Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel's Soul

Menachem Begin The Battle for Israel s Soul Reviled as a fascist by his great rival Ben Gurion venerated by Israel s underclass the first Israeli to win the Nobel Peace Prize a proud Jew but not a conventionally religious one Menachem Begin

  • Title: Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel's Soul
  • Author: Daniel Gordis
  • ISBN: 9780805243123
  • Page: 465
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Reviled as a fascist by his great rival Ben Gurion, venerated by Israel s underclass, the first Israeli to win the Nobel Peace Prize, a proud Jew but not a conventionally religious one, Menachem Begin was both complex and controversial Born in Poland in 1913, Begin was a youthful admirer of the Revisionist Zionist Ze ev Jabotinsky and soon became a leader within JabotinskReviled as a fascist by his great rival Ben Gurion, venerated by Israel s underclass, the first Israeli to win the Nobel Peace Prize, a proud Jew but not a conventionally religious one, Menachem Begin was both complex and controversial Born in Poland in 1913, Begin was a youthful admirer of the Revisionist Zionist Ze ev Jabotinsky and soon became a leader within Jabotinsky s Betar movement A powerful orator and mesmerizing public figure, Begin was imprisoned by the Soviets in 1940, joined the Free Polish Army in 1942, and arrived in Palestine as a Polish soldier shortly thereafter Joining the underground paramilitary Irgun in 1943, he achieved instant notoriety for the organization s bombings of British military installations and other violent acts.Intentionally left out of the new Israeli government, Begin s right leaning Herut political party became a fixture of the opposition to the Labor dominated governments of Ben Gurion and his successors, until the surprising parliamentary victory of his political coalition in 1977 made him prime minister Welcoming Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Israel and cosigning a peace treaty with him on the White House lawn in 1979, Begin accomplished what his predecessors could not His outreach to Ethiopian Jews and Vietnamese boat people was universally admired, and his decision to bomb Iraq s nuclear reactor in 1981 is now regarded as an act of courageous foresight But the disastrous invasion of Lebanon to end the PLO s shelling of Israel s northern cities, combined with his declining health and the death of his wife, led Begin to resign in 1983 He spent the next nine years in virtual seclusion, until his death in 1992 Begin was buried not alongside Israel s prime ministers, but alongside the Irgun comrades who died in the struggle to create the Jewish national home to which he had devoted his life Daniel Gordis s perceptive biography gives us new insight into a remarkable political figure whose influence continues to be felt both within Israel and throughout the world This title is part of the Jewish Encounters series.

    One thought on “Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel's Soul”

    1. Last fall (2014) I re-read Lawrence Wright’s book “Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David” I thought this might be a good book to provide more information about Begin.Begin had run for prime minister eight times when in 1977 he won on his ninth try. Apparently Begin was extreme right wing, he helped formed the Herut party. Begin was despised by the ruling establishment. Begin’s Herut party platform called for Jews to rule in all of Palestine. The Egyptian and S [...]

    2. Menachem Begin was something of a curiosity to me, being the first Prime Minister of Israel from the conservative Likud Party, yet also willing to meet with Anwar Sadat of Egypt to sign a peace treaty. Considered a terrorist by the British before the State of Israel was formed, and then someone who ultimately became the head of State. A man who approved the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor, and also a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Quite a man, quite a leader, and quite a story, and theref [...]

    3. I really wanted to like this book as I am a big fan of Menachem Begin. Unfortunately, it is a poorly written effort. The author repeats himself endlessly; for example, we are told at least a half a dozen times that Begin is "inching" towards being Prime Minister. he also hagiographically repeats every few paragraphs that Begin is an honorable, traditional old-world Jew. Most disappointing is that there is very little personal detail on Begin. Avoid this book.

    4. An absolutely crucial figure in the foundation and development of the State of Israel, Menachem Begin was vilified by his enemies and unwavering in his principles. A survivor of the Polish ghettoes and the Nazi Holocaust, he was never disposed to compromise on his commitment to establishing and safeguarding a homeland for the Jewish people. This frequently led him into violent conflict with the British Mandate authorities in Palestine, with other factions of the Jewish independence movement, and [...]

    5. I read Begin's book The Revolt when I was in high school and became such a fan that my first email address at college was irgun@…But as I grew intellectually, politically, and spiritually, I began to accept much of what I heard about Begin---essentially, the Ben-Gurion position that he was a fascist politically and a terrorist in practice. Certainly, part of Begin's legacy is the bombing of the King David Hotel, hanging several British soldiers publicly, and the tragedies of Deir Yassin during [...]

    6. Someone commented that Gordis didn't achieve his goal of explaining Menachem Begin and what was `magic' of his draw. I think the book `The Jews, Nationalism and the Universalist Ideal' explains Begin's phenomenon far better. Though the book only touches on Begin I believe it explains the larger phenomenon of which he was a part."Menachem Begin, for example, in his memoir, “The Revolt,” mentionsa former “General Secretary of the Communist Party in theUkraine,” that he met in a labor camp [...]

    7. Decent biography of Begin. Enjoyed reading about Begin and his incredible life and career. He surely deserves great respect for his contributions to Israel and the Jewish people, and Gordis does a faithful job of representing them. Nonetheless, Gordis is not the most compelling writer. He definitely lacks the poeticism of a more skilled author like Hillel Halkin. I don't think he achieves the explicit goal he sets out in the introduction: "What was the 'magic' of his draw? What was it about him [...]

    8. A well written biography of Begin, still I would probably recommend the chapters on Begin in Yehudah Annars book The Prime Ministers over this one.

    9. Highly recommended! Gordis captures two essential components of Begin's story as a story of and for Israel: when to fight (and how) vs. when to make peace and how important it is to be Jewish and Israeli, not only Israeli. Begin's life as retold by Gordis captures many of the difficult tensions in Israeli society today through their genesis before and during ealry statehood. I appreciated the chance to learn much about Begin well beyond his peace deal with Sadat. In particular, his retreat from [...]

    10. I read this a while back and remember enjoying it. It provided a more nuanced perspective on the events leading up to 1948. In particular it a deeper and alternative view on Begin's battles with ben Gurion. If you read The Prime Ministers by Avner you come away with the view that Begin was the favourite of the fiv Prime Ministers whom Avner worked with. Combined these books make me question the view that Begin was an uncompromising extremist. His real blot was Lebanon 82 and I'm not clear why Be [...]

    11. Kudos to Gordis for bringing Begin back to our attention in an era where what Begin said years before is germane yet again. That being said, I didn't exactly luxuriate in the prose. If you had to choose between reading Avner's The Prime Ministers and this book, I would go with Avner, as you won't learn that much more from Gordis's book, and Avner's style is more engaging. That being said, Gordis does fill in more detail with regards to Lebanon, and he gives a much more nuanced reading of Begin's [...]

    12. Begin is probably the most sympathetic leader that has arisen among Israelis since its independence. He told the story of the exile and the fragility of the gains made since the return of Jews to the Land of Israel better than anyone before or since. His speeches are quite stirring, almost electric. The role he played was clearly indispensable.

    13. Well written. Gordis does not try to overreach in his interpretation of Begin's actions or beliefs. For those taught to dislike Begin, a book you might want to read. It's always good to see how the world looks from the other side.

    14. Brilliant I thought I knew the man so well that I cried at the end over his loss. Not only did I learn about the complexity of Begin but I got a course in the history of the world before the first war and the founding of Israel. So many things that I never knew. This should be required reading.

    15. A conservative who stood for the underclass. A war hawk who made peace with one of Israel's worst enemies. A darling of the Jewish Religious Right who was not very devout himself. A complicated man, one thing that can be said for sure was that Begin was an Israeli patriot. A good read.

    16. Just finished; gives an additional layer of depth to the life story of a real Jewish hero, a modern-day patriarch who lived his life for his people.

    17. Loved this book. Learned so much. I like Gordis' writing and interesting prospective on founding/development of Israel.

    18. An amazing life. The highs and lows of a great man laid out over a lifetime dedicated to the service of his people. Overly critical at times but still a good read.

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