Rabbi Yehuda Amital
Rabbi Yehuda AmitalIsrael news photo: Or Etzion

On the “shloshim” 30 days after Rabbi Yehuda Amital passed away, he was remembered at an event at the Har Etzion yeshiva. A number of renowned rabbis and public figures attended the event; present were Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein and Rabbi Yaakov Meidan, heads of the Har Etzion yeshiva, President Shimon Peres, Har Etzion director Moshe Moskowitz and many others.

Peres recalled the years during which Rabbi Amital, a member of the Labor-affiliated religious-Zionist Meimad movement, agreed to serve as a minister in the government led by Peres. The rabbi was asked to join the government after former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was slain; the assassin, Yigal Amir, was affiliated with religious Zionism, and many blamed the religious Zionist community as a whole for the prime minister's death.

Peres recalled that his goal was “not to cause a rift in the nation.” He looked for partners, “someone with clean hands and a pure heart... I turned to Rabbi Amital. I knew he wasn't thirsty for power, I knew that for him, Torah came before political power.”

His request was that Rabbi Amital not only serve in the government, but work to create peace among different sectors of Israeli society, he said. “He did it willingly, with natural nobility... When his people were in distress, he came. He reported for duty. And he called for unity and stability... A person like that is a truly righteous man. May his memory be for a blessing,” Peres concluded.

Shaul Goldstein of the Gush Etzion Council said, “Rabbi Amital was among the founders of Gush Etzion, and the yeshiva he established has become a renowned institution. In his special way, with his inner light and his love for humanity, the rabbi managed to bequeath his legacy and his life's work to all of us. His spirit, and his students, will influence us for many years to come.”

Rabbi Lichtenstein recalled Rabbi Amital's ability to express true empathy with those who had lost loved ones. “Those who knew the breadth and the depth of his emotions could hear him crying on the inside... He had a rare combination of qualities: on the one hand, a sense of leadership that could take charge in any tragic situation, and on the other, a gentleness and sensitivity that reflected the depth of his empathy,” he said.

“He was a man of truth who never faked his feelings, he was filled with true empathy,” he added. Rabbi Amital had lost his own family – his parents, brothers and sister – as a young man when they were murdered in the Holocaust.

Moshe Moskowitz is among those who worked to renew Jewish life in Gush Etzion and worked with Rabbi Amital to establish the Har Etzion yeshiva. He recalled the decision to build the yeshiva, saying, “It was much more than just a political decision regarding settlement, it was the realization of an ideal.”

“With little talk or fanfare, Rabbi Amital worked in an orderly fashion to complete a massive undertaking. His leadership was not about greatness for its own sake, but about a great responsibility... Many dream all of their lives but never see their dreams fulfilled,” Moskowitz said, “Our teacher and rabbi merited to see his vision become reality.”