On Monday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a virtual exhibit to mark the centenary of the birth of Israel's sixth prime minister, Menachem Begin. Begin is now the first Israeli personality to be remembered in a joint initiative between the Google Cultural Institute and museums and cultural institutions around the world.
The launch of the exhibit was timed to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Camp David Peace Accords between Israel and Egypt, by Menachem Begin and his Egyptian counterpart, Anwar Sadat
Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, Menachem Begin Heritage Center Chairman Herzl Makov, and Google Israel Research and Development Director Yossi Matias also participated in the event.
The goal of this initiative, and other future projects, is to render the materials in cultural institutions more accessible to the general public around the world via the internet. With photographs and video clips, the exhibit illustrates the life story of Menachem Begin, starting with his birth in Poland, through his activities in the Beitar movement, his imprisonment by the Soviets, his arrival in the Land of Israel, his fight to liberate the homeland and the key roles he played in Israeli politics as a minister and as Prime Minister.
Menachem Begin Heritage Center Chairman Herzl Makov showed Prime Minister Netanyahu photographs of the signing of the peace agreement with Egypt as well as the peace agreement itself, signed by Prime Minister Begin, US President Jimmy Carter and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
A quote was inscribed by Begin which said: "Under no circumstances will we allow an enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction to be used against our people. We will defend the citizens of Israel, at the proper time, with all means at our disposal," in regards to the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in June 1981.
Prime Minister Netanyahu noted that "Menachem Begin taught us that peace is made and upheld only with the strong. There is much to learn from this splendid exhibit about this exemplary personality. Here one may surf our collective memory which is composed of the great spirit and the great deeds of great people."
Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat lauded the initiative as a fusing of two very different "revolutions."
"In many ways, Google is probably the most popular means in the world for making information more accessible, which provides a person with freedom, the same freedom that stood as the base of the liberal outlook which Menachem Begin clung to his entire life. Begin led a political-social revolution in Israel, and Google is leading an information technology revolution. Today we link the two so that Begin's life and deeds will be accessible to all at the click of a mouse."
Google Israel Research and Development Director Matias explained the importance of the project in making historically important information widely available to the general public, as part of what he termed the "democratization of the arts."
"The internet has led to the democratization of the arts, history and heritage, and is able to help preserve important material for the future such as documents, photographs and letters, which over time might be forgotten and could disappear.
"Via the Google Cultural Institute, we are pleased to provide the technology through which the people at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center will be able to upload archival material and, from the physical exhibit, provide background documentation and context, and render it accessible to people around the world."