- Media Release: The Asper Foundation Announces Major Gift to the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, Israel (The Asper Foundation, 2/05/02)
“Prime Minister Begin’s most outstanding life achievement was the signing of the Peace Treaty with Egypt. It proved that Israel was willing and able, as difficult as it was, to withdraw from land that it had acquired through defensive measures. It also demonstrated that Israel supported the establishment of Palestinian autonomy in exchange for peace. The Menachem Begin Heritage Center will celebrate the vision of a man who was courageous to know the importance and meaning of sacrifice.”
“We are honoured that The Asper Foundation is making this important contribution to help ensure the legacy of Menachem Begin lives on in perpetuity. Whether as a gifted and charismatic orator, head of Betar in Poland, organizer of protests against the British blockade in Palestine, commander of the Irgun Tzeva’i Le’umi, founder of the Herut Movement in Israel, parliamentarian, Israel’s sixth Prime Minister from 1977-1983, fighter of the scourge of Arab terrorism, leader of a national campaign for the right of Soviet Jews’ repatriation in Israel, leader of the evacuation of the Ethiopian Jewish community or having the courage to achieve a peace agreement with Egypt and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize with President Anwar Sadat, Prime Minister Menachem Begin serves as a beacon of inspiration not only to Jews but to all those who strive for excellence and yearn for peace.”
“The heritage centre will be a fitting tribute to Menachem Begin who dedicated his life to peace and the Jewish people.”
Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation
Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin is considered by many to be one of the key individuals who helped bring the state of Israel to reality. In commemoration of the late leader, a museum scale memorial centre was developed in the City of Jerusalem, the country’s capital. The Asper Foundation supported the initiative through a significant donation.
In 2002, The Asper Foundation contributed $1 million towards the capital campaign and Graduate Student Scholarship Program of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Israel. The Menachem Begin Heritage Center is one of the major program initiatives of The Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation.
The objective of the foundation is to perpetuate the thoughts, deeds and achievements of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, representing a major part of the Jewish experience of the 20th century. The 65,000 square foot four-story complex houses the Begin Archives and Library, the Begin Museum, the Begin Research Institute, lecture halls and video screening rooms.
The Begin Archives and Library houses documents, letters, speeches, videotapes, conference minutes, interviews and audiotapes related to Prime Minister Begin’s life. The Begin Museum employs cutting edge technology to portray every facet of Begin’s life, work and accomplishments. A special section is devoted to the life of his wife Aliza Begin.
The Begin Research Institute is a dynamic place where scholars study, record and publish topics such as Striving for Freedom, Peace and International Understanding, Project Renewal: Impacting Socio-Economic Change, The Ethics of Governance and Begin’s View of Judaism. The lecture halls and video screening rooms are a meeting place for visiting groups, especially soldiers, students and schoolchildren.
Junior Knesset Program
The Asper Foundation has contributed over $100,000 to the Junior Knesset (legislature) program, a civics educational program formulated and developed by the Menachem Begin Heritage Center upon the initiative of Ann Kirson Swersky. The program seeks to teach middle school students (grades 7 – 9) about democratic parliamentary activity in Israel and explain to them in a simulation environment how the Knesset works in Israel. The project emphasizes the theme of parliamentary democracy in Israel and proper public discourse.
The program was reviewed by Israeli Ministry of Education supervisors dealing with civic education and was conceived to be appropriate for the weekly civic education lesson plan. It is the only program that specifically teaches parliamentary values. As well, it is a modular program allowing teachers freedom to use it in sections appropriate to their specific needs.
Junior Knesset program students gain insight into the reality of coalition politics, cooperation between Members of the Knesset, consensus-building and representative democracy at work. The teachers’ guide binder includes sections dealing with debates on dilemmas related to the topic being learned in class. The instruction is less frontal and mainly involves the pupils in simulated situations comparable to the actual parliamentary activity. Classroom discussions are followed by a five-hour Model Knesset session in which the students role-play at being legislators.