Hanan Porat, a former Knesset member and a driving force behind the Jewish settlement movement in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, died of cancer Monday at his home in Kfar Etzion. He was 67.
Porat is survived by his wife, Rachel, their 11 children and many grandchildren. The details of his funeral have not yet been announced.
Porat grew up in Kfar Etzion, which was destroyed in the 1948 War of Independence. He was among the Israeli soldiers who captured the Old City of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War. As soon as the war was over, Hanan received permission to rebuild Kfar Etzion, which became the first Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
Porat, an ordained rabbi, was a popular teacher of Biblical texts and a prominent ideologue of the Greater Israel movement.
After being elected to the Knesset in 1981, Porat served almost continuously until 1999, save for a hiatus from 1984 to 1988.
In 1994, Kach supporter and Kiryat Arba resident Dr. Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Arab worshipers in the mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron before being killed by worshipers. Porat responded to a reporter who solicited his opinion of the incident, "Happy Purim!" He later said his comments had been taken out of context.
After Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in November 1995, Porat was among the members of the religious Zionist camp who called for a moral reckoning within the movement.
"The message must be that hate between siblings must not lead someone to murder his brother," Porat said. "A Jew murdered another Jew, and from now on we must understand that a civil war must not be allowed to happen in any case. Concerning Rabin, alongside the criticism of many of his actions he deserves respect for his contribution to Israel's establishment."
Last year, Porat told an interviewer that it was time for Israel "to present a political alternative, one without hatred toward Arabs and with no attempts to deport or hurt them." Yet he added that all sides must understand that "this is our home, between the Jordan River and the [Mediterranean] Sea, and in this home there will be no other national entity."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one of many politicians who paid tribute to Porat on Tuesday.
"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," Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office. "His contributions to building up the land, and to its communities, to education and to leading the nation according to Zionist principles, are examples to Israelis.
"I first met Hanan almost 40 years ago and was immediately impressed by his Zionist fervor and his deep commitment to restoring the Jewish people to its land," Netanyahu said. "This fervor did not lessen and accompanied him until his last day. His contributions to institutions, individuals and to educating the younger generation will yet be told."