Op-Ed: Uri, Salt of the Earth
Almost everyone in Israel knew of Uri Elitzur. The brilliantly incisive, out-of-the-box and unassuming publicist whose career spanned the Chadashot, Yediot Acharonot and Maariv dailies and whose regular broadcasts during the period of Arutz Sheva Hebrew Radio were discussed everywhere, who served as editor of the now-defunct Nekuda (the intellectual magazine of the 'settlement movement') and then of the Makor Rishon newspaper - had a palpable influence on public opinion.
The Right and especially the National Religious sector held him in their hearts, but even the Left held him in respect. When Uri spoke, people listened. When he wrote, they read his words and thought about them.
His was a simple, unadulterated joy at the rebirth of the Jewish state and the return to the Land of the Tanakh.
When Uri wrote recently that National Religious leaders should stop apologizing to the media for price tag vandalism because that infers that the sector bears collective responsibility for it – whereas residents of Tel Aviv do not feel the need to apologize for their city's crime rate- the apologetics ceased.
He wrote in the same vein about collective accusations hurled at Religious Zionists after Yitzchak Rabin's murder, was an outspoken opponent of the Oslo Accords and debunked the idea that IDF soldiers refusing orders to take part in the Disengagement would have a negative effect on the army, claiming that the opposite was true.
Occasionally, I asked Uri for permission to translate and post his weekly Makor Rishon editorial on Arutz Sheva so that English speakers would learn the viewpoints of this idealist, a prominent activist of the Eretz Yisrael Movement, a man whose influential involvement in National Religious politics was utterly devoid of personal ambition and just as absent when he ran PM Netanyahu's office for a time. How I regret that I translated so few of his writings.
Most of all, Uri Elitzur loved Eretz Yisrael. His writing genius and political savvy notwithstanding, this love was his most definitive trait. His was a simple, unadulterated joy at the rebirth of the Jewish state and the return to the Land of the Tanakh, a love for which he gained from his father, Professor Yehuda Elitzur, renowned for research and theories on the location of biblical sites.
Two weeks before his death aged 68 after a short battle with cancer, Uri spoke at the Yom Haatzmaut celebration in his beloved Ofra, in Binyamin. Arutz Sheva brings you his words in translation. Uri shines through the words:
"Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday) Ofra! Chag Sameach Israel!
"There was an electrifying and overwhelming atmosphere at the festive recital of the entire Hallel prayer at the synagogue in Ofra [this evening] - as I stood here, I said to myself, paraphrasing the Tannaitic sage Rabbi Yaakov in Ethics of the Fathers: "One hour of Hallel and singing words of praise to G-d in Ofra is more precious than eternal life in the World to Come.."
"As I stand before you, I am filled with thanks to the Creator of the world. Thank You, Hashem, for the privilege of being born and living my life in this Generation of Redemption.
"I was privileged to see with my own eyes the miraculous and unbelievable Ingathering of the Exiles.
"I witnessed it with my own eyes - I was born not far from Mount Scopus, when we were altogether some 500-600,000 Jews in Eretz Yisrael and today, thank G-d, we are getting close to 6.5 million Jews. We bystanders observed this process with equanimity, as if it it was nothing out of the ordinary.
"One would think that every few years something random happens in the world, and [as a result] millions of Jews arrive from all over - from Ethiopia, Russia, America and India, and we regard it as if it is a natural phenomenon.
"We consider it just as natural for the wonderful State of Israel to absorb them.
"Remember Luba the [Russian] supermarket cashier on the "Eretz Nehederet" show (a satirical program on Israel, ed.). She is not there anymore, because she does not exist anymore. One million destitute Jews arrived here during a twenty year period and found their place in the economic and social fabric of Israeli life. We absorbed them.
"No other society could have accomplished that. A miracle occurred in front of our eyes: "Lift up your eyes and see, they have all gathered and returned to you" (the Book of Isaiah, 60:4, ed.)
"I was also privileged to see the miracle of Eretz Yisrael with my own eyes. In my lifetime, I recall a desolate, neglected, abandoned and dusty land. That is the Israel of my childhood.
"And look at it today. Eretz Yisrael gives forth branches and bears fruit (a paraphrase from Ezekiel, 36:8, ed.). I bless Hashem, and thank Him for allowing me to be one of the founders of this important community, Ofra.
"Months afer we moved to Ofra, I awoke one mornig and felt that something was strange. Suddenly I understood – I could hear birds. Yoel Moshe Solomon (intrepid founder of Petah Tikva, 1878) is a legend, but I am telling you a living story. Ofra had no swamps or malaria, but its desolation is difficult to describe. Just rocks and thorns. It was hard to walk and we jumped from boulder to rock.
"And then I saw – birds.
"G-d gave me the privilege of helping to found this community, whose importance to the Generation of Redemption is immeasurable, no less than the founding of Petah Tikva in 1878.
"And if G-d gave me the privilege of being one of its founders – Dayenu (it suffices). And how much more so when I am privileged enough to see it in its physical and societal splendor.
"Thanks to the Lord of the Universe, thanks to you for honoring me tonight by having me light the flame of the founders."
May his memory be a blessing.