A Guiding Light – Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan ZT”L HY”D
August 24, 1998
August 24, 1998
Last Thursday was one of those days that will remain indelibly embedded
in my memory for as long as I remain in this world. The day started off
very early, for special reasons. Only ten days annually are all of the
halls inside Ma’arat HaMachpela open to Jewish visitors and worshippers.
This past Thursday was one of those days. The reason for the occasion: The
next Saturday and Sunday commenced the last month of the Jewish year, the
month during which we prepare for the High Holy Days, beginning with Rosh
HaShana in exactly one month, and climaxing with Yom Kippur, ten days
This particular day had special significance for me. Usually it is
forbidden to bring a video camera inside Ma’arat HaMachpela, (for reasons
unknown to anyone). However, I had received a permit to bring in such a
camera for a few hours in order to film the beautiful, and usually closed
Isaac Hall, as well as the other memorial rooms, the Abraham and Jacob
Halls. After morning prayers, together with a friend, I videotaped a short
documentary in each of these locations, in preparation for a future Hebron
CD ROM about Hebron.
Later in the morning a group of 35 American tourists toured with me
throughout the city. The weather was nice and the group (including some
very well behaved children) interested in learning about Hebron. We spent
quite a few hours together and by the time they left, I felt like I’d put
in a fairly full day. Little did I know…
At about 8:00 that night I received word that former Chief Rabbi, the
Rishon l’Tzion, Rav Ovadiah Yosef was coming to Hebron for the first time
in twenty years. Rav Ovadiah Yosef heads up the Shas political party, which
has not been known for its support of keeping Eretz Yisrael. Rav Ovadiah’s
Knesset faction steadily voted for the Oslo and Hebron Accords. This hasn’t
created any great love for him among many people. Yet, known as a great
Torah scholar, when he decided to finally return to the city of Abraham,
the news about his impending visit spread rapidly. I made my way upstairs
into the Ma’ara with my digital camera, ready to record the visit for our
internet site viewers around the world.
The Rabbi was supposed to arrive at about 9:00. He arrived at about 10:30,
together with hundreds of his followers. They packed the Isaac Hall,
everyone crowding in to be as close as possible to the spiritual-political
leader. One of the Rabbi’s party led the assemblage in several Psalms and
then, at about 11:00 the group prayed the traditional evening prayers,
recited nightly by observant Jews.
I had prayed earlier and stood by, watching everyone else. As the service
drew to a close I saw a friend of mine lean over to speak with the present
Chief Rabbi, Rav Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, who, in turn, spoke with Rav
Ovadiah. After a few moments Rav Ovadiah Yosef left the hall and Rav
Bakshi-Doron asked the others to repeat another Psalm, together with him. I
was already on my way out, hoping to get another picture of the Rabbi. But
then a friend of mine asked me if I’d heard anything about a stabbing in
Tel Rumeida. My response was negative, but my heart missed a beat. What was
he talking about? I quickly ran down the steps of the Ma’ara and called a
friend from my cell phone. “What happened?” He confirmed the rumor –
someone had been stabbed – come fast. The victim – Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan.
“How is he,” I asked and didn’t get an answer. “Just come!”
I drove down the road a few minutes, until, when arriving at the Avraham
Avinu neighborhood an army roadblock wouldn’t let me go any further. After
parking, I tried to walk down the street, but again soldiers attempted to
stop me. “Why – is this a closed military zone?! Show me the written
order.” After a few moments some other people showed up, and together,
ignoring the soldier’s demands, we walked on. I called a different friend.
In a voice barely audible – “Rebbi Shlomo was stabbed.”
“And how is he?”
“There wasn’t anything I could do – he was stabbed in the heart -there was
a big hole in his chest – when I got there he still had a weak pulse, but
the room was on fire and we had to pull him out… he just died.”
We walked on in stunned silence, refusing to believe what we’d just heard.
At the bottom of the steep hill, leading to the Tel Rumeida neighborhood,
again soldiers tried to block our way. However, their was no stopping us.
We ran around them and continued up the road. A few minutes later we
arrived, and perhaps wished we hadn’t.
“An Arab terrorist climbed in through the Ra’anan’s bedroom window. Rebbi
Shlomo was getting ready to go to sleep. The Arab stabbed him three times
and then ran into the living room, where his wife, Haya, was sitting. When
the terrorist tried to attack her, Rebbi Shlomo stumbled out of his room
and attempted to pull the terrorist away. The terrorist again stabbed the
Rabbi, this time in the heart. He collapsed in his wife’s arms. The
terrorist then fled back into the bedroom and hurled a firebomb into the
living room before leaving the house as he had entered, via the bedroom
Neighbors, hearing agonizing screams from the normally quiet Ra’anan home,
ran to their aid. Seeing Haya Ra’anan, a nurse by profession, trying to
resuscitate her dying husband, they also suddenly noticed the smoke and
flames. One person quickly pulled the Rabbi outside and someone else
extinguished the flames. A neighborhood paramedic continued to treat Rabbi
Shlomo Ra’anan, but it was too late. There was nothing left to be done. At
63 years of age, the six year resident of Tel Rumeida, father of two boys
and one girl, grandfather, husband, brother, uncle, grandson and nephew of
the spiritual leaders of the modern Zionist movement, was dead, another
victim of Arab terror in Hebron, slaughtered in his own home.
What can one do after such an awful act of terror? The Hebron community has
long demanded of the present administration fulfillment of promises of
expansion and development in Hebron’s Jewish neighborhoods. The government
decision confirming the Hebron Accords in January 1997 guaranteed
reinforcement of Hebron’s Jewish community. The Tel Rumeida neighborhood
contains enough Jewish-owned land to construct 70 new housing units. What
would be more appropriate than immediate building permits, allowing us to
turn the tables on the terrorists whose sole objective is to eradicate the
city’s Jewish community. They are trying to destroy us – we will react by
bringing in more and more people, building more and more houses. Rabbi
Shlomo Ra’anan cannot be brought back, but we can see to it that his life
and death, were not in vain.
This is one answer, but not the only one. There are two answers. The first,
and more important reaction must be this government’s immediate end to
negotiations with Arafat, which will almost inevitably lead to continued
abandonment of land areas in Eretz Yisrael. The present proposal under
consideration will bring about abandonment of 728,000 dunam of land – which
is Tel Aviv 13 times over. This land will be used for a number of purposes:
Preparation of the next terrorist attack, and the one after that; and as a
place of refuge for the perpetrators, following their murderous assaults.
It is quite possible that 5 minutes after killing Rabbi Ra’anan, the
villain sat, calm and relaxed, sipping a cup of coffee, knowing that his
home, in the H1- Arafat controlled section of Hebron is off-limits to the
These are the only answers: 1) An immediate end to abandonment of Eretz
Yisrael and no more concessions to Arafat and 2) building, building and
more Jewish building, making sure that the Arabs understand that killing
men, women, and/or children will only strengthen our resolve.
WE WILL NOT RUN AWAY, WE WILL NOT BE SCARED AWAY. WE WILL CONTINUE IN THE
PATH OF RABBI SHLOMO RA’ANAN, WHO WHEN HE CAME TO LIVE IN HEBRON DEMANDED
TO LIVE IN ‘THE MOST DIFFICULT NEIGHBORHOOD,’ WHO, WHEN ASKED WHERE HE
LIVED, ANSWERED, ‘IN A PALACE’ WHO WAS LOVED AND RESPECTED BY ONE AND
ALL, JEW AND ARAB ALIKE.
WE WILL FOLLOW THE PATH OF RABBI SHLOMO RA’ANAN’S GRANDFATHER, RAV AVRAHAM
YITZHAK HACOHEN KOOK, AND HIS UNCLE, RAV ZVI YEHUDA HACOHEN KOOK, WHO WERE
THE GUIDING LIGHTS OF RELIGIOUS ZIONISM AND OUR RETURN TO ERETZ YISRAEL.
RABBI SHLOMO RA’ANAN’S BODY MAY HAVE BEEN CUT APART BUT HIS SPIRIT LIVES
ON. HIS SPIRIT, HIS BEING, WILL REMAIN A GUIDING LIGHT TO US FOREVER, HERE