Biography of Rabbi Moshe Levinger

Bio of Moshe Levinger, founding father of the modern Jewish community of Hebron.

18.10.21, 16:39
(PHOTO: Rabbi Moshe Levinger, left, held aloft by youth supporters, December 8, 1975. Credit: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office.)
Rabbi Moshe Levinger was born in Jerusalem in 1935 to Eliezer and Tirza Levinger. He attended the Horev School and was very active in the Ezra youth movement.
After serving in the army, he studied at the Merkaz Harav yeshiva headed by Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. After several months in the yeshiva he became one of his primary students. His immense diligence in studying the Torah was well known. In 1959 he married Miriam. About two years later he began serving as the rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi. He was the first rabbi to serve in this position in a religious kibbutz and strived to established a combination of a Torah life-style and manual labor.
After five years at the kibbutz, he and his wife moved to Moshav Nechalim where he served as rabbi. Immediately after the Six Day War, the rabbi began to advocate for permanent communities in the newly liberated territories. At first he was very active among the survivors of Kfar Etzion who grew up in the Gush Etzion region and sought to return there. He worked hard behind the scenes to reestablish the abandoned kibbutzim there.
Rabbi Levinger then shifted his focus to Hebron. Together with members of Moshav Nechalim who helped and encouraged him greatly, a group was organized to hold a mass Passover seder in Hebron's Park Hotel in 1968. Under his leadership, this group was determined to renew the historic Jewish community and called on the government to establish a permanent presence. After six weeks in the Park Hotel, the government decided to transfer them to the Hebron military administration building.
After a year and a half of pressure from Rabbi Levinger and his new community, the government decided to establish Kiryat Arba, a Jewish town near Hebron. The original Hebron settlers and many others from around the country moved there.
The rabbi continued to work for a more established presence in Judea and Samaria. He was a partner in the establishment of the Gush Emunim movement and was a key partner in the breakthrough of settlement in Samaria. During this period, he continued to be dedicated to Torah study, encourage immigration to Israel and worked to strengthen security. In 1979, he assisted the entry of women and children into the abandoned Beit Hadassah building in Hebron.
Rabbi Levinger saw the State of Israel as the beginning of the elevation of Jewish redemption, and the flag of Israel was for him a sacred item that when worn out beyond use, needed to be put in a genizah like a prayer book. Even when he fought vigorously for the rights of the Jews in various parts of the country, a struggle for which he sometimes paid a personal price, he made sure to emphasize that Israel is a holy state.
He was privileged to see his vision come to fruition in his lifetime. The small and determined group that started the settlement movement grew and flourished and today hundreds of thousands of Jews live throughout Judea and Samaria.
Rabbanit Miriam Levinger Miriam Levinger was born in New York in 1937 to a family of Jewish immigrants from Hungary. She attended a secular high school for girls, and at the age of sixteen joined Bnei Akiva where she was inspired to immigrate to Israel. Two and a half years later, when she was eighteen, Miriam immigrated to Israel alone and attended the Shaare Zedek School of Nursing. During her studies she met her husband, Rabbi Moshe Levinger, who was a student at the Merkaz Harav yeshiva, and the two were married in a modest Jerusalem wedding. About two years later, they moved to Kibbutz Lavi. Rabbi Levinger served as the kibbutz rabbi and Miriam was a regional nurse in the Lower Galilee.
About a year before the Six Day War, the family moved to Moshav Nechalim. Immediately after the war, Rabbi Levinger discussed with her the idea of living in Hebron and Miriam agreed. She later explained that she was always enamored by the pioneers who were partners in building the country, and this was an opportunity to join such a cause.
After petitions to the government to allow Jews to live in Hebron fell upon deaf ears, she and her husband decided to take action. On the eve of Passover 1968, they rented out the Park Hotel in Hebron, ostensibly just for the Passover holiday, but in reality, to stay. Rabbanit Levinger brought a refrigerator and washing machine with her to the hotel, which became a symbol for the other settlers, indicating the seriousness of her intention to stay.
Later, the settlers were moved to the military administration headquarters building, where she served, among other things, as a nurse who provided care to the settlers and soldiers alike. The community grew and three years later, after the establishment of Kiryat Arba, they moved to the new town, together with other families who came from all over the country.
The plan was for the community to grow and expand, but a few years later all construction plans were frozen. Miriam believed that the correct response to this freeze was to return to the abandoned Jewish neighborhoods within Hebron. She determined that such an action should preferably be done by women and children only, thus increasing its chances of success.
She recruited more women and a few days after the announcement of the construction freeze, a group of about ten women and their children went out in the middle of the night from Kiryat Arba to the abandoned Beit Hadassah building in Hebron. At dawn, when they were discovered by the soldiers stationed there. They announced their intention to stay and renew the Jewish community in the heart of Hebron.
The army decided to allow the group to remain in the building under siege conditions, according to which no more people could enter, equipment would not be allowed in, and those who left would not be able to return. The women, led by Miriam, decided to stay. For many months they lived in harsh conditions, in a building in ruins with no windows, no running water, no electricity and no framework for children.
About six months later it was decided to allow the women's spouses to join them. A year after entering Beit Hadassah, a terrorist attack took place outside the building in which six people were killed and dozens wounded. In response to the attack, the Israeli government decided to approve the renewal of the Jewish community of Hebron and the restoration of Jewish property in the city.
Rabbanit Levinger and her family moved near the Avraham Avinu synagogue where she lived for the rest of her life. With the outbreak of the Second Intifada, at end of 2000, Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem was closed for Jewish prayers. Rabbanit Levinger headed a group of women who petitioned for its re-opening. They pressured decision-makers until their struggle bore fruit and access to Rachel's Tomb was resumed.
Over the years Miriam was the living spirit of encouragement and inspiration for women and for all people who sought her advice. She died on the 11th of Tishrei 5771 (2020) and was buried in the ancient Jewish cemetery of Hebron alongside her husband, Rabbi Moshe Levinger.
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