The most senior religious-Zionist leader, Rabbi Haim Drukman, died on Sunday evening at the age of 90, after suffering from a number of medical issues, most recently from COVID-19.
Drukman was the head of the Or Etzion Yeshiva and the head of Yeshivot and Ulpanot Bnei Akiva – the largest chain of yeshiva high schools for boys and girls in the religious-Zionist community in Israel.
Drukman also served in many rabbinic roles as the rabbi of the Bnei Akiva youth movement in Israel, as well as of World Bnei Akiva. In 1977, Drukman also became an MK for the National Religious Party and a deputy minister as well.
“The elder of the religious-Zionist rabbis passed away,” a Yeshivot and Ulpanot Bnei Akiva statement said. They shared that Drukman was “a model man, a family man, a great leader in Torah, a man of spiritual education and action.”
Who was Rabbi Drukman?
Drukman was born in 1932 in Poland and survived the Holocaust by hiding with his parents. He made aliyah in 1954 and since then, has been a leader in almost every major religious-Zionist institution.
He served as president of the Hesder Yeshiva Union, chairman of Yeshivot and Ulpanot Bnei Akiva, an emissary for World Bnei Akiva in North America and many other positions. Drukman was the head of the official Israeli conversion system in the Prime Minister’s Office for eight years and received the prestigious Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement.
“Rabbi Drukman was the pillar of fire before our camp,” Elchanan Glatt, CEO of Bnei Akiva Yeshivot and Ulpanot said. “With his personality, he led a large public, influenced the Israeli public and outlined an educational path of Torah and avodah [work], of the love of the people and the land of Jews and Israelis, in the generation of redemption. His character, deep insights and broad vision will be missed by the entire nation of Israel.”
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his sadness at the loss of the rabbi.
“A great light of love for Israel went out today,” he said. “As someone who personally experienced the horrors of the Holocaust as a child, Rabbi Drukman devoted himself to the building of the nation when he immigrated to Israel.... His extensive activity as a member of the Knesset reflected his being not only a representative of the sector he represented but a loyal messenger of the general public in Israeli society.”
Prime Minister Yair Lapid released a short statement in recognition of the rabbi's long history, saying, "Holocaust survivor, founder of Or Etzion yeshiva, scholar, winner of the Israel Prize, and a person who loves Israel. May his memory be a blessing."
"May his memory be a blessing."
The Bnei Akiva movement said the rabbi led the movement for decades with genius, strength and humility and was the spiritual uplifter of thousands of its graduates.
“The rabbi led the movement in every area where the movement needed him – participation in the national executive board, educational and spiritual consultations, joint activities with all members of the movement, and more,” it said. “The image of the rabbi with the face mask and the movement shirt brings out his unique place in leading the way of Torah and in building a generation that is loyal and devoted to his people, his Torah and his country.”
Chief Rabbi David Lau mourned the loss of Drukman, recognizing him as a “great man who, for 90 years of his life, taught, educated and brought Jews closer to faith in the Creator. And out of the great love of the Torah, he loved every person from Israel, every pebble upon the land of Israel, and every letter in the Torah of Israel, and in these three perfections, he educated and raised generations that will continue to learn and to see the great light shining before their eyes.”
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.