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Menachem Begin: A Life Hardcover – November 27, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

For the first three decades of Israel’s national existence, politics was dominated by the Labor coalition; the possibility that the right-wing Likud, led by Menachem Begin, could take power seemed remote and even absurd. Many Jews, both within and outside of Israel, reviled him as an extremist with Fascist tendencies. In a dramatic shift, he and his party rose to power in 1977. It is symptomatic of the rightward political transformation of Israel that Begin is now a widely revered political figure on a par with David Ben Gurion. Shilon has written a scrupulously balanced and comprehensive biography of the frustratingly complex and enigmatic leader. Born to a staunchly Zionist family in Brest-Litovsk, then part of the Russian Empire, Begin was drawn to a particularly militant strain of Zionism, influenced by the persecutions of Jews that he witnessed firsthand. In Mandate Palestine, he was a mercurial underground fighter who could be both a rigid ideologue and a practical tactician. Shilon reveals often fascinating and surprising details about Begin as a politician in independent Israel. This is a superbly researched examination. --Jay Freeman


"I read this book, which was written with immense talent and based on profound research, with great interest. This biography represents a decisive contribution to the truth."—Shimon Peres
(Shimon Peres)

“The most comprehensive and thorough biography published to date about Begin . . . will be of particular interest to American Jews”—Benny Morris, author of 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War
(Benny Morris)

"Avi Shilon has beautifully documented Menachem Begin's remarkable life and explained his complex character; in addition, this well-translated biography provides important insights into Begin's historic prime ministry."—Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum 
(Daniel Pipes)

"The first comprehensive biography about the leader and the man. . . . A pioneering event in its field."—Time Out Tel Aviv
(Time Out Tel Aviv)

“A fully realized, important portrait of a significant 20th-century leader.”—Kirkus, starred review


 “This first comprehensive biography of Menachem Begin…reveals a man of great contradictions and influence in the shifting political developments of his time.”—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly)

“Shilon masterfully details Begin’s life.”—Choice


Finalist for the 2012 National Jewish Book Awards in the Biography, Autobiography, Memoir category.
(National Jewish Book Awards Jewish Book Council 2013-06-11)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 584 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (November 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300162359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300162356
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,153,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Avi Shilon was born in Israel to Iraqi-Jews immigrant parents and lives in Tel Aviv. His PhD Dissertation Title: "The Revisionist Movement Leaders' Attitudes toward Jewish religion, 1925-2005". His first book, "Menachem Begin: A Life," won as the finalist of the Jewish book council prize on 2013. His second book, "Ben Gurion Epilogue" had been published by Am-Oved on 2013. The book explores Ben Gurion's world-view after his retirement and received prestigious reviews. Shilon also writes for Ha'aretz op-ed section.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Aleph on February 14, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the book very much. It is richly detailed, compellingly told and skillfully presented from beginning to end. The author leverages his skill as a journalist to unearth this important story and present this epic tale in a way that is genuinely accessible to a wide readership.

My one complaint -- and it is a maddening one -- is his persistent, passive-aggressive suggestion that Begin was manic-depressive, debilitated by mental illness. The author concedes that neither he, nor his sources, could ethically make such a diagnosis; but again and again this meme returns, like a bad penny.

While I think there are other explanations for Begin's charismatic successes, and crushing setbacks, than mental illness, to my mind these innuendos do more for the author than they do his story. I think that he repeatedly whispers this idea to avoid falling in love with his subject; who, as the story reveals, is much a much larger figure than the author, you or I, or anyone we know.

If the author can be forgiveness this weakness, and you will need to forgive him several times during the journey, this book is worth twice what you are asked to pay for it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Allan Lobel on April 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book changed my view of Begin. Personalized it. His standoffishness and need for formality was with him since a very young age. He always had leadership. Heavily influenced by his father. His advocacy of "both banks of the Jordan" was at once a guiding principle and a slogan which no other politician could trump. There was no further you could rationally go. It was important that the labor oriented governments of the early days had another view. Many thought him a radical - out of touch, but that extreme left centered governments of the early years did finally learn that they did not have all right and justice in their views.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jaime Einstein on March 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Begin's story is very worthwhile reading, quite relevant to an understanding of Israel today. Unfortunately, the English translation is awkward and clumsy in spots.
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Menachem Begin: A Life
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