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Geula Cohen

(1929 - 2020 )

Geula Cohen was an Israeli politician who served as a member of the Eighth to Twelfth Knessets. Cohen was born in Tel Aviv. Her father immigrated to Eretz Israel from Yemen and her mother was born in Eretz Israel to a family that had arrived there in the 19th century from North Africa. As a youth, she became a member of Betar and joined the Irgun Tzeva’i Le’ummi in 1942. In 1943, she joined the Loḥamei Ḥerut Israel (Lehi), becoming its radio broadcaster. Because of her involvement in Leḥi she was obliged to leave her studies at the Levinsky teachers’ seminary, was detained by the British, and was sentenced to 19 years in prison. She escaped from the prison hospital in Bethlehem, and continued to broadcast.

Cohen received an M.A. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in philosophy and Bible studies. In 1948–60, she was a member of the editorial board of Sulam, a political monthly published by Israel Eldad. Later she wrote a socialpolitical column in Ma’ariv, and was a member of its editorial board in 1961–73.

After the Six-Day War, Cohen was involved in the campaign for Soviet Jewry and, in 1972, joined the Ḥerut movement. Under the auspices of the movement Cohen founded the Midrashah Le’ummit educational institution in the spirit of Leḥi. She was elected to the Eighth Knesset in 1973 on the Likud list. In the course of the Ninth Knesset, following the political upset of 1977, Cohen became chairperson of the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee. Following publication of Prime Minister Menaḥem Begin’s peace proposals, she established an internal opposition within the Likud, but finally left the Ḥerut movement in 1979 and, together with MK Moshe Shamir established the Teḥiyyah-Banai parliamentary group.

In October 1979, she established the Teḥiyyah Party, which was based on cooperation among three main groups: defectors from the Herut movement, the Movement for Greater Israel, and Gush Emunim. The new party objected to Israel’s withdrawal from any territories in Ereẓ Israel.

In December 1980, Cohen proposed Basic Law: Jerusalem the Capital of Israel and, a year later, the law extending Israeli law and administration to the Golan Heights. She failed to get a law passed that would extend Israeli law and administration to Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip. In 1986, following the Vanunu affair, Cohen called for the purge of left-wingers from the secret services. In the course of the Twelfth Knesset she was active in efforts to obtain the release of Jonathan Pollard who was found guilty in the United States of spying for Israel.

In the government established by Yitzḥak Shamir in June 1990, Cohen was appointed minister of science and technology, and was active in connection with the absorption of immigrants from Ethiopia. In November 1991, following the Madrid Conference, she left the government together with her party.

Following the failure of Teḥiyyah to pass the qualifying threshold in the elections to the Thirteenth Knesset in 1992, she returned to the Likud but failed in her efforts to get elected to its list for the Fourteenth Knesset

She wrote the autobiographical Sipurha shel Loḥemet (“Story of a Warrior,” 1962), Ha-Tapuz she-Ba'ar ve-Hetzit Levavot(“The Orange That Burned and Lit Up Hearts,” 1979), and Mifgash Histori (“An Historic Meeting,” 1986). In 2003 she received the Israel Prize for her special contribution to Israeli society. Her only son, Tzaḥi Hanegbi, was a member of the Knesset for the Likud from the Twelfth Knesset and a member of several governments.

Cohen died on December 18, 2019, at the age of 93.

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

Photo: Israel GPO Public Domain.