Yehuda Amital

Yehuda Amital (Hebrew: יהודה עמיטל, born Yehuda Klein; 31 October 1924 – 9 July 2010) was an Orthodox rabbi, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion, and a former member of the Israeli cabinet.

Yehuda Amital
Rav yehuda amital portrait.JPG
Ministerial roles
1995–1996Minister without Portfolio
Personal details
Born(1924-10-31)31 October 1924
Oradea, Romania
Died9 July 2010(2010-07-09) (aged 85)
Jerusalem, Israel
Political partyMeimad

The concept of a Hesder Yeshiva is attributed to Amital. After writing an essay about the religious and moral aspects of military service, he envisaged a program for combining army service and Torah study.[1]

In 1991, the Hesder Yeshiva program was awarded the Israel Prize for its special contribution to society and the State of Israel.[2]


Yehuda Klein (later Amital) was born in Oradea, Romania, son of Yekutiel Ze'ev and Devora. After four years of secular primary education, he began religious studies with Rabbi Chaim Yehuda Levi.[3] When Germany occupied the area in 1944, the Nazis sent his entire family to Auschwitz where they were killed. Amital was sent to a labor camp, thus surviving the Holocaust. He remained in the labor camp for eight months, and was liberated on October 4, 1944, by the Soviet Army.[4] After his liberation, he made his way to Bucharest, from where he travelled to Palestine, arriving on December 11, 1944.[5]

After a short stay at the Atlit detainee camp, he made his way to Jerusalem, where he studied at Hebron Yeshiva, receiving semicha from Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer. He also learned with Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlap, a student of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook.[6] Around this time, he joined the Haganah.

After learning at Hebron, he moved to Pardes Hanna in order to learn at Kletzk Yeshiva. While learning at the yeshiva, he married Miriam, the daughter of the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Meltzer, and the granddaughter of Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer.[7] When the yeshiva relocated to Rehovot, Amital followed, settling in Rehovot until he moved to Jerusalem in the 1960s.

The day after the Declaration of Independence, Amital's unit was mobilized in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.[8] He took part in battles of Latrun and the western Galilee. After the war, Amital became a rabbinic secretary in the Beth Din of Rehovot, and, two years later, he became an instructor at Yeshivat HaDarom, where he helped formulate the idea of a Hesder Yeshiva.

After the Six-Day War, he became the founding Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion, which he headed for 40 years.

Amital died on July 9 (27 Tammuz), 2010, and was laid to rest in the Har HaMenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem, where thousands attended his funeral.[9]

Political careerEdit

In 1988, Amital founded the left-leaning religious Meimad movement, and was elected as its chairman after it became a political party.[10] After the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995, he served as a minister without portfolio in the government of Shimon Peres, despite not being a Knesset member.[11]

Educational careerEdit

After the Six-Day War, he founded Yeshivat Har Etzion, a Hesder Yeshiva in Gush Etzion. The yeshiva opened in Kfar Etzion in 1968 with 30 students. After two years, the institution moved to its current location in Alon Shvut. In 1971, Amital asked Aharon Lichtenstein to join him as Rosh Yeshiva.

At the age of 80, Amital asked the management of Yeshivat Har Etzion to select his successors. The yeshiva chose Rabbis Yaakov Medan and Baruch Gigi.[12] On January 4, 2006, Medan and Gigi were officially invested as co-roshei yeshiva, alongside Amital and Aharon Lichtenstein.[13]

On September 25, 2008, Amital officially announced his retirement, to take effect on the last day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, in the year 5769 (October 28, 2008). He also announced that Mosheh Lichtenstein, the son of Aharon Lichtenstein, would assume the position as the fourth Rosh Yeshiva on that same day.

Amital continued to be a prominent public figure in Israel, with a broad impact on matters of religious and national concern. His students and disciples are leading figures in many walks of life. He had developed an educational philosophy which combines deep faithfulness to tradition and ethical responsibility to society at large with commitment to the moral and spiritual flourishing of each individual.

Published worksEdit

  • Jewish Values in a Changing World ISBN 0-88125-881-4
  • Commitment and Complexity: Jewish Wisdom in an Age of Upheaval ISBN 1-60280-030-8
  • When God is Near: On the High Holidays ISBN 9781592644377
  • A World Built, Destroyed and Rebuilt, Rabbi Yehudah Amital's Confrontation with the Memory of the Holocaust ISBN 0-88125-864-4
  • By Faith Alone: The Story of Rabbi Yehuda Amital ISBN 1-59264-192-X
  • והארץ נתן לבני אדם - A Hashkafic book based on Sichot he gave at Yeshivat Har Etzion, Tevunot Publishing, 2004.


  1. ^ This Day in Jewish History / A yeshiva head and settler who had a change of heart is born
  2. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1991 (in Hebrew)". Archived from the original on 2012-03-07.
  3. ^ This Day in Jewish History / A yeshiva head and settler who had a change of heart is born
  4. ^ BeEmunato, p. 98
  5. ^ BeEmunato, p. 100
  6. ^ BeEmunato, pp. 102-107
  7. ^ BeEmunato, pp. 108-112, 116-117
  8. ^ BeEmunato p. 120
  9. ^ Jonah Mandel; Daniel Clinton. "Rabbi Yehuda Amital dies at 85 in J'lem". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on June 30, 2009. Retrieved July 9, 2010.
  10. ^ BeEmunato, pp. 184-185
  11. ^ BeEmunato, p. 224
  12. ^ BeEmunato, pp. 262-263
  13. ^ BeEmunato, p. 265

External linksEdit