Head of the Har Etzion hesder yeshiva and founder of the Meimad movement Rabbi Yehuda Amital passed away in his home in Jerusalem on Friday, after battling a long illness. He was 85-years-old.
Rabbi Amital was one of the prominent leaders of the "Gushniki" stream, which is considered moderate in religious Zionism.
His funeral procession will leave from Shmagar funeral home in Jerusalem at 12 pm and proceed to the Givat Shaul cemetery. Thousands of people are expected to attend.
Rabbi Amital is a Holocaust survivor who immigrated to Israel at the age of 16 and studied at the ultra-Orthodox Hebron yeshiva. He received rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer, one of the great Torah scholars of the 20th century, and later married his granddaughter.
Following his father-in-law, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Meltzer, who was appointed Rehovot's head rabbi, Amital moved to the city and studied at the Southern Yeshiva, where he came up with the idea of hesder yeshivas. He then served as head of the Har Etzion yeshiva together with Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein.
The Har Etzion yeshiva is affiliated with a political and religious viewpoint that is an antithesis to the doctrine of Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak Cook, which most religious Zionists follow. While the yeshiva's rabbis include prominent rightists, it is considered to have Left-wing tendencies, and many of its students are young Americans, including members of the Modern Orthodox movement, who spend a few years studying in Israel.
When Amital reached the age of 80, he asked the yeshiva's management to elect and ordain his successors, in order to avoid power struggles and future division. Two years ago he retired from his position.
As part of his political activity, the rabbi served as minister without portfolio for a short time from the end of 1995 to mid-1996. After retiring from politics, he resumed his work in the field of education.
Amital was married to Miriam and was survived by his five children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
'Jewish people have lost a great teacher'
After hearing of his death, President Shimon Peres sent a letter of condolences to Amital's family.
"With the passing of Rabbi Yehuda Amital, the Jewish people have lost a great teacher and man who led to the paths of wisdom," Peres wrote.
"Rabbi Amital was an example to the people, and a leader that won its trust wherever he turned – as a soldier, as a yeshiva head, as a minister in Israel, and as a political leader. The depths of his wisdom also made him a unifying force in a divided people. We will remember him with love and admiration, and we will honor his unique legacy. Blessed be his memory."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his deep sorrow , saying that "Rabbi Amital, who fought in the War of Independence, is an example for all of us of the love of Israel."
From Holocaust to education
Rabbi Amital was born in Transylvania, Hungary in 1924. In 1944, with the Nazi occupation, Amital was taken to a labor camp where he spent eight months.
He was liberated in October that year, but his parents, brothers and sister were murdered in the Holocaust. That same year, he immigrated to the land of Israel.
In an interview to Yad Vashem, Amital said the Holocaust led him to help in the establishment of the Southern Yeshiva in Rehovot and serve as head of the hesder yeshiva.
"I knew I had to take the place of friends who didn't make it, this gave me the strength to do something. The fact that I am among the few that remained, gave me strength. Otherwise I wouldn't have taken the job upon myself. I do not come from a home of rabbis and leaders," he said.
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