"Uncle" Rabbi Moshe Levinger z"l

Rabbi Moshe Levinger died  this past week and was buried in the old cemetery of Hebron.

I had the privileged of hosting Rabbi Levinger about ten years ago in my home. He was visiting Ramat Beit Shemesh for Shabbat and, due to my wife Julie being a relative (through my mother in law, Shula Kestenbaum z"l), we were selected to host the rabbi.

That shabbat we discussed with Rabbi Levinger the then-topical issue of putting fences around settlements, in order to reduce the risk of terrorists infiltrating and murdering residents (as happened, for example, in Yitzhar, which did not have a fence).

Rabbi Levinger said he is against such fences, as these actually endanger residents, by giving Arabs the intrinsic message that the Jews are afraid, and therefore weak and vulnerable to attack.

He pointed out that he walks around Hebron unprotected - and this is actually the safest way. The local (very hostile) Arabs don't mess with him.

That approach reminds me of Moshe Feiglin's tactic during the intifada.

Israeli drivers were routinely attacked during that period traveling through Arab villages, and so had resorted to only traveling in groups and under military escort.

Feiglin felt this was counterproductive, and decided to drive alone through a neighboring militant Arab village, with a large Israeli flag waving from his vehicle, and his windows wound down.

The Arabs left him alone, and then many other Israelis adopted the same tactic. Indeed, thus was invented the plastic car-mounted Israeli flags, now ubiquitous as a part of the Independence Day period celebrations.

Rabbi Levinger's gutsy, many would say heroic, approach to settling the West Bank gave him his place in Israel's history.

Regularly breaking the laws, and intuition/common sense, Rabbi Levinger was a founder of Gush Emunim, established the Jewish community in Hebron where he lived, and also founded the town of Kireat Arba, adjoining Hebron. These were accomplishments of historical proportion.

Rabbi Levinger's policies regularly put him on a collision course with the Government, police, army, and courts. He served time in prison on two occasions, both involving violence against Arab civilians.

Rabbi Levinger did not deny the charges. Far from it, he said he was proud of his actions and reportedly boasted that "next time I shoot, I will make sure not to miss".

In order to move the center, it has often been necessary to have radicals break through accepted rules, boundaries and fences. Moderates rarely make history.

There is a thin and blurry line between fanaticism and heroism.

Rabbi Levinger was, by all accounts, a mixture of both.


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