Rav Ben-Zion Meir Hai Ouziel
(1880 - 1953)
Born in Jerusalem,
Ben-Zion Ouziel was the son of Rav Yosef Raphael Ouziel, who was president
of the Sephardi community's
rabbinical court. At age 20, Rav Ben-Zion Ouziel became a yeshiva teacher.
In 1911, he became a leader of the Sephardi community in Jaffa, working
to raise the status of oriental Jews there. Because of his activity
on behalf of persecuted Jews with the Turkish government, he was exiled
to Damascus during World War I, but was permitted to return before the
arrival of the British army.
In 1921, he was appointed chief rabbi of Salonika for three
years, and returned to become chief rabbi of Tel
Aviv in 1923. He became chief rabbi of Israel in 1939.
A leader of the Jerusalem-born Sephardi community and contemporary
of Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Jaffa, Rabbi
Abraham Isaac Kook, Rav Ouziel worked unceasingly to raise the status
and educational level of Sephardi Jews, while also bringing about better
relations with the Ashkenazi community. His motto was Love, truth
and peace (Zechariah
When he became the [italics] Rishon Le-Zion or Sephardi Chief
Rabbi in 1939, he also became a member of the temporary committee of
Jews in Eretz Yisrael, the Va'ad Leumi [National Council] and was present
at the meeting which founded the Jewish Agency for Israel. During the British Mandate, he was
frequently called upon to represent the Jewish community, impressing
even the staunchest critics with his bearing and dignity.
He helped establish two yeshivot: Mahazikei Torah early in
his career and Sha'ar Zion later. He wrote extensively for various
newspapers and periodicals on religious, community and national
topics, as well as Jewish philosophy.
Two days before his death he dictated his last testament: I
have kept in the forefront of my thoughts . . . to disseminate Torah
among students, to love the Torah . . . [and] Eretz Yisrael. I have
emphasized love for every man and woman of Israel and for the Jewish
people as a whole, love for the Lord God of Israel, the bringing of
peace between every man and woman of Israel . . . to bring genuine
peace into the home of the Jews, into the whole assembly of
Israel . . . and between Israel and its Father in Heaven. He died
Sources: The Pedagogic
Center, The Department for Jewish Zionist Education, The Jewish Agency for
Israel, (c) 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, Director: Dr. Motti Friedman, Webmaster: