Former Chief Rabbi of Israel Mordechai Eliyahu Dies at 81

The ran an obituary of former chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel, Mordechai Eliyahu:

Mordechai Eliyahu, who died in Jerusalem on June 7 aged 81, was a former Chief Rabbi of Israel (“Rishon Le’Zion”) and a spiritual leader of the Religious Zionist movement that calls for a state for the Jewish people in the land of Israel with laws based on the teachings of Judaism.

He was a strong opponent of ceding any occupied lands to Arabs. In early 2005, at a time when Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was planning to withdraw Israeli settlements… from the Gaza Strip, Eliyahu led a hawkish line against the pullout.

He issued statements urging soldiers not to take part in evacuating settlers. “A soldier must tell his commander ‘I cannot carry out this order’,” he advised. If orders to evacuate Jews from their homes persisted then soldiers “should enter the family’s house, sit on the floor, cry with them, and be saved from the prohibition in a passive way”.

After the Israeli withdrawal in August 2005, the Islamist movement, Hamas, fired…rockets at Israeli villages from within the Gaza Strip. In response Rabbi Eliyahu wrote to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to say that, according to Jewish war ethics, an entire city (he referred to Gaza City) holds collective responsibility for the immoral behaviour of individuals.

Thus, he continued, there was no moral prohibition against the…killing of Palestinian civilians during a…military offensive in Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket attacks. He ended his letter quoting from Psalms: “I will pursue my enemies and apprehend them and I will not desist until I have eradicated them.”

He was born on March 12 1929 in the Old City in Jerusalem, the son of Salman Eliyahu, a famous Rabbi from an Iraqi Jewish family, who died when Mordechai was 11 years old. As a bright pupil he was educated by eminent religious scholars at distinguished institutions, including the eminent Porat Yosef yeshiva [religious school].

In 1959, he graduated from the Institute of Rabbis and Religious Judges and became the youngest Dayan (religious court Judge) in Israel, serving first in the southern town of Beer Sheva for four years, before being transferred to the supreme religious court of Jerusalem.

As Chief Rabbi, from 1983 to 1993, he attempted to reach out to secular Israelis to provide them with a better understanding of Jewish religious traditions. He also travelled extensively throughout the world to visit Jewish communities and lecture on the importance of fighting assimilation and the need to make aliyah

About Yisroel Pensack
This entry was posted in Jerusalem, Los Angeles, San Francisco and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.