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13 Fascinating Facts about Moshe Arens

January 10, 2019 | by Adina Hershberg

The 3-time Israeli Defense Minister and mentor to PM Netanyahu passed away this week at age 93.

Moshe Arens was an Israeli aeronautical engineer, researcher, diplomat and Israeli defense minister and mentor to PM Benjamin Netanyahu who passed away this week at the age of 93. At Arens’ funeral, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said, “He was an ideologue who never bent or submitted to what was popular or convenient.”

  1. Moshe Arens and Golda Meir had a lot in common. Both of them sounded 100 % American-born, but they were both born in Russia. Arens was born in Kovno, now Kaunas, Lithuania. When he was a year old his family moved to Riga, Latvia, and later to New York City.

  2. Escape from the Nazis – Only six days after the German invasion of Poland, on September 7, 1939, 13-year-old Arens and his family managed to escape from the Nazis and emigrate to America. They settled in New York City.

  3. He was active in Beitar Zionist Youth movement. Founded in Riga in 1923 by Zeev Jabotinsky, Arens was elected national leader of Beitar in the US and served a one-year term before making Aliyah.

  4. He moved to Israel against his father’s wishes. Following the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948, Arens immigrated to the new State of Israel and joined the Irgun, despite the opposition of his father.

  5. He helped organize self-defense groups. Upon his Aliyah, he was sent to North Africa, primarily Morocco and Algeria, to help organize self-defense groups among the Jews and to help organize Jewish communities seeking to immigrate to Israel.

  6. Arens was a founding member of the Herut party. The Party had grown out of the Irgun and was the progenitor of today’s Likud Party.

  7. Degrees from two prestigious American universities. His university studies in mechanical engineering at MIT began in 1943 but were disrupted in August 1944 when he enlisted in the US army. He served in the Engineers Corps and was discharged two years later with the rank of Sergeant First Class. He returned to MIT and received a B.Sc. in mechanical engineering. From 1951-57 he returned to the US and studied aeronautical engineering at the California Institute of Technology.

  1. Professor at the age of 36. Arens earned a tenured professorship at the Technion, Israel’s most prestigious technical institute.

  2. Deputy Head of Israel Aircraft Industries at the age of 37. He held this position until 1971. He helped direct Israel’s major indigenous fighter-jet project, the Kfir as well as Israel’s first indigenous cargo plane, the Arava. In 1971 he received the Israel Defense Prize for his contributions as an engineer and manager in Israel’s defense industries---and particularly his role with the Kfir fighter jet.

  3. Netanyahu’s mentor. Netanyahu began his career as Aren’s protégé. Arens was a key mentor for an ambitious young Netanyahu. He brought Netanyahu with him to the Washington embassy in 1982 when he served as Israeli ambassador to the US. Arens backed him for UN ambassador in 1984 and deputy minister in the Foreign Ministry in 1988 – Netanyahu’s first significant public service positions.

  1. 3-time Defense Minister – He served under Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Shamir and Binyamin Netanyahu. He was also Minister without portfolio, Ambassador to the US and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

  2. Advocate for Arab rights – Arens was a strong advocate for equal civil rights for Israel’s Arab citizens. He supported making practical arrangements with Arab non-citizens and he approached that issue with a regard for basic human rights.

  3. His nickname was Misha. At Arens’ funeral, President Rivlin remarked, “Misha was one of the most important ministers of defense the State of Israel ever had. He was not a commander or a general, but a devoted man of learning who toiled day and night for the security of Israel and its citizens...Misha was a man of maturity, determination and boundless love for our country.”

He leaves behind his wife Muriel, four children, nine grandchildren and the Jewish People who have benefitted greatly from his many and varied contributions. “Though many have contributed to the Nation,” President Rivlin stated in his eulogy, “few have affected its path. You were one of those few.”

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