Inspired Tel Aviv (ITV), Shalom LaAm Center, 54 Bar Kochva, Tel Aviv

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Begin, the BBC and Chevron

August 27, 2017

 

 

Outside 10 Downing Street in 1980, there was a dramatic encounter between Menachem Begin and the BBC.

 

Having become Israeli PM in a surprise victory and signed a peace treaty with Egypt, Begin was now a world-famous statesman. It was at this point that British prime minister Margaret Thatcher invited him to visit the UK.

 

The invitation generated a lot of media interest. It was less than 40 years since the British press had branded him a terrorist, and the order had gone out from the very same building to capture him dead or alive. Now Menachem Begin was visiting as prime minister.

 

As the two leaders posed outside Downing Streets famous door in front of the massed media, a BBC journalist spoke up.

 

'Mr Begin,' he challenged, 'are you going to ask Mrs Thatcher for recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital?'

 

'No sir,' came Begin's icy response. 'Because Jerusalem was a Jewish capital long before London was a British capital.'
 
'When King David moved the capital of his kingdom from Hebron, where he had reigned for seven years, to Jerusalem where he reigned for thirty-three years, the civilised world had never heard of London. In fact they had never heard of Great Britain.'

 

And with that Begin turned and entered Downing Street.

 

As we visited Chevron this Shabbat with our ITV group from Tel Aviv, these words came back to me.

 

Because there in Me'arat Hamachpelah, you get a sense of the sheer depth of Jewish history. Our story begins over 3500 years ago with Avraham and Sarah who are buried there. We all know that intellectually, but there in Chevron you can really internalise this.

 

That sense of connecting to our roots is what impressed many of our group as well. 

 

It's famously been said that you only have as much of a future as you connect to your past. To really appreciate our future; to gain Begin's perspective on Jewish history, I urge everyone to spend a few hours in Chevron, the place it all began.

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