At the turn of the 1900's, one of the leading Zionist activists in Eastern Europe was Rabbi Nathan Milikovski. In 1910 his son Benzion was born in Warsaw. The Milikovski family immigrated to Israel in 1920. In his writings Rabbi Milikovski would use the pen name "Netanyahu."
Later Benzion Milikovski would adopt that for his Hebrew family name.
Benzion studied at Hebrew University and became part of the circle of intellectuals surrounding Professor Joseph Klausner. Benzion went on to become a professor of history, his seminal work being a 1,400 page study of the Spanish Inquisition (claiming that the Marranos were not forced conversions but of their own free will).
He co-edited the Hebrew Encyclopedia, together with Professor Isaiah Liebowitz.
The father of "Revisionist" Zionism was Zev Jabotinsky. Jabotinsky had two primary disciples: Menahem Begin, who later became Prime Minister, and Benzion Netanyahu. When Jabotinsky died in 1940, Benzion took his place as the intellectual ideologue of the Revisionist movement.
The Netanyahu family moved to the United States and Benzion became a leading voice warning against the upcoming disaster facing the Jews of Europe.
As a "Revisionist," Benzion believed that all the land of Israel, "on both sides of the Jordan," belongs to the Jewish people. The partition plan of the United Nations was ratified by vote on November 29, 1947, recognizing the statehood of Israel. While the ratification was accepted with joy by the overwhelming majority of the Jews in Israel, Benzion stood in opposition.
The Netanyahu family moved back to Israel to be part of the founding of the new state. While Benzion's first son, Yoni, who later was killed as commander of the famous Israeli commando attack at Entebbe, was born in New York, his second and third sons, Benjamin and Ido, were born in Israel shortly after the family's return.
During his earlier studies at Hebrew University, Benzion met Zilah, who later became his wife. Zilah's sister also had a son named Benjamin, and she gave him the nickname, "Bibi." Zilah decided to do the same and the two both were called "Bibi."
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, now serving in his second term as Prime Minister of Israel, speaking of his father's influence on his life, once said, "to understand the son you must get to know the dad."
Benzion Netanyahu passed away this Monday morning, at the age of 102, clear minded and sharp-tongued to the end! His funeral in Jerusalem was attended by the top political and military leaders of the country. His sons, Benjamin and Ido, read the "Kaddish" and gave eulogies. President Shimon Peres, in his eulogy, turning to Benjamin Netanyahu, said, "Your father wrote history and you are making history in the same sentiment and legacy."
Compiled from articles by Dov Eichvald, Itamar Eichner, Shalom Yerushalmi, Eitan Haber, Arik Bender, Eli Bradenstein, Moshe Ronen, Amihai Atheli, Boaz Hendel, Yair Lapid and Sheri Blikov.(top)