About 1,000 people gathered outside the Cave of the Patriarchs on Sunday afternoon for the funeral of Rabbi Moshe Levinger, founder of the Gush Emunim settlement movement, who died on Saturday at the age of 80.
President Reuven Rivlin attended and was among those who eulogized Levinger, who founded the Gush Emunim settlement movement in 1974 and started the present-day Jewish community in Hebron.
“Hebron is a sister city to Jerusalem — that is what David Ben-Gurion wrote in a letter to the people who recreated the Jewish community in Hebron and to you, the leader, Rabbi Levinger,” the president said, referring to Israel’s first prime minister.
“It is hard to say goodbye to you,” Rivlin continued, noting the juxtaposition with Jerusalem Day, when Israelis celebrate the military victory of the 1967 Six Day War.
“It is said that you were not a man of consensus, and that is true,” he said, according to the Ynet news outlet.
Born in 1935 in Jerusalem to a family of German origin, Levinger studied in his youth under Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, the spiritual father of religious nationalism.
Shortly after the Six Day War, in which Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Levinger and a group of like-minded people decided to settle in the territory. Their goal was to create a Jewish presence in Palestinian cities which are important sites from Jewish history, such as Hebron and Bethlehem.
In a written letter of condolence to Levinger’s family, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “saddened” by the rabbi’s death, also noting the symbolism of its timing.
“Rabbi Levinger’s name will be forever linked with the movement for renewed Jewish settlement in Hebron and other areas of the country where our patriarchs walked thousands of years ago,” he said. “He was an outstanding example of a generation that sought to realize the Zionist dream, in deed and in spirit, after the Six Day War.”
Netanyahu continued, “Our return to the holy places of our people in the defensive war and war of deliverance 48 years ago stirred our hearts. Our eternal capital Jerusalem was a united city once again. Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs, where our patriarchs and matriarchs are buried, again became centers of prayer for myriad Jews. I am proud of the fact that they are included in the government’s list of national heritage sites, given their religious and educational importance of the highest order.
“There is great symbolism that Rabbi Levinger passed away on the eve of Jerusalem Day; he leaves behind him a well-established legacy and many students who are dedicated to taking root in our Land.”
Rabbi Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba-Hebron, said in his eulogy for Levinger that “a great deal of what we were privileged to receive in the liberation of Jerusalem is the work of Rabbi Moshe, who pushed and worked for the redemption of portions of our country,” Israel National News reported.
Daniella Weiss, former mayor of Kedumim in the West Bank and an activist in the settler movement, said, “The rabbi taught us not to leave a single piece of land without Jews. I met many people who tried to solve the riddle of the rabbi — whether he was a man of thought or a man of action. The answer is that he was both,” she said.
After the funeral ceremony, Levinger was buried in the old Jewish cemetery in Hebron.
AFP contributed to this report.