Tekoa, Judea and Samaria – 5th of March, 2013: Menachem Fruman, the chief rabbi of the Jewish settlement of Tekoa, died at the age of 68, leaving behind his wife Hadassah and 10 sons and daughters. His funeral was attended by thousands of people, both religious and secular, left-wing and right-wing, from all across Israel. A former paratrooper who took part in the conquest of the Har Habait (the Temple Mount) in 1967 and a graduate of the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, the ideological headquarters of religious Zionism, rav Fruman was among the founders of Gush Emunim (the Block of the Faithful), the spearhead of today’s settler movement.
Over the course of his life, he came to believe that peace and coexistence with the Arabs is indeed possible, especially if religion is turned into a common ground. He frequently prayed with Muslims, he befriended Yasser Arafat and Hamas’ spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and even attempted to broker an informal ceasefire between Gaza and Israel in 2008. He repeatedly stated his willingness to remain in Tekoa under Palestinian sovereignty in the case of an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and fought against any expulsion of Jews from the territories.
While he came to be a bit of a cultural icon inside Israel, revered by the left as a trailblazing peacemaker, many of his fellow settlers did not like him at all, even within the notoriously liberal and openminded community of Tekoa, with some denouncing him as deluded or even a traitor. However, judging by the massive crowd which flocked to Tekoa on the day of his funeral, he undoubtedly touched many hearts and minds, maybe by offering them a glimpse of a different way to approach life, religion and politics in the land between the river and the sea.
(Written in July 2013)