Any Israel advocate or proud Jew will always benefit from learning more about Israeli history, including Israel’s leaders. Education is key to developing one’s own identity and essential for initiating dialogue and discussion with others.

Tomorrow is Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin‘s birthday. One of the best ways to celebrate his life is by learning about his legacy. While Begin was controversial to some, he made great contributions to Israel and the existence of the Jewish state. His life can certainly not be confined to a short list, but the main components can be highlighted.

Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Source:
Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Source:

Preserving cultures calls for each nation to shine


Begin devoted himself to the Jewish people and the Jewish state, a result of his appreciation for humanity and the rightful place of each culture within it.

As opposed to the now common universalist belief that the world is comprised of one people, diverse and multi-layered, Begin would argue that the earth is filled with many tribes and peoples, each with their own lands and traditions. The idealistic-sounding idea of universalism does not allow for complete diversity–identity is flushed out when all histories are combined into one narrative.

Begin recognized the need for particularism, the idea that each tribe or people has its own respective heritage and set of traditions. Geographical and fundamental separations of different peoples need to be preserved in order to truly respect the nuances of humanity and allow the beauty of each culture to flourish freely.

Israel, not just a practicality for the Jewish people


Menachem Begin sought to establish Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people and emphasized its role of importance for every Jew, regardless of where they live. Israel, Begin felt, is “the beating heart of the Jewish world.” The land itself is the archaeological proof and spiritual foundation of thousands of years of Jewish history. The Jewish people, as Begin believed, is a family not defined and limited by geography.

Israel serves as an absolute necessity for the Jewish people

Children in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.
Children in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

Begin also recognized the necessity of the Jewish homeland for the Jewish people’s survival. He understood that the Jewish people could become victims again if a strong homeland in Israel was not established. Not to mention the patterns of the Jewish people being persecuted throughout history, current events reflect today’s need for a Jewish homeland in Israel. From terror threats to hatred at the Olympic games, Israel needs to stand strong in the face of hate.

Israel, an active land of defense

'Karakal' infantry female soldier. Source:
‘Karakal’ infantry female soldier. Source:

Having a mere homeland is not enough to protect and defend the Jewish people. Begin prioritized security and would take timely action in order to ensure it. During Operation Opera, Begin worked with Israel’s military intelligence as well as the Israeli Air Force to demolish an Iraqi nuclear reactor. The destruction of this reactor squandered Iraq’s potential of harming American and Israeli forces with nuclear warfare in the future.

Today, Israel has the incredible Israel Defense Forces to protect all of Israel’s borders and has great security measures in place to ensure constant safety. Israel’s self-defense systems are incredibly strong because the country is prepared, thinking ahead in order to prevent terror before it plays out.

Israel: a liberal democratic state

On May 8, 2013, Israelis and Palestinians wave flags as Israelis march celebrating Jerusalem Day outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's old city. Source: Sebastian Scheiner, AP
On May 8, 2013, Israelis and Palestinians wave flags as Israelis march celebrating Jerusalem Day outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s old city. Source: Sebastian Scheiner, AP

While upholding Jewish tradition and allowing for it a place in Israeli society, Begin believed in tolerance and freedom for all individuals in Israel. Begin was devoted to protecting Jewish heritage but this did not squander his passion for liberal nationalism.

Begin’s legacy of democracy still thrives and flourishes. Israel supports minority rights and helps its inhabitants prosper and live freely.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.

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