Amital, Rabbi Yehuda

(1925- )
   Born in Transylvania, as a boy he studied in heder and yeshiva and had virtually no formal secular education. In 1943, the Nazis deported him to a labor camp, and his family perished in Auschwitz. He immigrated (see ALIYA) to Palestine in December 1944 and joined the Hagana, participating in the battles of Latrun and the western Galilee during the War of Independence (1948—49). He resumed his yeshiva studies in Jerusalem, where he was ordained as a rabbi. He was the founder and dean (Rosh Yeshiva) of the Orthodox Har Etzion Yeshiva, located in the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut; the founder of the national-religious hesder yeshiva system, which combines Orthodox religious studies with military service; and the founder and former chairman of the Meimad (Movement for Religious Zionist Renewal, or Dimension) Party that broke away from the National Religious Party (NRP) in 1988 to protest the NRP's shift to the political Right on many domestic and foreign policy issues. Under Amital's leadership, Meimad ran lists in the 1988 and 1992 Knesset elections, but in each instance, the party failed to win a sufficient share of the vote to take seats in the Knesset. He agreed to serve as minister without portfolio in the government formed by Shimon Peres after the November 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Amital sought to promote dialogue and to lessen polarization within Israeli society on both domestic and security policy issues. On matters of peace and security, he supported the principle of territorial compromise based on the notion that the "good of the people and State of Israel takes precedence over political control over the entire Land of Israel." While wishing to see increased adherence to Halacha among Israeli Jews, he opposed the "religious coercion" exerted by the ultra-Orthodox political parties in seeking to force through legislation affecting the "status quo agreement" over religious affairs. He advocated maximum tolerance among Israelis and between Israelis and Diaspora Jewish communities with regard to the contentious "Who Is a Jew" debate. Amital remains the spiritual leader of Meimad.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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