Yehuda Amital

A leader in religious Zionism.

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Coming Back to Political Life

Abandoning political life, Amital was lured back after the Rabin assassination in 1995 when he was asked to join Shimon Peres's government as a minister. This he did, hoping to ease, even a little, the terrible fissures then rocking Israeli society; when the short-lived government passed from the scene, he returned to his yeshiva. 

Amital never ceased regarding the world of religious Zionism as the community to which he most closely belonged.  The educational philosophy he developed over the decades cultivated traditional yeshiva scholarship while also placing a rare premium on independent thinking. In the hasidic and mystical side of his character he prefigured the neo-hasidic revival of recent years—of which, however, he was also a genuine critic. While encouraging his students to strive for authenticity in their religious lives, he urged them not to fetishize this at the expense of ethical values or of their identification with Jewry at large. 

In his later years, the Holocaust came increasingly to preoccupy him. At times, it almost seemed as though the astounding Israeli story through which he had lived, and which he had done so much to shape, was slowly turning into mist, exposing in stark relief the horrors from which he had emerged and the terrible questions they left unanswered. Down to the end, in his last weeks, he spoke to his students of the need both to think for themselves and to cling with all their hearts to those on whom he bestowed the honorific, "simple Jews."

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Yehudah Mirsky

Yehudah Mirsky, a former US State Department official, lives in Jerusalem and is a Fellow at the Van Leer Institute and Harvard.