Berl Katznelson backers want day in his memory

"It’s not fair that the patriotism of the Zionist Left is questioned. There is a lack of legitimacy to be left-wing these days.”

August 16, 2017 20:39
2 minute read.
Berl Katznelson backers want day in his memory

Berl Katznelson 88 224. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Israel marks special days in honor of Zionist visionaries Theodor Herzl and Ze’ev Jabotinsky and must do the same for Labor Zionism intellectual founder Berl Katznelson, his intellectual heirs in the Labor Party and the Berl Katznelson Education Center said Wednesday, on the eve of the 73rd anniversary of Katznelson’s death on the Jewish calendar.

A ceremony at his grave on the Sea of Galilee will be held Thursday on the anniversary, but under a bill that will be proposed by Zionist Union faction head Merav Michaeli, Katznelson Day would be marked every year by teaching his legacy at schools nationwide. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition has blocked the legislation so far, but Labor secretary-general Eran Hermoni said he believes it can be passed.

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“The narrative of Berl Katznelson has been forgotten, and Netanyahu wants it to be forgotten,” Hermoni complained. “There has been a trend on the Right of trying to create new historical narratives. To mark Jabotinsky Day in honor of the ideological mentor of the Right and not mark Katznelson Day twists history.”

Hermoni noted that when the Left was in power, it honored Jabotinsky by bringing his remains to Israel during the tenure of Labor Party prime minister Levi Eshkol. Berl Katznelson Education Center director Rami Hod said the Left does not do enough to fight for its legacy but the Right does because it feels it has to.

“It makes sense that the fathers of both sides be commemorated,” Hod said. “It would help the students learn to respect the views of two sides. It’s not fair that the patriotism of the Zionist Left is questioned. There is a lack of legitimacy to be left-wing these days.”

Asked if the Right felt any different when it was out of power, Hod said he could understand that the Right felt it was blocked from being part of the Israeli consensus back then, but added, “What happened before does not legitimize what is being done to the Left today.”

The Berl Katznelson Education Center, located at Beit Berl on the outskirts of Kfar Saba, runs educational activities focused on Katznelson’s ideals of Zionism and social democracy. Katznelson (1887-1944), the spiritual leader of the Labor movement during the British Mandate, helped form pre-state social welfare networks that still exist.

Hermoni said he is not concerned that the Right will continue to block the bill.

“We expect the coalition to be loyal to history,” he said. “If not, we will pass it next Knesset when we are in power and [Labor chairman] Avi Gabbay is prime minister.”

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