Recently, I learned of the tragic petirah of HaRav Menachem Froman. He was well-known in the press over many years. Ironically, a founder of Gush Emunim, and described with the pejorative title of “settler”, Rav Froman was the driving force behind the city of Tekoa.
Rav Froman was a thinker, who worked outside the box. He had his own controversial views on how to relate to the Palestinian Arabs (and even known terrorists ימח שמם וזכרם) and many if not most like-minded souls who also moved, with מסירות נפש to far-flung corners of our Holy land, disagreed with his approach.
In his own words:
“My premise is that for Jews to live in all of Eretz Yisrael, they have to create a network of life with the Arabs”, says Rav Froman. “In the Holy Land, you can’t make peace without attending to the issue of holiness”.
“Isn’t it only fitting that Jerusalem be the seat of the United Nations’ cultural bodies, human rights organizations, scholarly forums? Isn’t it only proper that Jerusalem be the place where members of all faiths convene to renounce their breeding of prejudice, hostility, and war?”
Rav Froman truly believed that conciliation and peace lay only through the spreading of Kedusha through faith-based meetings and respect for adherents of Islam. If I’m not mistaken, Tekoa doesn’t have one of those security fences surrounding it. He wanted Tekoa and its residents to feel comfortable with their neighbours. When some Jewish crazies attacked a mosque and set fire, he came to the village and brought replacement texts of the Koran as a gesture of regret and respect.
My cousin, Effrat (née Balbin) (that’s how she spells her first name) and her husband Rabbi David Fialkoff are idealists who live in a caravan in Tekoa. The caravan now houses their bevy of children. They are inspiring and selfless people. David is also a big chassid of Rav Steinsaltz and has impeccable midos tovos. On Shabbos, I used to sing Chabad Nigunim especially for David, who participated with Dveykus.
In 2006, I had the Zchus to attend their wedding. It was then that I first laid eyes on Rav Froman. He was one of those people whose eyes were alive, and who had this aura surrounding him. You could just feel his presence. He had such a peaceful and happy demeanour. I remember he sporadically began a dance before the Chuppa with my Uncle Hershel Balter. He personified Ahavas Yisroel and a love for others. I tried to talk to him and engage him on some of his views, and he simply wasn’t interested. He undoubtedly felt that I was attempting to cajole him into a controversial discussion. He wasn’t having a bar of it. We were at a wedding, and he probably sensed that I wasn’t really at the level of having a meaningful conversation on the topic. After all, I was from Melbourne, Australia. What business of mine was there in talking to someone who was an inspiration to the entire community of Tekoa.
You couldn’t help liking him. If he had worn a Rebbishe Spodik he would have fit the part of a Jew who had this burning attraction to another Yid’s Neshoma Elokis, and who was attracted to them like a magnet.
I’m told that Tekoa is in severe grief and mourning. It is very difficult for the to cope with the loss of their inspirational leader. In the picture below, which I took back then, Rav Froman is reading the Kesuba while Rav Shteinsaltz looks on.
I liked the man, lots.
יהי זכרו ברוך