A Zionist to the End: Itzhak Artzi - Autobiography
by Itzhak Artzi with Nava Semel
A Zionist to the End is the autobiography of one of Israel's most respected public figures, a man whose whole life was shaped by the great Zionist saga of the twentieth century. Written with his daughter, award-winning Israeli author Nava Semel, the story of Izhak Artzi moves from his early childhood in a tiny Hasidic Romanian Shtetel and the romantic days of the Zionist youth movement in pre-war Europe, to the fraught years of World War II, when Artzi smuggled Jewish orphans to Palestine for the Zionist underground, and, finally, to the intrigues and challenges of political leadership in more recent decades.
The book was published by Yedioth Achronot Publishing House 1999. Translated to Romanian and published by Editura Hasefer Bucharest in 2000.
Highlights from the book include:
- A vivid glance at Artzi's Hasidic childhood in a small Jewish Shtetel called SIRET in Bukovina, Romania, where he was raised by his grandfather. Artzi's own father had immigrated to New York after World War I, leaving his family behind; only after 26 years, when he recognized Itzhak Artzi from a newspaper interview, was the family reunited.
- The romantic days of the Zionist youth movement in pre-war Europe, where fiery young Jewish idealists dreamt of reaching the land of Israel.
- The terrifying period of the Holocaust in Romania. Working for the Zionist underground, Artzi was caught by the fascists, tortured, and driven on a truck to what was to be his execution. He escaped when the truck got a flat tire.
- The rescue mission of Jewish orphans from the desperate ghettos of Transnistria in 1944. After the war, posing as a British soldier, Artzi made his way across war-torn Europe, organizing young survivors and smuggling them by ship to the land of Israel.
- On one of his European missions, Artzi meets Mimi, an Auschwitz survivor; the night of their wedding, they sail illegally to Palestine. The dramatic voyage ends on the shores of the Promised Land, where the boat is attacked and captured by the British. All the passengers are shipped to detention camps in Cyprus, where Mimi and Itzhak spend the first ten months of their marriage and Itzhak becomes one of the camp leaders.
- Finally arriving in Israel in 1947, Artzi helps to found a kibbutz; the book recounts the poverty, hopes, and struggles of those early days. His son Shlomo, destined to become one of Israel's most famous rock stars, is born there.
- Working side by side with Moshe Sharett, who became Israel's Foreign Minister, Artzi gets increasingly involved in the intrigues of politics. He joins the Progressive liberal party and becomes one of its leaders. In the 60s he is appointed head of the ambitious and dramatic "Youth Aliyah" program, charged with bringing thousands of young immigrants from all over the world to the new State.
- In the seventies, Artzi becomes deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, and the symbol of the city's struggle against religious oppression. Under his cultural vision, Tel Aviv becomes the free spirit and center of modernity for the country.
- Elected to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), Artzi negotiates with the former enemies of World War II. He engaged in long years of painful dialogue with German leaders. An expert on Romania, the country he fled as a poor refugee, he meets with the ruthless late dictator Nicolau Ceaucescu, as part of the intricate negotiations involved in getting the Jews of Romania permission to leave for Israel.
Until his death in 2004 Itzhak Artzi was a leader of the organization for the rights of Holocaust survivors. He was also a member of the "Conference on Jewish Claims Against Germany", dealing with stolen Jewish assets.
A Zionist to the End is the personal account of a courageous activist who played a leading role in the Zionist saga of the last century. Itzhak Artzi recounts the tragic and heroic Jewish story, whose cast includes famous figures and lesser-known heroes.