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June 5, 2013 9:25 am

Ceremony Marks Begin’s 100th Birthday in Hometown

avatar by Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency

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Home of Menachem Begin's family in Brest, Belarus. Photo: Roman Kogan, courtesy of Limmud FSU.

The hometown in which Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was born and raised in, Brest in Belarus, was host to a special ceremony marking his 100th birthday on Tuesday, June 4.  The ceremony took place in front of the school that Begin attended as a child known as the Tachkemoni School on Kuybeshava Street.

The ceremony was organized by the Limmud FSU and the Menachem Begin Heritage Center to honor the Former Israeli Prime Minster and the Nobel Prize Laureate, who was one of the most well-known residents of Brest.

“We are very proud that we had the opportunity to open the events for Menachem Begin all over the world here in his hometown in Brest,” said Chaim Chesler, Founder of Limmud FSU (Former Soviet Union). “Begin is not only the most famous Jew to come out of Brest, but probably the most famous resident to ever live in the city.

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According to Chesler, local residents of Brest realize the important significance of Begin and showed up in large numbers to the ceremony. Participants at Tuesday’s ceremony included 200 members of the local Jewish community, a delegation from Limmud from FSU and representatives from the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. In addition, Israeli government representatives and the Ambassador to Belarus, Yosef Shagal, were also present.

The ceremony officially launched a series of events to take place around the world marking Begin’s 100th birthday.  “I think it is only natural that we launch these series of events honoring the 100th birthday of Begin in the city where he was born and where he began his illustrious career,” said Herzl Makov, Head of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.

“The Jewish community of Brest honored today one of its most famous sons in a very emotional and touching event,” Makov added.

Before the Holocaust, Jews accounted for more than half of the Brest’s population. The Nazis eventually murdered nearly 30,000 inhabitants of the Brest Ghetto in 1942, with only 19 Jewish residents surviving the atrocities.  Today, the city is home to approximately 200 Jews.  In Belarus itself, there are about 20,000 Jews who presently live in the country.

Menachem Begin was born in Brest, then known as Brest-Litovsk, on August 16, 1913. He arrived to the then British-controlled Palestine in 1943 and fought for Jewish independence from the British authorities between 1944 and 1947. A founder of the Likud Political Party, Begin was elected the sixth prime minister of the State of Israel in 1977 and served in that position until 1983. In 1978, Begin was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for reaching a peace agreement with Egypt as part of the Camp David Accords.

The Begin birthday ceremony was part of the first ever Limmud FSU Belarus conference. A specially commissioned sculpture of Begin by a local artist will also be dedicated at a site in Brest.

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