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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 18, 2012 By Rafael Medoff NEW YORK (JTA) Ben- zion Netanyahu historian. one-time political activist and father of Israel's prime minister--died April 30 in Jerusalem at 102. An accom- plished scholar and the pa- triarch of one of Israel's most important political families. he also played asurprising and little-known role inAmerican political history. Netanyahu was born in Po- land in 1910 to a family deeply immersed in the world of religious Zionism. His father, Rabbi Nathan Mileikowsky, a popular Zionist preacher. brought the family to British- ruled Palestine in 1920. He Hebraicized the family name to Netanyahu. In the wake of the Pales- tinian Arab riots of 1929. Netanyahu was attracted to the militant wing of the Zi- onist movement. Revisionist Zionism. headed by Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotinsky. His literary talents were recognized early on. and he served as editor in chief of the Revisionist news- paper HaYarden in the 1930s. In 1940, Jabotinsky sent several of his leading disciples. including Netanyahu and future Knesset member Hillel Kook lbetter known as Peter Bergson), to the United States to seek funds and public sup- port for the rescue of Europe's Jews and creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. "It was a brand new world for us." Netanyahu told me in one of my interviews with him. "I had never been to By Arieh O'Sullivan The Media Line TZIPPORI, Israel Mitch Pilcer grows olives and grapes on his farm in the ancient vil- lage of Tzippori in northern Israel. It's an idyllic site, perfect for the bed-and-breakfast bun- galows he's built in the midst of the biblical town of Jesus' grandparents and later the seat of early rabbinical sages. In 2009, Pricer was dig- ging in his backyard to build a pool and made an amazing discovery. "I'm a farmer, unfortunately beneath my fields there are the graves of many of the greatest rabbis of antiquity," Pilcer, a native of New York, told The Media Line. "While I was pulling some stones away from the wall right over here I came up with this cave, this burial cave. which had this exquisitely carved stone door that was closed that says this was the cave of RabbiYehoshua Ben Levi." It turns out that this rabbi was a colorful character who lived here in the third century A.D. andwhose commentaries appear in the Talmud. But legend also has it that he was a close friend of Elijah the Prophet, although Elijah lived several centuries earlier. Overnight, Pilcer's prop- erty turned into a pilgrimage site by religious Jews who traditionally offer prayers and make petitions at the tombs of great sages that dot the Galilee region. Dudi Zilbershlag, aVizhnitz Benzion Netanyahu's role in U.S. politics Michal Fattal/Flash90 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his father, Benzion, at a memorial day June26, 2007 for Yoni Netanyahu at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. not commonly used by the American Jewish community at the time. including plac- ing full-page advertisements in The New York Tirnes and other newspapers. Some of the ads challenged the Roos- evelt administration's stance on refugees. Others took aim at the British govern- ment's White Paper policy of closing Palestine to Jewish immigration. One that Netan- yahu authored was headlined "The White Paper Must Be Smashed. if Millions of Jews are to be Saved!" Netanyahu divided his time between Revisionist headquarters in New York City and Capitol Hill, where he sought to mobilize con- gressional backing for, the Zionist cause. At the time, mainstream Jewish leaders such as Rabbi Stephen S. Wise were strong support- ers of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and stayed away from the Republicans. Ne- tanyahu, by contrast, actively cultivated ties to prominent Republicans such as former President Herbert Hoover. as well as dissident Democrats such.as Sen. E[bert Thomas of Utah. a Mormon. In 1944. Netanyahu sought to have the Republican Party endorse Jewish rescue and statehood. In the months leading up to that year's Republican national convention, the America. But I had to learn quickly there was no time. The world of European Jewry was going up in flames." Netanyhu became execu- tive direur of the U.S. wing of the Revisionist Zionist movement and editor of its magazine. Zionews. His essays were notable for their pass-ion. political insights and high level of fluency in a language he only recently had mastered. One 1944 editorial criticized mainstream Jewish leaders as "too cautious, too appeasing, and too ready to swallow the meaningless statements of sympathy that [are] issued from high places." Bergson and Netanyahu employed tactics that were Revisionists undertook what they called "'a systematic campaign of enlightenment" about Palestine among GOP leaders such as Hoover. Sen. of the Robert Taft. who chaired the Wh convention's resolutions com- activi mittee, and Rep. Clare Booth Netal Luce, wife of the publisher to co of Time and Life magazines, medic The GOP adopted an un- Drop precedented plank demanding phia. "refuge for millions of dis- histol tressed Jewish men. women at th andchildrendrivenfromtheir and ( homes by tyranny" and the tanya establishment of a "free and "The democratic" Jewish state. The ton Republicans' move compelled Spain the Democrats to, compete for grout Jewish support and treat the field, Jewish vote as if it were up He sp for grabs. The Democratic andtt National Convention, which years was held the following month mane in Chicago, for the first time year l endorsed"unrestrictedJewish while immigration and coloniza- rescu tion" of Palestine and the No establishment of "a free and grant democratic Jewish common- gener wealth." ing t Theeeventshelpedensure recen that support for Zionism and in th later Israel would become a his 1il permanent part of Ameri- filmn can political culture. Every whic' subsequent Republican and schec Democratic convention has week adopted a similar plank. To Ra, do less became politically ing d inconceivable. Wgm, In recent years, pundits caust have speculated on the extent His l towhich Benzion Netanyahu with ' may have influenced his son's is "H actions as prime minister. Jews: While it is difficult to draw a 'JewL, directconnectionbetweenfa- Supp, Resting place of 3rd-century rabbi attracts attention of pilgrims, lawyers Hassid who is a successful haredi publicist and supporter of Pilcer, explained the signifi- cance of the site. "There is a legend that he entered whole into the Garden of Eden. Some of the wise men say that his body stayed here [on earth], but his soul went there. So we have a place that is an opening to the Garden of Eden." Zilbershalg told The Media Line. The Israer Antiquities Au- thoritywas not so enthusiastic. They demanded Pricer, 54, let them excavate the tomb. When he tried to block them. saying a Jewish grave shouldn't be disturbed, the IAAwon a court order. In the late 2009 it con- ducted a dig on the property and confiscated the headstone door, which had been inscribed in plainly legible Hebrew: "This is the burial place of Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi Hakapar." "When they went in-and dug it they decided they liked the door so much that they pulled it off the hinges and took it away and it is now in a storeroom," Pricer says. Later IAA filed charges against Pilcer for carrying out an illegal excavation, damag- ing an ancient site and posses- sion of antiquities. Pilcer's trial began at the Nazareth Magis- trate's court two weeks ago where he pleaded not guilty. He has also made formal demands to have the stone returned to its original site. "The charges are simply an excuse for them not to return the stone. They know that ac- cording to the law they eventu- ally do have to return the stone because I've prepared a spot for it but they want to claim that if they can somehow indict me and convict me for a crime of archaeology, of illegal digging, then they will be able to say we can't return the stone to this place," Says Pilcer."That'swhat this whole court case is about." Deliberations are set to continue this summer. The IAA said it couldn't respond to the matter as ong as it was in court. Still, the case has drawn the attention of not only the media, but brought out an unusual visitor: Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi himself, or at least that's who the bearded man dressed in a priestly blue ancient relics, including mag- nificent Roman-era mosaics, and many of its residents have. marble columns and other artifacts in their yards. Pricer, a graduate of a New York yeshiva who has lived in Israel for more than 35 years, says he didn't mind that his backyard had become the site of pilgrimage for the devout. The tomb itself is today blocked up with a stone wall, but he has made a toilet available to those who come to pray and puts out candles and psalm books for them. "Here you have a situation where you have a guy, like Mitch who was not religious and who moved to Israel for Zionistic reasons and driven of be of an internal fire, discovers Pilcel inside his backyard a treasure "W like this. Not everyone discov- weha ers such things. So I feel it's and a duty to stand by him," says some Zilbershalg. and Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi rabbi lived in this area in the third iswat century. His commentaries are the e quoted in the Talmud, many him dealing with preservation of ared health and public welfare, retur Legend has it that he was Wl a companion of Elijah the door Prophet. main "In all the stories in the Tal- belie, mud when Elijah the Prophet be t comes to make his rounds Yeho on earth he brings along beth Yehoshua Ben Levi to kind of EO prayer shawl said he was. "After some 1.800 years I have been privileged to have a chance to show myself again in this world. Finally there are worthypeople who were living in a house above my grave and taking care of the place, so I thought it would be a good time to reveal the tomb to the public," the man dressed as Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi told The Media Line. Tzippori, about six kilome- ters (four miles) northeast of Nazareth, surrounds a high hill capped with a Crusader- era fortress. During the time of Jesus it was a thriving city, traditionally believed to be the hometown of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Continuously inhab- ited for nearly 3,000 years, it was also a center of rabbinic scholarship during the second and third centuries A.D. The site is peppered with PAGE 15A ther and son on specific policy matters, there is a parallel in their efforts to cultivate sup- port for Israel on both sides political aisle. lie working as a political. ;t in the 1940s, Benzion yahu also managed nplete a doctorate in val Jewish history at ie College in Philadel- He later taught Jewish y at Dropsie, and then .. University of Denver ;ornell University. Ne- U'S magisterial study, 9rigins of the [nquisi- n Fifteenth Century ." widely considered a dbreaking work in his as published in 1995. ent time in both Israel e United States over the returning to Israel per- ntly in 1976. the same fis son Yoni was killed leading the Entebbe ' operation. :oriously reluctant to interviews, Netanyahu lly succeeded in elud- e spotlight. He only ly agreed to cooperate ,, first documentary on e and legacy, by Israeli aker Moshe Levinson. coincidentally was uled to premiere last in Jerusalem. 'ael Medo[f is found- "rector of The David S. m Institute for Holo- Studies in Washington. test book, co-authored onja SchoepfWentling, ;rbert Hoover and the The Origins of the h Vote  and Bipartisan )rt for Israel." is scribe and sidekick," says. always understood that e agoodlife here, health ealways understood that )ody is Watching over us e believe that it is this Yehoshua Ben Levi who ching over us so we have bligation to watch over s well and that is why we ing everythingwe can to the stone," Pilcer says. ether or not the stone comes back here re- s to be seen, but if you ,e the legends it could at the tomb of Rabbi ;huaBenLevijustmight . doorway to the Garden en. LET MY 41 YEARS OF INSURANCE EXI REVIEW YOUR COVERAGES AND DESIG1  THAT PROTECTS YOUR BUSINESS BY YOUR SPECIAL NEEDS! 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