Rabbi Menachem Froman
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Menachem Froman was an Orthodox rabbi, a founder of the settlement movement, and a peacemaker and negotiator with close ties to Palestinian religious leaders.
A native Israeli from the Galilee, Froman was the product of a rabbinical family of the Ger Hasidic sect. He went on to study at the famed Mercaz HaRav Kook yeshiva in Jerusalem. He studied closely with Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the son of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, founder of the yeshiva. The younger Kook’s teachings were extremely influential in shaping the ideology of the national religious movement in Israel, and were particularly important in inspiring the wave of settlement that took place in the West Bank after the 1967 war.
Froman served as paratrooper during the Six Day War and was a founding member of the settler movement, Gush Emunim
He was a founder of the settlement of Tekoa and served as its chief rabbi. Although he was one of the settler “Mayflower generation,” he followed his own path. He was friendly with PLO leader Yasser Arafat, and often related stories of their meetings and displayed gifts that Arafat had presented to him. He also maintained contacts with Hamas leaders, including Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Mahmoud Al-Zahaand. In 2008, Froman met with a journalist who had close ties to Hamas in an effort to find a resolution to conflict that was then building between Hamas-led forces in Gaza and Israel. The Froman–Amayreh Agreement of 2008 gained some noteriety, but was never acknowledged by the Israel government. Operation Cast Lead began in the months following Froman’s controversial attempt at peace.
Froman’s views contained both “right wing” and “left wing” elements. He was staunchly committed to living in biblical Jewish lands, and spoke often of the particularly rich historical background of Tekoa and the surrounding area. While he pursued peace, he was not entirely a dove, and was not a critic of Israeli military actions. He stated that if a two-state solution could be found, he would willingly remain in Tekoa under Palestinian authority.
Froman was known for the spiritual, musical, and kabalistic teachings he conducted in Tekoa in recent years. The Sunday teaching drew a broad range of youth from the West Bank and Israel.
Froman was a deeply charismatic figure. He was interested in theater and performance, and it often seemed that being a performer was an important part of his rabbinical persona. He looked the part — flowing white beard, and an almost wizardly appearance when he wore his white robes and white fur hat. He cultivated close relationships with Israeli musicians and other performers — it wasn’t unusual to find rock-star equivalent players joining in at the Tekoa teachings. He read and cited secular poetry, often including Arabic verse.
Froman was married to an artist, Hadassah Froman, who painted and created pottery in a small studio next to their modest home in Tekoa. They had 10 children, most of whom stayed within the area of Tekoa. Froman had worked closely with his son Shivi (one of the subjects of Holy Land) in recent years, in the hope that Shivi would carry on the rabbi’s work. In 2011-2012, the Fromans were working to establish a settler theatrical troupe in Jerusalem. Froman actively sought out chances to promote peace — he went to several Palestinian villages to make gestures of solidarity after “price-tag” attacks believed to have been perpetrated by extremist Israeli settlers. He broughts Qurans to the the village of Bet Fajr after a price tag attack there. In Qusra, another Palestinian village that was the site of a price-tag incident, he roused the crowd with a call in Arabic of “Allah Akbar.”
Froman died March 3, 2013 after suffering from colo-rectal cancer for more than two years.