“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
Looking Back: A 1999 Interview with Hanan Porat
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
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.
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.
urged him to travel, to teach and to fulfill his other dreams.
phone rang for him, they wanted to say that he wasn’t home,” Efrat
“It’s just that we wanted you for ourselves,” she
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
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
“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
Porat was a man who followed his heart, Rivlin said.
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.
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
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.
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,”
Some 12 years later, in an interview he gave to Channel 1, Porat
said that the nation still supported the settlement movement.
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
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
“When I believe and see before my eyes our national resurrection,
it all looks different.”