Moshe Levinger the father of the settlements


On May 16, rabbi Moshe Levinger died in Jerusalem and was buried per Jewish custom the following day—in Hebron.

It would take a book to evaluate Levinger’s impact on israeli society.

His name is probably meaningless here but in Israel, Levinger had a dramatic effect on Israel’s politics.
Since I believe in the idea of De mortuis nisii bonum,(about the dead speak nothing but good) i will attempt to be to be as kind as possible to the rabbi.

This may end up like the famous story of Georgie Jessel, the toastmaster of Jewish Hollywood who was roped into doing a eulogy to a man everybody knew was a bastard. Jessel simply pointed to the coffin and said,”His brother was worse.”

Nisi bonum”. Since the reb had 10 kids he probably was a good father.And he was loved by the settlers in the illegally occupied West Bank.

Levinger in 1968 camped out in Hebron during Passover. He refused to leave after the holiday and so began the rise of Gush Emunim, the radical settler movement which continues to destroy Israel and which now with about 600,000 illegals camped out all over Palestinian territory, making a 2 state solution impossible.

Levinger was a product of Kookism, the radical movement of religious Zionism based on the writings of Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak Kook (d.1935) and his prolific charismatic son Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook(d 1982),the head of the infamous Merkaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Levinger was a human dynamo putting flesh on the Kook’s ultrantionalist religious Zionist which swept Israel after the Six Day War(1967) which was seen as a miracle, a transcendent sign that redemption was near and the messiah would follow. Secularists like the then PM Yitzhak Rabin never had a chance against the “god sanctioned” movement. The messianic true believers  were out to liberate the land of the patriarchs and Hebron was its heart. it was part of Judea and Samaria. That Arabs had lived on the land for 1300 years meant nothing to these inspired radicals.

For the Gush, the land had become a holy vessel and the settlement was a divine command.For them it was the apotheosis of Zionism, a movement which had scorned  rabbinic Judaism.For Levinger anybody (read peaceniks like Rabin) willing to swap land for peace was a rodef, a man who would endanger Jewish lives as in the Oslo accords etc.Levinger was the embodiment of Kookism, a fiery angel of theocratic messianism. Get in his way and you will get burned—or murdered as Rabin ultimately was.

Gush Emunim has shot its bolt but its tragic success which brought national secular politicians to their knees lives on. Government after government capitulated to this movement of which Levinger was its hero.

Levinger was like a sheriff in a lawless region. He was arrested several times ,had frequent confrontations with Israeli security forces and killed a Palestinian for which was convicted of negligent homicide and imprisoned for three months. In 1985 he went on a three-month armed vigilante patrol of a Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem. The United Nations documented Levinger, “provoked the inhabitants of the camp by firing at them and invading their homes,” and, “reportedly ran along the camp alleys, together with a guard, and both men fired into the air in an indiscriminate manner.” That same year Levinger broke into a Palestinian house in Hebron and assaulted a six-year old. Like many of his arrests that decade, he was given a suspended sentence.n 1986 he was fined 300 shekels for assaulting a soldier at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

For years he terrified the Palestinian majority (160,000 to 800 Jews), much to the fury of the defense Minister Shimon Peres. The man was fearless. He despised the government and urged soldiers to disobey its orders.His model of divine disruption became the template  for other settlements. The government blinked. If it hadn’t there might have been civil war.They had radically miscalculated. Their cowardly inability  to shut him down in 1968 came back to haunt them. In the end Israel paid a huge price for their failure to uphold israeli and international law. Judaism paid a massive price for allowing this man to function as a religious leader. His Judaism functioned as a sad justification for an ethnocratic state and a tribal god.

Levinger was a hero to the the religious ultranationalists. His influence was on Israeli society was catastrophic, on peace in the Middle East equally as devastating.His power in Israel was shown at his death when the president of Israel Reuvin Rivlin stood over his coffin as he was laid to rest.




  1. 1
    mushafta Says:

    All of these stories continue to remind us of the seriousness of this conflict which has both lost its focus here in the western world and indeed its truth. So few people I run into and ask about their trip to the Holy Land know anything of the politics of this injustice.

    Keep her coming Ted! Another wonderful story to reflect on!

  2. 2
    mushafta Says:

    Rabbi Levinger was right up there with Netanyahu!
    It’s good that your stories unfold some of the history of Zionism Ted.
    We are fed nothing.. Not even chicken scratch from the usual media!

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