These are "interesting" times for the Jewish people - not that we have ever been bored for long during the eventful years of our history. How did our people cope with all the trials, tribulations, persecutions and challenges they faced? I attended a speaker series last night that provided some top-line thoughts and commentary on Jewish leadership and sacrifice. Held at Yeshiva University in New York City, “From Brisk to Jerusalem: Dr. Daniel Gordis in conversation with Rabbi Meir Soloveichik” was a discussion about Gordis’ recently released book, “Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul”, but was much more than that.
The event commenced with an introduction by Hart Hasten, a longtime confidant of Menachem Begin, and a longtime leader of the Jabotinsky movement. The elder Hasten paid tribute to his son, Arutz 7’s own Josh Hasten, who recently celebrated the birth of a son whose bris’ was celebrated in Hevron.
The event was a resounding success for its sponsors, the Menachem Begin Heritage Centre (the Begin Museum), a most inspiring place to visit in Jerusalem. Those of us like me, Ronn Torossian, who grew up in the Betar movement as followers of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, have few memorials and sources of inspiration and need more.
While I haven’t yet read the book, I could appreciate the the evening, filled as it was with many powerful anecdotes of a man who was a tremendous leader of the Jewish people. From hearing that Begin carried a kippa with him everywhere he went to comprehending Begin’s deep knowledge and passion for the Torah and Jewish religion, it was an event where everyone learned things about Begin he hadn't known.
We heard about how Begin had such a strong understanding of the differences in the Jewish way of life and how he felt that the job of Jewish leaders is to defend the Jewish people everywhere. And who can forget his powerful quote “The partition of Palestine is illegal. It will never be recognized…. Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And for Ever.”
We heard how the Holocaust was so alive inside Menachem Begin as he remembered his family – and that the Holocaust shaped him every single day of his life. Perhaps these memories instilled him with such fortitude when responding to words from the U.S. Government condemning and “punishing” Israel,
Begin responded: “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 whom, 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. You have no right to “punish” Israel – and I protest at the very use of this term.”
As was discussed at the evening – held for a packed auditorium, including luminaries like criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Brafman, real estate mogul Elie Hirschfeld, lawyer Phil Rosen and many others – Begin was a man who exhibited selfless devotion to the Jewish people.
For me and so many others the man is a Jewish hero – without whom the Jewish state would not exist.
Ronn Torossian is a featured columnist for Arutz 7 – and a former National President of the Betar Youth Organization (as was Menachem Begin.)
To register for the event in Israel, write to .[email protected]with the full name of each person attending. Include “Yeshiva University Event” in the subject line.