Leading religious-Zionist figure Rabbi Moshe Levinger – one of the founders of the Gush Emunim settlement movement and founder of the modern-day Jewish community in Hevron, passed away Saturday, aged 80.
Rabbi Levinger was a leading halakhic and ideological figure in the religious-Zionist world, and had been a close disciple of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook and Rabbi Avraham Shapira.
Rabbi Levinger's rabbinical career began when he was appointed rabbi of the religious-Zionist Kibbutz Lavi, and later became rabbi of Moshav Nechalim.
But he is better known for his leadership and activism as part of the Gush Emunim movement, which among other things reestablished the Gush Etzion bloc, south of Jerusalem, following the 1967 Six Dat War. Gush Etzion's previous Jewish residents had been massacred by Arab forces in 1948, and remained devoid of any Jewish presence under Jordanian occupation.
Rabbi Levinger is perhaps best known for leading the movement to reestablish the ancient Jewish community of Hevron, which had been ethnically-cleansed by bloody Arab riots in 1929.
On Pesach (Passover) 1968, just a year after the city's liberation by the IDF in the Six Day War, Rabbi Levinger was among a group of Jews who celebrated the Seder Night festive meal at the Park Hotel in Hevron.
At the end of the festival, the group – led by Rabbi Levinger – refused to leave the city, and spent three years living in the military authority compound.
They were eventually relocated just outside the city, where they founded the town of Kiryat Arba – named after one of the other names given to Hevron in the Torah.
Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Rabbi Levinger represented the Jews of Sebastia, in Samaria, in their struggle with the Labor-led government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
In 1987 he was voted joint-top in a poll by the now-defunct Hadashot newspaper, which asked 22 leading Israelis from across the political spectrum to to name "person of the generation, the man or woman who has had the greatest effect on Israeli society in the last twenty years." Rabbi Levinger shared the top spot with Menachem Begin.
In 1992, Rabbi Levinger founded the "Torah ve'Eretz Yisrael" party, but failed to pass the threshold into the Knesset.
He was awarded the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism in 2013.
Rabbi Levinger is survived by his wife Miriam and their 11 children – many of whom have also gone on to play significant roles in the religious-Zionist community.
His son Malachi was elected to head the Kiryat Arba-Hevron Regional Council in 2008, and his daughter Atiah Zar is a children's author and a journalist for Arutz Sheva's sister paper, Besheva.