On the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, the pilgrimage to the grave of Torah luminary, Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz Harav and prominent leader of religious Zionism, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Hacohen Kook (1891-1982), took place today.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda actively encouraged his many students to establish Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria after the Six Day War and is known as "the father of the settlement movement."
Ira Rappaport, a leading figure in the Gush Emunim settlement movement, was close to the great rabbi. "It is thanks to Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda that I am in Israel, If I hadn't been so close to him and been influenced so much by him, I wouldn't have come back here. After the Six-Day War I went to the United States for four years - and then I came back and have been here for 45 years."
He relates how Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda captivated him. "It began on Yom Kippur in the year before the war. In America after Yom Kippur everyone runs home immediately to eat. At the yeshiva it was the opposite; people began to dance. It was hard for me, and I remember a hand on my shoulder. I pushed it away over and over. Then I looked and saw that it was Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda."
At this point in the interview, tears well up in Rappaport's eyes as he recalls one of the defining stories of his life. "He asked me, 'Why aren't you dancing?' I replied: 'You dance because next year you'll be here; I don't know what'll happen to me.' So he just pulled me in and started to dance with me - and then after a few months he invited me for Passover Seder. For me he's 'The Rebbe', who walks with me always."