In the Name of the Father / Carry That Weight

Does a devoted son not have a duty to clear the name of his late father? Is it not time, after 43 years, to once and for all restore the man's plundered reputation?

My father, Yaakov Sarid, who changed his name from Schneider, was a great educator who earned a worldwide reputation. He was one of those who laid the foundation of Hebrew education in the Land of Israel. For many years, he was a teacher; after that, a school principal. Eventually, he became director general of the Education and Culture Ministry, when those two government departments were still departments, directors general were still directors general and - most importantly - education was still education.

Given the reality we now live in, it is not superfluous to point out that Yaakov Sarid was untainted by either political corruption or intellectual affectation. He was a modest man. When he retired, not a single claims expense bearing his name was found at the ministry. But he will not be remembered for all of the above. In fact, among all the things and all the people who are remembered in this country, he has been forgotten. His former students - scattered across the country and, indeed, the globe - are the only ones who cherish the memory of my father as their teacher.

And so, to my father's great misfortune, his name has been intertwined in Israeli history with that of the Beatles: He was accused of being responsible for the cancellation of their planned visit to Israel in 1965. When I first heard this rumor, I tried to get to the bottom of the mystery. I labored long and hard, and reached the following conclusion: There is absolutely no truth behind this story whatsoever. It is nothing more than a fable, a Zionist urban legend.

But the story about that geeky Mapainik - the father of the 'progressive' Yossi Sarid, no less - was too good to pass up. Stories like that, no matter how apocryphal, simply refuse to die. I did not bother to deny it - I didn't want to spoil such a wonderful yarn.

It was not a conservative and old-fashioned establishment that prevented the Beatles from performing in Israel; it was a spat between impresarios. Giora Godik did not like the way that Yaakov Uri was treating him and went running to the Knesset's Finance Committee, where he convinced members not to allocate any foreign currency to the competing impresarios. (In those days, the law was much stricter on controls of foreign currency.)

Is it possible that even in those distant days, lawmakers were subject to the pressures of the wealthy and followed their orders slavishly?

While the story linking my father to the Beatles' non-appearance is not true, it could have been. Today, it is easy to raise a mocking eyebrow in surprise, but in 1965, the Beatles were a young rock group that had only been on the scene for three or four years, and there were persistent rumors that they were using psychedelic drugs. The most important newspapers in the world were predicting that the Beatles phenomenon would be short-lived, because the four lads from Liverpool's music was also controversial and many serious music critics were turning up their noses: "What is all this wailing about?" they asked. "It's disgusting."

So why should they have expected anything different from David Ben-Gurion and from my father, who had never heard the Beatles' music and never heard of the band. Why should they allow the Jewish youth of a young nation-state to be corrupted by the evil influence of these "dung beetles"? Over their dead bodies!

Even though the whole story is fictitious, it sounds absolutely reasonable. That is why I really don't mind if, ahead of Paul McCartney's arrival next month, the entertainment correspondents of every newspaper, television channel and Internet site in the country come and quiz me about how my father was the idiot who stopped the Beatles from performing here in 1965.