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Rabbi Shlomo Chaim HaCohain Aviner (born 1943/5703) is the rosh yeshiva of the Ateret Yerushalayim yeshiva (formerly known as Ateret Cohanim) in Jerusalem and the rabbi of Bet El. He is considered one of the spiritual leaders of the Religious Zionist movement.
Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Ha-Cohain Aviner was born in 1943 in German-occupied Lyon, France. As a youth, he was active there in the religious Zionist youth movement, Bnei Akiva, eventually becoming its National Director. He attended university, where he studied mathematics, physics, and electrical engineering. At the age of 23, infused with the ideal of working the Land of Israel, Rav Aviner made aliyah to Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, in the Beit She’an Valley of the Galil. He then went to learn at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav in Jerusalem, where he met Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, Rosh Yeshiva and son of Israel's first Chief Rabbi, Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook. Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah became his foremost teacher, and he became one of his “Talmidei Muvhak - leading students.” During this time he also served as a soldier in Tzahal - the Israel Defense Forces, participating in the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, earning the rank of Lieutenant. At the direction of his Rabbi, he joined a group that was settling Hebron and learned Torah there. In the year 1971, Rav Aviner became the Rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi in the lower Galil, where he spent half of his day working in the farm. In 1971, he left Lavi to serve as the Rabbi of Moshav Keshet in the Golan Heights. In 1981, he accepted the position of Rav of Beit El (Aleph), in the Binyamin region of the Shomron. Two years later, he also became the Rosh Yeshiva of the new-established Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim (formerly known as Ateret Cohanim). Located in the Old City of Yerushalayim, Rav Aviner’s yeshiva is the closest yeshiva to the Har Ha-Bayit - the Temple Mount. In its more than twenty-year history, Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim has produced rabbis, teachers, educators and officers in Tzahal, while also promoting the building and settling of the city of Jerusalem.
Rav Aviner has become a ubiquitous presence in Israel. He has published hundreds of books and articles, including Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah (talks by Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah), Tal Hermon on the weekly Torah portion and holidays and his multi-volume responsa Shu”t She'eilat Shlomo. His talks and responsa appear monthly in the Yeshiva’s journal, Iturei Cohanim. While his opinions are frequently printed in Israeli newspapers, Rav Aviner also contributes weekly to four parashah sheets, “Ma’aynei Ha-Yeshu’ah,” “Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah” of Machon Meir, "Rosh Yehudi" and "Olam Katan" which are distributed every Shabbat in shuls throughout Israel. He hosts two weekly radio programs, has a video blog (www.video.maale.org.il), teaches weekly classes and gives talks in many different venues. The yeshiva also sends out weekly teachings of Rav Aviner in Hebrew, English, French and Spanish and has an English blog which is updated on a daily basis (www.ravaviner.com). In addition to these scheduled events, Rav Aviner also makes himself available to hundreds of people from all walks of life who come to him with questions via mail, telephone, fax, e-mail, text messages, his radio show and his video blog Q&A.
In the past few years his outspoken views have attracted controversy. In 2005, prior to the forced mass eviction of Jews from Gush Katif as part of Israel unilateral disengagement plan, Aviner took a rabbinical stance that soldiers should not refuse orders to participate with the plan, explaining that the religious issue was the state's responsibility, not the individual's. He continued to publicly oppose the resistance to the eviction plans and in one case he has been accused of taking physical action, including the use of violence against protestors.
Aviner has also been accused of sexual abuse. Some of these accusations were published in Maariv. As a result of the uproar following the publication the newspaper appointed an independent investigator who came to the conclusion that Rabbi Aviner was innocent, though maybe guilty of practicing therapy without the backing of a professional. The expert also said that the Rabbi's intentions were honorable. After that Maariv published a retraction.
In a 2000 visit by Pope John Paul II, it was announced in Bethlehem that the Vatican had always recognized "Palestinian national rights to a homeland". Rabbi Aviner said at the time that the Pope's goal was simply to obtain a foothold in Jerusalem for the Church.
In 2007, in an article about Baruch Marzel's threats over the settler movement, Aviner stated that he felt that the IDF was sincerely evacuating the renewed Homesh settlers and other demonstrators at the site of the abandoned village to protect from future terrorist attacks. Aviner further distinguished between the IDF's responsibility to protect settlements versus its responsibility for protecting demonstrators, saying that the IDF should do whatever is necessary to protect a settlement to keep it intact, including armed forces, but demonstrators may be evacuated if thought necessary where there is a danger to their lives.
In 2009, a booklet drawing on Rabbi Aviner's teachings entitled, Go Fight My Fight: A Daily Study Table for the Soldier and Commander in a Time of War was published especially for Operation Cast Lead. Its existence was revealed by Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli ex-soldiers who accused the Rabbi of encouraging Israeli soldiers to disregard the international laws of war aimed at protecting civilians. Some have interpreted the booklet to advise soldiers that cruelty is sometimes a "good attribute".
In 2012 Rabbi Aviner presented a religious ruling that women in Israel should not run for parliament for reasons of modesty. Other religious authorities, notably Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, immediately rejected the ruling.