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Netanyahu's father, Benzion, dies at age 102
By JPOST.COM STAFF
04/30/2012
Benzion was a prominent Revisionist Zionist activist in the US, served as secretary to Ze'ev Jabotinsky, was a writer and editor; Yacimovich to PM: Your father was unique, he left a deep imprint on Israeli society.
 
Benzion Netanyahu, father of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, died early Monday morning at the age of 102.

A number of Israeli political parties, among them Labor, Meretz and National Union withdrew their no-confidence votes in the Knesset, out of respect for the prime minister.

Benzion Netanyahu had been a prominent Revisionist Zionist activist in the US, had served as secretary to Ze'ev Jabotinsky, and was a writer and editor. He died at the age of 102.

The senior Netanyahu was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1910, and was a historian and a professor emeritus at Cornell University. He lived in Jerusalem when he died.

He married Tzila Segal in 1944, and remained married until her death in 2000.

Benzion was father to three sons with Segal: Yonatan Netanyahu, a Sayeret Matkal commander who was the sole Israeli casualty during the successful operation to free hundreds of hostages in Entebbe, Uganda who were taken aboard a hijacked airplane, Iddo Netanyahu, a radiologist and writer, and Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel.

He was secretary to Jabotinsky, a Revisionist Zionist leader credited with fathering the movement in the United States.

At a party to celebrate his father's 100th birthday, the Jewish Chronicle quoted the prime minister as having said: "I learned from you to look into the future."

Knesser speaker Reuven Rivlin told Israel Radio that "Bibi learned the pure Zionism from a man who was so close to Jabotinsky," adding that the prime minister "was educated in a home where Zionism was a Zionism with no compromise... though Bibi's realpolitik was much more developed."

"Professor Netanyahu was an important scholar, both profound and original," Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said of the late Netanyahu. "His wide research on the [Spanish] Marranos and the Inquisition period was revolutionary, and has important historical value."

Sa'ar said Benzion was Zionist to the core, adding that he was the "outstanding pupil of Herzl and Jabotinsky."

Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich sent her condolences to the prime minister, writing that "we all have only one father. And in your case, we are talking about a unique man, distinguished historian, an ideologue and an intellectual who left a deep imprint on Israeli society.

Benzion served as the executive director of the New Zionist Organization of America during the 40s, making him a prominent Revisionist Zionist activist in the United States.

He became the chief editor of the Encyclopedia Hebraica during his stay in Israel.

He was also editor of the group's biweekly US publication, Zionnews, where he authored editorials that typically dealt with the latest Palestine-related political developments and controversies.

In one editorial that Benzion wrote, on the occasion of the springtime Passover holiday, Benzion contemplated how the suffering of the Jews could never separate them from their faith or extinguish their hopes: “Through oceans of blood, our blood, through oceans of tears, our tears, hated, persecuted, beaten, wandering and homeless, we assemble at the Pessah Seder to thank God for our liberation from Egypt, and to express once again the hope of the Haggada: ‘This year we are still slaves – next year we shall be free men.’”

"Only a nation of our spiritual caliber could come through the ages of unparalleled sufferings with its spirit unbroken; still alive; still striving for liberty. Next year we shall be free men,” he opined.

In 1952, the Netanyahu family moved to its home at 4 Haportzim Street in Jerusalem, where he passed away early Monday morning.

Reuters and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.
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