More than 500 people attended a special ceremony on Tuesday during which Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, the Rabbi of Elon Moreh, was officially appointed Samaria’s Chief Rabbi.
The event began with a march in song and dance to the central synagogue in Elon Moreh, where the ceremony took place in the presence of Israel’s Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, Hevron Rabbi Dov Lior, IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Rafi Peretz, Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the head of the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva, Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika, Samaria Residents Council head Benny Katzover, Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan, and IDF Shomron Brigade Commander Col. Nimrod Aloni. Minister Yuli Edelstein and MK Tzippy Hotoveli were also present.
Rabbis Metzger and Lior officially appointed Rabbi Levanon using a tallit with a silver crown.
Serving as Master of Ceremonies was the Rabbi of Shaarei Tikvah, Rabbi Shmuel Feirstein, who opened by saying: “We are excited, but we do not forget even for a moment that this ceremony was originally scheduled two weeks and two days ago, and as we were preparing the axe fell on a family in Samaria, in Itamar: Rabbi Ehud Fogel, may G-d avenge his blood, his wife Ruth and their children Elad, Yoav, and Hadas. Saturday night after the murder, we were discussing whether or not to go ahead with the ceremony. It was close to midnight when I phoned Rabbi Elyakim Levanon. He did not want to interfere, but when the ambulances arrived to take the bodies of those who were slaughtered, the rabbi said, ‘How can we do this? Going from such a situation to one of joy when the funerals are tomorrow?’ We all then realized that we had to move the date of the ceremony. May this evening be in memory of their souls.”
Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said: “Yishar koach to the residents of Samaria, to the head of the local council and to the chairman of the religious council. There are many places which set up selection committees but do not find a rabbi. Yet here, without committees, you found a rabbi who is above and beyond. I am very happy to be here with you.”
Rabbi Metzger added that “what characterizes Rabbi Elyakim Levanon is truth: he always tells the truth and he is also a man of peace - you got a man of truth and of peace.”
Hevron’s Rabbi, Rabbi Dov Lior, said: “We are gathered here tonight in honor of the Torah, to appoint Rabbi Elyakim as rabbi of all of Samaria. The role of a rabbi in Israel is different than abroad, where the rabbis are focused on observing Jewish Law. In Israel, the rabbis must also express their opinions on matters relating to public affairs."
“In Samaria,” continued Rabbi Lior, “you were lucky to choose a rabbi who is fit for the job not only because of his greatness in Torah, but also because of his spiritual leadership, something which is so needed at this time. The situation is worsening. It is easy to fall and to weaken the mind, and the role of the rabbis is to enlighten the generation. It could be that because of weaknesses in the leadership all these troubles are befalling us and in today's reality one must elevate people's spirits. You have gotten a rabbi who will strengthen the faith that the land of Israel belongs only to the people of Israel. The solution of giving away parts of the land of Israel is not a solution and will never be one."
“We want to wish Rabbi Elyakim Levanon that may he have the power to elevate the public not only in Samaria, but in the entire country of Israel," Rabbi Lior concluded.
Head of the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva, Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, said during the ceremony: “I was privileged to be present at the first appointment of Rabbi Elyakim 20 years ago. My father of blessed memory said that the role of a rabbi is to be a father to all, and we all know that Rabbi Elyakim has received this privilege. In recent years, the numbers of residents in Samaria has doubled and tripled. The combination of worship within the rabbinate and worship in a yeshiva is a successful one, and we have chosen a man who has spirit and knows how to distinguish between the sacred and the profane, between light and dark, and between Israel and the nations.”
Tzfat’s Rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, said: “It would have been appropriate if my father of blessed memory could come here to congratulate Rabbi Elyakim Levanon... Although the rabbi [Levanon] has done this job all along, this appointment is not simple. He has a responsibility in terms of prayer, study, and spiritual responsibility; all the area's needs are now on him. Samaria's problems will be resolved by the rabbi's presence because in his prayer he must include everyone and bless everyone.”
He added that “We are all full of great love for Rabbi Elyakim. I really feel the connection between the rabbis. This connection is so important and gives strength, because we have a mission to continue the great Torah of the previous generations. Rabbi Elyakim is connected to previous generations and is connected to all the rabbis in Samaria, his friends, and throughout the country. May G-d give him wisdom, understanding and knowledge, and fill him with force, power, and health.”
Photos courtesy of Shomron Regional Council