Aliza Begin, wife of Premier Menachem Begin, died early this morning at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical Center here. She was 62. The cause of death was given as heart failure. Begin interrupted his visit to the United States to fly home today.(See related story from Los Angeles.)
Funeral services will be held tomorrow on the Mount of Olives and will be private. The Begin family requested no media coverage, it was announced after today’s Cabinet meeting. Officials said Deputy Premier Simcha Ehrlich is expected to be in charge of the government while Begin observes the seven day mourning period (shiva).
Ehrlich said, in a brief eulogy at today’s Cabinet session that Aliza Begin was “a personality in her own right … She was Menachem Begin’s friend and partner in life for close to 50 years and traveled with him the long path full of dangers, full of deeds, of suffering and of achievements … Aliza Begin was a fine woman, of sterling qualities … We shall never forget her.”
Mrs. Begin was hospitalized on October 4 for breathing difficulties and was in the intensive care unit for the past few weeks. Her illness caused Begin to postpone a planned trip to Zaire last month. But he left for the United States as scheduled last Thursday at her urging and because Mrs. Begin was showing some improvement.
COUPLE WED ON EVE OF W.W. II
Aliza Begin was born on April 20, 1920 in Drohobycz, a small town in Poland where her father, Dr. Zvi Arnold, was an attorney and a leader in the Zionist Revisionist movement. She was one of twin daughters. Her sister was to perish in the Holocaust.
She met her future husband, Menachem, when she was 17. Her father invited the then recent law graduate of Warsaw University to their home for dinner. Begin was at the time a leader of Betar, the Revisionist youth movement. The young couple corresponded and were married two years later, on May 29, 1939. They took their vows both dressed in Betar uniforms.
World War II broke out on September I when German armies invaded Poland. The Begins joined a stream of Jewish refugees trying to reach the Rumanian border but got no further than Vilna. When the Russian army occupied that part of Poland, Alize left for Palestine alone. Begin, who had organized Revisionist party headquarters in Vilna, was arrested and sent to forced labor camps. He was released a year later and joined his wife in Jerusalem.
His activities in Palestine soon made him a wanted man by the British Mandate authorities. Aliza and her husband lived underground for five years, moving from hide-our to hide-out under a variety of aliases. During those difficult years their children were born — Benyamin Zeev, Hasya and Leah. They finally settled in a modest ground floor flat in Tel Aviv which was their home until May, 1977 when Begin was elected Premier. They moved to the Prime Ministers residence in the Rehavia section of Jerusalem.
A PRIVATE PERSON
Mrs. Begin remained out of the public eye during the 30 years that her husband was leader of the opposition in Israel’s parliament. He was Prime Minister for two years before she granted her first press interview. She never expressed opinions on public issues. She was however active in service for handicapped persons, particularly wounded soldiers.
Mrs. Begin had suffered from asthma since childhood. Her condition deteriorated recently, requiring hospitalization. She will be buried near the graves of two underground fighters of Begin’s Irgun and the Stem Group who committed suicide shortly before they were to be executed by the British. The site was chosen by Begin who designated it in his will to be his and his wife’s last resting place.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.