Directed and written by Jonathan Gruber, Upheaval: The Journey of Menachem Begin is a new documentary that explores the life of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin — a pillar of the State of Israel and a tireless fighter for the Jewish people; a true national hero.
Here are five things we learned from this incredible film:
1. Never give up.
Menachem Begin’s early years were marred by the horrific tragedies that befell the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust. There were many who could not cope with the unimaginable loss, preferring to run and hide instead of stand and fight for the future of the Jewish People.
Upheaval is the story of Menachem Begin, a man who lost family and friends in the Holocaust but, instead of letting these losses plague his resolve, rose to become one of the fiercest warriors on the battlefront for his people’s independence.
2. Make peace with your enemies.
One of Menachem Begin’s biggest political achievements was the signing of the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty between himself and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. Until that momentous day in March 1979, the two nations had been at each other’s throats, fighting a prolonged war that saw the eventual (and quite miraculous) defeat of Egypt’s forces and Israel conquering the Sinai Peninsula.
Begin could have continued the Israeli control of the peninsula and, furthermore, continued to spark further war to avenge the lives lost in defending the State of Israel. Instead, he chose to make peace with his enemies, and making peace is harder than making war.
3. Fight for what you believe in.
Upheaval deeply explores Begin’s role in leading the armed resistance in British Mandate for Palestine, the army that would later form the Israel Defense Forces. His colleague, David Ben Gurion, led a faction of Zionists in the country that sought to bring about the State of Israel through diplomacy instead of Menachem Begin’s military approach.
When Israel’s War of Independence broke out in 1947, the fledgling nation barely managed to defend itself in the face of almost-certain oblivion by neighboring countries. Begin’s unyielding leadership throughout the pre-state years gave the Jewish people the sword with which to fight back. Had he not fought for what he believed in, Israel would have been wiped off the map.
4. The Value of Faith
Menachem Begin was perhaps the most religious of any other Israeli Prime Minister to date. In fact, he even postponed several diplomatic meetings on a visit to the United States on July 23, 1977, so that he could observe the Jewish day of mourning that commemorates the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, Tisha B’Av. Being Jewish is unique in that it connotes both a people and a religion. Begin epitomized these aspects of his identity in all his endeavors.
5. Respecting Our History As We Build Our Future
While most prime ministers and other leaders of the State of Israel are buried on Mount Herzl, Menachem Begin’s final act in life was to instruct his loved ones to bury him on the Mount of Olives. Though both cemeteries are located in Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives is by far the most culturally significant of the two for the Jewish people.
It is the final resting place of hundreds of Jewish leaders from centuries past, such as the prophet Zechariah and the renown biblical scholar Nachmanides. By choosing to be buried on the Mount of Olives, Begin exemplified his belief in the importance of venerating our history as we continue to build our future.
Watch the inspiring life of Menachem Begin in Upheaval: The Journey of Menachem Begin available for rent on IZZY Cinema through September 30, 2021.