Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, founder and President of the Hesder Yeshivat Nir Kiryat Arba, passed away on Shabbat after a brief illness. A National Religious Rabbi, he was one of the oldest students of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook Ztz’l. He was among the leaders of the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria and one of the founders of the settlement in Hebron and Kiryat Arba. He served as an MK for the Tehiya party from 1984 to 1990.
Rabbi Waldman was born in Petah Tikva in 1937, to Rabbi Yoel and Dina Waldman. In 1940, his family moved to the United States, where, as a teenager, he studied with the Rosh Yeshiva of Chaim Berlin in Flatbush, Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, and also earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and philosophy from Yeshiva University. He returned to Israel in 1957 and eventually enrolled at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav and became a disciple of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook. At Merkaz Harav he befriended Rabbi Haim Drukman and the two remained study partners.
In 1964, Rabbi Waldman was one of the founders of the Or Etzion Yeshiva and served there as a rabbi for several years. In 1968, he was one of the founders of the Jewish community in Hebron, where he led a study group that he considered a branch of the Merkaz Harav yeshiva. He was alongside Rabbi Moshe Levinger at the historic Seder that relaunched the Jewish community of Hebron-Kiryat Arba. In 1972, Rabbi Waldman became Rosh Yeshiva of the Hesder Yeshiva Nir Kiryat Arba. He was later joined by Rabbi Dov Lior and the two served together as co-deans for close to 30 years.
In 1984, Rabbi Waldman was arrested as part of the Jewish underground investigation, on suspicion of knowing about its activities. The arrest shocked his relatives and students, who heard him vehemently opposing the activities of the underground and calling on its members to repent their actions. Rabbi Waldman denied the allegations against him and was released after two days.
Rabbi Waldman was one of the founders and leaders of Gush Emunim, and one of the founders of the Tehiya Party. He served as a member of the Central Secretariat and the Council of the Tehiya until its dissolution and served as an MK on its behalf in the 11th and 12th Knessets. He retired from the Knesset in January 1990.
In June 2021, ahead of the formation of the Lapid-Bennett government, in partnership with Meretz and Ra’am, Rabbi Waldman was one of the rabbis who signed a petition warning against a government “that will harm the most fundamental things in matters of religion and state.” As well as in matters of security, when it “leans on terror-supporters.”
Rabbi Waldman called on soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate Jews from anywhere in the Land of Israel but called on his students not to use violence against soldiers and police who come to evacuate them.
Rabbi Waldman stated as early as the 1980s that “the prayer of a Jew on the Temple Mount should be the most natural part of living together in the Land of Israel.” But he objected to hasty action in this area. Eventually, he encouraged ascent to the Temple Mount according to the ruling of his colleague, Rabbi Dov Lior, and even ascended to the Temple Mount himself.
May his soul continue to ascend for eternity.
Rabbi Waldman’s funeral will take place today, Sunday, Dec. 19. Eulogies will be said at 12 PM and the procession will start at 12:30, from the Nir Yeshiva building in Kiryat Arba, his life’s enterprise, to the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron.