Menachem Begin-Hero For Eternity

Dr. Joseph Frager,

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לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Dr. Joseph Frager
The writer is a leading American pro-Israel activist who sponsors and coordinates many Zionist events. He is clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine (Gastroenterology & Liver Diseases) at the Einstein School of Medicine as well as a practicing physician.

On the second of Adar II the 24th Yahrzeit of Menachem Begin took place.

He had passed away on March 9, 1992 before the Oslo Years, which he would have dreaded, started up. It is hard to believe that next year will not only be the 50th Anniversary of the Re-Unification of Jerusalem but the 25th Yahrzeit of a Giant of a Man who really deserves the Lion's share of the credit (but does not yet get it) for the establishment of the State of Israel.

It all began in a small village of Brisk, Poland where Menachem Begin's father was the Shamesh to the great and illustrious Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik of Brisk. His Father Zev Dov Begin, according to the account of Daniel Gordis in his Book "The Battle for Israel's Soul" studied at Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik's Yeshiva and on the passing of Theodore Herzl held a special Memorial service for him. Assisting Zev Dov Begin in this special service was the grandfather of General Ariel Sharon, Mordechai Scheinerman.

Menachem Begin's older brother was named Herzl. Both of Menachem Begin's parents and his brother, Herzl were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust. Menachem Begin was born on August 16, 1913 in Brisk. He completed Warsaw Law School in 1935. In 1939 he became the head of Betar, Poland. In 1940 he was sentenced to 8 years in a Siberian Labor camp for Zionist Activism. He was released in 1941 to join the free Polish forces following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. He arrived in Eretz Yisrael in 1942 and assumed command of the underground Irgun in 1943. In 1944 he led the uprising against British Rule in Palestine. It is  hard to review the many great accomplishments of Menachem Begin as Commander of the Irgun Zvi Leumi in this short sketch. I hope to delve more deeply in the future.

I will start in the spring of 1946 when the Irgun infiltrated the Ramat Gan British Police Station and obtained crucial arms and ammunition to face the oncoming Arab onslaught. Three Irgun Soldiers were killed. Dov Gruner in a heroic action was badly wounded and imprisoned by the British. In Begin's own words his own thoughts on the Dov Gruner saga, "There followed the heroic drama of this wounded prisoner, unique not only in our annals but in human history, sacrifice along which he went despite all our efforts to save him." The British hanged Dov Gruner from the gallows despite Begin's release of British Intelligence officer Major Collins and Mr. Justice Windham.

The British did not live up to the deal. Dov Gruner wrote the following 48 hours before he was going to be hanged, "Of course I want to live. Who does not? But if I am about to 'finish' it is mainly because I did not manage to do enough. I too could have 'let the future fend for itself', taken the job I was promised, or left the country altogether and lived securely in America. But that would not have given me satisfaction as a Jew, and certainly not as a Zionist." Dov Gruner had a profound effect on Menachem Begin. Another individual who had a major impact was Avraham Stavsky who was a fellow townsman of Begin's who had saved thousands of Jews from the Nazi Death ovens and brought them to Israel and was killed in the Altalena Affair on June 20, 1948  where the Palmach (newly formed IDF) fired upon fellow Jews and destroyed the cargo Ship, "Altalena". Sixteen Irgun fighters were killed in all.

The Altalena Affair deserves an entire article to itself. In Begin's own words, "And so it came to pass that there was no fratricidal war in Israel to destroy the Jewish State before it was properly born. In spite of everything-there was no civil war!"  Now fast-forward to July 17, 1977 soon after Menachem Begin became Prime Minister after being in the opposition "trenches" for 40 years he met with the Lubavitcher Rebbe before meeting President Carter for the first time. He showed great respect for the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He made sure to meet with him first.

Yehuda Avner, political adviser and author of the book entitled, "The Prime Ministers" met with the Lubavitcher Rebbe after Menachem Begin met President Carter and quotes the Lubavitcher Rebbe, "By maintaining your firm stand on Eretz Yisrael in the White House you have given strength to the whole of the Jewish People. You have succeeded in safeguarding the integrity of Eretz  Yisrael while avoiding a confrontation with the United States. That is true Jewish statesmanship: Forthright, bold, without pretense or apology. Continue to be strong and of good courage." Not enough could be said about the Great Menachem Begin. His memory should be Blessed.