Last night we received the very sad news that Rabbi She’ar Yashuv HaCohen, former Chief Rabbi of Haifa and a leading light of the national religious Zionist public, passed away at the age of nearly 89.
The Rabbi was a dear friend of my father in law through the Mizrachi (national religious) movement in which they were both so active, one in Israel and one in England, and my husband had to break the news to him last night. The Rabbi got my father-in-law involved on the Board of the Ariel Institute for training Dayanim (Rabbinic Judges) in Jerusalem. He attended our own wedding as well as the weddings and barmitzvahs of our children and my in-laws were likewise invited to their events.
Rabbi HaCohen ztz”l was a gentle, well-spoken man who nevertheless stood up very strongly for his principles. He lived through fascinating and turbulent times and his own life reflects Israel’s history closely.
Here is a short bio from Arutz Sheva: (with apologies for quoting the entire piece:)
Rabbi Eliyahu Shaar Yashuv Hakohen, Chief Rabbi of Haifa and among the leading rabbis of Israel, passed away at age 89 this evening.
The Rabbi was born in Jerusalem to Rabbi David “The Nazirite,” known as one of the leading students of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi during the British Mandate in Israel and the founder of Religious Zionism.
Rabbi Hakohen studied with his father and at various yeshivas, including the flagship yeshiva of Religious Zionism founded by Rabbi Kook, Merkaz Harav, under the tutelage of the dean of the yeshiva, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Hakohen Kook and at the Etz Chaim Yeshiva. He also studied with Chief Rabbi Isaac Halevi Herzog,
In 1948, while a student at Merkaz Harav, he was part of an underground movement “The Hasmonean Covenant” that fought against British rule and was also active in the Haganah and in founding Religious Zionist fighting groups.
Although he did not keep all the Nazirite prohibitions as had his father, he refrained from fish, meat and wine all through his life.
During the War of Independence, the Rabbi served with the former underground Etzel military group, and fought to defend Jerusalem and the area of Gush Etzion. While in a battle to defend the Old CIty of Jerusalem, he was seriously injured; when the Jewish Quarter fell to the Jordanians, he was taken captive by the Jordanian Legion.
While in captivity, his foot was operated upon, and he remained handicapped as a result.
Following his release, the Rabbi served in the IDF for seven years, eventually becoming Rabbi of Military Command and Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Air Force. He earned a Master’s degree with honors from the Hebrew University School of Law, and was deputy mayor of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War when the city was liberated. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he volunteered and was chaplain of the brigade that crossed the Suez Canal.
From 1975 to 2011, the Rabbi was Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi of Haifa, in addition to serving as the Head of the Rabbinical Courts of the city. He was Chairman of the Board of the Harry Fischel Institute for Talmudic Research and founder of the Ariel Institute for the training of rabbis and rabbinic judges in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Hakohen’s wife, Dr. Naomi Cohen, is a scholar who gave women’s Torah classes in her home. His sister, the late Tsfia, was the wife of the late Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren.
The Rabbi headed the committee for dialogue between the Chief Rabbinate and the Vatican. Recently, he was also appointed Head of the Committee for Dialogue between Judaism and Islam.
Rabbi Hakohen was a leading figure of Religious Zionism for decades and was a candidate for the position of Chief Rabbi at one period. Although soft-spoken and gentle in manner, he fought strongly for his principles. He was vehemently against the “Disengagement” from the Katif Bloc*, saying that it was an unforgivable act because of its cruelty to the Jews living there, the dragging of Israelis from synagogues which led to the destruction of those holy places of worship – and this, he said, was in addition to the prohibition against relinquishing sovereignty over any of the Land of Israel.
[* See here for a post about the Disengagement].
As an aside with a British connection, Rav She’ar Yashuv fought in the defence of the Old City together with an unlikely comrade: Esther Cailingold, a British, Orthodox Jewish girl who was killed in the fighting. Her story is commemorated by her brother Asher Cailingold in his book An Unlikely Heroine. My mother’s Emunah group was named after Esther Hy’d.
Rav She’ar Yashuv HoCohen will be very sadly missed as a religious leading light, Rabbinic innovator, interfaith activist, the last living connection to the great Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook ztz”l, founder of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem and the national religious movement.
In an eerie coincidence (or maybe it is no coincidence at all) Rabbi She’ar Yashuv HaCohen’s death occured on 3rd Elul, the same date as the yahrzeit of Rav Kook ztz”l himself.
The levaya of Rav She’ar Yashuv will be taking place shortly, starting from his home in Haifa and continuing to Har Hazeitim (the Mt. of Olives) in Jerusalem where he will be laid to rest.