Although he won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1978, Menachem Begin had a reputation for violence that chased him his whole life. During the Holocaust he fled Europe (where he had been a leader in the radical Zionist group Betar) for Palestine, where he became a leader in the Jewish underground militia known as Etzel and was implicated in deadly events in the fight to help establish the state of Israel. Begin was reviled by the country’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, but did not let the contempt he endured from Labor Party rivals run him out of politics. Instead he embraced his role as an opposition leader committed to Jewish peoplehood and, after eight tries, finally became prime minister himself.
In Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul, the newest title in the Jewish Encounters series from Nextbook Press and Schocken, Daniel Gordis investigates the choices Begin made throughout his life. Gordis joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss Begin’s complicated legacy.