Menachem Begin

Famous for:

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Leader of the Irgun, 1944-1948


Prime Minister of Israel, 1977-1983


Peace with Egypt, 1979 / Nobel Prize

We don’t need legitimacy. We exist. Therefore we are legitimate.

Menachem Begin (1913-1992) was one of the giants of Israeli history, and one of the most impactful leaders of the Middle East in the 20th century. He was many things: an intellectual, a fierce fighter, a wise prophet, a committed terrorist, a peacemaker, a statesman. An Ashkenazi Jew of European birth, he led a political revolution for Mizrahi Jews of Middle Eastern background. He was the only Holocaust survivor to serve as Prime Minister. A religious Jew, he led a secular nation. He rose to prominence in the 1940s leading the Irgun — the violent Jewish resistance to the British Mandate. When Israel was established he led the political opposition against David Ben Gurion’s left-wing government. He became Prime Minister in 1977, made peace with Egypt, became the first Israeli to win a Nobel Prize (for Peace), bombed Iraq’s nascent nuclear reactor in 1981, and started a controversial war in Lebanon that ultimately led to his fall from power.

Appears in

Episodes 47, 48, 50, 51, 52, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58

Connected To

David Ben Gurion

Vladimir Jabotinksy

The Irgun