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Netanyahu's Great-Grandfather: Stubborn as a Mule

Entertaining story about PM's animal-loving ancestor told in new book "Our Forefathers Came from Beyond the River."
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 7/28/2013, 10:16 PM

Donkey (illustrative)
Donkey (illustrative)
Flash 90

The launching of a new book has served to uncover a story about Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's great-grandfather, who was stubborn as a mule, it turns out - at least when it came to his own beloved mule.

Sound confusing? 

Dr. Iddo Netanyahu, the youngest of the three Netanyahu brothers, explained the story to Arutz Sheva - and how Netanyahu-the-elder's love for his pet mule resulted in the establishment of a synagogue in Rishon Letzion for Jews from the Turkish city of Urfa.

The book, "Our Forefathers Came from Beyond the River," was launched Thursday, at an event that received a special blessing from Netanyahu and his family.

Netanyahu's maternal great-grandfather was named Avraham Marcus. He was a Lithuanian Jew who emigrated to the United States and came to the Land of Israel when he was 50 years old, sometime in the 19th century. He settled in Rishon Letzion, where he was one of the first agriculturalists, and used to pray at the Ashkenazi synagogue.

"He had a mule named Fanny,” Netanyahu explained. “She used to follow him around, like a dog. And she used to come with him to the synagogue, too - the Asheknazim in the synagogue did not like this.”

The heads of the congregation demanded that he stop bringing the mule to the synagogue, but Marcus refused to tie Fanny at a distance from the house of prayer. Marcus's solution to the problem will sound all too familiar to those acquainted with the quirks of communal Jewish politics: build another synagogue.

He donated a parcel of land to the local congregation of Turkish Jews from Urfa, who had been praying in a makeshift structure, to build their own permanent synagogue upon. This synagogue was indeed built, and Marcus adopted it as his synagogue and prayed there for the rest of his life.

Netanyahu said that he does not know much about the Jews of the Urfa community, except that they are considered to be a talented group. He said that his mother liked Grandfather Avraham very much and used to visit him, as well as his mule, quite often.