Remembering Hillel Kook

The conference on Hillel Kook that will take place on Monday is only part of the commemorative efforts being organized by his daughter, Dr. Becky Kook. She also recently organized a petition calling on Yad Vashem to commemorate the rescue efforts of Kook and his group in the museum's permanent exhibit (as the Holocaust Museum in Washington did last year, also as a result of pressure). Several leading Israeli intellectuals and public figures from across the political spectrum signed the petition, including former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar, Dan Meridor, Moshe Arens, A.B. Yehoshua, Shulamit Aloni and Uri Avnery.

The range of signatories reflects not only appreciation of Kook's rescue work, but also of his colorful personality. Kook, a nephew of the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, Avraham Isaac Kook, was an Etzel man and a member of the first Knesset from the Herut movement. He left after one term, like most of the movement's intellectuals (figures such as Shmuel Merlin, Eri Jabotinsky, and the writer Uri Zvi Greenberg) due to clashes with its authoritarian leader, Menachem Begin. Though he worked during the Holocaust to rescue European Jewry with its Diaspora mentality, he himself believed in establishing an Israeli nation separate from historical Judaism.

Yad Vashem, in any case, has no intention of accepting the challenge. Yad Vashem's spokesman said in response: "Yad Vashem did not and does not plan the exhibit in its museum based on pressures and petitions, but based on balanced considerations and decisions. The Museum of the History of the Holocaust includes the main elements of the history of the Holocaust and given the nature of these things, it is not possible to include in one museum exhibit all of the events, activities and undertakings that took place during the entire period of the Holocaust."