Jewish History Soundbites

From Brisk to Beitar: The Life of Menachem Begin Part I

July 15, 2021

One of the most influential leaders in the history of the State of Israel, Menachem Begin (1913-1992) led a very colorful life and career. Though known for his public persona, he was a very complex character who faced many setbacks at every stage. Growing up in a somewhat traditional home in Brisk, he later joined the Beitar movement of Revisionist Zionism led by Vladimir (Zev) Jabotinsky.

Arrested by the Soviets in the early part of the war, he was sentenced to slave labor in Siberia. In the interim, the Holocaust arrived in Brisk, and most of his family became its victims. The long shadow of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust would accompany him throughout his decades of public service, and would impact his decisions as a leader of both the underground and later as a politician. 
He emerged as the leader of the underground organization Etzel (Irgun), with the stated goal of forcing the British out of Palestine. With the founding of the State of Israel, he spent three decades in the opposition, leading campaigns against the reparations agreement with West Germany and the like, until finally winning the elections in 1977. 
Though he accomplished much as prime minister, including a historic peace treaty with Egypt, the unfolding disaster of the Lebanon War led to his retirement and ultimate seclusion during his later years.
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