Death of Geula Cohen signifies the end of a generation says Netanyahu

Cohen was a freedom fighter, former legislator and the mother of Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi.

President Reuven Rivlin with Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and former MK Geula Cohen (photo credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin with Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and former MK Geula Cohen
(photo credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)
If political firebrand Geula Cohen, who died on Wednesday at age of almost 94, could have chosen her own exit, it might have been the playing of the Lehi hymn Hayelim Almonim (Anonymous Soldiers) written by Lehi founder Avraham Stern.
The hymn was heard on radio many times on Thursday, possibly more often than it has ever been played before.
Lehi was one of the fiercest resistance movements against the British Mandate authorities.
Geula Cohen, who would have celebrated her 94th birthday on December 25, was born in Tel Aviv to a family of Yemenite background, and was aptly named, in that geula means redemption.  She was among the most zealous fighters for Jewish redemption and the restoration of Israel in the ancestral biblical homeland.
It was her fervent wish to permanently lower the Union Jack in the land of her birth and to replace it with the blue and white Zionist flag that bears the Star of David.
At her funeral on the Mount of Olives, President Reuven Rivlin paid tribute to her as “the shofar – the ram’s horn – of the Messiah, the ram’s horn of the underground movement.” He said she was Israel’s freedom fighter in the deepest sense of the concept.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said she represented the end not only of the founding generation of the state but also the revolutionary generation and pledged her legacy would be continued. She will remain a symbol of excellence, he said.
Her son, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, said she was a lioness never compromising her principles and always standing up for them with tenacious courage.
Because of her perfect Hebrew diction, she became the broadcaster for Lehi’s clandestine radio station.
In 1942, she joined the Irgun, but soon switched to the more-militant Lehi.
In 1946, while broadcasting from Tel Aviv, she was apprehended and incarcerated by the British, but managed to escape. She was recaptured and sentenced to several years in prison for possession of a wireless transmitter and a small arsenal of ammunition.
While being sentenced, she and some 30 members of family sang Hatikva, the national anthem of the Jewish people and the future State of Israel.
Cohen escaped again a year later and hid in the village of Abu Ghosh.
She briefly edited a Lehi newspaper and after independence, wrote for Sulam (Ladder), a publication edited by Lehi fighter Israel Eldad.
She married fellow Lehi fighter Emanuel Hanegbi, with whom she had two sons, one of whom was brain damaged and was institutionalized.
Cohen worked as a journalist for Maariv, and served on the daily’s editorial board for 12 years.
Following a meeting in the early 1970s with the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, she and former Lehi leader Yitzhak Shamir persuaded Meir Kahane to take disruptive action against Soviet representatives in the US with the aim of causing greater tensions between the US and the USSR, thereby enabling more Jews to emigrate from the Soviet Union.
Geula Cohen as radio broadcaster for the Stern Group's underground station (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)Geula Cohen as radio broadcaster for the Stern Group's underground station (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In 1972, she became not just a political activist, but an active politician, joining Menachem Begin’s Herut party. In 1973, she was elected to the Knesset and remained a MK for 18 years. Strongly opposed to the Camp David Accords, she caused a commotion in the Knesset in 1978 when Begin rose to give his report on what had transpired during the Camp David negotiations.
She demanded that Begin resign from his position as prime minister.
Shamir, who was then the speaker of the Knesset, refused to give her the floor and threatened to have her removed if she continued to ignore the request to resume her place and to be silent.
She could not understand why Shamir, a former Lehi leader and her personal friend, could act this way toward her, and reminded him in his day, Begin himself had been disruptive when disagreeing with Left-wing members of the Knesset.
Yet for all that one of her best friends was Shulamit Aloni, founder the Ratz party and later leader of the Meretz party.  
Both women were fervent ideologists, and although they strongly disagreed with each other on political issues they respected each other.
Another leftist who respected Cohen for her ideology even though he was seldom in accord with her was author Eli Amir, who appeared with her on a radio program called On the Right and on the Left.
Disillusioned by Begin, with whom she had been very friendly, Cohen in 1979 founded the ultra-right wing party Tehiya.
Unlike many politicians who preach one thing and do another, she went to live in Kiryat Arba and in Hebron, and was a fervent supporter of Gush Emunim.
Aside from her political career and post-Knesset activism, she promoted the writings of acclaimed poet and journalist Uri Zvi Greenberg, and founded the Uri Zvi Greenberg Heritage House in Jerusalem.
She also conducted readings of his works by well-known people, including Shimon Peres and renegade Arab MK Asmi Bishara.
The iconic Cohen was awarded the Israel Prize and was also named a Worthy of Jerusalem.
At her 90th birthday celebration at the Begin Heritage Center, there was standing room only, and Rivlin was among those who joined in the festivities.
The fact that so many media outlets in Israel and around the world eulogized her point to Cohen’s place of honor place in the history of the nation.