Hundreds of people participated in a memorial ceremony and study day in memory of Rabbi Meir Kahane in Jerusalem Tuesday, marking the 17th anniversary of the fiery rabbi and political leader's death at the hands of an Arab assassin.
Rabbi Kahane founded the controversial Jewish Defense League in the US which promoted a proud and forceful Jewish response to acts of anti-Semitism. He raised the issue of oppressed Russian Jewry to public consciousness through demonstrations which often turned violent at Russian sports, cultural, and political events. Upon making aliyah (immigrating to Israel) in 1971, he founded the Kach party and was elected to Knesset in 1984 for one term until being banned from politics through the the Anti-Racist Law of 1988. The Kach platform called for the forcible eviction of Arabs from Israel as a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Rabbi Kahane published numerous books including classical Torah commentaries and analysis of socialogical trends in the Jewish world.He wrote a column in the USA's largest orthodox newspaper, The Jewish Press.
Following a Torah study session Tuesday morning at Rabbi Kahane's Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea (a school for Higher Torah Learning), a memorial ceremony was held at his grave in Jerusalem's Giv'at Shaul neighborhood. In the evening, students and followers gathered for lectures in his memory. Organized by Rabbi Kahane's disciple Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, the evening is to be the first of a series of such memorial study sessions to advance the Rabbi's ideology and teachings.
Rabbi Yehuda Kroizer, head of the Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea, spoke of Rabbi Kahane's vision of the State of Israel as the beginning of the Jewish nation's redemption. He quoted Rabbi Kahane's opinion that he who does not see "the manifest miracles of the creation of the State of Israel" is better off dead, and recalled that Nachmanides (Ramban) had trouble finding a quorum of ten Jews in Jerusalem 700 years ago. Rabbi Kroizer noted, however, that Rabbi Kahane differentiated between the state and its present government.
Lenny Goldberg, editor of the weekly Darka Shel Torah pamphlet which includes Rabbi Kahane's teachings, devoted his lecture to Rabbi Kahane's book "Listen World, Listen Jew." The book has been printed in the U.S. in tens of thousands of copies. Goldberg said that the book helped many Jews find their Judaism and revolutionize their lives. In the book, Rabbi Kahane tells the story of a demonstration he organized for the freedom of the Prisoners of Zion in the Soviet Union – a struggle in which Rabbi Kahane's role is seen as having been crucial. Sitting in jail afterwards with the demonstrators, the rabbi saw that one of them, a long-haired "hippie," was crying. When he tried to comfort him, the young man said: "I am crying because this is the first time that I am doing something for my own nation."
Gil Ronen, a former IDF Radio reporter, told the story of how he participated in the media campaign against Rabbi Kahane when the Kach movement was at the height of its power, after the 1984 elections. Ronen explained that he was sent to interview Rabbi Kahane as part of the military station's "Day Against Racism," which was actually a day against the Kahane movement. "My purpose was to make him look as bad as possible," Ronen explained. "The tactic I chose was to play up his support for a halachic (Jewish Law) state, in the thought that some of his non-religious followers would be turned off by that."
Ronen humorously raised the possibility that the audience would stone him after his confession, and asked them to make the stoning "as quick and merciful as possible." The audience laughed, and Ronen walked off the stage in one piece.
Michael Ben-Chorin, a colorful right-wing activist from the Golan Heights and a veteran Kahane supporter, devoted his speech to memories of one of the most successful operations mounted by the Kach movement: the thwarting, in 1986, of the return of Arabs from Ikrit and Bir'am to the villages they fled from in 1948. The Israeli government had decided to allow the Arabs back to the villages in the northern Galilee, which are situated atop ancient Jewish ruins. A successful Kach media and flyer campaign in the area's communities foiled the government decision and the Arabs did not return.
The final speaker, Attorney Rachamim Cohen, who was a close confident of Rabbi Kahane, related to the audience how the Kach party, which some polls had given over 15% support, was prevented from running for the Knesset in 1988 by the passage of a Law against Racism. Cohen noted that while Rabbi Kahane's party was blocked, a radical anti-Zionist Arab-Jewish party lead by Muhammad Miari (The Unified List for Peace) was allowed to run.