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ISRAEL: Hanan Porat, leader of Israeli settler movement, dies at 67

October 5, 2011 |  1:10 am

REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- Former Israeli lawmaker Hanan Porat, known for his role in founding the settlement movement, died of cancer Monday at age 67.

Porat served as a member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, for nearly 15 years. He was an ordained rabbi, a teacher and an educator, but the religious Zionist leader was most identified with the settlement movement.

He  believed strongly in the Jewish people’s rights to the biblical Land of Israel and saw the nation's military victories early in its history as a historic opportunity for action. Driven by a fierce sense of mission, Porat became a force behind the move to settle Jews in the newly seized lands.

As a young man, he fought in the Six-Day War of 1967 as a paratrooper. A few months later, Porat would become "the first settler," as described by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar in their book "Lords of the Land" about the history of the settlements, and the founder of a movement that would impact the country, its landscape and policies for decades. 

By the time Porat founded the Gush Emunim movement committed to Jewish settlement in 1974, he had fought in another war, been injured, ordained and bitten by a messianic bug. Despite trademark scruffiness and sandals, the young, charismatic leader became a familiar face in government offices, promoting settlement, charming prime ministers -- and making facts on the ground when charm failed.

Porat was driven by a deep sense of being on a national mission, his neighbor and lifelong friend Yohanan Ben-Yakov told Israel radio. Ben-Yakov said he had known Porat for 65 years; they had been raised in Kfar Etzion, the pre-state Jewish community that fell in 1948 and was resettled after 1967, on Porat’s initiative. 

After Israel and Egypt made peace in 1979, Porat formed a new party, Hathiya, to the right of Likud, and became one of the most prominent religious politicians.  Since retiring from politics more than a decade ago, Porat has dedicated himself to teaching and a range of educational initiatives, although he never stopped being one of the founding fathers of the settlement movement.

“Hanan Porat dedicated his life to building up the Land of Israel, and to educating generations of students about religious Zionism and loving the Land of Israel and the Jewish People,” eulogized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni acknowledged Porat's decades-long public work for Zionism and education and said he will be missed by many members of the public, "those who supported him as well as those who disagreed with his way."

Porat is survived by his wife, Rachel , four children and grandchildren. His funeral was Tuesday in Kfar Etzion, in the West Bank.

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-- Batsheva Sobelman

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