MK Rivlin: “He never compromised.” President Peres: “He was a great historian and a great Jew.”
Public figures from both sides of the political spectrum eulogized Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, the prime minister’s father, after he passed away on Monday.
Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin, said, “I have known Benzion Netanyahu ever since my young adulthood. This is a man who tied his life to Jerusalem and Zionism, who was an assistant to Ze’ev Jabotinsky and was one of the great Revisionists.
“Benzion was an eminent researcher and historian who founded a house of pure political Zionism, without compromises, and his offspring have imbibed his observations and his world view. In his life story, Benzion Netanyahu represents a chapter in the annals of Zionism and Jewish history.
“With Benzion there was no place for compromise, and for that reason he sometimes showed displeasure with needs that his son had as a politician, both in the United Nations and as a person who was elected to serve as the Prime Minister of Israel.”
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar said Monday that “besides his manifestly Zionist outlook, Prof. Netanyahu was also gifted with a sober view of the dangers and threats that face our nation. Prof. Netanyahu raised three sons who were all fighters on the battlefield, and he passed on to them the deep commitment to sacrifice for their nation and their country.”
The Chairman of the Jewish Leadership faction in Likud, Moshe Feiglin, offered his condolences to the prime minister and his family. “It was with great sorrow that I heard about the passing of the man of knowledge and action, who during his entire life remained faithful and committed to the Jewish people and the Zionist idea.”
National Union MK Uri Ariel called Benzion Netanyahu “a man of education and values, a man of learning and one of Israel’s greatest historians in the recent generations, who unceasingly educated people to love the Nation of Israel and the Land of Israel.”
Labor Chairwoman MK Shelly Yechimovich wrote the prime minister a letter of condolence, telling him that his father was “a unique and special father, a great historian, ideologue and intellectual who placed a deep stamp on Israeli society and its legacy.”
President Shimon Peres called Benzion Netanyahu “a great historian and a great Jew.” He spoke at the laying of a cornerstone for the IAF’s technical school in Carmiel, and at his request, the participants held a minute of silence for Prof. Netanyahu.
By Gil Ronen
From the PM’s Facebook Page:
The father of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Professor Ben-Zion Netanyahu, passed away early this morning (Monday), 30.4.12.
Ben-Zion Netanyahu, 102, died at home. Last night, his son, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to visit him one last time.
Ben-Zion Netanyahu was born in Warsaw on 25.3.10, named Ben-Zion Mileikowsky. In 1920, he and his family immigrated to the Land of Israel. In 1944, he married Tzila, whom he had met during his studies in the Land of Israel. Ben-Zion Netanyahu had three sons – the late Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, who fell during Operation Yonatan at Entebbe; Benjamin, the Prime Minister of Israel; and Ido, a doctor, author and playwright.
Prof. Netanyahu was among the great historians of the Jewish People. In his research, he focused on the history of the medieval Spanish Jewish community and the history of Zionism. Among his books are a biography of Don Isaac Abravanel, a history of the Spanish Marranos and his major work, ‘The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain’, which received global acclaim. He also authored ‘The Founding Fathers of Zionism’ about the lives of the founders of political Zionism – Leon Pinsker, Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau, Israel Zangwill and Zeev Jabotinsky.
Prof. Netanyahu was the editor-in-chief of the Hebrew Encyclopedia for over a decade. He served as Professor of Jewish Studies at various US universities and concluded his academic career as Professor emeritus at Cornell University.
From his days as a student in Jerusalem, he was involved in public Zionist activities. He was a supporter of Zeev Jabotinsky and edited a newspaper that also featured Prof. Joseph Klausner and poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg on its staff.
He defended those who were accused of Chaim Arlozorov’s murder and, to this end, persuaded his father, Rabbi Natan Mileikowsky, to enlist the support of Rabbi Avraham Isaac Hacohen Kook to defend the accused. Rabbi Kook later delivered a moving eulogy for Rabbi Mileikovsky.
In 1939, Ben-Zion Netanyahu traveled to London and persuaded Jabotinsky to relocate to the US out of the view that the latter would be the rising power in the world and that from there it would be possible to mobilize support for the Jewish state. Jabotinsky died shortly after their arrival in the US; Netanyahu continued to raise support for the Jewish state throughout the war and afterward.
In this context, he met with many US Jewish leaders of the period, as well as with Senators, Congressmen, authors, poets and leaders, including Dean Acheson and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Upon the establishment of the State, he returned from the US and moved with his young family to Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood. He dedicated himself to his research, in which he was assisted by his wife Tzila, a native of Petah Tikva who was his life’s partner for over 50 years.
In 1952, the Netanyahu family moved to its home a 4 Haportzim Street, where he passed away early this morning.