‘Death has silenced Porat’s voice, but not love of nation'

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin among those eulogizing Hanan Porat as popular settler leader and former MK is laid to rest in Gush Etzion.

By
October 6, 2011 03:22

Rabbi Hanan Porat's funeral_311. (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)

“These are the gates of mercy,” thousands of mourners sang as Hanan Porat’s prayer-shawl-wrapped body was laid in the ground on Wednesday afternoon, by the small West Bank settlement Kibbutz Kfar Etzion that he so loved and had spent his life defending.

Born in 1943, Porat was among the children who were evacuated from the original Kfar Etzion in 1948, during the War of Independence.

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After the Six Day War, he was among the first to return to rebuild the kibbutz, where he brought up his family.

Porat dedicated his life to the settlement movement, with the belief that he was ensuring the area would forever be part of the homeland of the Jewish people.

There are few settler leaders where the history of the movement and the state is so heavily imprinted on their personal life.

Porat served in the Paratroop Brigade in 1967 and was among the soldiers who captured the Temple Mount. He helped reestablish the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. He was badly wounded in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 on the bank of the Suez canal.

He was among the founders of Gush Emunim movement, which established more than 100 settlements.

In 1975, he led the founding of Elon Moreh, the first settlement in the West Bank, in Sebastia.

On Tuesday, Porat succumbed to cancer at age 67.

At his funeral, his daughter Efrat – one of his 11 children – thanked God that he had been released from the hospital to spend his last days, and Rosh Hashana, at home, surrounded by his family.

When they were growing up, she said, they often urged him to leave the world of politics, where he battled for the settlements both as a veteran activist and a member of Knesset in the ’80s and ’90s.

“You were racing from place to place, holding the weight of the nation on your shoulders,” she said.

His family urged him to travel, to teach and to fulfill his other dreams.

“When the phone rang for him, they wanted to say that he wasn’t home,” Efrat said.

“It’s just that we wanted you for ourselves,” she said.

Efrat recalled how, on Shabbat, he would add extra sugar to his tea, stating that it was to feed the soul.

They would tell him that he was their “Shabbat father,” because that is when he was home.

But in the end, he earned that name, because that elevated spiritual time also described who he was, she said.

“We were so lucky that you were our father,” she said.

As a testament to the impact Porat had on the country, his funeral was filled with rabbinical and political dignitaries, including the country’s two chief rabbis, its two vice premiers, ministers and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.

“There are few men of vision and action, and even fewer who are intellectuals and poets,” said Rivlin.

As he spoke, he stood on a small makeshift podium. He looked out at the crowd that created a circle around him and Porat’s body, which was laid out on a gurney.

“But you, Hanan...” he said, “You knew how to do this.”

“You knew how to be a public emissary whose mouth was filled with song, to be an outstanding parliamentarian with the soul of a dreamer and to be a guide to masses of students,” said Rivlin.

Porat was a man who followed his heart, Rivlin said.

“You went everywhere that your love required you to go. In places where people did not love, you were the man that did. You were a man whose soul was filled with a great overwhelming love for the nation, its land and its Bible.

“Your voice, Hanan, has been silenced, but the sound of your song will accompany your intense love of the nation and this land for years to come,” said Rivlin.

Also present at the funeral were a number of elderly settler leaders, including Moshe Levinger, who is one of the founders of Kiryat Arba and of the Jewish community in Hebron.

Rabbi Menachem Froman of the nearby Tekoa settlement, who himself is battling a serious form of cancer, eulogized Porat and helped carry his body to the grave.

In 1999, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post after leaving the Knesset, Porat said the dream that drove him to build the settlement movement had not faded.

“The awakening of a huge population, which today is linked to this movement, gives us a guarantee that this dream is not fading. There’s no doubt this issue will require a tremendous fight in the near future, but I’m euphorically optimistic,” he said.

Some 12 years later, in an interview he gave to Channel 1, Porat said that the nation still supported the settlement movement.

Rather, it was the government that was weak, he said. Politicians and the media have generated a kind of fatigue.

But, he added, “the nation of Israel still lives.”

His eyes watered as he spoke of the evacuation of Gaza in 2005, something that for him remained an “open wound.” He rolled up his sleeves to show that he still wore the plastic orange bracelet from the political battle to save the Jewish settlements that were in Gaza.

He added that he would continue to wear it until Jews returned to Gaza.

“I anticipate that there will be a day when we return home,” he said.

Porat told the interviewer that he was not afraid of death.

“I don’t believe that death ends life; rather, it is a change.”

There is a light that is larger than life, he said.

“When I believe and see before my eyes our national resurrection, it all looks different.”


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