Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 42

Volume 4, Issue 42
July 29, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 418,276

UK PM Gordon Brown Speaks at the Knesset

It did not go unnoticed and it has been greatly appreciated that in his historic address to the Knesset British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (the first British Prime Minister to address the Knesset) recalled three of Israel's former Prime Ministers. First there was David Ben Gurion who proclaimed the Jewish State "which had to be fully democratic." Of Menachem Begin, he said "I thin k of Menachem Begin who reached out to Anwar Sadat, an old adversary, and who stood by him in this parliament when in 1977 he made his historic speech offering himself as a partner for peace." And, he mentioned Yitzhak Rabin "who was cruelly struck down" who made peace with Jordan.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's approach is fundamentally different from that of President George Bush who, in his address at the opening of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations, ignored everyone but the Socialist Prime Ministers of Israel. After referring to Israel's accomplishments, he said "we see the visionary leadership of men and women like Herzl and Weizmann, Ben-Gurion and Gold a Meir, Rabin and Sharon." It seems that his speechwriters in Washington, DC, or those who guided him in Jerusalem did not consider it appropriate to include Prime Minister Begin (who achieved the breakthrough to peace with Egypt), Prime Minister Shamir and other great leaders of the Jewish people.

One commentator said that the Bush attitude could be compared to someone speaking about the US and referring only to Benjamin Franklin, Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, John Kennedy, Carter and Clinton.

2nd Session of Israel Gov't Fellows Ends

The second session of the Israel Government Fellows concluded this week with a festive graduation ceremony at the Begin Center. The Israel Government Fellows program is a joint initiative of the Begin Center, MASA and the Prime Minister's Office which allows future leaders of Jewish communities abroad to intern in Israel's government ministries. This session's Fellows came from the US, Canada, Fra nce, New Zealand and Russia and were placed within the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Science, Sport and Culture and the aegis of the Prime Minister's Office – the Government Press Office and the Civic Service Administration. The program is gaining popularity and now government offices are requesting interns from this program. The next session will start on August 24 with 26 Fellows and has been lengthened to a 10-month program.

Speakers at the graduation ceremony emceed by Alon Shani, the coordinator and counselor for the group, were Harry Hurwitz, Founder and President of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation; Herzl Makov, Chairman of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center; Shariel Gun, advisor to the Cabinet Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office; Or Pearl, newly appointed trade attaché of Israel in South Africa, from the Ministry of Industry Trade and Labor, who represented the mentors; Nir Buchler and Laurie Felder representing the Fellows; and Gadi Gavronsky who spoke of the lifelong im pact the Fellowship experience will have on the Fellows. Tamar Darmon, the director of the program, closed the speeches segment of the ceremony with thanks to everyone who made the program possible and gave words of encouragement to the Fellows as they go on their respective paths in life. The ceremony ended with the Fellows being called up to receive their certificates of completion and a gift from the Begin Center.

A Special Parashat HaShavua

A special Parashat Hashavua program will be held to coincide with Tisha b'Av on Thursday, August 7 at 7:00pm the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. Regular sessions of the program will commence with Parashat Bereshit after Sukkot, as in previous years.

The special session will feature a lecture by Dr. Ze'ev Binyamin Begin on the Lachish Letters and by Dr. Micha Goodman, the popular lecturer who inaugurated the Parashat HaShavua program at the Begin Center.

"Avshalom, Avshalom" to be on Israel TV's Channel 1

A rebroadcast of the program "Avshalom, Avshalom" — the story of Avshalom Feinberg of NILI fame will appear on Israel's Channel 1 television on Friday, August 15 at 5:00pm. The program, consisting of lectures, discussions and songs, was initially held in the Reuben Hecht Auditorium of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. Among others, it features Chaim Topol who was the emcee.

Farewell to National Service Girls of 2007-8

A short farewell was held for three national services girls who had served in the Begin Center in various capacities and, at the end of their stay, they took leave and were given token gifts by the Begin Center, whose leaders spoke warmly about them. They, in turn, said that the time spent in the Begin Center and the work they did in different departments remains an unforgettable experience.

The next group of National Service girls will start at the Begin Center on September 1.

In Memoriam

We deeply regret to record the death of Mrs. Adele Gartner, wife of the late Shia Gartner, who died last year. They were long-time friends and active supporters of Menachem Begin from the days of Betar in Poland through the period of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, all his years in the Opposition and in the premiership. They are survived by their daughter and son-i n-law Kouky and Armand Frohmann and their family.

Shia Gartner was on the International Board of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation and a few years ago undertook a significant financial contribution for the Warsaw section of the Museum in which he appears together with Menachem Begin.


Ambassador Sallai Meridor was in Israel on a short visit accompanying presidential candidate Obama during his short stay in Jer usalem. The Ambassador paid a short visit to the Begin Center with which he was actively associated before his ambassadorial appointment.

* * * * *

A delegation of the Keren HaYesod from Greece was in Israel recently and made a special visit to the Begin Center, its different features, and of course, the Begin Museum. They were very impressed. This visit was initiated by Roland Sussmann, editor of SHALOM magazine which is based in Geneva.

* * * * *

Cynthia and Harry Bauer of Sydney, Australia visited the Begin Center at the beginning of this week, and saw its museum and other features of the building.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A New Research Web Site

There's a new web site for research on Israel, the American Presidency Project and to illustrate its worth, I entered 'Menachem' and 'Begin' and here's one document made available:

Statement by Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the Resignation of
Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel
September 15th, 1983

The resignation of Prime Minister Begin was formalized today. The President wishes Mr. Begin well and states that the Prime Minister has played a unique and central role in the history of his country. His dedication to peace and his efforts on behalf of the people of Israel are truly commendable. His statesmanship and leadership have been a source of inspiration. Prime Minister Begin has shown the courage and determination to make the kind of difficult decisions for peace, as demonstrated at Camp David, decisions which are so necessary to bring stability to this troubled region of the world.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Direction Sign

Two Years Ago

July 20, 2006

British anger at terror celebration
The commemoration of Israeli bombings that killing 92 people has caused offence

The rightwingers, including Binyamin Netanyahu, the former Prime Minister, are commemorating the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the headquarters of British rule, that killed 92 people and helped to drive the British from Palestine.

They have erected a plaque outside the restored building, and are holding a two-day seminar with speeches and a tour of the hotel by one of the Jewish resistance fighters involved in the attack.

Simon McDonald, the British Ambassador in Tel Aviv, and John Jenkins, the Consul-General in Jerusalem, have written to the municipality, stating: “We do not think that it is right for an act of terrorism, which led to the loss of many lives, to be commemorated.”

In particular they demanded the removal of the plaque that pays tribute to the Irgun, the Jewish resistance branch headed by Menachem Begin, the future Prime Minister, which carried out the attack on July 22, 1946.

The plaque presents as fact the Irgun’s claim that people died because the British ignored warning calls. “For reasons known only to the British, the hotel was not evacuated,” it states.

Mr McDonald and Dr Jenkins denied that the British had been warned, adding that even if they had “this does not absolve those who planted the bomb from responsibility for the deaths”. On Monday city officials agreed to remove the language deemed offensive from the blue sign hanging on the hotel’s gates, though that had not been done shortly before it was unveiled last night.

The controversy over the plaque and the two-day celebration of the bombing, sponsored by Irgun veterans and the right-wing Menachem Begin Heritage Centre, goes to the heart of the debate over the use of political violence in the Middle East. Yesterday Mr Netanyahu argued in a speech celebrating the attack that the Irgun were governed by morals, unlike fighters from groups such as Hamas.

“It’s very important to make the distinction between terror groups and freedom fighters, and between terror action and legitimate military action,” he said. “Imagine that Hamas or Hezbollah would call the military headquarters in Tel Aviv and say, ‘We have placed a bomb and we are asking you to evacuate the area’.”

But the view of the attack was very different in 1946 when The Times branded the Irgun “terrorists in disguise”. Decades later, Irgun veterans are unrepentant. Sarah Agassi, 80, remembers spying in the King David Hotel.

She and a fellow agent posed as a couple. They danced tangos and waltzes, sipped whisky and wine while they cased out the hotel.

On the day her brother and his fellow fighters posed as Arabs delivering milk and brought seven milk churns, each containing 50kg of explosives, into the building. Ms Agassi waited across the street until her brother rushed out. She said that she then made the warning call to the British command in the hotel.

Sitting in the luxurious hotel lobby, she expressed no regret. “We fought for our independence. We thought it was the right way . . . If I had to fight for Israel, I swear even now I would do anything.”


The original wording:

The Hotel housed the Mandate Secretariat as well as the Army Headquarters. On July 1946 (sic) Irgun fighters at the order of the Hebrew Resistance Movement planted explosives in the basement. Warning phone calls had been made urging the hotel’s occupants to leave immediately. For reasons known only to the British the hotel was not evacuated and after 25 minutes the bombs exploded, and to the Irgun’s regret and dismay 91 persons were killed.

The amended version

. . .Warning phone calls had been made to the hotel, the Palestine Post and the French Consulate, urging the hotel’s occupants to leave immediately.

The hotel was not evacuated, and after 25 minutes the bombs exploded. The entire western wing was destroyed, and to the Irgun’s regret 92 persons were killed.

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 41

Volume 4, Issue 41
July 23, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 416,901

Successful Jerusalem Film Festival Concludes

By all accounts, this year's Jerusalem Film Festival was one of the most successful ever. Close to 250 movies were shown in eight locations including the Reuben Hecht Auditorium of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.

Hundreds of people from all parts of Israel came to the Begin Center every day. Some arranged to arrive several hours before the screening so they might, by arrangement, enter the Menachem Begin Museum or to do so after th e screening of the movie.

Many of the cinema goers commented on the impressive building and auditorium and were very complementary about the screening and the sound. The management of the Cinemateque who organized the Festival had installed a special wider screen.

One of the highlights of the whole festival was the screening of the long-time favorite movie EXODUS, which this year was combined with a special tribute to the commander of the ship, the late Yossi Harel, and the 4,500 refugees it carried and who were forcibly removed from the vessel by the British and sent back to Europe.

Another special event attracted a capacity auditorium of younger people who are engaged in the movie industry.

The Begin Center is, of course, pleased that it is part of this internationally known and acclaimed Festival.

DCM of South Africa Visits

The Deputy Ambassador of South Africa Elizabeth Smith and the Embassy's First Secretary Tsoloo spent almost a whole morning in the Begin Center last week and especially studied the Menachem Begin Museum which impressed them very much.

They were brought to Jerusalem by Adv. Hertzel Katz, a leader of the South African community in Israel, and by the current Chairman of TelFed, Mr. Maish Isaacson. They were met by Harry Hurwitz, the Founder and President of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation. The visitors had many questions which were answered and they requested explanations for various events portrayed in the museum. The location of the Center, op posite Jerusalem's Old City walls, had a great impact on the visitors.

Geula Cohen's Book Launch

The Begin Center, in cooperation with the Reuben Maas Publishing House and the Uri Tzvi Greenberg House, hosted a book launching party for a second volume of memoirs written by former MK and Deputy Minister Geula Cohen on Tuesday evening, July 22. Approximately 450 people were present filling not only the Reuben Hecht Auditorium but also the large seminar room.

Ms. Cohen's book, entitled I Haven't The Strength To Be Tired, fills in certain events not covered by her first book of reminisces, first published four decades ago as Woman of Violence, and adds her experiences as a politician as well as her activities on behalf of the settling of the Land of Israel, Soviet Jewry, Jews of Ethiopia and many other areas in which she was involved.

In her book, Ms. Cohen notes the importance of the need for a Zionist "cultural struggle", one which encourages the creation of poetry, art and literature. And she writes: "Encouraging indications of a recent awakening in this direction can be seen in the varied and wonderful cultural activity taking place at the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem".

Part of the crowd

Publisher Miri Maas

Geulah Cohen and Herzl Makov entering

Speakers included Miri Maas, the Begin Center's Herzi Makov, the poet Miron Issacson, Yesha Council Chairman Dany Dayan, and the journalist Ya'akov Achimeir. Boaz Sharabi provided musical entertainment and Dan Kaner was MC.

1 Rosenbaum — An Historic Site

Efforts are being made by the Begin Center and associates to have the small apartment where the Begin family lived for more than 30 years declared a national historic site. It is situated in 1 Rosenbaum Street near the Habima Theater in Tel Aviv.

The matter has been discussed with the mayor's office and the special department that deals with such historic sites. These are the first steps in what will likely be a very long process.

Menachem Begin, his wife Aliza and their son, Benny, and their daughter, Hasiya, lived in that apartment in the last stage of the Irgun struggle against the British Mandate Auth orities. After the proclamation of the State of Israel, they remained there 29 more years, until Begin, as he had often said, moved out of the apartment to Jerusalem to the official residence of the Prime Minister in 1977.


Dr. and Mrs. M. Shalit who now live in New York came to the Begin Center last Friday and visited the museum and the other facilities. Mary and Maish are long-time friends of Dr. Hillel and Jennifer Hurwitz and Freda and Harry Hurwitz. Their summing up of the Begin Center was one word: "Outstanding!" They had not expected to find such an elaborate educational, cultural Institute and congratulated all those responsible for it.

* * * * *

Mr. Danny Ofir, the Director of the non-profit organization devoted to the preservation and publication of the story of the Hurwitz Family throughout the world. There is a large organization in Israel and he was happy to meet personally with Harry Hurwitz who founded the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. A group of members of the Hurwitz "Clan" will be visiting Jerusalem soon and Mr. Ofir hopes to include a visit to the Begin Center and to have a discussion with its initiator.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Soldiers at the Center

Part of the visits of soldiers and other special groups to the Begin Center, who take part in a day of educational programs, is dedicated to a visit to the Hasten Research Library and a talk by the librarian, Bruriah Romanov.

Bruriah, whose stepfather was Dr. Meir Kahan, one of Begin's closest confidantes during the period of the underground struggle and afterward, tells the story of the library's books with personal reminices.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Irgun Leaflet Goes on Sale in UK

Jewish guerrillas told British: quit Palestine or die
Fighters were led by future Israeli premier

Marcus Leroux

A pamphlet warning Britons to leave the Middle East or face death has come to light in a stash of illicit propaganda.

The document does not hail from Basra or Baghdad, nor was it penned by the Islamists of al-Qaeda or the al-Mahdi Army. It was found in Haifa, about 60 years ago, and it was issued by the underground group led by Menachem Begin – the future Prime Minister of Israel and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The document, which surfaced at an auction house this week, is addressed to “the soldiers of the occupation army” and aimed at British soldiers serving in Palestine, then under the British Mandate, preceding the establishment of Israel in 1948. The print has faded and the paper has discoloured since it was unearthed from a grove of trees in Haifa in the summer of 1947. Yet the language and the concerns remain current.

Bombings and murders by underground groups, such as Begin’s Irgun, hastened the British withdrawal and the United Nations declaration that led to the founding of modern Israel.

Irgun propaganda targeted the British Army’s wavering morale, already dented by the bomb attack on the Mandate’s headquarters – the King David Hotel in Jerusalem – which killed 91 people.

In the document, Irgun tells British troops: “It is unavoidable that many Jewish soldiers and many British soldiers should fall. And it is only fair that these people know at least why they may be killed.”

It adds: “Most of you have been in this country for quite a long time. You have learned what the word ‘terrorist’ means, some of you may even have come into direct contact with them (and heartily desire not to repeat the experience). But what do you know about them? Why does a young man go underground?”

It then draws a parallel with what would have happened if, seven years earlier, Britain had been overrun by Nazi Germany. “Remember 1940. Then it seemed quite possible that your island country would be conquered and subjugated by Hitler hordes . . . what would you have done? Would you have gone underground?” The pamphlet says that the occupation is “illegal and immoral” and “parallel to the mass assassination of a whole people”, in language that echoes that used on a note pinned to the booby-trapped bodies of two British intelligence officers executed by Irgun that same summer.

The pamphlet came from a stash confiscated and burnt by cyptographers from the Royal Signals regiment. Corporal Raymond Smith found them buried in a secluded grove marked by a white Star of David and was ordered to destroy them, but took one as a memento. A collector acquired the document from Corporal Smith, and brought it to Mullock’s auctioneers in Shropshire.

Richard Westwood-Brookes, Mullock’s historical documents specialist, said the pamphlet was a remarkable find, which “ amounted to a manifesto for terrorist action”. He added: “It also raises the question as to who are ‘terrorists’ and who are ‘freedom fighters’. It’s a debate which raged through the troubles of Northern Ireland and continues in the Middle East.”

Begin’s Irgun set aside its differences with Haganah, a rival underground Jewish group led by David Ben Gurion – the first Prime Minister of Israel, who once likened Begin to Adolf Hitler.

Begin forged a political career as a hardliner, but, after becoming Prime Minister, signed the Camp David agreement with Egypt in 1979.

The pamphlet, which is expected to fetch about £500, goes on sale at Mullock’s, in Shropshire, on August 6.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Prof. Wyman Responds to Yad Vashem's Inaccuracies

Professor Wyman responds to Yad Vashem's "explanation" why the activities of the Bergson Group, an intergral section of the Jabotinsky Movement and in communication with Menachem Begin, should not be included in Yad Vashem.

An integral part of the story

Dr. David Silberklang of Yad Vashem ("Putting Hillel Kook in Context," July 11) acknowledges that the Bergson Group (the Holocaust rescue activists in the United States, led by Hillel Kook) "did have an impact" on mobilizing American public support for the rescue of European Jewry. But the group's most significant achievement was its crucial role in creating the War Refugee Board (WRB), a U.S. government agency that helped rescue more than 200,000 Jews from the Nazis during 1944-1945. Since Dr. Silberklang makes a point of mentioning that Yad Vashem in 1993 published a Hebrew edition of my book "The Abandonment of the Jews," he presumably knows that the book documents the Bergson Group's role in the establishment of the WRB.

Despite this, Silberklang makes three accusations against the Bergson Group, none of which is supported by the historical record.

First, he criticizes the Bergsonites for placing an advertisement in The New York Times, in February 1943, in which they urged the Allies to accept Romania's reported offer to let its 70,000 Jews emigrate for the price of transportation costs. According to Silberklang, the ad "undermine[d] rescue efforts" because it "announced secret Romanian feelers to the U.S.," and thus "caused the Romanians to backtrack" on their offer.

In fact, the Romanian offer was no secret. It had already been reported in the Times. But neither the Times nor the Bergson Group was to blame for the offer's collapse. According to Yad Vashem's own "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust," the plan was halted because of German opposition. Similarly, a 1991 article by Dr. Ephraim Ophir, translated from Hebrew by Silberklang and appearing in Holocaust and Genocide Studies (co-published by Yad Vashem), concluded that the Romanian plan was stopped "because of German opposition ... [I]t is clear that The New York Times' 13 February 1943 article - and the subsequent 16 February paid advertisement by the Bergson Group - had nothing to do with the plan's failure."

Silberklang's second allegation against the Bergson Group is equally baseless. He recalls that in May 1944, Bergson created the Hebrew Committee of National Liberation, which he says focused on "the establishment of a 'Hebrew' state in Palestine." Silberklang claims that this shows the Bergson Group "changed course" and shifted away from the issue of rescue precisely at the moment Hungarian Jewry was in gravest danger.

Yet anyone who has studied the history of the Bergson Group knows that its rescue branch, the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, remained active throughout 1944-1945, and the new Hebrew Committee of National Liberation, too, focused heavily on the rescue issue in its newspaper ads, public programs and elsewhere. The attacks by mainstream Jewish leaders on the committee did divert some of Kook's time and energy, but one cannot blame him for the fact that Jewish leaders attacked him.

Silberklang's third allegation concerns President Franklin Roosevelt's January 1944 decision to establish the WRB. He says the Bergson Group "may have had some influence" on FDR's decision, "but the main force behind the WRB was Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr.'s report to the president ..."

Treasury documents show that Morgenthau and his staff recognized the critical role played by a Bergson-initiated Congressional resolution urging creation of a U.S. rescue agency. At a March 8, 1944 Treasury meeting, Morgenthau remarked: "[T]he thing that made it possible to get the president really to act on this thing - we are talking here among ourselves - was the thing that - the resolution at least had passed the Senate to form this kind of a War Refugee Committee, hadn't it?" When an aide interjected that Morgenthau himself had played a key role, he replied: "I had something to do with it, granted, but the tide was running with me. I think that six months before I couldn't have done it. I am just wondering who the crowd is that got the thing that far." WRB director John Pehle responded: "That is the emergency committee, Peter Bergson and his group." In another meeting, Morgenthau referred to "the resolution in the House and in the Senate by which we forced the president to appoint a committee [the WRB]."

Silberklang concludes by trying to justify Yad Vashem's exclusion of Bergson from its exhibit. Yad Vashem's museum "focuses on the main points of the history of the Holocaust," whereas, he says, the Bergson Group is part of the side story of how American Jews responded to the Holocaust. In fact, the story of the Bergson Group is an integral part of the history of the American government and public's response. Operating independently of the organized American Jewish community, Bergson mobilized large numbers of prominent non-Jews and built an ecumenical coalition that made rescue a major issue in 1943. These efforts played a critical role in pressuring Roosevelt to establish the WRB. The WRB, in turn, sent Raoul Wallenberg to Budapest, financed his life-saving work, and engaged in other rescue activities that, all told, helped save more than 200,000 lives.

That is not a side story. It is an important part of the history of the Holocaust and it deserves to be acknowledged in Yad Vashem's exhibition, which already includes a number of materials about other aspects of the U.S. response to the persecution and genocide of European Jewry.

As an American, I am deeply troubled that while Yad Vashem recognizes America's failures during the Holocaust, it does not acknowledge the accomplishments of those in America, such as the Bergson Group and the WRB, who helped bring about the rescue of so many Jews from the Holocaust.

David S. Wyman is Josiah E. DuBois, Jr., professor emeritus of history at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

U.S. Holocaust Museum Does What Yad Vashem Refuses

US Holocaust Museum launches exhibit on Bergson rescue group

Bowing to public pressure, the US Holocaust Museum in Washington has inaugurated a new exhibit about the Holocaust rescue activists known as the Bergson Group.

The Bergson Group was a maverick activist group in the US in the 1940s led by Hillel Kook - a nephew of Israel's first chief rabbi who worked under the pseudonym of Peter Bergson - that raised public awareness of the Holocaust and campaigned for US rescue efforts to save the Jews of Europe during World War II.

The organization was viewed by mainstream American Jewish leaders during World War II as being too forthright in its criticism of the Roosevelt administration's failure to rescue Jewish refugees, although in recent years most Jewish leaders have come to recognize the Bergson group as a crucial contributor to the infamously belated rescue effort.

The group is credited with helping to persuade the president in 1944 to establish the War Refugee Board, which ultimately saved 200,000 Jewish lives, including the life of future US Congressman Tom Lantos, who passed away earlier this year.

The exhibition was unveiled less than a month after Yad Vashem rebuffed a petition signed by 100 Israeli political and cultural leaders from across the political spectrum to include an exhibit about the group in Israel's Holocaust Museum as well.

The new exhibit, which is located in a section of the museum devoted to rescue, is in a display titled "American Rescue Efforts: The War Refugee Board" near another display about the famous Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who saved tens of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.

The new display states that as US congressmen and Jewish organizations began openly criticizing the State Department for its inaction and that the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe - which was the full name of the Bergson Group - organized a campaign for the creation of a US government rescue agency.

The exhibit then offers a brief summary of the work of the War Refugee Board and states how it helped save lives.

"This was a totally neglected issue which was not on their agenda," said Rabbi Benyamin Kamenetzky, 85, founder and longtime head of the South Shore Yeshiva in Long Island and one of the few surviving participants of a historic march by 400 Orthodox rabbis in Washington that the group organized during the Holocaust to protest the US government's inaction to save the Jews of Europe.

"It took a lot of effort and influence to have it exhibited," he said. The new exhibit was also welcomed by the prominent American Holocaust Institute, which had lobbied the US Holocaust Museum, and more recently Yad Vashem, to include an exhibition about the Bergson Group in their museums.

"The US Holocaust Museum has officially recognized that

the Bergson Group's rallies, newspaper ads, and congressional lobbying played a significant role in the process leading to the creation of the War Refugee Board," said Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. "We urge other Holocaust museums and institutions around the world to take note of the US Holocaust Museum's important step and likewise update their own exhibits."

In a controversial decision, Israel's Holocaust Authority said last month that they could not include all the events and activities pertaining to the Holocaust and World War II in one museum, as encompassing as it may be, adding that some of these - such as the Bergson Group - find expression in a variety of activities at Yad Vashem outside the museum, such as education, documentation, and research.

"Telling the story of the Bergson Group is extremely important not only because of its historical significance, but also because it sends a powerful message to today's younger generation that it really is possible to change history," said Prof. David S. Wyman, a leading international authority on America's response to the Holocaust, and author of the highly acclaimed The Abandonment of the Jews. "Americans, Israelis, people everywhere need to know that they can make a difference."

For decades after the war, information about the Bergson Group was routinely left out of textbooks, encyclopedias and museums. Despite opposition from mainstream American Jewish leaders, the group actively campaigned to save the doomed Jews of Europe through theatrical pageants, lobbying on Capitol Hill, placing more than 200 advertisements in newspapers and organizing the Rabbi march in Washington, which the Wyman Institute said was the only rally for rescue held in the nation's capital during the Holocaust.

The US Holocaust Museum had agreed to add material about the Bergson Group to its permanent exhibit last year following a petition organized by the Wyman Institute by more than 100 prominent Americans, including former members of Congress, prominent historians, and Jewish leaders such as Nobel Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

Warsaw Ghetto Revolt Commander Honored in Herzliya

Herzliya Hails a Warsaw Ghetto Jewish Hero

A historic injustice was rectified this weekend in the coastal city of Herzliya with a moving ceremony that culminated in the dedication of a square in memory of one of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising’s unsung heroes.

The event was the first of its kind, honoring Pawel Frenkel, the commander of the Jewish Military Organization. Many associate the infamous Warsaw uprising with the predominantly socialist Jewish Fighting Organization, commanded by Mordechai Anielewicz. However, according to the event’s organizers, Frenkel and his men played no less of a role than Anielewicz’s and thus deserved due credit.

The gathering was attended by some two hundred participants, including opposition leader and chairman of the Likud party, Binyamin Netanyahu, former cabinet ministers, Professor Moshe Arens and Dr Uzi Landau, veterans of pre- state Etzel and Lechi Undergrounds, representatives of the Jabotinsky Institute and young and old members of the Betar Youth Movement, including the movement’s World Chairman, Danny Danon.
Yaron Olami, a young Herzliya councilman and mayoral candidate, made the event possible with encouragement from Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, who was a Betar movement leader. In the ceremony, Arens explained: “The fact that Pawel Frenkel and his fighters fought the main battle of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising at Muranowski Square has been obscured for more than 60 years. A deliberate and effective effort has been made to ignore, or at the very least minimize, the participation of Frenkel's fighters in the uprising. Some historians adopted a version of events crediting the forerunners of the Labor movement with the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Here today in Herzliya, we have begun to modestly put right this wrongdoing for the sake of future generations.”

According to a book published by David Landau, one of Frenkel's fighters who survived the uprising, Frenkel said to his group shortly before the uprising began, "Comrades! We will die before our time but we are not doomed. We will be alive as long as Jewish history lives."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New Street Sign

Within the framework of street renovations in the area near the Begin Center, finally a Nahon Street sign was put up close to the corner of King David Street:

Now, visitors should have no complaints finding the Center.

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 38

Volume 4, Issue 38
July 2, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 214,220

70 Years Ago—Recalling Shlomo Ben Yosef

This week it is 70 years since the Betari Shlomo Ben Yosef was hanged by the British. In protest against the Arab riots and attacks upon Jews, he fired at a bus carrying Arab passengers. No one was hurt, but according to British Emergency Regulations, his action was a capital crime. He was tried, sentenced to death and executed.

Ze'ev Jabotinsky was terribly upset by this whole development and made a number of his great speeches about the issue and wrote a number of articles calling Ben Yosef the "Knight of Hadar". Ben Yosef, who was just about 18 years of age, said in his last minutes that he was going to his death with the name of Jabotinsky on his lips. He was the first of the Irgun and Lehi people thus to be executed by the British.

The Irgun Veterans Association, the Jabotinsky Institute, the Betar movement and the local council of Rosh Pina, where Ben Yosef is buried, will hold a memorial service at the cemetery on Thursday.

Unveiling Ceremony of Harry Brand Sculpture

A most attractive new feature has been added to the Begin Center. It is situated in the Hurwitz Family Entrance Hall and is literally the first thing visitors see when they enter the building. It is an unusual artistic creation by Prof. Harry Brand, who is a leading architect and who was a member of the building committee of the Begin < st1:PlaceType w:st="on">Center. It is made of solid aluminum and has next to it a significant quote from the thoughts of Menachem Begin which, in essence, says: "We are in our land not by the right of might, but by the might of right."

A select gathering of members of the Brand family, some of their friends, leaders of the Begin Foundation and Center and some visitors from abroad, including Lisa and Harry Posin of Boca Raton were present at the ceremony.

Herzl Makov opened the proceedings with warm words of thanks for Brand's creation which he presented to the Center. He was followed by Harry Hurwitz, who knew the Brand family and the Seeff family from South Africa. The Seeffs were leading and devoted members and supporters of the Zionist Revisionist Organization and the Betar Youth movement. In response, Harry Brand related that in 1957 when Menachem Begin visited South Africa, Mr. and Mrs. Begin stayed for a few days in the Seeff home in Johannesburg. At the end of the stay, Mr. Begin handed them a signed photo with an expression of gratitude. It is this official photo that formed the base of the artistic likeness which Harry Brand created. On behalf of the family he also thanked Mr. Hurwitz and his associates for their warmth and friendship to Mrs. Seeff after Sam had passed away.

There was enthusiastic applause from those present when the blue curtain covering the wall was pulled aside.

Bnai Zion Mission at the Center

The Bnai Zion fraternal organization in the US is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary with a series of events in different parts of the USA and elsewhere.

Among them is the visit of prestigious mission of the organization headed by its current President, Mr. Shaffer, and including its Executive Vice President Emeritus, Mr. Mel Parness and his successor, Mr. Jack Grunspan. Their program included a visit to the Begin Center and its state-of-the-art, hi-tech museum.

In addressing them briefly, the Founder of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Harry Hurwitz, related his own connection to the Bnai Zion during the time he served as Minister of Information at the Israel Embassy in Washington, DC. Mr. Parness recalled a number of meetings of the organization's leaders with Prime Minister Begin. The members of the mission were very impressed by the museum.

Lowell Milken and Family Pay A Visit

Mr. Lowell Milken of the Milken Family Foundation of Los Angeles, his sons Shmuel and Aaron, other members of the family and associates visited the Begin Center on Monday. They spent more than two hours touring various features in and around the building visiting the Menachem Begin Museum and getting a detailed briefing from Harry Hurwitz.

They were greatly impressed by all they saw and heard and will consider their practical participation in this great, educational, inspirational project.

Mr. Milken had a number of important suggestions which will be considered by the Board.


"The Stopping Power of Land: The Geopolitical Rationale of American Military Intervention Policy in Post-Cold War International Crises" a working paper in Hebrew by Ziv Rubinovitz, a research assistant at the Begin Center, was published by The Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Congressman Michael Pence and his wife Karen of Indiana paid a very brief visit to the Begin Center on Sunday. They are close friends of Mr. and Mrs. Hart Hasten of Indianapolis and were happy to see the important Institute with which the Hastens are connected.

Mr. Hart Hasten is the President of the US Friends of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation.

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Mr. Simi and Mrs. Lorraine Abraham and their daughter Yakira who is currently studying in Jerusalem visited the Begin Center and were very happy to meet with Harry Hurwitz whom they had known in South Africa. Lorraine is the Executive Director of the Zionist Federation of Australia and Simi who was at one time in charge of Information in the South African Zionist Federation is now in private business in Melbourne.

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 39

Volume 4, Issue 39
July 10, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 414,280


The editors of this bulletin apologize for misstating the total number of visitors that have been to the Center since October 2004. It was certainly not intentional; it was a transposition of the numbers. In fact, as you will see in today's bulletin, the total number of visitors is 414,280.

We were pleasantly surprised to receive a number of emails and calls from regular readers of the bulletin questioning the number and pointing out the mistake.


Begin Center Welcomes Jerusalem Film Festival

The Reuben Hecht Auditorium in the Menachem Begin Heritage Center is once again one of the major venues of the Jerusalem Film Festival which will function from 10-19 July. Dozens of movies in all categories will be screened at the Begin Center as in the previous 4 years. However, this year the major event of the Festival will be highlighted at the Begin Center. It is the rescreening of the movie EXODUS to honor the ship's commanding officer, the late Yossi Harel, who passed away last April when the highest tributes were paid to him by the government and many elements in the country.

The program at the Begin Center will take place on Wednesday evening July 16 and will include a short address by the Executive Vice President of MGM Networks, Bruce Tuchman, who is coming specially for the occasion; Sharon Harel, daughter of the late Yossi Harel, who is a film producer; Prof. Foster Hirsch, lecturer at City University in New York, who has published numerous articles, the latest of which is a biography of Otto Preminger who was producer and director of the movie. The moderator is Micha Shagrir.

At the beginning of the evening archival footage of the Exodus will be screened and tributes will be paid to Yossi Harel. The preliminary program will be followed by the screening of EXODUS, starring Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint, based on the novel by Leon Uris, screenplay by Dalton Trumbo and filmed on location in Israel.

Sadat's Family Angered by Movie

The family of the late President Anwar Sadat is furious about a new Iranian film Assassination of a Pharaoh which glorifies one of the Egyptians who shot President Sadat at a military parade on October 6, 1981, eight years after the start of the Yom Kippur War. The assassin, Khalid Islambouli, was brought to trial in Cairo and was hanged for the killing in 1982. Subsequently a Teheran road was named after him.

Sadat's daughter, Roqeya, said that "such slander will receive a strong response." And Sadat's nephew, Talat, who is a member of Egypt's Parliament, said that "making this film is a low attempt to tarnish the image of the man and falsify history."


Malka and Robert Beren of Kansas and Florida came on a visit to the Begin Center on Wednesday and were very impressed by many aspects of it. Mr. Beren had visited the building when it was in the last stages of construction and spoke highly of the way the building was created and its content. They met with Harry Hurwitz, the Founder and President of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation who accompanied them into the museum. They asked many questions about features in the museum and attendance and about the sort of people that come to it from Israel and abroad.

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Members of the Executive of the Anti-Defamation League who were visiting Jerusalem and met with leaders of the State came to the Begin Center and visited the Museum which impressed them very much.

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Mr. Nachman Shai, the CEO of the United Jewish Communities of North America and a number of his associates met with members of the Begin Foundation and the Begin Center to discuss a program in the Center at the time of the GA which will take place in Jerusalem from November 16 to 19. They are anxious that some of the young members of the North American Jewish Community should see the Center, hear the story and learn more about Menachem Begin.

It was also pointed out to them that 19 November is the date now inscribed in Israel's history when President Sadat of Egypt arrived in Jerusalem at the invitation of Prime Minister Begin. There is a temporary exhibit in the Center marking that historic event and the start of the Peace Process 30 years ago.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 37

Volume 4, Issue 37
June 26, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 410,877

60th Anniversary of the Altalena

Much publicity covered the Altalena 60th anniversary events last Thursday and Friday. The occasion was reported on three television programs in the Hebrew and English newspapers and local publications.

The highlight of the event was a regatta and competition around the area on the Tel Aviv beach front where the Altalena was attacked on orders of Ben Gurion, where the Altalena burst into flames and began exploding because of the weapons that were on the ship.

Ships gathered from Akko, Haifa, and Hertzliya and met at Vitkin Beach at 11:00am on Thursday creating a flotilla that sailed "In the Wake of the Altalena" down to the Tel Aviv Marina. At 7:30pm, the opening event began with all the ships including a marine scouts youth group.& nbsp; Eli Mizrahi, Chairman of the National Yacht Club, opened the event. Herzl Makov, Chairman of the Begin Center, spoke about the importance of the event in the establishment of the State and Begin's role in avoiding civil war. Yoske Nachmias gave a personal testimony of the events of that day. A very moving film was shown about two survivors of the Altalena meeting again after 60 years. A musical interlude was provided by Tamir Danieli.

On Friday morning, 30 ships, including one with Altalena survivors, lead by Joe Billig, a veteran of the Etzel, sailed from the Tel Aviv Marina to Frischman Beach. A naval memorial service was held with the traditional prayers. All the other ships circled the Altalena survivors' ship three times while a small aircraft flew over with a sign (in Hebrew) "Civil War—Never!" — the famous quote from Menachem Begin's speech after the Altalena was sunk. On the beach, people were handing out flyers to the bystanders so that they would know the history of the Altalena and to understand what was going on in front of them. After that, there was a tournament of boat races until 3pm. The whole two day event ended with an awards ceremony for the winners of the races and a kabbalat Shabbat with light refreshments.

Veterans of the Altalena held a separate, private unveiling ceremony at the new location of the Altalena memorial site which was moved for logistical reasons by the city of Tel Aviv.

Unveiling Ceremony

A most impressive new feature at the Begin Center will be officially unveiled at a ceremony on Monday, June 30. It is an artistic likeness of Menachem Begin and an appropriate sentence which sums up Begin's general outlook which are now imbedded in the wall of the Hurwitz Family Entrance Hall.

The original work was made by Prof. Harry Brand, a leading architect who served on the building committee of the Begin Center. It was enlarged and constructed out of aluminum so that an unusual portrayal is seen.

The ceremony will be attended by members of the Brand family, some of their friends, some members of the Boards of the Begin Center and Begin Foundation and senior members of the staff.

France-Israel Economic Cooperation Org. Meets

Linked to the State visit to Israel of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla, an event was organized at the Begin Center of the France-Israel Economic Cooperation Organization. Some 60 people participated in a discussion in the Seminar Room where French officials and businessmen who were in the President's party met with Israeli businessmen, including Shai Agassi.

They congregated for a light lunch in the Asper Foyer and were very taken by the view from the Foyer looking out to the Old City of Jerusalem.

Jewish Agency Reception

The Jewish Agency held a reception on the Simon Family Terrace of the Begin Center on Sunday evening at the conclusion of the first day of the deliberations of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency. Many veterans and younger members of the Board of Governors were present. They mingled. They talked. They expressed great admiration for the Center, its location and its unparalleled view.

Mazal Tov!

The wedding will take place in Manhattan on Thursday, July 3 of Daniella Liben and Adam Pally.

Daniella is the daughter of Sindy and Barry Liben who are devoted major supporters of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. They have provided the Jerusalem Elevator, which takes guests who toured the museum up to the ground level while listening to a 20 second extract of a speech (in Hebrew) by Prime Minister Begin about the eternity of Jerusalem, its liberation, unification and indivisibility. They have also been among the initiators of the new Endowment Fund to ensure the on-going educational, cultural, publishing, museum programs of the Begin Center.

We wish the Libens and the Pally family a hearty Mazal Tov and great joy from the union of their children.


Mr. Stanley Roth, one of the leaders of the Australian community who, among other things, heads its Keren HaYesod efforts, visited the Begin Center last Thursday at the conclusion of a very successful tour of an Australian mission. He was welcomed by the Founder and President of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation, Harry Hurwitz, who briefed him on the progress of the Foundation and the activities of the Center. A number of new ideas emerged and these will be discussed in the coming months.

Mr. Stanley Roth was impressed to see many people in the building and was delighted that the Begin Center has been such a notable success.

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Mr. Dan Zalmanowitz of Edmonton, Alberta in Canada and his son, Laurie, visited the Begin Center and were most enthusiastic about the building, its various features and its museum. Mr. Zalmanowitz had last seen the Begin Center when it was still under construction.

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Mr. Yossi Strauss, the comptroller of the Prime Minister's Office financial department, and members of his staff visited the Begin Center on Tuesday where they had discussions with the Chairman of the Center, Herzl Makov, its financial officer, Yisrael Drobles, and other members of the senior staff. They also met with Harry Hurwitz, President of the Foundation and then toured the museum. At the conclusion of their visit they complimented those who created such a Center and those who are leading it and offered their cooperation in the future.

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Mrs. L. Hainovitz, a well-known educator at the Pelech school in Jerusalem, brought a class to the Begin Center and toured the museum with them. She was so impressed that she said she would return in the near future with her husband, Asher Hainovitz, the cantor of the Jeshurun Synagogue.