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.

Aug 29

Famous People in Israel – Israeli Leaders – Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres, 9th President of the State of Israel was born Szymon Perski near Voloshin Poland on August 21st 1923. At the age of eleven he immigrated to Palestine with his parents Yitshak and Sara Persky and his younger brother Gershon.  On reaching Palestine they changed their name to Peres. He is a first cousin to the American actress Lauren Bacall who was born Betty Joan Perski. All his relatives that remained in Poland were murdered during the Holocaust and many of them including his grandfather Rabbi Meltzer were burnt alive in the synagogue in Wizniewo.

Shimon Peres Prsident of Israel and former Prime MinisterWhile in High school, he joined the Hanoar Haoved Youth movement and subsequently left school after 9th grade and moved to the Ben Shemen Agricultural School and Youth village. At home his family spoke Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian and while at school Peres also learned Polish.  As well as Hebrew, Shimon Peres is also fluent in English and French.

Shimon Peres was one of the founders of Kibbutz Alumot where he spent several years, he had also lived for a time at Kibbutz Geva.  In 1945 he met and married Sonya (Gelman). They have 3 children, a daughter and two sons.

In 1946 Peres was a delegate to the 22nd World Zionist Congress where he met David Ben Gurion and in 1947 Shimon Peres and a number of others were chosen by Ben Gurion to seek out officer talent for the Haganah (which after the declaration of the State formed the basis of the Israel Defense force). Ben Gurion then Drafted Shimon Peres into the High Command of the Haganah in charge of manpower and later on the production of arms and arms procurement.

In 1948 he served as chief of the naval department and in 1950 travelled to the U.S. on an arms procurement mission.  While there, Peres studied at the School for Social Research in New York and after that at Harvard.

On his return to Israel, Peres was appointed to the post of Director General of the Defense Ministry, a post he held from 1953 until 1959 when he was elected to the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) serving as Deputy Minister of Defense. During his time in the Defense Ministry he built up a special relationship between Israel and France and established the country’s Electronic Aircraft Industry.

Shimon Peres has had a long and illustrious career serving his country all his life.
During the time of the National Unity Government from 1984 – 1988 he served as Prime Minister for the first two years of the term and for the second two years as Vice Premier and Foreign Minister.  His handling of the disastrous inflation rate in Israel was nothing short of miraculous as he managed, in a very short time to bring the inflation rate down to around 15% from its unbelievable 400% and stabilized the economy.

Shimon Peres was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. In 2007 he founded the Peres Center For Peace with the intention of building an infrastructure of peace and co-existence between all the peoples of the Middle East.  He was elected President of Israel on June 13 of the same year.

In November 2008 he received an honorary knighthood from Britain’s queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. After the ceremony Shimon Peres had a private meeting with the queen and discussed the Middle East, Iran’s nuclear program and the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

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.

Aug 20

Famous Leaders of Israel – Israeli Prime Ministers – Menachem Begin

Menachem Begin was the 6th Prime Minister of the State of Israel. He is perceived by some to be a terrorist leader but remembered by most as the man who brought about the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab Nation and subsequently received a Nobel Prize for peace.

Begin was born in 1913 to Hassia and Zeev Dov in Brest-Litovsk which at that time was part of the Russian Empire. He was educated first at Hebrew School and his high school education was at the Polish Gymnasium.  He took a law degree at Warsaw University and graduated in 1935.

As a child Begin was a member of the Hashomer Hatza’ir socialist youth movement and later joined the right wing Betar Movement. During his time at University he was active in Jewish Affairs. In 1938 he became head of the Polish Betar which was part of a nationalist movement founded by Zeev Jabotinsky and realizing the need to protect Polish Jewry he put all his efforts into the military training of the members of this very strong movement.

When World War II broke out he fled to Vilna in Lithuania where he was arrested by the Russian secret police and sentenced to 8 years imprisonment in a Siberian Labor Camp but was freed in 1941 and joined the Free Polish Army which made its way to British Palestine in 1943 for training.

On arrival in Palestine Menachem Begin joined and took command of the Irgun Zvai Le’umi “Etzel” and directed the operations against the British. There was a reward of 10,000 Pounds offered for information that would lead to his arrest, however all actions taken against the British by the Irgun were in protest against the British Governments ban on the immigration of Jews to Palestine.

With the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the underground groups were absorbed into the national army, the IDF and in 1950 Menachem Begin became politically active, founding the Herut party and headed the party’s list for the Knesset. He remained in opposition until June 1967 when he joined the National Unity Government serving as Minister without Portfolio.

Menachem Begin led his Likud party to victory in the 1977 elections, presented the new government to the Knesset and became Prime Minister of Israel. Barely six months later he achieved what seemed to be the impossible – a visit from Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt who came to Jerusalem. This was followed by nearly two years of intense negotiations culminating in the Camp David Accords and a peace treaty with Egypt.
In Oslo on the 10th December 1979 both Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat were honored with the Nobel Peace Prize.

In June 1981 after the minister of Defense Ezer Weizman resigned from Office, Begin took over the post himself and asked his cabinet for approval to bomb the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor and this action was carried out successfully by the Israel Air Force. This action brought about worldwide condemnation but during the Gulf war in 1991 it became particularly clear that Israel’s action had prevented Sadam Hussein from procuring Nuclear weapons.

Shortly after his wife Aliza died, Menachem Begin finally retired from politics in 1983. He died in 1992 and is buried in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives.