JERUSALEM (JTA) – Rabbi Moshe Levinger, a founder of the settlement movement and the spiritual leader of the Jewish community of Hebron, has died.
Levinger died May 16 at the age of 80 following recent health problems and complications from a stroke seven years ago. He died on the eve of Jerusalem Day and its companion celebration of Hebron Day, which his son Malachi Levinger, head of the Kiryat Arba municipal council, called “symbolic.”
Levinger was one of the founders of the Gush Emunim movement, the national-religious movement established in 1974 that called for settlement of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights to assert Israeli sovereignty.
The rabbi was a leader in the founding of the Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron, which brought Jews back to the city in 1968 for the first time since the massacre of Jews by Palestinians there in 1929. Levinger rented rooms in the Park Hotel in Hebron to hold a Passover seder and when the holiday was over remained there, refusing to leave. The small group of Jews was later able to live on an army base near the city, and after a year and a half moved to the newly built neighborhood of Kiryat Arba.
Levinger was born in Jerusalem in 1935 to parents who immigrated from Germany and studied at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva there. He studied under Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, a founder of religious Zionism and the son of Rabbi Avraham Issac Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine and the founder of the yeshiva.
Levinger was a founder and a former chairman of the Yesha Council, which represents Jews living in the West Bank.
In 1988, Levinger fired at a group of Palestinians who threw rocks at his car, killing one. He was sentenced to five months in prison.
In 1992, Levinger created a political party, Torah VeEretz Yisrael, or Torah and Land of Israel, which did not receive enough votes in elections that year to pass the electoral threshold.
He is survived by his wife, 11 children and 50 grandchildren.
He was buried Sunday in the Jewish cemetery in Hebron after a funeral service in front of the Cave of the Patriarchs.