Tributes paid to Froman as rabbi laid to rest

Renowned peace activist laid to rest in his Tekoa home; 'left and right, everyone loved you and you loved everyone,' says his son.

froman370 (photo credit: JEREMY SHARON)
(photo credit: JEREMY SHARON)
“Let us lift up our hands, as you loved to do, connect the extremes in freedom, and clap our hands for freedom.”
These were the words of Yossi Froman, the eldest son of Rabbi Menachem Froman, at his father’s funeral Tuesday afternoon.
As he spoke them, the thousands of people who gathered at the synagogue in Tekoa – where Froman served as the settlement’s rabbi – raised up their arms and broke out in a collective wave of rhythmic clapping for their departed spiritual guide.
The rabbi’s son asked that the mourners say aloud the Shema Yisrael prayer, his father’s most beloved passage in Jewish liturgy, which the assembled masses called out together with him.
And as the rabbi had requested before he died, the mourners sang Froman’s favorite Hebrew song, “I Have No Other Land,” while his son finished his eulogy.
The much-loved rabbi, who died Monday night at age 68 after a long battle with cancer, was a singular figure in Israeli society.
He was one of the founders of the Gush Emunim settlement movement, which sought to expand the Jewish presence in the territories captured after 1967, especially in the West Bank.
But he was also dedicated to peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians, a goal toward which he strived for much of his life. He met with religious, communal and political leaders to work for understanding and peace, with a drive that those eulogizing him extolled.
As the funeral procession arrived at the synagogue, the mourners outside sang dirges and spiritual tunes to accompany the arrival of the rabbi’s children and students who were bearing his stretcher.
The thousands of people in attendance, mostly devout members of the national-religious community, openly grieved for the rabbi’s passing and listened tearfully to the eulogies his family and friends delivered.
“On the Left and Right, everyone loved you, and you loved everyone,” said Yossi, who gave the first eulogy. “You taught us that with greater freedom we can become closer to God, and that as long as there is more freedom, the more opposites can meet.
“We want to continue your path... the mission of your life... to bridge between the sides not through borders, fences or treaties, but through love that flows from freedom,” he said, ending by saying “thank you” to his father over and over.
In his striving for dialogue and peace, Froman met with senior Palestinian leaders as well as religious and communal figures living close to his home in Tekoa and in the broader West Bank.
In a letter that President Shimon Peres sent to Froman’s widow, Hadassah, he expressed his admiration for the rabbi’s work, and noted that Froman had never been afraid to be alone as long as he was right.
“All his life was peace, all his pathways were peace,” wrote Peres, whose letter was read aloud at the funeral by Rabbi Dov Zinger, a close friend of Froman’s. “He saw every man as a friend and refused to define any person as an eternal enemy. He found pathways to the heart of bitter enemies and fierce opponents, and in every place where there was conflict, he would try to settle it with great spirit and great wisdom.”
During the ceremony, Zinger recalled how Froman would put his tefillin on his right hand, as is the custom for a left-handed person, and afterward, more unusually, wrap them on his left hand, saying as he did so, “This is for Shimon Peres, this is for Yossi Sarid, for Amos Oz.”
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon spoke of his long relationship with Froman and of the last conversation they had together a week ago, which was, “as usual, deep and long.”
“A man of dreams and great deeds you were, Menachem, and in your unique way, you worked to turn those dreams into deeds,” said Ya’alon. “Menachem, you believed with all your heart in peace [for] humanity, you opposed racism and hatred, you did everything to build bridges between people and you sought to build peace from below between people.”
Alongside the rabbi’s “great faith in peace,” he recognized the importance of defeating terrorism, Ya’alon noted. But the minister also highlighted Froman’s opposition to acts of Jewish violence against Palestinians, as well as to the dismantlement of settlements “and the uprooting of Jews from their homes.”
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who also attended the funeral, told The Jerusalem Post afterward that Froman had called him after Shabbat two weeks ago, after he had left the hospital, to ask how he was.
“We discussed, as we always did, the questions about the task of the Jewish people and the importance of freedom. He believed that every man was born free and wanted to be free, and that with this, it is possible to establish dialogue with all peoples,” said Sharansky.
“He believed so greatly in humanity,” he went on, “and tried so hard to be fitting for the task of being a free person, and expected from everyone that they would be similarly fitting. We can only hope that we will truly fulfill this expectation.”
Likud-Yisrael Beytenu MK Ze’ev Elkin, who was also present at the funeral, praised Froman’s ability “to rise above reality,” an ability he said was crucial to any thinker and to any effort to turn ideas into politics and a way of life.
Elkin also refuted the notion that Froman’s embrace and support for the settlement movement contradicted his efforts toward making peace.
“To bring peace from above by giving up this land has never brought peace,” he said, “and in the last 20 years, all these theoretical things which people built in their heads have only brought more blood and more conflict.”
However, he averred, “Rabbi Froman’s approach, to bring peace from below, peace between the people who live next to each other, is a peace built through love of this land, not built on giving it up. If there ever will be peace here, it will be this type of peace.”
Activist and Post columnist Gershon Baskin paid tribute to Froman on his Facebook page on Monday, hailing the rabbi as someone who always strove to achieve peace.
“I did not share his faith in God, but I shared his passion for peace and his willingness to go to the ends of this earth to convince people that we can make peace and that we must make peace in this land,” Baskin wrote.
Froman is survived by his wife and 10 children.