Baruch Dayan Emmes – Prof. Bentzion Netanyahu z”l


The father of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Professor Bentzion Netanyahu, passed away early Monday morning, 8 Iyar 5772.

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)


  1. Sounds like he wasn’t a tinok she’nishbu if his father was really a Rabbi so why the great eulogy on yeshiva world? Accomplished fraay yidden die all the time.

  2. And is there a problem, #1, with being maspid an accomplished “fraaye” yid, even here? This “fraaye” yid passed on enough Torah values that at least one of his grandchildren is frum (Bibi’s son) and all 3 of his sons served am yisroel and saved Jewish lives (all three were in Sayeret Matkal, the commando unit that went to entebbe, that rescued the Sabena airliner hijacking, etc). One, Iddo, is a doctor who continues to save Jewish lives. This “fraaye” yid did more than anyone else in the world to clarify and document and analyze the churban of the Spanish inquisition. This “fraaye” yid helped found and strengthen the arm of Zionism that engendered the irgun, herut, and likud, and thus put God fearing men like Menachem Begin into power, and thus put resources into talmud torah in a way Labour wouldn’t and hadn’t done.

    And BTW, if a 102 year old “fraaye” yid had made a monetary instead of an intellectual, moral, and civil contribution to am yisroel, you can be sure no one would be questioning the rectitude of a hesped here.

  3. Comment 1. you are 100% right.
    “Netanyahu continued to raise support for the Jewish State throughout the war and afterward”
    Did he or any of these Zionist leaders do anything to try and rescue the Jews in Europe “throughout the war”.
    “he met with many … Senators, Congressmen, authors, poets and leaders, including Dean Acheson and Dwight D. Eisenhower” Did he try to persuade any of them to stop the genocide that was going on in Europe? to Bomb the train tracks to Auschwitz? To provide a place in their country for the Jews from Europe to escape to??

  4. Yichusdik
    Seems to me that if he were a poshuter yid who learned dad Yoni and gave tzeddaka and kept the Torah you would think there’s less reason to care about the petira. Get your priorities straight. Even if his son were the greatest doctor that ever lived it would he zero in comparison to a son that is frum and learns Torah and is a stam baal habos.

  5. It seems that the posters know exactly what is in HKB”H’ s mind….a so-called “fraayer’ yid with tremendous accomplishments is not as good as an obscure jew learning daf hajomi? how do you know HKB’H’s ‘chesbonos”? All of you show the disappointing narrowness of mind that some chareidim (I say some…) display….I bet you that there will be plenty of “chareidim’ at his levaya…and rightly so,because his teachings and his owrk helped countless of jews escape their murderers and live to build a land full of torah.

  6. Whatever happend to just saying Baruch Dayan Emes? Are you “people” out of your minds? During Sefira also? For real? And this is a “frum” website?

    People fighting and arguing over the death and accomplishments of an 102 year old? Who had a son die Al Kiddush Hashem while rescuing other Yidden? Who’s son represents (at least in the eyes of the goyim) Yidden around the world?

    And all a bunch of bloggers can worry about is him being Frei? Really???

    Forget the frum part, why don’t you act like people??

  7. On the doctor (Iddo), you may have somewhat of a point, but if saving Jewish lives is a zero in your books compared to learning, you have some serious hashkafic issues to work out; but on the son who gave his life (Yonatan) to rescue other Jews – I disagree with you 100%. That is merit we can only dream of.

    This powerful and intensely moving story was written by Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu in 1974, when he was a young student at Yeshivat HaKotel, shortly after many of his classmates were tragically killed in the Yom Kippur War.

    And when he arrived there, in Heaven, the gate was open And he entered inside like a regular visitor, with a sure step And from all sides, from all over Dozens and dozens of elderly men surrounded him And he looked closely and he saw that those people who were surrounding him on all sides Were people whose names he had seen in elementary school, in a book, And he remembered that all sorts of streets were named after them. The tsaddikim, the learned ones, the Torah scholars. And oh: there were the Patriarchs! And all of them stood crowded and pressed together, and closed in around him from all sides, And in their mouths was a single request, almost a prayer, “Tell, tell us how?” How did a simple boy, an average fellow, “just a regular person” Accomplish that which they had struggled to accomplish their entire lives, with learning gemara and observing halacha To arise and merit to dwell in the uppermost chamber, where only martyrs merited to dwell And all of the tsaddikim were familiar, and knew well all of the suffering taking place Since the Jewish people is one, all of the generations And they sat in awe of his holiness, and drank in his words with thirst
    As if they were the students and he—and he was the rabbi.
    And he looked a little to the sides, and who did he see?
    He rubbed his eyes hard to see if he wasn’t mistaken But, there they were! Now he was completely certain His friends from the battalion, from the division And beside them, a little ahead, the soldiers from the War of
    Independence and the Sinai War and the 6 Day War. All of those that the Jewish people lost in the hills and the woods and on every hill And those from the ambushes and the strikes And those from the War of Attrition—all of them, all of them were there! All of those who arrived there, with a special and great merit: They had been killed solely because they were Jews, in the land of Israel and in the Diaspora. And each soldier sat, and on each head was a great golden crown And every tsaddik looked at him with love and gentleness, exactly like a
    father. And they swallow up every word, as though they were hearing wondrous new ideas, chidushim in Torah. And the soldier told his story calmly, simply, and couldn’t understand what they were so excited about. And so, as he was sitting there and telling his story, and transforming their faces into flames From the corner of paradise flew three angels, three good angels They apologized to everyone, but they only needed him for one moment. Don’t worry! He would return immediately, and he would start his story again from exactly the point where he had stopped.
    They just needed to ask him one question, that is what they had been commanded. If he still had something to arrange below, in the world of human beings And if so, then they were at his service, that was exactly their role. And he said, it’s good they came, because he had one request, though it was a small one. But it was a request that would not bear being pushed off or delayed.

    To go down to the world, and to tell that girl who used to come to visit him The one who brought him a bouquet of African violets every single morning That they should tell her that he had recovered, that he was now in the rehabilitation center. Just that she shouldn’t know that he was in the place—from where no mortal had ever returned. And the angels said: “Of course” “No problem!” “Such an easy mission!” And they drew lots to decide who would go down, and so overjoyed was the one who was chosen

    And he flew down with shaking wings, full of joy and happiness and rejoicing. To fulfill that which the holy martyr had commanded him, the one who was protected within Hashem’s shadow. And the angel arrived at the hospital, and took on the image of a merciful nurse

    But when he came close to the room—he understood that he had not arrived in time. At the foot of the white and empty bed, somebody had dropped a bouquet of African violets And beside them stood a person, and the angel understood who this must be And this little person moaned with sobs, and the seven heavens became stirred up
    Such crying that it tore hearts, and even the hearts of angels. And the good angel only ascended back to Heaven 2 days later Because there, of course, it is forbidden to cry— for nobody cries…in Heaven.

  8. Rav Chaim Shmulevitz ZTL, the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, stated unequivocally during the Yom Kippur War that the status of the soldiers in the IDF was equivalent to that of the Harugei Lud (martyrs of Lud) of which the Talmud tells us their reward is of the ultimate kind (Sichas Mussar page 457), so, yes, the father of such a man would have more zechus than of a stam frum balabos.

  9. I would consider myself just as “chareidi anti-zionist” as the rest of you here, yet I understand the importance of this nifter.

    Even if we don’t hold of everything they did and stood for, I think it is still important that we learn and understand the history of the State of Israel. Why is it that in our schools we teach “history classes” about U.S. History, and even aavout the history of ancient Rome and Greece, yet we no very little about the history of our land? Even if you don’t consider it “our state” it is still “our land”.

    To all the posters above blasting this “frayye yid”, please read up on his history, on the history of Jabotinsky, Begin, Likud, etc.

    When it comes to elections you are all “rooting” for Likud to beat Labor, do you know the history of these parties? If you are “happy” when Likud wins, shouldn’t you be “sad” when one of its founders is nifter, even if he is in your opinion “frayye”?

  10. And regarding your “tinkok shenishaba” comment, this man was raised in Warsaw. Are you really that ignorant to think that leading a Jewish life was so easy there?

    Sure we hear all kinds of inspirational stories about Jews who were moser nefesh for Torah but do you think that was everybody? Do you think that those who didn’t stay frum were reshoim?

    If you had been brought up there (even by a father who was a Rabbi), would you have ended up frum?

    Be thankful for the fact that we can live a life of Torah fairly easily nowadays.

  11. Rabosai, this debate should not be taken lightly and deals with the fundamentals of our ideology as torah observant jews, and gnaws at the chore of how serious we are about our torah observance and yiddishkite

    While it is true that only Hakodosh Baruch Hu can judge people from that holy generation, and we have know idea that we our selves would not have fallen to those tremendous Nisyonons, and it is entirely possible that such people are judged favorably in the B”d shel maalah. We still must realize that if some one is mechalel shabbos befarhesya and he has a din Rasha we have no right to treat him differently then is dictated in halachah which includes looking at his face doing business with him and certainly glorifying his life by eulogizing him. Our own personal feelings about him from a cultural point of view are completely irrelevant and makes a mockery of yiddishkite R”L, Having said that, if for what ever reason he had the status of a Tinuk Shenishbah (which does not seem to be the case)then the above does not apply.

  12. If the father of a president died, it would appear in YWN, whether or not he was Jewish or frum.

    I don’t know the exact religious status of Benzion Netanyahu but demeaning him without any actual facts, just because you hate Zionism is not appropriate behavior.

  13. #13, Actually, they were two different incidents involving the same unit in which Yoni, Bibi, and Iddo all served.

    The Air France Entebbe Hijacking was in June/July 1976, and Only Yoni was involved in that one, where he commanded, and gave his life.

    The Sabena hijacking incident was in May 1972, when a 707 was hijacked to Tel Aviv, and Sayeret Matkal (then commanded by Ehud Barak, with Yoni as a deputy commander and Bibi and Iddo participating also) dressed as technicians stormed the aircraft and rescued dozens of hostages.

    #14, may HKBH judge you with midas horachomim you seem to have forgotten.