Menachem Begin Biography
Claim to Fame: politician, revolutionary and Prime Minister of the State of Israel
DOB: August 16, 1913
Date of Death: March 9, 1992
Diabetes Type: Unknown
Born in Brest-Litovsk, Poland, a town then part of the Russian Empire, Manechem Begin attended the Mizrachi Hebrew School and, later, Warsaw University, where earned his law degree in 1935. At a young age, Begin witnessed the mounting tension and subsequent violence between Germany and Russia during the World War I. Plagued by the unbelievable amount of death that occurred in Poland, Begin developed a definitive passion for politics that would set him on a decided trajectory with a resolute purpose.
Despite the changing political, social, and religious climate of Poland, Brest-Litovsk was well known for being home to many Talmudic scholars and Jewish people. Begin was descended from a large number of rabbis on his mother's side and, at an early age, was proud of his Jewish heritage. Even his father, though not Jewish, was a passionate Zionist and deeply impressed with Theodor Herzel. As a result, Begin also became an active member of the Zionist movement, openly supporting the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the restoration of Jewish sovereignty to Israel.
Following his graduation from Warsaw University, Begin learned of Vladimir "Ze'ev" Jabotinsky and became an eager follower and participant in the nationalist Revisionist Zionism movement. Begin quickly ascended through the ranks and, in 1937, was made head of the Revisionist Zionism's Bater youth branch in Czechoslovakia. As head, he attempted to smuggle Jewish people from areas that were either occupied or sympathized with the growing Nazi movement. In 1939, after an invasion of Warsaw by Germany, Begin escaped to Wino in southern Poland where he witnessed the brutality of the Growing Soviet Union. Caught between two oppressive regimes, both unsympathetic to the plight of the Polish and Jewish people, Begin was ultimately arrested by the Soviet powers for his Zionist beliefs.
In 1941, after an aggressive attack by Germany on the Soviet Union, Begin joined the Polish Army and was sent to British-controlled Palestine where he connected with the Jewish underground organization, Irgun Zeva'i Le'umi. Connected with Irgun, Begin quickly began a series of revolts against the British powers and set course to liberate Israel from foreign influence. In 1948, following the establishment of the State of Israel, Begin abandoned Irgun and established Herut (Freedom Movement). In 1965, Herut would later band with the Liberal Party to create Gahal, which later developed into the Likud Party, a major conservative party in Israel. (It was not until 2000 that Herut became its own party once again.)
In 1967, Begin joined the Government of National Unity in which he served in the position of Minister without Portfolio. In 1977, representing the Likud party, Begin was elected Prime Minister of Israel. In 1979, in what would be the most decisive event in his career and would win him the Nobel Peace Prize along with Anwar Sadat, Begin signed the Israeli-Egypt Peace Treaty. The treaty marked a change in the Arab-Israeli conflict and brought world attention to the young State of Israel. Begin resigned as prime minister only six years later at the age of 70, fearing that he could no longer perform his duties to the best of his abilities. It is thought that the death of his wife as well as the continuing losses of Israeli forces in Lebanon contributed to his decision to resign.
Begin died of complications from a heart attack on March 9, 1992, in Jerusalem.
Reviewed by dLife staff 02/15.
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