Rabbi Eliyahu Yosef Shaar Yashuv Hakohen, Chief Rabbi of Haifa and among the leading rabbis of Israel, passed away at age 89 this evening.
The Rabbi was born in Jerusalem to the renowned Rabbi David "The Nazirite," one of the leading students of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, the first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi during the British Mandate in Israel and the founder of Religious Zionism.
Rabbi HaKohen studied with his father and at various yeshivas, including the flagship yeshiva of Religious Zionism founded by Rabbi Kook, Merkaz Harav, under the tutelage of the dean of the yeshiva, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Hakohen Kook after studying at the Etz Chaim Yeshiva. He also studied with Chief Rabbi Isaac Halevi Herzog,
In 1948, while a student at Merkaz Harav, he was part of an underground movement "The Hasmonean Covenant" that fought against British rule and was also active in the Haganah and in founding Religious Zionist fighting groups.
Although he did not keep all the Nazirite prohibitions as had his father, he refrained from fish, meat and wine throughout his life.
During the War of Independence, the Rabbi served with the former underground Etzel military group, and fought to defend Jerusalem and the area of Gush Etzion. While in a battle to defend the Old CIty of Jerusalem, he was seriously injured; when the Jewish Quarter fell to the Jordanians, he was taken captive by the Jordanian Legion.
While in captivity, his foot was operated upon, and he remained handicapped as a result.
Following his release, the Rabbi served in the IDF for seven years, eventually becoming Rabbi of Military Command and Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Air Force. He was deputy mayor of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War when the city was liberated. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he volunteered and was chaplain of the brigade that crossed the Suez Canal.
From 1975 to 2011, the Rabbi was Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi of Haifa, in addition to serving as the Head of the Rabbinical Courts of the city. He was Chairman of the Board of the Harry Fischel Institute for Talmudic Research and founder of the Ariel Institute for the training of rabbis and rabbinic judges in Jerusalem. He was the "unofficial" rabbi of Jerusalem during the long period that preceded the appointments of Rabbi Arye Shtern and Rabbi Shlomo Amar several years ago.
Rabbi HaKohen's wife, Dr. Naomi Cohen, is a scholar who gave women's Torah classes in her home. His sister, the late Tsfia, was the wife of the late Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren.
The Rabbi headed the committee for dialogue between the Chief Rabbinate and the Vatican. Recently, he was also appointed Head of the Committee for Dialogue between Judaism and Islam.
Rabbi HaKohen was a leading figure of Religious Zionism for decades and was a candidate for the position of Chief Rabbi at one period. Although soft-spoken and gentle in manner, he fought strongly for his principles. He was vehemently against the "Disengagement" from the Katif Bloc, saying that it was an unforgivable act because of its cruelty to the Jews living there, the dragging of Israelis from synagogues which led to the destruction of those holy places of worship - and this, he said, was in addition to the prohibition against relinquishing sovereignty over any of the Land of Israel.