Rabbi Meir Kahane
Rabbi Meir KahaneEliran Aharon

Hundreds of students, supporters, and relatives of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane gathered in the Heichal David event hall in Jerusalem Tuesday night to mark the 27th anniversary of the assassination of the former Knesset Member and Jewish activist.

Born in Brooklyn in 1932, Rabbi Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League in 1968 to confront growing anti-Semitism in the United States, and draw attention to the plight of Jews in the Soviet Union barred from emigrating or openly practicing their religion.

In 1971, Rabbi Kahane immigrated to Israel, where he later founded the Kach party, and advocated the peaceful, financed transfer of Israel’s Arab population and the annexation of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

One of the most polarizing and charismatic figures in both Israeli politics and the American Jewish community, Rabbi Kahane was elected to the 11th Knesset in 1984, but was subsequently banned from running for the Knesset after election polls showed his Kach faction picking up as many as 12 seats. Rabbi Kahane was assassinated in New York in November 1990 by El Sayyid Nosair, an Egyptian-born terrorist with ties to Osama Bin Laden.

Two years after his murder, Rabbi Kahane’s son, Binyamin Zeev Kahane, founded the Kahane Chai (“Kahane Lives”) party, which broke off from the existing Kach party. Both factions were barred from running in the 1992 elections, and were outlawed in Israel two years later. In contrast, Kahane supporters point to the anti-Zionist incitement of some of the MKs on the current Joint Arab List and the fact that Hanin Zouabi was barred from running for the Knesset due to her participation in the infamous Mavi Marmara episode, but that this Knesset committee decision was overthrown by Israel's Supreme Court.

Tuesday’s memorial event featured former Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba Dov Lior; Chief Rabbi of Mitzpeh Yericho Rabbi Yehuda Kroizer; former Kach chairman Baruch Marzel; former Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari, a student of Rabbi Kahane who won a seat with the National Union ticket in 2009; Bentzi Gopstein, the founder and chairman of the Lehava anti-assimilation group; attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir; and Rabbi Kahane’s grandson, Meir Ettinger, who was held in administrative detention without trial for nine months from 2015 to 2016.

Meir Ettinger
Meir EttingerEliran Aharon

Addressing the gathering, Ettinger said that his grandfather’s message was alive and well in Israel.

“Memorials are held after 27 years only for those who still live with us,” said Ettinger.

“People are afraid of Kahane because they know he was right. Two years ago, when I was in the Kishon Prison after being arrested by the Shin Bet ‘terror organization’,” continued Ettinger, referring to Israel’s internal security agency, “I remember that every time the Shin Bet people heard the word ‘Kahane’ they went wild, because they were afraid of the truth. Kahane was right because he cared about the people of Israel and he didn’t give up. There are people who know the truth but are afraid to say it.”

Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir slammed Jewish Home chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, ridiculing Bennett’s 2014 claim that “99.9% of Arab citizens are loyal to the State of Israel.”

"We tell the truth, unlike Naftali Bennett, who says that 99% of the Arabs are loyal,” said Ben Gvir.

Lehava founder Bentzi Gopstein