Friday, January 30, 2015
President Rivlin's Iraqi family
With thanks: Sami
On his father's side, Israel's President, Reuven Rivlin (pictured), is descended from the Vilna Gaon. His family have been established in Jerusalem since 1809.
However, his father 's first wife was Rahel Ftaya, of a distinguished Baghdadi family.
Rahel was a scholar who studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and collaborated with her husband Yoel, who later became a professor of Islamic Studies at the Hebrew University. She died childless after 13 years of marriage. In her memory, Reuven Rivlin's father Yoel translated the Koran from Arabic into Hebrew.
Rahel was the daughter of Rabbi Yehuda Ftaya, who was born in Baghdad in 1859 and was a disciple of the Ben Ish Hai.
Rabbi Yehuda was a famous kabbalist and saw himself as the reincarnation of Rabbi Yehuda Landau, a great Ashkenazi Halakhist.
It is said that during the Second World War, the Nazis had reached Greece and Rommel was on the borders of Egypt. Israel was caught in the middle. Rabbi Yehuda prayed intensely at Rachel's tomb and went with other kabbalists to the boundaries of the Land of Israel where they read Tiqqunim (rectifications).
Before he died in 1942, he received a sign from Heaven that the Nazis would not enter the Land of Israel.
After the death of his first wife, Yoel married Reuven's mother, also Rahel, who belonged to the Rivlin clan.