Obituary: Zevulun Hammer

Zevulun Hammer, politician: born Haifa 1936; member, Knesset 1969- 98; Minister of Education and Culture 1984-88, 1992-98; member, Committee for Foreign Affairs and Defence 1988-92; married (four children); died Jerusalem 20 January 1998.

Though leader of a religious party which adopted a hawkish stand in the peace talks with the Palestinians, Zevulun Hammer presented a reasonable non-confrontational front which won him universal admiration. A unique term was coined for him: the moderate hawk.

As President Ezer Weizman pointed out, Hammer was never known to raise his voice. Yet for over 20 years he was the undisputed leader of a party noted previously for its acrimonious disputes. Quietly he promoted a social, educational and political revolution.

The first Sabra (native-born) leader of the moderate Mizrachi Zionist religious party, which was transformed into the National Religious Party (NRP), he personified to many the admirable philosophy of the movement: Torah (the Bible) and Labour, with the aim of serving and building the Jewish State. This entailed creating religious kibbutzim, one being the famous British Kibbutz Lavi, in which the London head of Mizrachi, Arieh Handler, played a leading role.

Hammer's father was a humble biblical scholar in the port of Haifa who gave his son his unusual biblical first name: "Zevulun shall dwell by the sea; he shall be a haven for ships". But Zevulun's urgent desire for education led him to leave the city and join the religious youth movement Bnei Akiva, whose Tel Aviv branch he led. Here he met his wife, Menahemia. Later he obtained a Bible degree at the religious-secular Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv.

By joining Nahal, the organisation which allowed army service with work in kibbutzim, Hammer fulfilled a fundamental part of the Mizrachi philosophy. He fought as a signalman in a tank corps in the Sinai Campaign of 1956, and was a reserve sergeant in the Six-Day War.

His devotion and abilities led to his rise in the newly formed National Religious Party. Convinced that it would be a sin to give up any area of Israel, particularly in the West Bank, he became a founder of Gush Emunim, which established major settlements in the West Bank.

After a prolonged and bitter struggle his group in the NRP swung the party away from the moderate Labour Party, with which the Mizrachi had been closely associated since the heroic days of David Ben-Gurion, and joined the right-wing coalitions of their opponents.

Netanyahu had no more loyal or understanding colleague than Zevulun Hammer. Yet, uniquely, nobody spoke of him as an extremist, as they do of Ariel Sharon, the former defence minister, or Benny Begin, the former Prime Minister's son. There was a feeling that Hammer would adopt moderate policies, even in giving up cherished land if there was a real opportunity for lasting peace. His mourners have included left-wingers and Arabs.

Always seeing himself as much an educator as a politician, Hammer took particular pride in providing free education for all. Equally he was proud he had tried constantly and honestly, though not always successfully, to promote equal rights for Arabs, Druse and Bedouin.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Application Developer / Software Developer

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software development compa...

Recruitment Genius: Brand Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you wish to be part of an exciting journey ...

Anna Woodward: Anna Woodward

£25,000: Anna Woodward: My client is a rapidly expanding global company who sp...

Beverley James: Transactions Manager

£30,000: Beverley James: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a person looki...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower