March 9th 2015
Menachem Begin was Israel’s 6th Prime Minister. Born and raised in Poland, he identified as a passionate Zionist his whole life. As a young man, he was a peer leader in Poland’s Beitar, a right-wing Zionist youth movement. He was arrested in Poland for his Zionist-related political activities and, upon release, made aliyah to pre-state Palestine. Visitors to Israel can gain a meaningful understanding of this important figure and the impact he had on Israeli society by visiting sites associated with Begin’s legacy.
Upon his arrival in Palestine, Begin joined the Irgun, also known as Etzel, a zealous group of underground fighters that broke away from the more mainstream Haganah in their fight against the British Mandate. The Irgun Museum in Tel Aviv (also known as the Irgun Zvai Leumi Museum) documents the story of Begin’s Irgun.
Here you’ll learn how, through much of the 1930s, the Irgun concentrated their paramilitary efforts against the Arabs who attacked nascent Jewish settlements throughout the region. In 1939, the Irgun also began fighting against the British rule in Palestine and were involved in the struggle for Jews to immigrate freely into Palestine. When visiting the Irgun Museum, it’s important to start your visit with the film, which will place the activities of Begin and the Irgun into historical context.
Begin’s political career began with the State of Israel’s first government in 1948. After 29 years in government, Begin became Prime Minister in 1977, ending nearly three decades of the premiership’s monopolization by the left-wing parties. However, Begin is best known internationally for his work establishing a peace treaty with Egypt, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
To understand the story of Menachem Begin’s transformation from hawk to dove, a visit to the Menachem Begin Museum on the grounds of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem is a must. It takes approximately 80 minutes to move through the permanent collection here. Visitors travel in small groups through rooms that use state-of-the-art museum technology to dramatically recreate Begin’s Polish childhood, his years as a commander of the Irgun, his early political career and the years of his service as Prime Minister of the State of Israel.
End your exploration of the life of Menachem Begin by visiting his modest grave, which faces the Temple Mount. Begin was buried beside his wife Aliza on the Mount of Olives, the oldest and most important cemetery in Jerusalem.