Sunday, December 28, 2008

Center Bulletin, Vol. 5, No. 10

DECEMBER 25, 2008 | VOLUME 5, ISSUE 10



Before a full Reuben Hecht Auditorium and in the presence of MK Reuven Rivlin and other distingished guests, the Menachem Begin Prize 2008 was awarded to Dr. Reuven Or for his critical medical and research work and for the establishment of two essential life-saving projects: the unrelated volunteer bone marrow donor registry and the national umbilical cord bank. Dr. Or is offering the hope of health for many people who are ill and who, for whatever reason, are unable to receive a bone marrow donation from a family member. Clearly thrilled to be receiving this recognition, Dr. Or peppered his speech with quotes from Uri Zvi Greenberg, Shai Agnon and other literary figures.

Harold "Smoky" Simon was honored for his many years of volunteer activity for the State of Israel and its society. His volunteering life for the State of Israel began in the War of Independence in 1948 as a member of the volunteer air force and eventual official appointment as the first Operations Commander of the IAF, and his volunteering activities only grew from that point, including working with Menachem Begin from South Africa, and continue even today. He is the Chairman of World Machal and recently organized an international gathering for Machal members to visit Israel for the 60th anniversary of the state, as well as acting as the Honorary Treasurer for the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation.

Prof. Moshe Arens was honored for his contribution to the security of the state of Israel and his illuminating research on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Moshe Arens began his career in Betar and in the government served as Minister of Defense, Foreign Minister, Israel's Ambassador to the US and currently he serves as the Chairman of the Ariel University Center of Samaria's Board of Governors. His most recent work has been researching the Betar organization's involvement during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. He found that Pavel Frankel was a forgotten hero of the Muranovska Square battle and who had been a leader of the Betar group in the Warsaw Ghetto. This led to recognition of the Betar involvement in the Uprising both in Poland and in Israel.

A number of students were honored with scholarship awards from the Menachem and Aliza Begin Nobel Prize Fund, a fund that was started by Menachem Begin with the proceeds of the Nobel Prize he received in 1978.

The evening was emceed by Herzl Makov, Chairman of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, and music was provided by the Boarder Guards singing group. Yosef Wittelson lit the third candle of Chanukah at the opening of the evening.


On the first night of Chanukah, the Begin Center hosted the opening of a special exhibition brought from Krakow, Poland, called "A World Before Catastrophe". It is the exploration and documentation of the Jewish community in Krakow between the two World Wars. Many organizations cooperated with the Begin Center to bring this exhibit to Israel including the International Cultural Centre in Krakow (the original location of the exhibit), the Polish Embassy in Israel, The Polish Institute, the Poland @ Israel as part of the Polish Year in Israel 2008/9, the Landsmanschaft of Krakow Jews in Israel and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.

The Reuben Hecht Auditorium was filled to capacity with many members of the audience remembering Krakow as it was presented in the exhibit and who were very moved to see the exhibition here at the Begin Center. Aryeh Golan, a senior Kol Yisrael program moderater, was the host for the evening and the ceremony was opened with short speeches by Herzl Makov, Chairman of the Begin Center, Her Excellency Agnieszka Magziak-Miszewska, the ambassador of Poland in Israel and David Reiser, the President of the Landsmanschaft of Krakow Jews in Israel. The main speakers that evening were Prof. Jacek Purchla, historian and author of the catalogue of the exhibition, and His Excellency Prof. Shevach Weiss, Israel's Ambassador to Poland. The Young Jerusalem Saxophone Group gave the musical performances during the evening.
The exhibition will be on display in the auditorium foyer at the Begin Center for free until April 15, 2009. The high quality catalogue is available in Hebrew at the Klein Souvenir Store at the Begin Center (it is a translation of the Polish/English one that was published in Poland).


Twenty-seven years ago, the Knesset, by a two-thirds majority, passed the Golan Heights Law which extends Israeli law to the Golan Heights. With its passing, the US declared that it would "punish Israel". Prime Minister Begin did not wish to stand by and allow the "punishment" to pass without comment. He issued a statement on 20 December 1981 that he read to the US Ambassador to Israel, read to the Cabinet and issued to the public.

In it he says:

A week ago, at the instance of the Government, the Knesset passed on all three readings by an overwhelming majority of two-thirds, the "Golan Heights Law."
Now you once again declare that you are punishing Israel.

What kind of expression is this – "punishing Israel"? Are we a vassal state of yours? Are we a banana republic? Are we youths of fourteen who, if they don't behave properly, are slapped across the fingers?

Let me tell you who this government is composed of. It is composed of people whose lives were spent in resistance, in fighting and in suffering. You will not frighten us with "punishments." He who threatens us will find us deaf to his threats. We are only prepared to listen to rational arguments.

…As regards the future, please be kind enough to inform the Secretary of State that the Golan Heights Law will remain valid. There is no force on earth that can bring about its rescision.


On December 30 the Menachem Begin Heritage Center will host a ceremony to award scholarships to outstanding research work in fields related to Menachem Begin, his life, achievements and heritage. Three scholarships will be awarded for research work at the Doctorate and Master's level. Ya'acov Hecht wrote on the topic of politics and the diplomatic process before the strike on Osirak (the Iraqi nuclear reactor); Yaron Salman wrote on the psychological blocks of the Peace Process; and Harel Doron wrote about the "new rabbis" in the National Religious camp.

Four scholarships will be awarded for seminar papers at the Bachelor level. Avivit Mahatstri, who will be receiving the scholarship named after the late Izzy Asper of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, wrote about Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat in the Peace Process; Oded Mazor wrote about the idea of the "victim" with respect to the reparations from Germany; Tal Koifman wrote about religion in the Underground; and four authors, Eli Cohen, Doron Liba, Aviad Korman and Eliav Raviv, share the honor for their paper about Menachem Begin and Dr. Beny Begin and their rhetoric speaking styles.

RSVPs are required to attend the event as space is limited. (02) 565-2020 to reserve a place.


This week the B'nai Brith World Center-Jerusalem utilized the conference rooms here at the Begin Center. Philippe Karsenty gave a lecture about his court case in France regarding the Al Dura Affair, in which he was the successful defendant against France 2 television, and spoke about Israel and the media. He gave his lecture in English one day and in French the next.

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The Jewish Agency is holding a brainstorming session at the Begin Center to redefine the role of the shaliach in Jewish communities abroad.


To our readers in Israel who attend the Parashat HaShavua on Thursdays, there will not be a lecture this week. We look forward to seeing you again next week when the Parashat HaShavua returns.

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