Thirteen years ago, Tanenbaum recognized Rabbi Menachem Froman as a Peacemaker in Action. Today, we remember him for his visionary leadership and unique contributions to the cause of peace in the Middle East.
When we came to know him, Rabbi Froman had already gained a reputation as a maverick settler and a pursuer of peace. He moved to Tekoa in the West Bank as founding member of the Gush Emunim movement, but soon began advocating for dialogue and neighborly coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. His powerful belief in the Holy Land as a place of peace for all manifested itself in actions at many levels. On the large scale, Rabbi Froman was known for his high-profile meetings and relationships with Palestinian leaders. On the small scale, he constantly reached out to nearby Palestinian communities, many of which have been victims of violence and vandalism at the hands of other settlers. In just one example, he and other Orthodox rabbis offered condolences and boxfuls of new Qur’ans to a mosque damaged by arsonists in 2010.
Over the years, Rabbi Froman built controversial friendships and working relationships where others dared not–including friendships with Palestinian leaders Yasser Arafat, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and Mahmoud Abbas. He did not hesitate to take unusual positions in the name of reconciliation, including a willingness to live under a Palestinian state and a vision of Jerusalem as a “capital of peace” for all religions, unbound by territorial sovereignty. Despite his unconventional views, he also worked closely with Israeli leadership, from Shimon Peres to Benjamin Netanyahu, and had a devoted following in Tekoa and beyond.
Rabbi Froman transcended politics by connecting with all sides on a spiritual level, seeking common ground in a shared faith in God. He told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “Ahmed Yassin once told me: You and I could make peace in hamsa dakika − five minutes. How so? Because we are both believers.” He was instrumental in organizing a group of such believers for the 2002 Alexandria Summit, which gathered Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders to produce the “First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious Leaders of the Holy Land.” Indeed, throughout his many decades of building peace, he always believed that the religious element must play a central role in the process.
On March 4, 2013, Rabbi Menachem Froman lost a long battle with cancer. He leaves behind his wife Hadassah, 10 children, and a community of students, followers, and peacemakers of all religions. Tanenbaum is fortunate to know his son, Shivi, who is carrying on his father’s work into the next generation—one that may help realize Rabbi Froman’s vision for a peaceful Holy Land for Arabs, Israelis, and all people.
Joyce S. Dubensky John Hart
CEO Board Chair