Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On The King David Hotel Operation

Former Irgun fighter recalls bombing of British headquarters in Jerusalem's King David Hotel, which left more than 90 people dead. Sarah Agassi says armed Jewish group warned occupants to evacuate building. 'My conscience is clear,' she says 64 years after the operation, 'it was war'


The British have claimed that the warning was not received on time.

"What are they going to say? That they were warned but failed to act? We informed them on time. Two minutes after 12:30. Everything happened so quickly. They had a half-hour. Had they evacuated the building at 12:35, things would never have developed as they did."

Jews were also killed in the hotel.

"So, what could I have done? We gave the warning. My conscience is clear. And when they killed Jews over nothing – for hanging posters – was that not also painful? It was war. We operated like soldiers. We did not hesitate. I merely carried out orders. That's all."

..."After I gave birth I remained in the hospital for a month due to a fever. (Deceased Irgun commander and prime minister) Menachem Begin attended the circumcision ceremony and congratulated me," she says.

"To us (Begin) was a god, but I became disappointed in him later on. While in London in 1972, journalists called him a terrorist and a murderer. He told them that upon his return to Israel he would gather testimonies from the people who were there (King David operation). When he returned he summoned me to Metzudat Zeev (Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv) to talk about the explosion. He wanted me to speak at a special press conference he had organized," Agassi says.

"I told him, 'Mr. Begin, I work for the Histadrut's executive committee. If they see me in Metzudat Zeev with you tomorrow, I'll surely lose my job.' He said, 'Don't worry; I'll take care of you. You'll work for us.' I appeared on television and was fired the next day. I told him I was out of a job, but he said, 'The party doesn't have any money.'

"I was very angry, but we stayed in touch. He was a very nice man," says Agassi, who agreed to speak of the incident to promote a 13-minute film about her life, which is being produced as part of the international project, which documents the lives of Jews and Arabs.

Agassi, whose husband died a few years ago, is carrying on her family's legacy with pride.

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Scenes of the Third Floor

and one from the second floor:-

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The Event Marking Begin's 97th Birthday

Photographs from the event held at the Etzel Museum - Beit Gidi in Jaffa last Thursday marking Menachem Begin's 97th birthdya with the participation of over 700 (!) persons:

a) & b) the crowds:

c) Galila Ron-Feder Meshulam, author of the newest Begin biography:-

d) singer Raquellya:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Recalling Begin In Connection With Israel's Political Culture

From an op-ed by Yoel Marcus:-

...One of the characteristics of Israeli politics today is that the nation's leaders hate or love their colleagues less. They're more focused on public opinion polls and back-room deals than political relationships.

Looking back, you see that political bonds were deeply rooted in love-hate relationships, both emotional and ideological. Until the Six-Day War, David Ben-Gurion hated Menachem Begin. He never mentioned his name in the Knesset, referring to him as "the man sitting to the right of MK Bader." Their hatred stemmed from a rift over Ze'ev Jabotinsky, the Revisionist Zionist leader. Ben-Gurion refused to reinter his remains in Israel, as Jabotinsky had requested in his will. His remains were moved only when Levi Eshkol became prime minister, when the admiration between Eshkol and Ben-Gurion turned into hostility.

Paula Ben-Gurion actually liked Begin. When he would meet her, he would kiss her hand with Polish grace. She did not miss an opportunity to irritate her husband by praising Begin's gentlemanliness. The hatred between Begin and Ben-Gurion became friendship when Begin proposed making Ben-Gurion prime minister again on the eve of the Six-Day War. But Eshkol and Golda Meir adamantly opposed the move - the hatred for the founder of the state was absolute among his followers, of all people.

Golda, who was no beauty, was the most admired woman in her party. Though she was called the only man in the government, the truth is that she was very feminine. She loved like a woman and hated like a woman. When the national unity government was formed in 1967, she asked Begin not to include "those neofascists Dayan and Peres" in the cabinet. Begin replied that without them he would not join the government himself, and Golda retreated...

...The relations between Allon and Dayan were relations of jealousy and mutual contempt. The relationship between Shimon Peres and Dayan, both of whom were Ben-Gurion's favorite pair, cooled over time. When Dayan suddenly joined Begin's government as foreign minister, Peres considered it a betrayal.

In the betrayal department, Dayan surpassed Peres both in the political realm and in his relations with women. Dayan paved his way to Begin by saying, "I'm closer to Begin than to Ya'ari." With that he both rebuffed the left and won over Begin. He succeeded more so than attorney Shmuel Tamir, who tried to topple Begin with a putsch. He never dreamed that the day would come when Begin would be prime minister.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Russian-Language Limmud Conference Taking Place At Begin Center

One Thousand Young Russian-Speaking Israelis Expected at Limmud FSU Jerusalem

A unique event for Russian-speaking Israelis will take place this week in Jerusalem at the Kiryat Moriah Campus of the Jewish Agency, the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and the Shai Agnon House.

Opening on Wednesday, Limmud FSU is an intensive three-day program that includes dynamic events, workshops, panels, interviews, lectures, cultural presentations, seminars and round-table discussions on a vast range of topics, given by many of Israel’s leading academics, journalists, public figures and politicians. Sessions will be presented either in Russian or in Hebrew with Russian translation.

This year’s Limmud FSU is being held around the theme of Nobel prizewinners born in the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and in Israel. There are 26 such people among the 180 who have won the Nobel Prize, including Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres – all Nobel laureates for peace. This year’s event will be attended by several of the prizewinners, as well as family members of Begin, Rabin, Peres and Shai Agnon.

The Jerusalem program include lectures by Tzipi Livni on Israel’s society, Yossi Bachar, General Manager of Israel Discount Bank on macroeconomics in Israel, Nina Popova from St Petersburg on the poets Anna Ahmatova and Joseph Brodsky, Anton Nossik, an Internet genius, and master classes by Leonid Ptashka and Evgenya Dodina. Some of the most popular and interesting sessions and interviews will be live-streamed on the Internet.

The Gala Opening Event will be held in the presence of President Shimon Peres, together with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, Minister of Education, Gideon Sa’ar, Minister of Information and the Diaspora, Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Science and Technology, Daniel Hershkowitz, Leader of the Opposition, Tzipi Livni, Natan Sharansky, Chair of the Jewish Agency, Matthew Bronfman, the US businessman who is among Limmud FSUs principal supporters and Chair of its International Steering Committee, Carolyn Bogush, Chair of Limmud UK, members of the Knesset and many other prominent public figures and personalities. The Co-Chairs of Limmud FSU Jerusalem are the noted actress Evgenya Dodina and the television and radio commentator, Yaron Deckel, who together will be conducting the festive event. The three honorary Chairs of Limmud Nobel Jerusalem, philanthropists Aharon Frenkel, Diana Wohl and Dr. Nona Kuchina will also be present. Artists performing include jazz musician Leonid Ptashka, Yonatan Raziel and an IDF entertainment group.

The following day, a Salute to Russian Immigrants in Israel will be held to mark 20 years since the mass immigration of the late 1980s and 1990s. Among the participants will be Minister of Culture and Sport, Limor Livnat, Deputy Minister of Defense, Matan Vilnai, IDF Chief Education Officer, Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister, Sharansky and Bronfman and other distinguished guests. Artists performing at the event include Arkady Duchin and Los Caparos.

Inaugurated in the United Kingdom nearly 30 years ago, Limmud has become the most significant and widely attended cultural event on the world Jewish stage. Limmud festivals take place today across the globe attended by tens of thousands of people in virtually every country with a significant Jewish population and in many languages. Limmud FSU is part of that international movement. Not only are all Limmud programs – regardless of locale – planned by volunteers, all presenters volunteer their time.

Limmud FSU brings together young Jewish adults who are reviving and revitalizing Jewish communities and Jewish culture and identity throughout the former Soviet Union, in the USA and in Israel. Limmud FSU was founded in 2005 by Chaim Chesler of Israel, together with Sandra Cahn of New York and Mikhail Chlenov of Russia.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Begin and Irgun in a Washington Post Blog

In a Washington Post blog, we found this:-

(a) Menachem Begin, before become prime minister of the State of Israel, was the commander of the most powerful Jewish insurgent-terrorist group in Palestine, the Irgun Zwei Leume, which by increasing violence discouraged the British from continuing their protectorate. (Killing tourism was one aspect of Begin's terrorism. I remember looking out from a huge hole blown into a tourist haven, Jerusalem's King David Hotel.) That terrorism's result: a democracy.

This comment was left there:

On Menachem Begin, Elliot writes: "[the Irgun] violence discouraged the British from continuing their protectorate."

They were charged with a Mandate to reconstitute the Jewish national home by the League of Nations in 1922. Big difference. This wasn't a matter of British colonialism but a betrayal of international trust.

and also he writes of "(Killing tourism was one aspect of Begin's terrorism. I remember looking out from a huge hole blown into a tourist haven, Jerusalem's King David Hotel.)"

While tourism surely would have been affected byt the attack, it was solely the southern wing of the hotel which was targeted, which had been for the previous seven (7!) years expropriated by the Brisih Mandatory government and the British Army to be used as offices. The section attacked was not a "civilian" target directed against "tourists" as could be inferred.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Menachem Begin and The Late Rebbe of Chabad

Dan Patir is just above Rabbi Schneerson's head

Here you can read a letter of Rabbi Schneerson, which reads, in part:-

...I have in mind the visit of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and no doubt you also had an opportunity of meeting him and have evaluated the results of his visit to the USA.

One of the obvious elements of the Prime Minister’s visit is that it has demonstrated once again how vitally important it is for our people in the Holy Land to have strong and viable Jewish communities in the outside world. For, however important aliyah is, it would be a mixed blessing if it were to erode the Jewish voice and influence in such strategically important countries as the USA and others....

...Such identification is not limited to the home and synagogue or when one is in the society of fellow Jews, but it must be evident everywhere, even among non-Jews, and even in the White House, with truly Jewish self-respect and avowed trust in G-d, the Guardian of Israel, and with pride in our Jewish heritage and traditions—as was so eminently expressed in word and deed by Prime Minister Begin. It is the general consensus that this worthy deportment of the Jewish representative during his first encounter with the President of the USA had an immensely favorable impact and has established a personal rapport between the two leaders which will hopefully have far-reaching beneficial results also in terms of American support.

I trust you have followed closely the highlights and details of this visit and compared it with those of his predecessors. Here, for the first time, came a Jewish Prime Minister who declared in a loud and clear voice that he comes strengthened by the prayers of his fellow Jews at home and abroad and trusts in G-d and the security of his people that his mission will be successful. And, as you surely know, when he sat down to break bread with President Carter, he made sure that it would be a kosher meal, and as he put on a yarmulke and made a bracha and explained to the President the meaning of it. All of which has earned him the respect and admiration of the President and of all others who came in contact with him...


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Begin, Israel TV and Haim Yavin

In a book review of Haim Yavin's "Over Masakh (Mr. Television)", literally: "Screen Presence", Yedioth Ahronoth Books (Hebrew), 408 pages, Yossi Sarid notes this:-

Yavin's autobiography is characterized above all by personal honesty. Though he recognizes his own worth, he doesn't let himself off easy. Yavin sees himself as merely a public servant who wants to return home every day with a clear conscience. Referring to the predecessor of the Labor Party, he writes: "I'm a Mapainik, a bit of a sabra, a bit European, I believe in compromise as a way of life, I'm in favor of mediation." Elsewhere in the book he adds: "By nature I'm not a real leftist."

"Mr. Television" is the story of a man from the political center who eventually became a reluctant leftist and gradually got used to being labeled as such. It didn't happen to Yavin alone. It happened to quite a number of people who underwent a metamorphosis when they could no longer "stand on the sidelines in light of the injustice that we caused" the Palestinians, "that we are causing them." At a given moment they decide to shed the "objectivity" that they have held on to all their lives, "to go out into the world without concealing my opinions and emotions, and with an unequivocal statement in favor of freedom, justice, equality, peace."

...When exactly did Yavin's sobering-up process begin? It seems that even the author has a hard time determining that. Perhaps it was with the well-known raised-eyebrow incident. Yavin explains that during a broadcast of Channel 1's "Mabat" nightly news program, which he anchored for 40 years until retiring in 2008, "I raised an eyebrow at the end of a speech by [prime minister Menachem] Begin. Some time later, Yoram Ronen came to interview the prime minister. Begin posited a condition: The interview would be broadcast in full, without editing, and if Mr. Yavin made a funny face, his face would stay that way."

'Would I hurt you, Mr. Yavin?'

Then a hue and cry arose. The Labor Alignment denounced "the violent Begin," Yavin writes, "and Yossi Sarid asked a question in the Knesset: 'Will Begin knock Mr. Yavin's face out of joint by himself, or will he send the Likud thugs?'" Look, even I am suddenly part of Yavin's memories.

Begin later regretted his statement, and when he next ran into Yavin, he patted his head and told him in a conciliatory tone: "What happened to them, Mr. Yavin? They totally lost their sense of humor. Would I hurt you? After all, I like you."

Irgun Operation Documented in Photograph

The damage done to Police H.Q. at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem by an Irgun attack on Dec. 27, 1945

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Color-blind Because of Revisionism and Begin

Amnon Rubinstein, Professor of law at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, former minister of education and MK and the recipient of the 2006 Israel Prize in Law, expresses his pride in the heritage of the Revisionist movement and the approach of Menachem Begin:

Born a color-blind Ashkenazi

The recent exclusion of Sephardi girls from a Beit Ya'acov school in Emmanuel raises afresh the issue of equality between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews in Israel. Whenever this issue rears its head, I feel that I am on the wrong side. I am an Ashkenazi. Furthermore, I am an Ashkenazi born to a bourgeois Polish-Jewish family. However, I was born color-blind.

The color, or ethnic origin of human beings never meant a thing to me. Perhaps my color-blindness was caused by my childhood in a right-wing Revisionist family.

The national strife against the British rulers, the fight for independence united all ethnic groups within the Irgun.

One of my most memorable memories was the joint suicide of Meir Feinstein, an Ashkenazi, and Moshe Barazami, an Iraqi Jew, a short time before they were due to be hanged by the British Mandatory regime. A hand grenade was smuggled into their cell by the Irgun and both of them blew themselves up hugging each other. When Menachem Begin mentioned their self-sacrifice in an election rally in 1981, my old Revisionist blood rushed to my head. I was a Shinui man then, but remembering these two martyrs, my Revisionist childhood woke up inside me.

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