Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel's Soul

By Daniel Gordis

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 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."



    REVIEW QUOTES
"Daniel Gordis's new and wonderfully written biography of Menachem Begin makes the case for a fresh look at the Israeli prime minister who made peace with Egypt. The portrait he paints of Begin is that of a man of singular devotion not just to the State of Israel, but also to the Jewish people. His passionate belief in both drove him, and it's that passion and the intellectual depth behind it that Gordis finds appealing and in need of resurrection in Israel's political class today. After reading this compelling book, most readers are likely to agree." --Dennis Ross, The Washington Institute "A unique biography of a seminal leader many Jews think they know but don't really understand. Like the best works of history, Gordis's intellectual biography of the man who helped restore Jewishness to Israeli identity is of urgent contemporary relevance, as American Jews struggle with the meaning of Jewish people hood in their own lives. Passionately argued, beautifully evoked, this biography will become an indispensible part of the contemporary Jewish bookshelf." --Yossi Klein Halevi, author of "Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation" "Writing a balanced, eloquent biography of one of the most polarizing figures of our time would seem impossible, but Gordis has done it. This is a riveting recounting of the passionate, meticulous, triumphant, dark, pivotal peacemaker, Menachem Begin." --David Wolpe, rabbi, Sinai Temple, and author of "Why Faith Matters" "Menachem Begin was a man of great contradictions, and Gordis's biography captures all of them in a remarkable manner. It deals in a brilliant way with the complex personality and heritage of Israel's sixth prime minister. Gordis is not only precise, honest, and insightful, he is also a deeply talented and sensitive writer. That's why his Begin is a man of flesh, blood, mind, and soul, a multi-dimensional historic figure who made a vast co



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About the Hardcover

Publisher Schocken Books Inc
Publish date 03/04/2014
Pages 320
ISBN-13 9780805243123
ISBN-10 0805243127
Language English

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