Harry Hur­witz

BORN LIEPJA, LATVIA, AU­GUST 29, 1924. DIED KFAR SABA, IS­RAEL, OC­TO­BER 1, 2008, AGED 84.

The Jewish Chronicle - - Obituaries -

ALIFE­LONG AD­MIRER and fol­lower of Me­nachem Be­gin, Harry Hur­witz de­voted a ma­jor part of his ca­reer to work­ing in the di­as­pora, be­liev­ing he made a greater con­tri­bu­tion to right-wing Zion­ism out­side Is­rael.

Then, in 1977, Be­gin tele­phoned say­ing that Is­rael needed him. He moved to Jerusalem and three days later started a ca­reer in Is­raeli pol­i­tics at the top — as Prime Min­is­ter Be­gin’s ad­vi­sor.

Be­fore set­tling with his fam­ily in Jo­han­nes­burg in 1934, 10-year-old Harry Zvi Hur­witz was al­ready an en­thu­si­as­tic right-wing or “re­vi­sion­ist” Zion­ist, hav­ing heard its ide­o­log­i­cal men­tor, Ze’ev Jabotin­sky, speak in his na­tive Latvia.

Dur­ing his high school years, he headed the re­vi­sion­ist youth move­ment, Be­tar, in Jo­han­nes­burg and nearby towns, trans­form­ing it from a bit player to a ma­jor force in the Jewish com­mu­nity.

On leav­ing school, he started as a jour­nal­ist on the move­ment’s weekly jour­nal, the Jewish Her­ald, sub­se­quently be­com­ing ed­i­tor.

He be­came renowned for his trans­la­tions of speeches by Be­gin and other leaders, al­low­ing English-speak­ing read­ers to fol­low po­lit­i­cal trends in Is­rael. He also as­sumed lead­er­ship roles in the main Zion­ist Re­vi­sion­ist Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

While vis­it­ing Pales­tine in 1946, he se­cretly met Me­nachem Be­gin, then head of the Ir­gun and in hid­ing from the Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties, in Tel Aviv. The two struck up a warm re­la­tion­ship.

As well as be­com­ing his friend and sound­ing board, he be­came Be­gin’s bi­og­ra­pher, re­leas­ing a book in 1971 which he later up­dated. Over the three decades af­ter first meet­ing, Be­gin told him that his work in South Africa was more im­por­tant than liv­ing in Is­rael.

How­ever, soon af­ter Be­gin be­came Prime Min­is­ter in 1977, he called Hur­witz to say the time had come to leave South Africa. He ar­rived in Is­rael in May 1978 and three days later be­gan work as ad­vi­sor to Be­gin.

As in­for­ma­tion at­taché at the Is­rael Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton from 1980-83, he cov­ered the crises of Is­rael’s bomb­ing of Iraq’s nu­clear re­ac­tor in Osirak in 1981 and the in­va­sion of Le­banon in 1982, which led to the Sabra and Shatila camp mas­sacres. He also pi­o­neered re­la­tions be­tween Is­rael and evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians.

Re­turn­ing to Jerusalem, he be­came ad­vi­sor on world Jewry, a role he con­tin­ued when Yitzhak Shamir suc­ceeded Be­gin in 1983. He en­joyed the out­come of his coach­ing of Shamir for a House of Lords speech in 1991. The Lord Speaker com­pli­mented the premier on his English, adding: “Where does your South African ac­cent come from?”

When Be­gin died in 1992, Hur­witz pledged to es­tab­lish a memo­rial cen­tre for his life and work. The Me­nachem Be­gin Her­itage Cen­tre opened in Jeru­alem in 2004. It con­tains a li­brary, mu­seum, re­search in­sti­tute and archives.

As pres­i­dent of the cen­tre, he worked full-time on re­search and was doc­u­ment­ing cor­re­spon­dence be­tween Be­gin and Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent An­war Sa­dat from 1977-1981 when he stopped for the on­set of Rosh Hashanah. He died on the sec­ond day of the fes­ti­val.

This is not the first time that Hur­witz’s life has been summed up in print. In 2001 the Jerusalem Post pub­lished an obituary in the mis­taken be­lief that he had died.

Hur­witz phoned its au­thor, his friend Sh­muel Katz, mak­ing out that he was con­tact­ing him from heaven to thank him for his favourable piece.

He is sur­vived by his wife Freda, son Hil­lel, three grand­chil­dren and two great-grand­sons.

Harry Hur­witz: ad­mirer of and ad­viser to Me­nachem Be­gin

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