NAME: Levin, Rabbi Aryeh

LEHI ALIAS: The Father of the Prisoners


DATE OF DEATH: May 26, 1969

Rabbi Aryeh Levin was born on 1885 near Bialystok to his parents Rabbi Binyamin and Ethel. The family was always in dire financial straits, so young Aryeh left his home and wandered from yeshiva to yeshiva until he was accepted at Yeshivat Volozhin. Later he studied in Slutsk and Slonim, where he was known for his scholarship and genius. However, he decided to make aliyah, making his way to Jaffa in 1905, where he met Rabbi A.Y. Kook. The two developed a deep friendship. Aryeh settled in Jerusalem, receiving rabbinical ordination in 5669 and becoming the spiritual director of Talmud Torah Yeshivat Etz Hayim, a position he held for the rest of his life.

On Fridays, he would visit the sick in the hospitals to raise their spirits; he even visited the leper colony, which had never before seen a person from the outside. However, his greatest role was as chaplain of the Jerusalem Central Prison. The authorities wanted Jewish prisoners to have a spiritual advisor, just as members of other faiths had. Since no one wanted this role, Rabbi Kook asked Rabbi Levin, who immediately responded in the affirmative. His dedication to Jewish prisoners made the non-Jewish ones envious. Starting in 5699, as the number of Jewish political prisoners increased, Rabbi Levin began the struggle to separate them from Arab prisoners. Once he succeeded, he sought a separate kosher kitchen.

The prisoners loved their rabbi, who was like a father, loving and supportive. The British and Arab prisoners were envious of the way he held prisoners’ hands and gave them encouragement. The British did not know that the rabbi was also passing letters between the prisoners and their families, as well as free members of the underground. This involved a great amount of risk. The British tried, in bad faith, to replace him, but they failed in this endeavor.

In 5665, Rabbi Levin married Zipporah Hannah, daughter of Rabbi Shapiro of Kovno, and they had seven children, many grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. Rabbi Levin was a righteous and noble man. He spent his whole life taking care of others. In the War of Independence, when Jerusalem was besieged, when Lehi members brought him some food, Rabbi Levin hurriedly shared it with his neighbors. When he learned that they were planning to break into the Old City, he asked that he be brought to pray at the Western Wall. He left an indelible impression on everyone who knew him, particularly on the prisoners from IZL and Lehi.

He passed away on May 26, 1969 and was buried in the Sanehdria Cemetery, alongside his wife.