This Week in Israeli History: Menachem Begin, Independence is Won, and the Fogel Family

Begin with his wife Aliza and son Benny disguised as “Rabbi Israel Sassover” during his time in the Underground (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Menachem Begin
Begin was born in 1913 in Brest-Litvosk, Russia. As a teenager he joined the revisionist youth movement, Betar, and climbed up the ranks to become the organization's head in Poland, responsible for nearly 100,000 members.
At the outbreak of World War II he fled to Vilna and was subsequently arrested by the NKVD, a forerunner of the KGB. He was accused of being an “agent of British imperialism” and sentenced to eight years in a Siberian labor camp. He was freed in the following year on account of his Polish citizenship and joined the Free Polish Army, which made its way to Mandatory Palestine.
Once in Palestine, Begin made contact with the Irgun Tzeva'i Le'umi (Etzel) and joined the underground organization after being released from the army. He quickly made a name for himself and soon assumed command of the Irgun. In February 1944, the Irgun proclaimed its famous “revolt” against the British rule in Palestine and renewed its military operations.
Under Begin’s command, the previously dormant Irgun was completely revitalized and transformed into a powerful and influential underground organization. Begin aimed to strike at the prestige of British Empire and attract the world’s focus to the plight of the Jewish people in the Holy Land. His operations were so successful that by 1948, 100,000 British troops were deployed in Palestine to suppress the Jewish underground – well over double the amount of troops that were used to maintain rule in India and Pakistan.
After Israel's independence, Begin relinquished control of the Irgun as it merged with the Haganah and Stern Group (Lehi) to form the Israel Defense Forces. He entered politics and founded the Herut Party, a party based on the revisionist ideology of his mentor, Ze'ev Jabotinsky.
In 1973 Begin united all the right-wing parties under the flagship of the Likud and later won the 1977 elections – the first time in Israeli history that a right-wing party won the general elections. During his six-year tenure as prime minister, Begin signed the Camp David Accords with Egypt (earning the Nobel Peace Prize), authorized the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak and oversaw the First Lebanon War.
Following the death of his wife Aliza, Begin resigned from office and retired to the seclusion of his home. On March 9, 1992, he suffered a heart attack and passed away. Over 75,000 people attended his funeral.
As per his request, Begin was buried on Mount Herzl next to Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barazani, two underground fighters who were captured by the British and sentenced to death.
Independence is Won!
On March 10, 1949, the IDF completed its last military campaign of the War of Independence, officially ending the hostilities of the war.
The IDF's last campaign, Operation Uvda, commenced on March 5, 1949. The mission was to capture the southern Negev, a region allocated to Israel by the UN Partition Plan but occupied by Jordan.
To the IDF's surprise, they met little to no resistance – capturing Ein Gedi, the Dead Sea, Masada, and eventually arriving in Eilat on March 10th. There they found the Arab city of Umm Al-Rashrash abandoned, and took the city without a fight. It was there that General Avraham Adan hoisted the famous Ink Flag, symbolizing Israel's victory and marking the end of the war.
"To be delivered to the Government of Israel: For the Haganah on the 11th of Adar. The Palmach Negev Brigade and the Golani Brigade present the Gulf of Eilat to the State of Israel."
-- Telegram sent by Golani Brigade Commander, Nachum Golan, and Negev Brigade Commander, Nachum Sarig at the conclusion of the campaign.
The Fogel Family
Five years ago on March 11, 2011, two Palestinian Arab terrorists infiltrated the Jewish yishuv of Itamar and brutally murdered five members of the Fogel family while asleep in their home on Shabbat.
Ehud, Ruth, and three of their six children, Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and Hadas, a three-month-old infant, were murdered in cold blood. Two of their other children remained sleeping and undiscovered by the terrorists. The massacre was discovered by Tamar, the Fogel’s oldest child who had returned home after a Shabbat youth activity.
20,000 came to the heart-wrenching funeral to pay their respects.
May their memories be a blessing.