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April 13, 1979 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1979-04-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

III ■ irimmaimmempeniimmumummummi

56 Friday, April 13, 1919


Menahem Begin Portrayed as Genius of Current
Israel Diplomacy in Frank Gervasi's Biography

Menahem Begin is the
hero of the hour in Israel's
diplomatic relations. He is
the genius who shared in
the writing of a peace treaty
with Egypt. He had a
stormy career, as a rebel in
the turbulent years of
Jewish struggles against
oppressions, as a survivor of
Nazism, as the man who in-
sists on the world's not
forgetting the Holocaust
and Jewry's never permit-
ting its repetition. Begin's
life is a story unmatched in
the life of a revolutionary
who rose to the leadership of
his people, the love for
whom also is unmatched.


It is the good fortune of

the generation he is lead-
ing, the people who both
admire and resent him, de-
, pending upon the party of
success under his leader-
, ship and those he defeated
in a democratic Israeli elec-
tion, that a noted author
and correspondent for im-
portant media should have
written this story.
It is also noteworthy that
he is a non-Jew, not an Is-
raeli, that has written the
new biography of Israel's
prime minister.
Frank Gervasi, author
of "The Life and Times of
Menahem Begin: Rebel to
Statesman" (G.P. Put-
nam's Sons) could be said
to have known Begin in-
timately for more than 40
years. He studied Begin's
career from the earliest
years of Begin's settle-
ment in pre-Israel Pales-
tine after Begin's escape
from a Russian detention
camp through the last
few months, when Ger-
vasi interviewed Begin in
Israel, in New York after
the Camp David experi-
ence, prior to peace mak-
The confidence of the Is-
raeli leader in his nation's
democratic policies is found
in an interesting note in
this biography. Gervasi
interviewed Begin after the
Camp David negotiations in
his suite at the Regency
Hotel in New York and

Begin said: "I hope I will
still be Prime Minister
when your book is pub-
The fact that Gervasi
views his latest book as a
"bio-history" adds signifi-
cance to the Begin story.
This book is more than a
biography of Israel's prime
minister. It is also a history
of Israel in this historic
year. Gervasi gives a
thorough outline of the
negotiations that have led
to the Egyptian-Israeli ac-
cord under the direction of
President Carter.
Thus, the Begin story is a
concise history of Israel by
the noted author who has to
his credit two important
books on Israel and
Zionism, "For Whom Pales-
tine" (1946) and "The Case
for Israel" (1967).
Gervasi has been a
leading international re-
porter for more than 30
years and a student of Is-
raeli affairs since he first
covered the region for
Collier's Weekly in the
1940s. He served as chief
of Hearst's International
News Service in Rome
from 1935 to 1939; associ-
ate editor of Collier's
Weekly during World
War H when he covered
many fronts for that
magazine; and chief of in-
formation for the Mar-
shall Plan from 1950 to
During the 1950s, Ger-
vasi wrote a syndicated col-
umn called "Dateline: Your
World." He is author of
biographies of Nelson Roc-
kefeller and Adolf Hitler. A
frequent visitor to Israel,
Gervasi was in Jerusalem
for President Sadat's his-
toric visit in November
Internal conflicts in
which Begin was involved
are given due consideration
in this biography by Ger-
vasi. He relates the ideolog-
ical differences between
Menahem Begin and David
Ben-Gurion, yet he indi-
cates that there was a simi-
larity in the two noted lead-
ers. To quote Gervasi:
Menahem Begin is autocra-
tic, patriarchal and, some
Israelis believe, fully as
`charismatic.' Many who
saw in Ben-Gurion 'the
greatest Jewish leader since
Moses' perceive in Begin the
same qualities of firm lead-
ership, eloquence, and per-
sonal magnetism, the be-
arer of a Messianic aura
rare in the politics of mod-
ern Israel.
"Although on a personal
level Begin is easier to talk
to, more relaxed and affable

where Ben-Gurion was
tense and taciturn, his polit-
ical behavior is every bit as
authoritative, maybe even
more so. There are no gray
eminences around Begin as
there were around Ben-
Gurion, who in 1964 with-
drew to his kibutz at Sde
Boker in his beloved Negev,
where he died in 1973 at the
age of 87."
Strict in his Sabbath
observance, Begin wins
the respect of his associ-
ates, of diplomats and
foreign emissaries of all
faiths for his consistency.
Writes Gervasi:
"Unlike Ben-Gurion, a



secular socialist who
couldn't remember when he
was last inside a synagogue,
Begin is an observant
though not strictly Or-
thodox Jew. He scrupul-
ously respects Judaism's
dietary laws, wears a yar-
mulka while reading the
Bible — as he often does in
the Knesset when inter-
rupting a speech to quote
from The Book — and ob-
serves all Jewish rites and
traditions, particularly the
sanctity of the Sabbath."
In another matter, the
prime minister's devotion to
family, has an interesting
reference in Gervasi's biog-
raphy. It relates:
"Begin and his wife Aliza
— they've been married 39
years — devote their Friday
nights entirely to their fam-
ily. Its members include
their married children, Ben-
jamin and Hassia and their
respective spouses, an un-
married daughter, Leah,
and a gaggle of
grandchildren. Unless the
prime minister is abroad on
a mission, all gather at the
Begin's home in leafy, resi-
dential Rehavia for the tra-
ditional Shabat dinner.
Perhaps the most dis-
tressing of all the inci-
dents in the life of
Menahem Begin was the
accusation by the new
government of Israel,
shortly after the declara-
tion of independence,

that Begin was planning
a putsch to take control
of the new state under the
aegis of the Irgun.
The Altalena case
brought about that charge.
Some 900 men and 4,000
tons of ammunition were on
the ship which was pur-
chased by Irgun supporters.
Begin and his associates in-
tended to use the men and
munitions for the new na-
tion's defense and for the
battle of Jerusalem.
Orders from Ben-Gurion
not only prevented the men
and the arms from reaching
their intended aim but the
ship was attacked, there
was a brief civil war with a
number of casualties in Be-
gin's ranks as well as in the
ranks of the attackers, who
acted on orders from Ben-
Gurion and Moshe Shertok
Begin and the Irgun con-
sistently denied that they
had any other aim than the
acquisition of Jerusalem
and Israel's defense. The re-
cord thus far dictated by the
claims of the Ben-Gurion
government accuse Irgun
of evil intentions. Gervasi is
among those who defend
The Begin biography
contains a lengthy ac-
count of the Altalena
tragedy and the present
prime minister of Israel
and his party emerge in
glorious light as patriots,
while the Ben-Gurion
forces stand accused of
guilt in the Altalena case.
As a matter of fact, much
of the guilt for misrep-
resentation in the case is
placed on Sharett whose
role in the Altalena
events are branded by
Gervasi as "hypocriti-
Gervasi pays many com-
pliments to Begin and the
most impressive asserts:
"Menahem Begin may be
frail-looking physically, but
as an intellectual and as a
politician he is undoubtedly
the toughest leader Israel
has known since the late
David Ben-Gurion . ."
Gervasi's is a timely
work. It is also revealing
historically and fascinating
in its appreciation of the
subject depicted. Its ap-
pearance at this time is

Desecration' Hit

dreds of ultra-Orthodox
residents of the Mea
Shearim Quarter of
Jerusalem staged a demon-
stration recently, claiming
archeologists had desec-
rated ancient Jewish graves
near Safed.
claimed that a burial cave of
an ancient talmudic scholar
had been broken during
construction of a military
installation and that the
Department of Antiquities
had removed bones from the
cave. The department de-
nied that any bones had
been taken.

especially valuable as a
definition of the great
events affecting Israel and
as a portrayal of the man

who supervised the drama
that led to peace with
— P.S.

Israeli Children
Yearn for Peace

(Editor's note: These poems are from "My Shalom,
My Peace," published by American Israel Publishing
Co. and Sonol of Israel Limited. The poems were sub-
mitted to a contest in 1974 for poems on peace
Israeli children, Jewish and Arab, and were
lated by Dov Vardi.)

Father crld Son

By AMIT TAL, age 11, Haifa

He has always suffered and wept without end,
He wanted just this once
To live (wain with his Dad
Through those pleasant childhood days
When they would walk together hand in hand,
When a warm hand used to take him to school
And he not wanting to part.
Then* came the war and the hand was cut off
Forever and ever.

The Arab boy also feels suffering.
He wanted just this once, again he wanted —
To pass with his father through some village.
The chickens clacking, the cattle lowing
And the two of them happy and singing
a lively tune .. .
But the war silenced the song
A love song of a father and his son .. .

0 why the immenst hate?
Why shouldn't there be

The Paint Box

By TALI SHUREK, age 11, Beershba

I had a paint box —
Each color growing with delight;
I had a paint box with colors
Warm and cool and bright.
I had no reds for wounds and blood,
I had no black for an orphaned child,
I had no white for the face of the dead,
I had no yellow for burning sands.
I had orange for joy and life,
I had green for buds and blooms.
I had blue for clear bright skies,
I had pink for dreams and rest.
I sat down
And painted
* * *

When Will It Come, the Day?

Kfar Sachnin, an Arab village

When will peace take over?
When will it come, the day?
When with armies and bombs will they do away.
When will all this hostility cease,
A day on which battleships
Will become palaces of leisure and fun
Floating on seas.
A day on which the steel of guns
Will be melted into pleasure cars;
A day on which the generals will begin to raise flowers.
When peace
Will include all the peoples of these neighboring lands,
When Ismael and Israel
Will go hand in hand,
And when every Jew —
The Arab's brother will be.
When will it come, the day?
* * *

At Last

By ANAT HATZOR, age 7, Givat Brenner

Now all fighting has ceased;
He who made man, has brought Peace.
People are glad and babies are happy,
Little boys and girls, hands are clapping. -
There's such a pleasant air,
No more fighting anywhere.
Old folks and children are playing together,
No one is running down to the shelter.
It's calm and quiet, everyone satisfied,
Peace at last in this great world and wide.

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