Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Rav Shlomo Amar, expressed his condolences on Tuesday for the death of former MK Rav Hanan Porat.
Speaking at the Machon Meir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Rav Amar said: “It was with great regret that I heard this terrible news of the loss of Rabbi Hanan Porat. In addition to his love of Torah, Rabbi Hanan was well-known in all parts of the country and this is no trivial matter.”
“When a person adopts a certain position and stays with it all his life, he usually ends up being an extremist who has many opponents,” Rav Amar added. “But in the case of Rabbi Hanan - even though he stayed unwaveringly true to his principles all the way – he knew how to appreciate others with differing opinions and cherished them. This is what I heard about him from many people of all sectors of society.”
He said, “This is a very great loss. When such a gem is ripped from our lives it is a great loss. May his soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.”
Rav Porat passed away Tuesday after a battle with a terminal illness. He was 67 years old.
A paratrooper who took part in the reconquest of Jerusalem's Old City, he spearheaded the return to Gush Etzion after the Six Day War, the area south of Jerusalem where his family had lived until the Jordanian Legion massacred the Jews who held out there during Israel's War of Independence.
He was among the founders and the most charismatic leader of Gush Emunim, the movement which led the Jewish return to Judea and Samaria. Young, idealistic religious Zionist Israelis followed him to the bare hills and rocky valleys of their ancient homeland, willing to live in caravans without running water and other amenities to fulfill the dream he espoused.
At the same time, he was considered a brilliant Torah scholar from a young age (an "iluy") and taught in several yeshivas, including Yeshivat Har Etzion, Yeshivat Hakibbutz Hadati in Ein Tzurim, and the Beit Orot yeshiva in Jeursalem, was a speaker in demand for public Torah lectures, published weekly Torah insights that were gathered into book form and founded a nationally active charitable organization to help needy families.
He established the Techiya Knesset faction along with Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, Geula Cohen and Elyakim Haetzni, and served in the tenth Knesset. He later joined the National Religious Party (Mafdal) and was elected through that party to serve in subsequent Knessets, in which he held a variety of roles, including head of the Knesset’s Constitution and Law Committee.
The Israeli political establishment – from right to left – mourned his passing on Tuesday, with tributes pouring in from a wide array of political figures.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that “Hanan Porat dedicated his life to the building of the Land of Israel, to the education of an entire generation of National Religious youth, and to fostering the love of the Land and People of Israel,” adding that he and the government expressed their “deep sorrow” at Porat's passing.
Knesset speaker MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said that “Rabbi Porat was a dedicated Zionist, a professional parliamentarian, and a dedicated builder of the Land of Israel.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that “Hanan Porat was a veteran IDF parachutist, one of the founders of Gush Emunim, and a member of the Knesset. All this he did with a great inner drive, straightforwardly and with boundless dedication. He was loyal to the Land of Israel and loved the Jewish people. Throughout his life he sought to bridge the gap between religious and secular Jews, and between right and left.”
Rabbi Chanan Porat will be laid to rest in the Gush Etzion cemetery at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. The funeral will leave from his home in Kfar Etzion. Special parking lots set up in Gush Etzion with bus transportation to the funeral will operate from 10 a.m.