Menaḥem Begin, an Israeli politician, was raised on Zionist ideas and harbored the hope of establishing a national homeland for Jews in Palestine. He devoted his life to serving this goal, especially since the town of his birth was known for its numerous Talmudic schools, where he received an education that prepared him to become one of Israel’s prominent founders and leaders.

Birth and Upbringing: Menaḥem Begin was born on August 16, 1913, in the city of Brest Litovsk in Belarus.

Education and Training: He completed his early education in his hometown and later traveled to Poland in 1938 to study law at the University of Warsaw. In 1939, he returned to Russia after the German invasion of Poland. The Soviet forces arrested him, and he was deported to the Siberian wilderness in 1940. After a year in prison, he was released and joined the Polish army as a translator before deciding to immigrate to the Palestinian territories in 1942.

Political Experience: Begin began his military activity secretly at the age of 13, joining the “HaShomer HaTzair” movement, meaning “The Young Guard.” Three years later, he joined the “Beitar” movement founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, which intensified its activities among Jews in Eastern European countries. The movement established military training centers in some of these countries and organized the migration of Jews from there to Israel.

At the age of 24 in 1937, he was appointed as the movement’s representative in Czechoslovakia and later assumed its leadership in Poland in 1939. Begin’s educational and political background helped him become an influential figure in the Israeli left, leading the opposition in Israel and representing it in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) for three decades. He eventually led it to power for the first time in 1977, assuming the position of Prime Minister.

Upon his arrival in Palestine, Begin formed a Zionist military organization called “Irgun,” dedicated to achieving the principles of the Betar movement itself. The organization worked on displacing Palestinians from their homes. Concurrently, it was active in organizing the migration of Jews from Europe and Russia to the Palestinian territories.

One of the most infamous incidents attributed to this military organization in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict was the Deir Yassin massacre on September 17, 1948, where more than 360 Palestinians lost their lives. Begin himself acknowledged this in his book “The Revolt… the Story of Irgun.”

The organization also collaborated with the Stern and Haganah organizations in the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte, a member of the Swedish royal family who served as the head of the Swedish Red Cross and was chosen by the United Nations as a mediator for peace between Arabs and Israelis


A picture of Menachem Begin on the British Mandate’s wanted list

Even after the establishment of the State of Israel and the dissolution of Israeli military authorities, integrating them into the army, Begin’s star did not fade. He continued his political career, becoming a member of the Knesset in 1949 and founding the “Herut” movement.

In 1965, the “Herut” movement merged with the Liberal Party to form the “Gahal” movement. In 1970, he resigned from the government led by Golda Meir, rejecting what became known as the Rogers Plan for withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories in 1967.

The Gahal movement, formed in 1973 with other movements, coalesced into a left-wing bloc called the Likud Party, led by Begin. Under this leadership, he became the sixth Prime Minister of Israel in 1977. He headed the Israeli delegation in the Camp David negotiations with the Egyptian side in the same year.

Following Begin’s success in creating an impregnable barrier of peace between Israel and Egypt, he and the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978. Despite this success, Begin returned to lead the Israeli government in 1981.

Shortly afterward, he set aside the meaning of this award by ordering the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and the occupation of southern Lebanon in June 1982. This intensified criticism from his opponents, who denounced him for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, given his extensive involvement in secret Zionist terrorist organizations. Even the British Mandate authorities in the 1940s offered a reward of 15,000 Palestinian pounds for information about him.

Begin resigned from the position of Prime Minister in August 1983 due to deteriorating health. Since then, he withdrew from public life and continued his battle with illness until he passed away on March 9, 1992, due to a heart attack.

Source: Al Jazeera Net, Encyclopedia


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