Rabbi Israel Zeitoun
During his youth, Rabbi Israel was a delicate boy who sought the companionship of Torah scholars because he thirsted for knowledge. The vanities of this world did not interest him at all, and he desired nothing other than to grow in Torah.
Rabbi Israel was a sage who literally absorbed Torah, and he quickly distinguished himself as a great Torah scholar. Every Shabbat evening, he hastened to the house of study where Rabbi Yeshua Bessis and Rabbi Avraham Cohen Itshaki taught Kabbalah and its mysteries. Rabbi Israel put his head in his hands and very attentively drank in the words of his teachers.
He studied the Torah that his teacher Avraham Hadjaj instructed him. A deep affection developed between them, and Rabbi Israel loved him as a father, without reservation. He even took it upon himself to publish his Rav’s book, entitled Saro Shel Avraham.
During the day, Rabbi Israel earned his living as a wax merchant. During that time, he understood the workings of the business world very well, and learned how to avoid the scams of the business world. Years later, when he was presiding over the Rabbinic court of Tunis, that experience helped him in arriving at judicial decisions and to properly carry out his inquiries.
Rabbi Israel was a fair judge. He was upright and honest, with nothing to hide. The Rabbis of Tunis relied on him and named him as head of the Rabbanim. When controversy arose among the Rabbanim, he fled from all disputes as if from a fire. When he himself had opponents, he forgave them, and through the love that he showed them he managed to bring them close to him.
Rabbi Israel maintained a correspondence with Rabbi Shmuel Salant of Jerusalem, with whom he exchanged messages dealing with all aspects of Halachah. He also maintained a correspondence with the Rabbanim of Morocco and Livorno in Italy.
Famous for his merit, his modesty, and his uprightness, he continued to be loved and appreciated even after his death in 5861 (1921) at the age of 80.
His Hilloula is celebrated on Av 18.
May his merit protect us. Amen.