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.

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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.