Yechiel Kadishai: a great public servant

We will remember him as a gentle, quiet and scrupulously honest person, who was the powerful anchor of the Israeli political world during the Begin regime.

YEHIEL KADISHAI 370 (photo credit: Prime Minister’s Office)
(photo credit: Prime Minister’s Office)
Yechiel Kadishai passed away suddenly on Saturday at the age of 91.
He was Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s friend, adviser, sounding board and executive director.
He grew up in Israel, served in the British Army and at the end of the second world war was responsible for helping the survivors of the Holocaust emigrate to Israel. He served in Italy and was responsible for mobilizing and training troops for the Etzel.
In 1977, after many years of working closely with Begin, he became chief of staff in the newly elected Likud government and the chief adviser to the prime minister. They had become very close friends and he was the prime minister’s most important adviser.
Yechiel was the now the center of action in the prime minister’s office.
He was a quiet man, who created very few waves, but was in complete control of the situation and able to make and implement major local, national and international decisions.
He was Begin’s sounding board and his gentle advice often swayed decisions, which he then executed perfectly.
He followed and guided the prime minister in the formation of a complex cabinet, dealt with the different and often conflicting programs of their members, their retirements, the formation and introduction of new members, and the day-today problems of running the prime minister’s office and the Knesset.
His door was always open and the simplest person who made a request found a responsive ear. Despite his heavy administrative burden, he found time to deal with and resolve simple personal problems of the ordinary Israeli citizen who had no “protection.”
He was simple and unobtrusive but wielded enormous power.
He accompanied the prime minister in the office, Knesset and abroad, dealing with all the major and trivial problems that arose.
He helped and guided the prime minister through the negotiations with Egypt, the difficult discussions with Anwar Sadat, the Sinai accord, the negotiations with president Jimmy Carter and the Camp David agreement.
He was at his side throughout the Lebanese war and the internecine strife among the Lebanese groups.
Public opinion was that Begin would not return for a second term of office, but Kadishai supported him to win the second election.
The death of the prime minister’s wife placed a heavy burden on the Begin and Kadishai continued to support him and push him forward.
When Begin felt the burden of office was too great, Kadishai followed him into retirement and continued to be at his side until he passed away in 1992.
He continued his philanthropic work and helped to raise the funds to build major new buildings at Asaf Harofeh Hospital.
He was the guiding light in building the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.
We will remember him as a gentle, quiet and scrupulously honest person who had great insight and understanding and was the powerful anchor of the Israeli political world during the Begin regime. He was a humble, but very effective public servant who devoted his life to his country.
The author, emeritus director of cardiology at the Hadassah University Hospital, was personal physician to prime minister Menachem Begin while he lived in Jerusalem.