Bentzion Netanyahu, 102, died at home. Last night, his son, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu managed to visit him one last time.
Prof. Netanyahu was born in Warsaw on March 25, 1910, named Bentzion Mileikowsky. In 1920, he and his family immigrated to the Israel. In 1944, he married Tzila, whom he had met during his studies in Israel. Bentzion Netanyahu had three sons – the late Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu HY”D, who fell during Operation Yonatan at Entebbe; Binyamin, the Prime Minister; and Ido, a doctor, author and playwright.
Prof. Netanyahu was among the great historians of the modern state. In his research, he focused on the history of the medieval Spanish Jewish community and the history of Zionism. Among his books are a biography of Don Isaac Abravanel, a history of the Spanish Marranos and his major work, The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain, which received global acclaim. He also authored The Founding Fathers of Zionism about the lives of the founders of political Zionism – Leon Pinsker, Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau, Israel Zangwill and Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
Prof. Netanyahu was the editor-in-chief of the Hebrew Encyclopedia for over a decade. He served as Professor of Jewish Studies at various US universities and concluded his academic career as Professor emeritus at Cornell University.
From his days as a student in Jerusalem, he was involved in public Zionist activities. He was a supporter of Zeev Jabotinsky and edited a newspaper that also featured Prof. Joseph Klausner and poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg on its staff.
He defended those who were accused of Chaim Arlozorov’s murder and, to this end, persuaded his father, Rabbi Natan Mileikowsky, to enlist the support of Rabbi Avraham Isaac HaCohen Kook ZT”L to defend the accused. Rabbi Kook later delivered a moving eulogy for Rabbi Mileikovsky.
In 1939, Bentzion Netanyahu traveled to London and persuaded Jabotinsky to relocate to the US out of the view that the latter would be the rising power in the world and that from there it would be possible to mobilize support for the Jewish state. Jabotinsky died shortly after their arrival in the US; Netanyahu continued to raise support for the Jewish state throughout the war and afterward.
In this context, he met with many US Jewish leaders of the period, as well as with Senators, Congressmen, authors, poets and leaders, including Dean Acheson and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Upon the establishment of the State, he returned from the US and moved with his young family to Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood. He dedicated himself to his research, in which he was assisted by his wife Tzila, a native of Petah Tikva who was his life’s partner for over 50 years.
In 1952, the Netanyahu family moved to its home a 4 Haportzim Street, where he passed away early this morning.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)