Rabbi Binyamin "Benji" Levin, grandson of Rabbi Aryeh Levin, who has been called "the greatest tzaddik of modern Israel", spoke to Arutz Sheva about his grandfather on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the latter's passing.
"I'm today the Rabbi of the shul that he was the first Rabbi of, Achdut Yisrael - Unity of Israel, named after those who went up to the gallows."
He refers to members of the Irgun and Lehi movements in pre-state Mandate Palestine, some of whom committed suicide with a hand grenade under sentence of death shortly before their scheduled executions. They are memorialized in Israel today as the Olei Hagardom - Those who Ascended the Gallows.
"Reb Aryeh was one of the most beloved rabbinical figures in the history of modern Israel because of the love and kindness that he had for all Jews; in his little room, without any assistance from a driver, or advisors, or people to help him. He himself on foot went every Shabbat to what today is the museum of the underground, to pray together with those of the Irgun and the Lechi who fought to drive the British out of Palestine. He went to visit the lepers in the leper colony in Talbiya. He went to visit the widows and orphans who had no one to help them, and this was all at a time before the beginning of the State - where there were no organizations or offices, or social welfare to help so many types of people. And Reb Aryeh was really a one-man organization on his own, because his whole life was trying to help other Jews, and it did not matter who they were, or how they dressed, or whether they wore a kippah or not. The love that Reb Aryeh had for all Jews was legendary. And he dedicated his life to helping other people.
"I remember as a young boy walking with him in the small streets of Jerusalem, and I remember the people who ran over just to shake his hand, and there were Sefardim, Ashkenazim, religious, non-religious; people who were even anti-religious. Reb Aryeh was a consensus of all the people living here in the country. He was loved because of the way that he loved them, the way the he loved the other people, and they returned it to him.
"And now we are celebrating - I wouldn't say 'celebrating' but it is a right word, because fifty years since he passed away, his legend continues, continues, and grows, and every year we hear more and more stories we never heard of before of people that he helped, of things that were unknown. People that on his own, without the help of anyone, he was able to make sure that they had a livelihood, that their children were put into the proper places to study, that people who had no food were able to receive food.
"He took care of thousands and thousands of people during his lifetime," concluded Rabbi Levin the grandson.