October 31, 1924
Yehuda Amital, the founder of Yeshivat Har Etzion, is born as Yehuda Klein in Oradea, Romania, where he receives a religious education.
In 1944 his family is deported to Auschwitz and killed after the Nazi invasion of Hungary, while Amital is sent to a labor camp. His camp is liberated by the Soviets after eight months. He travels to Bucharest, then Palestine, where he returns to his studies at the Hebron Yeshiva in Jerusalem, joins the Haganah and marries Miriam Meltzer, the daughter of the chief rabbi of Rehovot.
After the June 1967 war, he establishes Yeshivat Har Etzion in Gush Etzion, just inside the West Bank, as a less doctrinaire school than many yeshivas. He and another rabbi, Aharon Lichtenstein, cultivate a variety of viewpoints and position their yeshiva as “built with windows,” open to dissenting opinions.
Long deeply concerned about the divide between secular and religious Jews and the consequences of that schism for the state of Israel, Amital launches the Meimad movement in 1988 as an alternative to the National Religious Party for moderate religious Zionists.
As a public and spiritual leader commanding great respect, Amital is invited by Shimon Peres to serve as a minister without portfolio to improve relations between the religious and secular communities after Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995.
Amital retires from the yeshiva in 2008 and dies in 2010.