker, a collection of about two dozen research and educational centers.

Ben-Gurion decided to found such an institution in Sde Boker in 1954, while he was on a 15-month break from politics and living on Kibbutz Sde Boker. He chose a spot a few kilometers from the kibbutz and announced that this was where "our Oxford" would be built. Ben-Gurion got his close friends to help fulfill the dream.

The first step to establishing Midreshet Sde Boker was taken in January 1960, after Ben-Gurion was back in government, serving as premier and defense minister, according to Zameret, who published his findings in the latest issue of the history journal Et-Mol. The journal is published by the Yad Ben-Zvi Institute, which Zameret heads.

Zameret said the head of the Prime Minister's Office at the time, Teddy Kollek, made sure that 3,000 dunams of Negev land would be transferred to the Negev Fund, which was made up of Ben-Gurion's political cronies, without being encumbered by any planning or legal procedures.

Kollek then started raising money to fund the new buildings for the institution. He received the first quarter of a million liras from the Rothschild family, but he needed a lot more. In a letter to the United Jewish Appeal, Kollek wrote that American Jews should get ready to give Ben-Gurion "a serious gift" - $1 million - for his upcoming 75th birthday. The construction began a short time later.

In October 1961, Ben-Gurion convened a meeting in his office in the Defense Ministry to find out what the holdup was. Shimon Peres, who was deputy defense minister at the time, said there was a money problem, because the treasury was refusing to hand over the funds to the Education Ministry. Ben-Gurion demanded that classes begin within three months, Zameret recounted.

To meet the time crunch, Defense Ministry funds were used to build the institution's initial infrastructure, and a base of the Gadna youth corps was set up there, according to Zameret.

Ben-Gurion's political opponents were worried that he was establishing an
ideological center of his own in the guise of an educational institution, and accused him of trying to hide the program's details. One argument was that a document connected with the institute was classified as top secret.

Reports of covert activity in connection with the institution reached the Knesset. In February 1962, an opposition MK asked Ben-Gurion: "As is known, [Labor forerunner] Mapai, with the assistance of American donors, established an educational-ideological college next to Sde Boker .... Is the report about the college's acquisition by the Defense Ministry for the purpose of establishing a Gadna base correct?" Ben-Gurion issued a denial.

In November 1962, the first educational institution at the site opened a field school. A year later, after Ben-Gurion resigned as prime minister, an official cornerstone-laying ceremony took place. "Think of me as a nut or an idiot, but I dream of a kind of Hebrew Oxford in the Negev, a kind of Hebrew Yavneh ... that will be a place of spiritual creativity," Ben-Gurion said.

A high school was subsequently founded on the site, along with a dormitory and a teacher-training college. Fearing that there would not be enough students in the school, the Education Ministry transferred all the high-school students from the low-income towns of Mitzpeh Ramon and Yeruham to Sde Boker and did not allow those towns to operate their own high schools.

Zameret, who was the principal of the Sde Boker high school at the time, said his students had to travel about an hour to get to school.

The establishment of Midreshet Sde Boker was "a story of corruption," said Zameret. "They used the army, they allocated resources without permits and they lied in the Knesset."

All the same, he said, no one kept any of the money raised for the institution.

"Ben-Gurion wanted to make the Negev bloom," said Zameret. "And at the time, that goal was above everything."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 35

Volume 4, Issue 35
June 12, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 407,440

Enormous Shavuot Success

The biggest number ever at a one-time event — 1,500 people — filled the Begin Center for learning sessions with a group of top lecturers on the night of Shavuot (Monday night to Tuesday morning). They came from as far afield as Pisgat Ze'ev, Ramot and other distant parts of the Jerusalem area. They were attracted by the facilities of the Begin Center, the level of the lecturers and their subjects and the spirit which was created around this annual event.

Between 3:30am and 4:00am on the day of Shavuot, the people in the building were asked to get organized to leave on the walk to the Kotel where they joined the many, many thousands of worshippers for the Shacharit services of Shavuot.

A small number said they preferred to remain in the Begin Center, but they were told firmly that the building had to be cleared. The Begin Center has received many calls and messages of appreciation from the participants for a wonderful experience. And they hoped that it will be repeated aga in next Shavuot.

4th Anniversary for the Begin Center

This week marks four years since the official opening of the Begin Center on June 16, 2004. The unforgettable event—the first official public reception in the magnificent Begin Center—is still talked about by many who were present.

Although the building was opened on 16 June, the public could only start visiting the hi-tech museum in October after all the technology was installed and fully functioning.

Since then, to this morning 407,265 visitors from all over the world have been at the Begin Center and toured the Menachem Begin museum, which is one of the most popular attractions in the city of Jerusalem.

Altalena Memorial Regatta—Civil War, Never!

The Menachem Begin Heritage Center, in cooperation with the Israel National Yacht Club, the Tel Aviv Marina and Atarim, has organized a two-day regatta from Kfar Vitkin beach to the Tel Aviv beache where the Altalena came to shore and was eventually sunk by the Israel Defense Forces in 1948.< /SPAN>

The Altalena was an Irgun-sponsored ship bringing arms and 900 Holocaust survivors to Israel to help in the fight for independence. The only request was that a part of the arms go to Irgun fighters in Jerusalem to help liberate it from the crippling siege. Ben-Gurion did not agree and issued order s for the Israel Defense Forces, led by Yitzhak Rabin, to shoot on the ship and not allow it to dock with its cargo. 16 members of the Irgun were killed and 3 soldiers of the IDF were killed. Menachem Begin forbade anyone on the ship to return fire proclaiming, "Civil War—Never!"

The Memorial Regatta will take place on June 19-20. The event will start at 11:00am with an assembly of yachts at Vitkin Beach, the first landing place of the Altalena. Then they will sail down to Frishman Beach dock ing at the Tel Aviv Marina where at 7:00 the evening events will start.

In the evening there will be a movie and an address by Yoske Nachmias who not only was on the Altalena and survived, but also was the one who threw Menachem Begin into the water to get him off the sinking ship.

On Friday morning, the yachts will again assemble at 8:30am to be briefed and head out to sea. At 10:00am at Frishman Beach all the yachts and navy vessels will gather to have a naval memorial service. At 11:00am the Altalena Tournament of Yachts will begin. Finally, at 3:00pm on Frida y afternoon, the awards ceremony will take place followed by Kabbalat Shabbat.

Those with a yacht wishing to participate in the regatta can contact Moshe Fuksman-Sha'al at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center at (02) 565-2004.

In Memoriam

We deeply regret to record the death of Mrs. Rachel Dahan, wife of Mr. Aharon Dahan, who is a staunch supporter of the Menachem Begin Commemoration Project. The heads of the Begin Foundation and the Begin Center together with the President of the US Friends of the Begin Foundation, Mr. Hart Hasten, sent their condolences to Mr. Aharon Daha n, his sons Nissim and Eliav and the entire family.

Mr. and Mrs. Dahan have done sterling work for Jewish education, religious institutions and the preservation of the Sephardic heritage at the Bar Ilan University.

Aharon Dahan is the honorary global Chairman of the Bar Ilan University.

* * * * *

We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family of Shlomo Kor who passed away last week.

He is survived by his wife Sarah, his sons Avshalom and Zore'ach, his daughter Miriam Tirush, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Shlomo Kor was one of the leaders of the remnant of the European Betar after World War II and later served in the Ministry of Defense in Israel, on the management of the Ma'ariv newspaper for many years and as acting head of the Broadcasting Authority.< /SPAN>


Mrs. Vera Segal, mother of Harry Posin, of Boca Raton, Florida, visited the Begin Cent er with a number of her friends last week. She was received by the Chairman of the Center, Herzl Makov, who told her about the Center and its facilities and arranged for her to tour the Begin Museum, which impressed her and her group very much.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Menachem Begin figures as the moral leadership missing in today's Israel in this article in The Forward:-

Yossi Shain, a political scientist who holds a dual appointment at Georgetown University and Tel Aviv University, believes that "we live in an era of scandals."

Omri Sharon, son of ex-prime minister Ariel Sharon, started serving a seven-month prison term last February after being convicted on campaign-funding violations. President Moshe Katsav was forced to resign in June 2007 following charges for rape and sexual harassment. His predecessor, Ezer Weizman, resigned seven years earlier under suspicion of accepting large sums of money from a businessman.

Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson resigned in July 2007 under suspicion of embezzling millions from a union he used to run, and in March of the same year, Kadima minister Haim Ramon was convicted of sexual misconduct and given a community sentence Ρ though he then returned to Olmert's Cabinet.

Shain is unconvinced that more wrongdoing exists than ever before, and believes that many of today's scandals are uncovered because politicians and the media increasingly make it their business to do so. "Everybody today is a hunter, and right now it is hunting season," he said. "We are in a phase in our nation where corruption and scandal dominate our hearts and minds."

Koren offers a different explanation: "Today's is a different generation of leaders [compared] to what we had before. They like the good life.

"Contrast them with Begin, who left office with so little that he could not buy an apartment and lived in a rental until his death. There has been a complete change in mindset of politicians, which has created a situation where even claims like the current ones do not take the nation by surprise."

Tikkun Leil Shavuot

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Begin at El Arish

Bygone days: Oh, for the embraces of El Arish
May. 20, 2008

In the early hours of a Sunday morning in May 1979, four tourist buses, two Egyptian and two Israeli, wound their separate ways along the coastal road of Northern Sinai bound for El Arish, a sand swept, lazy oasis of some 45,000 anchored in desert dunes and lapped by a velvet beach. El Arish is the administrative capital of the Sinai, which was why Premier Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat had chosen to meet there on that May morning 29 years ago for its ceremonial transfer back to Egyptian rule in accordance with the military annex of the recently signed peace treaty.

The passengers in the tourist busses were not tourists. They were disabled veterans of the two armies who, time and again, had charged at each other across the sands of Sinai, in tanks, in half-tracks, in gun carriers, in command cars, in aircraft, and in helicopters and, in doing so, maimed each other for life. Now, at Begin's instigation and with Sadat's concurrence, they had agreed to rendezvous at El Arish in a gesture of chivalrous reconciliation.

It was a thrilling spectacle to witness, prior to the men's arrival, the honor guards and military bands of both armies marching in unison on parade in files of five before the prime minister and the president. However, when the time came for the bugle to sound as the Israeli flag was lowered and the Egyptian flag raised in its stead, many a Jewish expression turned melancholy. It was a moment of indefinable disquiet, like fog rolling toward you across the sea.

In rigid homage the two leaders hearkened to the playing of their national anthems, whereupon they retired for a private talk while a number of us, members of the entourage, strolled to the flag-bedecked recreation hall close by where the wounded veterans were to meet.

The two Egyptian busses churned up much dust as they came into view and drew to a halt at the entrance to the hall. There must have been 70 men in all, resplendent in fresh uniforms of different rank and insignia, and all lavishly decorated in campaign medals. Their exit from the busses was painfully slow. Some were missing a foot, others a leg. Four at least had both legs missing. Some wore hook-like contraptions where their hands had been, and the sleeves of those without arms were neatly folded back and pinned at the shoulder. A number were grotesquely disfigured; some were blind.

THEY WALKED, wheeled, limped and hobbled their way into the hall's cool interior, on crutches, with canes, and in wheelchairs. Medical orderlies guided them to the far end of the hall, where they were seated, and handed refreshments.

Five minutes later the two Israeli busses, red and cream-colored, pulled up, and the identical scene took place. One by one the Israeli war invalids emerged, some lame, some disfigured, some with artificial limbs, some paralyzed, some blind. Unlike the Egyptians, however, none wore uniforms or decorations of any sort. Leaning on their crutches and canes, or in wheelchairs, and assisted by medical orderlies, they hobbled and limped and rolled their way inside, lining up at the near side of the hall adjacent to the entrance.


Egyptian eyes locked Israeli eyes in a palpable suspense of conflicting emotion. Cripple appraised cripple, as if striving to pick out the one who had pressed the trigger, pulled the pin, pushed the button. Gallant though this encounter idea was, no one had thought it through. The wounds were too fresh. Nobody knew what to do or say as the two groups of smashed men confronted each other across a distance of perhaps ten or twelve yards that was an impassable no-man's land. A restless stirring gripped the hall. Some asked orderlies to get them out.

Close to where I stood an Israeli in his thirties, blind, bent low to embrace a child. Their resemblance was striking. The child was eight or nine, with big eyes as black as his curly hair, just like his dad's.

"Kach oti eilehem" [Take me to them], whispered the father. The child looked up at him pleadingly, and whimpered, "Aval ani m'facheid mihem." [But I'm scared of them]. Gently, the father nudged the child forward and he, the child, timidly led his dad into the no man's land. And even as they began to move an Egyptian officer in a wheelchair, legless, rolled himself toward them. They met in the middle and the officer placed the blind man's palm into his own, and shook it.

Instantly, the commotion eased. A Jew began to clap; he was joined by an Arab. Incrementally, the sprinkle of clapping swelled until it burst into a boisterous applause that rattled the rafters as the two sides limped, hobbled, and wheeled themselves toward each other, melting into a huddle of embraces, handshakes, and backslapping. With laughter and tears, the maimed soldiers of the 1948 war, the 1956 Sinai War, the 1967 Six Day War, the 1970 Attrition War, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War fell on each other, calling out "Shalom!" "Salaam!" "Peace!"

And even as they embraced prime minister Menachem Begin and president Anwar Sadat entered, and the applause rose to an even higher pitch. The two leaders circulated among the men, asking about their wounds and where they had fought. And when the premier and the president mounted the rostrum to laud their brave armies and their wounded veterans, many in the crowd wept and called out to each other in Hebrew, in Arabic, and in English: "L'chayim!" "Lihayot!" "To life!"

Enveloped in the midst of this raucous camaraderie, the child clung tightly to his blind father. He looked bewildered, terrified even, his eyes darting back and forth at the animated faces of Arab and Jew. Nothing in his young experience had prepared him for this. For as long as he could remember he had played escort to a father who would never see because he had been made blind by such Arabs. They would always be the enemy and, by definition, bad.

Sensing his son's apprehension, the blind man lifted his child into his arms, kissed him gently, and said, "Al t'facheid b'nee. Ha'Aravim ha'eyle tovim." [Don't be afraid, my son. These Arabs are good].

TWENTY-NINE years later, that child of El Arish would be in his thirties and his dad in the sixties. I have no idea who they were. I merely wonder whether the dad feels the same way today as he felt then. I don't.

Oh, for the embraces of El Arish.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 13

Volume 4, Issue 33
May 29, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 402,691

"Why Did He Resign?"

In a television series called 10 Mysteries of Israel, one of those explored was the resignation and last years of Menachem Begin. Program directors were attempting to ascertain why it was that Menachem Begin resigned from office. They interviewed various people who did not know Begin personally, or if they did, were not privy to his decisions.

They also interviewed, Harry Hurwitz, the Founder and President of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, who had been close to Menachem Begin and was present when Begin was informed in Los Angeles that his beloved wife Aliza had passed away in Jerusalem. Begin broke down and simply asked "Why did I leave her?" He had not wanted to go on this trip to the US, but his wife had written him a note from the hospital urging him to go because it was for the good of the nation. However, all the way back to Israel Menachem Begin kept repeating the words "why did I leave her?"

Hurwitz is convinced that while other factors influenced his decision and its timing, the major reason for his resignation was the death of his wife.


Annual Shavuot All-Night Study

This year's Shavuot all-night study event will be on the theme of "60 years of the State of Israel: Realization of the Prophets' Visions?" The main speakers will be lecturing in the Reuben Hecht Auditorium, but throughout the Center other classes will be held and small study groups will gather. The evening wi ll finish with an early, pre-sunrise walk to the Kotel for morning prayers.

The schedule of the main speakers is as follows:

11:00pm Dr. Micha Goodman "Spiritual Opportunity: Israel's Rabbinate"

00:00am Mr. Irmi Stavitsky "The People of Israel in their Country"

01:00am Dr. Tzvika Tzameret "What Ben-Gurion Meant by 'The Chosen People'"

01:30am Mr. Herzl Makov "The Vision of Bible Justice
According to Ze'ev Jabotinsky"

02:00am Rabbi Dr. Benny Lau "For the young and old, we are a
defensive shield"

03:00am Leave to walk to the Kotel

This Shavuot all-night study session was created in partnership with Keren Keshet and Ma'agalei Tzedek. There will be simultaneous sign language for the hearing-impaired.

12 Prime Ministers: Commemorative Stamps

The Australian Zionist Federation in consultation with one of the leading stamp deals in the world, Mr. Max Stern, initiated a special set of stamps marking Israel's 60th anniversary. The set has the pictures of the 12 Prime Ministers of Israel and one of Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement.

A few days ago Mr. and Mrs. Erwin Lamm of Melbourne, their sister-in-law who lives in Jerusalem and their nephew, Tommy Lamm, called on the Founders of the Begin Foundation and presented to him a beautifully packaged set of stamps which are now in the archives. The set was provided by Dr. Danny Lamm of Melbourne who currently heads the Zionist Federation in that city.

Polish President Recalls the ZZW

During the recent visit to Jerusalem for the President's Conference marking Israel's 60th anniversary, the President of Poland Mr. Lech Kaczynski participated in an awards ceremony for a number of honorees that took place at Jerusalem's Mt. Zion Hotel. In the course of his address, he noted the fact that there had been two Jewish Underground fighting organizations in the Warsaw Ghetto. The one which is generally talked about consisted of members of Left wing organizations and the second was the ZZW comprising members of the Betar, Irgun and members of the Revisionist organizations. It surprised him to learn that this was unknown to most Israelis including senior government and military officials.

Book Fair in Jerusalem

An elaborate book fair is taking place this week—Book Week—in Jerusalem and other cities in the country. The book fair is promoting Israeli produced books in many categories.

The Menachem Begin Heritage Center has a stand at the fair which features the books initiated and published by or in cooperation with the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. By now 25 titles are available in and from the Begin Center. These are on display and on sale.

Begin Sports Center in Holon

Israel television featured quite extensive coverage of the recent Rhythmic Gymnastics Grand Prix team competition which was won by Israel vying against very well-known international gymnasts. The event took place in the Menachem Begin Sports Center in Holon.