Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Center Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 46

Volume 4, Issue 46
August 26, 2008

Total Number of Visitors Since October 2004: 432,510

"You are a Jew"

The magazine Azure, published by the Shalem Center, contains an article by Jeremy Suri (No. 33, Summer 2008) entitled "Kissinger: The Inside-Outsider". In it, the writer says (p. 80):

Israeli and American Jews were concerned that Kissinger was overcompensating for his background by making excessive concessions to the Arabs. He was, they feared, trading Israel's security for his own international influence. Menachem Begin, the leaders of Israel's Likud party and future Prime Minister, reminded Kissinger: "You are a Jew. You are not the first [Jew] who has reached a high position in one's coun try of residence. Remember the past. There were such Jews, who out of a complex feared non-Jews would charge them with acting for their people, and therefore did the opposite." Begin further warned that "Dr. Kissinger should be careful about such a distortion in his seemingly objective thinking."

In fact, some years later, when Kissinger had already achieved a high international reputation and Menachem Begin was Prime Minister of Israel, the two met on various occasions and exchanged views on Middle East and international affairs.

Begin's Decision - "I Cannot Go On"

Harry Hurwitz, Founder of the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation and its President, was advisor to Prime Minister Menachem Begin on Diaspora Jewry at the time of his resignation. He wrote in his book:

It was Sunday morning, 28 August, and time for the regular weekly cabinet meeting. As always, the Prime Minister arrived at the office at 8:00am. He passed me in the anteroom and nodded slightly. He was looking paler than usual as he called out, through gritted teeth, "Yechiel!" His trusted secretary and confidant followed him into his room and emerged a few minutes later, pale as a sheet. He beckoned to me to follow him into his own adjoining office as he called Dan Meridor, the Cabinet Secretary, on the intercom. "Dan," he said, "the Prime Minister has decided to announce his resignation at this morning's meeting."

A few minutes before nine, Menachem Begin stepped out of his office and began his last walk upstairs to the Cabinet room. There, after dispensing with some formalities and preliminaries, he told the assembled ministers simply: "I cannot go on any longer." The stunned reaction gave way to a loud "No, No," and a clamor to reconsider.

A few minutes later he was back in his own office. He took my hand and said: "I'm sorry for what I'm doing to my friends but, you understand, I cannot go on."

Begin's announcement was followed by endless attempts to dissuade him from his course—from the members of his Government, his supporters and critics alike, from the Likud faction, the Government Coalition, from rabbis, from personal friends, from delegations from all parts of the country. There was an endless stream of people going into his office.

A group of settlers from Judea and Samaria came into appeal to the man who was primarily responsible for the remarkable fact that some 70,000 people were now living in the 200 villages in the "disputed" areas.

Rabbis urged him to withdraw the resignation in order "not to cause darkness and gloom in these days of the month of Elul before Rosh Hashana." I heard the son of the late Reb Aryeh Levin, whom Begin loved and revered, tell him that he had visited his father's grave that morning and "had received a message" urging Begin to reconsider. For a few brief minutes, Freda, my wife, and I found ourselves alone in the room with Menachem Begin. We said: "Menachem, dear friend, you are not well and you are exhausted. Why don't you take a month's break from everything to regain your health and strength, and then decide finally."

By sheer chance, I was witness to a rare moment which revealed what might have been the reason for the timing of his resignation precisely that week. It was not the reason for his resignation, but could have determined why he made the announcement on Sunday, 28 August, and had not done so a week earlier, or was not prepared to wait another fortnight or a month or two. If he was going to resign, the timing was significant to him.

After many people had gone into his office to appeal to him to reconsider his resignation decision, I was left in the office along with the Prime Minister for a few minutes. Suddenly, he looked out the window and the slightest sign of a smile appeared at the corner of his mouth: "So, now this too is resolved," he whispered. He was referring to a subject that had obviously weighed on him for some time and had reached a peak in that last week.

Germany's Chancellor Kohl was due to arrive in Israel the next day on an official visit. As Prime Minister, Begin would, obviously, have to receive him, meet with him and tender a dinner in his honor. He would be expec ted to welcome the guest at the airport and hear the Israel Band play the German anthem and "Hatikvah". As is customary, the national flag of the country of the visiting head of Government was displayed in a number of places in Jerusalem which the guest would visit, including the Prime Minister's Office. Such flags flying side by side with the flag of Israel were visible from Menachem Begin's office.

The sight added to his pain.

New Session of Government Fellows Starts

Twenty-two young Jewish leaders from eight different countries started their 10-month internship journey in Israel this week. The young people came from the US, Canada, Switzerland, Finland, Russia, France, Venezuela and Mexico to participate in the Israel Government Fellows Program initiated by the Begin Center in cooperation with MASA. The young leaders will intern in various government ministries includin g the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, the Office of the President and the Office of the Government Secretary, to name only a few. After a one-month orientation, the Fellows will begin their internships on September 21.

The young people can look forward to four-day work weeks with the additional day of the week dedicated to learning about Israel, Israeli culture, Israel's and Jewish history, current events and trips to learn about Jerusalem and the rest of the country. They will also attend intensive Hebrew classes.

This is the third session of the Israel Government Fellows Program and the first session that is ten months long. The previous two sessions were five months long. A few participants from earlier sessions have continued work in the framework of the Israel government at embassies and consulates abroad as well as in government offices here in Israel.

Very Exciting Visit to the Center

Reut Nave — the subject of last week's story regarding the letter from Menachem Begin that took 30 years to arrive — her husband and two children came to visit the Begin Museum this week and were excited and impressed, especially to hear and see the recordings of Begin's famous speeches in the museum. When they came out of the museum, they were met by Moshe Fuksman-Sha'al, Deputy Chairman of the Begin Center, and Harry Hurwitz, Founder and President of the Foundation. After chatting a while, the family received two books as a gift: one a book for children about Menachem Begin (in Hebrew) and another, a special edition of The Revolt (in English) which Begin had signed. This is in recognition of the lady's patience and tolerance.
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