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The New Menachem Begin Heritage Center

The new building of The Menachem Begin Heritage Center was dedicated in Jerusalem yesterday, in the presence of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other dignitaries.
First Publish: 6/17/2004, 11:47 PM / Last Update: 6/17/2004, 5:52 PM

The new building of The Menachem Begin Heritage Center was dedicated in Jerusalem yesterday, in the presence of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other dignitaries. The four-story building, funded completely by donations, contains an interactive 650-square meter museum, a large library and archives, a research institute, a Knesset-like auditorium, and more. Yisrael Medad, responsible for Content, Information and Educational Programs at the center, talked about it with Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane. Excerpts from the interview:

Medad: "The idea of a heritage center for Menachem Begin took a big leap in 1998 when the Knesset passed a law calling for the establishment of heritage centers for both Begin and Yitzchak Rabin - similar to Presidential Libraries in the U.S. These are not political institutions, but rather designed to educate and pass on a legacy... We try to understand and interpret the path and legacy of Menachem Begin in the broadest manner. For instance, in the museum there is a Legacy Boulevard, including six departments, such as Social Justice, Security, Our Right to the Land of Israel, the Return to Zion, and more. These are all issues that are part of his legacy, which he was able to implement only within the limits set by the fact that he was not only a ideologue, but also a politician who tried to get things done..."

A-7: "Where is the building located?"
Medad: "It is on a new street near the train station, overlooking Ben Hinnom Valley towards Mt. Zion and the Old City... In addition to all the various cultural and educational features, we are trying to work on ways to attract people to the building. There is a cafe, for instance, entitled White Nights, named after Begin's book describing his years in exile."

Aspects of Begin's legacy include:
* his leadership of the anti-British Etzel organization in the 1940's;
* his prevention of civil war - twice (once when the Haganah organization moved against Etzel in a campaign known as the "Saison," abducting Etzel members and turning them over to the British, and once after the Altalena affair in which Ben-Gurion ordered IDF troops to fire on an Etzel ship carrying weapons and men, including Begin himself);
* the settling of much of Judea and Samaria;
* the peace treaty he signed with Egypt ("the best agreement Israel ever made," he called it);
* the bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981 ("a terrible dilemma... I thought, what will be with our children when Saddam Hussein has 2-3 Hiroshima-type bombs?");
* the Peace for Galilee War of 1982;
and more.

A-7: "...So this is not only a Menachem Begin center, but really a very central cultural and ideological center for the entire nationalist-camp?"
Medad: "The short answer is yes, and the longer answer is that I always envied the religious-Zionist camp that has yeshivot and institutions. But in the nationalist camp, we never succeeded in doing this. For various reasons, this camp was unable to build a worthy center for its legacy. There is the Jabotinsky Center in Tel Aviv, but we can't get the youth to really identify with Jabotinsky, who died in 1940. We will try to do this now with this new tool that we have."

A-7: "What, of Menachem Begin's legacy, is the most significant to you?"
Medad: "Something that his close aide Yechiel Kadishai once quoted him as saying, that first and above
all, one must be a decent person. [He was] open to vision and to faith... If you're looking for a politician who is respected for his personality, his character and his values - it's Menachem Begin, and this is the man whose legacy we wish to pass on."