Begin’s Regrets Part 2

Sources and notes for further study

This issue is based on passing references by Begin in his memoir The Revolt. It is a worthwhile (if sometimes rambly) book that is somewhat hard to find these days. Within the epic tale of the Irgun Zvai Leumi’s revolt against the British Mandate, these two small incidents stood out to me. They demonstrated the innate honesty of the man. To a less sensitive soul, these minor actions would have been forgotten. But Begin expressed regret years later. 

Panel 1  The story appears in The Revolt, Chapter VIII, “Man with Many Names”: 

“On the first Sabbath after our arrival I was honored, as befits a newcomer, by being “called up” to the [Torah]. The [gabbai] asked what my name was. I was afraid to mention my first name lest, in combination with my father’s name, it might recall something to somebody. I said hesitantly “Israel the son of Ze’ev Dov.”… [From then on], until I left the underground, I was always “called up” by that name. I must ask forgiveness from the Almighty for dissembling my real name even in Divine Services, but He will understand that in the circumstances I had no choice.”

Panels 2-4  The story appears in The Revolt, Chapter VI, “Army of the Underground”: 

“My little son Benny was very attached to this cheerful uncle who used to show him the funniest tricks. He called him Uncle Moshe. Every “uncle” who visited us had his special name for Benny’s use. Children are naturally the greatest enemies of conspiracy. But do parents, even in the underground, always know what their children’s ears pick up? We were always careful, but apparently the three-year-old child once overheard something, for one day he asked me, with a mischievous smile on his lips:

“Father, where is Uncle Moshe who is called Yeruham?”

I was somewhat taken aback by this surprising and dangerous question. On the other hand I could not help a feeling of pleasure at the sharpness of the child.

“Uncle Moshe has gone to Haifa,” I told him. “He’ll come back.”

It is a bad thing for a son not to be able to tell his father the truth. It is even worse when a father cannot tell his son the truth. In addition to the great and obvious sacrifices inherent in an underground struggle, it sometimes exacts unseen sacrifices, seemingly trivial, but extremely painful to have to make.

…May the parents forgive their sons for the untruths they had to tell them for the sake of the essential struggle. And may the sons forgive their parents for the same transgression. Uncle Moshe, my son, was really Yeruham. He did not go to Haifa but to Jerusalem, to the prison, and from there to Acre, again to prison. For fifteen years—so the British said. But Uncle Moshe returned to us—from Acre, not Haifa—fourteen years earlier than the British authorities intended.”

Excerpts from: Menachem Begin, ‎THE REVOLT, The Story of the Irgun on Apple Books 

Michael Unterberg (author) and Zvi Ron (artist) have been making comics together since they were classmates in Yeshivah of Flatbush elementary school. They both live in Gush Etzion.

Please do not reuse without permission from the authors. Thank you. 

About the Author
Rabbi Doctor Zvi Ron made Aliyah in 1986, learned in Yeshivat Shaalvim and served as a shooting instructor in the IDF. After receiving Smicha from the Israeli Rabbanut, he and his wife, Sharon, went on Shlichut to Richmond, Virginia where he served as Rabbi of Keneseth Beth Israel Synagogue for 10 years. The Rons moved to Israel in 2004 and live with their four children in Neve Daniel, Gush Etzion. He is the author of two books on Tanach: Sefer Katan V'Gadol and Sefer Ha'Ikar Chaser as well as dozens of articles in numerous publications. He is editor of The Jewish Bible Quarterly and he was a contestant on the game show The Weakest Link.
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