Sep 08

Israeli Leaders – Famous People of Israel – Ariel Sharon

Ariel  Sharon 1928-2014

 

Ariel (Arik) Sharon – an Israeli soldier and political leader. He was a hero to many and regarded as a villain by his enemies who feared him. Nevertheless his name has become synonymous with strong and powerful leadership throughout his life.

arik-sharonHe was born in Kfar Malal on the 26th February 1928 in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine, the second child of Dvora and Shmuel Sheineman who had immigrated to Palestine from Lithuania.

At the age of 14 he joined the Haganah and by the time he was 20 Ariel was made commander of an infantry company during the War of Independence. His army career was illustrious; he played an active part in all of Israel’s wars attaining the rank of Major General in 1967.  During both the 6 Day War and the Yom Kippur war in 1973 he played the part of a supreme military strategist. It was Ariel Sharon who, as commander of an armored division, led the Suez Canal crossing thus securing an Israeli victory and which eventually led to the Peace Treaty with Egypt.

In 1973 Ariel Sharon played an important role in the formation of the Likud Party and in 1974 was elected for the first time to the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament). However he resigned his seat a year later to become Yitzhak Rabin’s security advisor.

In 1977 he was again elected to the Knesset serving as Minister of Agriculture under the leadership of Menachem Begin. Sharon was very active in the sphere of International Relations, he succeeded in a number of endeavors. He managed to effect the first strategic cooperation agreement with the United States, and renewing diplomatic relations with the African Countries who had broken these off after the Yom Kippur War.

Arik Sharon extended defense ties with a number of other nations and succeeded in bringing thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel through Sudan.

armyHe was appointed Defense Minister in 1981 and in 1982 during the 1st War in Lebanon was instrumental in the destruction of the terrorist infrastructure there. At this time Sharon was found to be indirectly responsible for the massacre of Palestinians by Christian Phalange Militia, in the Refugee Camps of Sabra and Shatila. This resulted in his resignation as Minister of Defense.

Ariel Sharon became Israel’s 11th Prime Minister in February 2001. On the 4th January 2006, Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke he slipped into a coma and since then has remained in a vegetative state with practically no chance of recovery.

Sharon was married and widowed twice and has two sons, Omri and Gilad.

Sep 04

Israel – Famous People – Orde Charles Wingate

Orde Charles Wingate was born in 1903 in Naini Tal India, both his parents were deeply religious Christians and members of the Plymouth Brethren a non denominational evangelical movement. He received a military education and in 1936 Orde Charles Wingate was posted to the British Mandate of Palestine with the rank of Captain in Military Intelligence.

He was an outstanding friend of the Jewish People and had an unwavering belief in the Zionist Cause. This brave and yet controversial man soon received the Hebrew nickname “Hayedid” (Friend).

At the time of his arrival in Palestine a campaign of riots and attacks against Jewish Communities and British Mandate officials, instigated by the Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Al Husseini, were taking place regularly.

Wingate learned Hebrew and a friendship began between him and Zionist leaders Chaim Weitzman and Moshe Sharett. His offers to help the Jewish leadership were met with suspicion, mainly because just about every British Official in Palestine at that time disliked Jews.

Wingate devised the concept of small units made up of elite volunteers to go into action to put an end to terrorism in Northern Palestine. In this way the offensive would be carried to the enemy by taking the initiative and keeping him off balance. Actions like this had already begun by the Haganah under the leadership of Yitzchak Sadeh who later stated that they had less skill but the same ideas as Wingate, but that on his arrival they found a leader.

Initially Wingate’s plans were completely disregarded but eventually approved by the Commander of British Forces in Palestine Archibald Wavell, then finally accepted by the rather doubtful Jewish Agency and Haganah who found it hard to believe that any British official would be interested in helping them.

Orde Wingate held strong beliefs that it was his destiny to help in the creation of a Jewish Army in Palestine.  His training and skills had a deep and intense influence on the tactics and character of the Haganah which was the precursor of Israel’s Defense Forces of today.

Orde Wingate’s deep involvement with the Zionist Cause and his public statements favoring the formation of a Jewish State in Palestine resulted in his transfer back to Britain in 1939.

When World War II broke out Wingate was in Britain and a commander of an anti-aircraft unit and made a proposal to the Government to create a Jewish Army to take over the rule in Palestine on behalf of the British. Shortly afterwards he was invited to build up guerilla forces in Sudan to operated against Italian forces in Ethiopia. This was called the Gideon Force and was made up of British, Sudanese and Ethiopian Soldiers and later he invited veteran members of the Haganah to join as well.

In 1944 Orde Charles Wingate was killed, together with nine others when the plane he was in crashed in Manipur India.

There is a memorial to Orde Wingate and the Chindits (British-Indian Special force) in London near the Ministry of Defense, on the north side of the Victorian Embankment. On this memorial there is a mention of his contribution to the State of Israel.

In Israel there are a number of places that commemorate Orde Charles Wingate “Hayedid.”, some of which include the Wingate Institute (Israel’s National Centre for Physical Education and Sport), Wingate Square in Jerusalem, and the Yemin Orde Youth Village near Haifa.

Aug 31

History of Israel – Wars – War of Independence

On the 29th November 1947 the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition Palestine. Immediately after the vote the first Arab attack was launched in Jerusalem and it did not take long before the fighting spread throughout the country. When Britain made it clear that their mandate would end on the 14th May 1948 and that their forces would be withdrawn by then the surrounding Arab countries stated that if the Jews declared independence they would immediately invade the country to prevent partition.

Independence Hall Tel Aviv

While the armies of seven countries amassed on Palestine’s borders, 37 Jewish leaders signed the declaration of the State of Israel and on the 14th May 1948 David Ben-Gurion read out the declaration as follows –

Declaration of Independence May 14th 1948
“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish People. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books…And thus we the members of the Peoples Council, representatives of the Jewish community of the Land of Israel and the Zionist Movement, are here assembled…to declare the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”

 

Only a few hours passed before the Arab armed columns advanced upon the fledgling State, from the south, the east and the north. After 1878 years when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Roman armies, Jews were again fighting for their independence.

Despite the fact that the Arab forces were better equipped and significantly larger than Israel’s, they were uncoordinated and disorganized, with the exception of the British trained Arab Legion from Transjordan, as opposed to the Jewish fighters who despite their relatively small numbers were organized, disciplined and well trained and included a large number of World War II veterans from around the world.

War of Independence IsraelAt the start it was the Arab armies that took the offensive causing severe casualties to the Israeli forces, however the Haganah then took the initiative and within six weeks had captured the Arab sections of Tiberias and Haifa and later Safed and Acre (Akko) and gained control of much of the territory allocated to the State of Israel under the Partition Plan. On the 31st of May 1948 the Haganah was renamed the “Israel Defense force”

By January 1949, Israel had taken control of an area significantly larger than that designated by the United Nations and this remained Israel’s territory until 1967. The areas remaining in Arab hands were Gaza held by Egypt and the area of the west bank and the old city of Jerusalem including the Western Wall and Solomon’s Temple, upon which the Muslim Dome of the Rock had been built, were in the hands of Jordan. Armistice agreements were signed by all the surrounding Arab States except for Iraq who withdrew their forces and handed over its positions to Jordan.

Aug 30

Israel History – Wars in Israel – leading up to the War of Independence

Since biblical times and as recorded in the Torah, the Land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people by God and has been sacred to them ever since. After the establishment of the First Kingdom of Israel in about the 11th century BCE the area was ruled by the Israelites sporadically for the next 1000 years.

Historical map of IsraelOver centuries the Jewish presence dwindled due to persecution and massacres at the hands of invaders, the scattering of the Jews throughout the world began. However a Jewish presence constantly remained, particularly in the Galilee which became the religious centre. Eventually after the land had been conquered and ruled over by most of the major civilizations that had power at various times, The Land of Israel was captured in 1516 by the Ottoman Empire who ruled the area up until the 20th century.

Throughout the centuries the Jews who had been dispersed around the world had always had a yearning to return to their land and in 1492 many Jews, on being expelled from Spain, returned to their land and communities began to grow in the four Holy Cities of Judaism : Jerusalem, Tiberias, Hebron and Safed.

Pogroms in Eastern Europe started the first Aliyah in 1881 which was the beginning of what is known as modern immigration. At around that time the Zionist movement founded by Theodor Herzl started to take root. This movement had as its basis the wish to establish a Jewish State in the Land of Israel.

The second Aliyah began in 1904 and those who came were mainly orthodox Jews but amongst them were socialists who began to establish the kibbutz movement. This Aliyah lasted until 1914 and the outbreak of World War I.  During the war Arthur Balfour, who was the British Foreign Secretary, issued The Balfour Declaration which favored the establishment of a National Home for the Jewish People in Palestine.

The Jewish Legion, composed mainly of Zionist Volunteers, assisted the British in their conquest of the Ottoman Empire in Palestine. In 1920, rioting Arabs vehemently opposed the Balfour plan and this led to the forming of the Haganah (Hebrew word for Defense).

The years between 1919 and 1929 brought 100,000 Jews returning to their land during the third and fourth  Aliyah and after the rise of Nazism the 5th Aliyah began with the arrival of about a quarter of a million Jews fleeing the situation in Europe. This influx caused Arab Riots and resulted in the notorious British White Paper that stopped the arrival of Jews to Palestine.  All those Jewish refugees trying to flee the Holocaust were being turned away by countries around the world. This led to the formation of the underground Aliyah Bet organization who sought to bring these Jews to Palestine.

The "Exodus" Ship arriving in Haifa on July 20 1947A furious conflict between the Jewish Community and Britain began after 1945 when the Haganah joined the underground movements Irgun and Lehi in armed resistance as thousands of Jewish Refugees and survivors of the Holocaust who were seeking refuge in Palestine were being turned away by the British or placed in Detention Camps.

In 1947 Britain found themselves unable to reach any acceptable solution to the situation and decided to withdraw from the Mandate of Palestine and in November of that year the Partition Plan for Palestine was approved by the United Nations with two states, Arab and Jewish with Jerusalem an International City under U.N. rule. This was accepted by the Jewish leadership but immediately rejected by the Arabs who began a series of attacks against Jewish communities.

On the 14th May 1948 Independence of the new State of Israel was declared and the next day the armies of 5 Arab States: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt with contingents from the Sudan, crossed their borders, in an attempt to overthrow the new state and so began Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

Aug 27

Israeli Leaders – Famous People in Israel – Yitzhak Rabin

Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli military General, politician and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, was born in Jerusalem on the 1st of March 1922. His parents were Rosa and Nechemiah Rabin (originally Rubitzov), both of them immigrants from the 3rd Aliyah, Nechemiah arriving from the United States in 1917 with a group of volunteers and Rosa (Cohen) from Belarus in1919.

Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak RabinRabin spent his childhood and youth in Tel Aviv after his family moved there in 1923 and in 1940 he graduated from the Kadouri Agricultural High School and later he travelled to the U.K and took a number of courses in Military Strategy but never tried to obtain a degree.

After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 during the War of Independence he met and married Leah Schlossberg who was working for a newspaper as a reporter. They had two children, Yuval and Dalia.

During his years at Kadouri High School he met and became friends with Yigal Allon who later became a leader of the Elite Strike force of the Haganah Underground, the Palmach, which Rabin joined in 1941. He took a large part of the operation that freed 200 illegal immigrants from the Atlit Detention Camp and became Deputy Commander of the Palmach in 1947. During a substantial British Operation launched against the leaders of the Jewish authorities, Rabin was arrested and was in detention for 5 months.

Yitzhak Rabin in 1948After his release he continued his activities in the Palmach and in 1947 became the Palmach’s chief operation officer. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war Yitzhak Rabin fought in a number of battles around Jerusalem and against the Egyptians in the Negev. He remained in Military service until the beginning of January 1968 when he retired after being in uniform for 26 years.

During the 6 day war in 1967 he was the commander of the Israel Defense Forces and led Israel to victory.  After his army career came to an end he joined the Labor party and was appointed Ambassador to the United States. During his years in the U.S. Rabin built up strong mutual ties between the two countries, promoted the idea of strategic co-operation with the United States that led to a huge amount of military aid being supplied to Israel from America and succeeded in having the lifted on the F-4 Phantom Fighter Jets.

Rabin returned to Israel in 1973 and was appointed Minister of Labor in Golda Meir’s cabinet.  In June 1974 Yitzhak Rabin became the youngest and first Israeli born Prime Minister in the history of the country.

A truly dramatic event took place during Yitzhak Rabin’s first term as Prime Minister, when he ordered the heroic and daring Entebbe Operation on July 4, 1976 to rescue passengers and crew of an Air France Flight that terrorists had hijacked to Uganda. Thousands of miles from home, the operation ended successfully and the hostages were safely flown to Israel. The operation however resulted in the tragic death during the fighting at Entebbe Airport of the operations commander Lt.Col Yonatan Netanyahu, brother of Prime Minister Benyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu.

Rabin resigned as Prime Minister in 1977 but in 1992 once again was elected as Prime Minister and succeeded in leading Israel to the Oslo Peace Accords with the Palestinians and a Peace Agreement with Jordan. In 1994 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat.

Unfortunately, the peace agreement only unleashed an unprecedented wave of terror attacks against Israeli civilians which caused Rabin’s popularity to dramatically drop and on November 4th 1995 after a well attended Peace Rally, Rabin was shot several times on the way to his car, by a right wing fanatic Yigal Amir. Rabin was rushed to a nearby hospital but died shortly after his arrival there.

Many world leaders attended his funeral including King Hussein of Jordan and United States President Bill Clinton who used the phrase “Shalom, Chaver “meaning Goodbye Friend, which became famous around the world.

Yitzhak Rabin is buried on Mount Herzl and the square where the Peace Rally took place and where he was assassinated has been renamed Rabin Square.