The Jewish Press joins in mourning the passing, at age 90, of Rabbi Chaim Druckman, a foremost figure in the religious Zionist movement and widely recognized as its spiritual leader for over a half century. He was known for his relentless efforts to have the Biblical map of Israel reprised as the blueprint for the Modern Jewish state. He was a noted Torah scholar and teacher, and an advocate for an Israel that followed halachic norms.
Rabbi Druckman was one of the founders of the Gush Emunim settler movement, which was first organized in his living room in 1974. He served as dean of the Or Etzion Yeshiva and headed the network of religious Zionist Bnei Akiva seminaries. He also led the coordinating body for Hesder yeshivas for men who wished to combine military service with religious study.
Additionally, Rabbi Druckman played an important role in Israeli politics for decades. He served as a member of the Knesset, including deputy minister of Religious Affairs, and as the spiritual leader of religious Zionist parties.
Rabbi Druckman was criticized by some for calling on religious soldiers to refuse orders to evict West Bank settlers. While serving as chairman of the Giyur (Conversion) Committee, he also drew the ire of some in the charedi rabbinic establishment with his efforts to ease the conversion process as much as possible while remaining, he insisted, in absolute conformity with halacha.
Last year, he signed onto a statement protesting plans by the government to amend the laws on conversion and kashruth enforcement and rejuvenate a deal on women’s prayer at the Kotel. The government said it was acting in an effort to establish a “state of all its citizens.” Rabbi Druckman and the other signatories maintained, however, that the changes would “endanger the essence of the state and change its [Jewish] identity.”
May his memory be for a blessing.