RAVITZKY, AVIEZER (1945– ), Israeli philosopher and professor. Born in Jerusalem, Ravitzky was raised in a religious-Zionist family and in his youth led the Bnei Akiva youth movement in Tel Aviv. As a graduate student in Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University he headed the university's student union. His Ph.D. dissertation dealt with the early commentators on Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed, a subject of his continued scholarly interest. In 1980 he joined the faculty of the department of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, eventually becoming department chairman and head of the Institute of Jewish Studies. Ravitzky was an active member of the Israel Council for Higher Education, and from 1995 served as a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, where he headed research projects dealing with religion and state, the subject of some of his own publications. Ravitzky also served on the National Committee for Bio-Ethics. In 2001 he was awarded the Israel Prize for Jewish Thought.
His research has led to new ways of understanding Jewish philosophy in the Middle Ages and 20th-century Jewish thought. Ravitzky's medieval studies cast new light on *Maimonides and Ḥasdai *Crescas, and showed how a continuous Maimonidean–Ibn *Tibbon school of thought shaped Jewish philosophy in subsequent generations, thereby influencing research into the esoteric doctrines found in the manuscripts of Maimonides' early followers and commentators. Ravitzky's work also provided a new conceptual framework for understanding Jewish political philosophy, clarifying the ideological tensions relating to messianism and the Land of Israel. His research investigating the roots of contemporary Orthodox theological responses to nationalist movements, presented these diverse perspectives in an overall conceptual model, and thereby led to new ways of understanding religious thought and its relation to modernity, Zionism, and the State of Israel. Many of Ravitzky's publications focus on the connection between classical Jewish thought and existential issues, including war and peace, exile and redemption, religion and state.
Ravitzky rejected the increasingly rightwing orientation of the national-religious movement and its emphasis on settlement activity, in favor of an ideology balancing these values with the sanctity of life and the search for peace. From the early 1970s he was a founder and leader of the religious peace movements in Israel.
Among Ravitzky's books are Messianism, Zionism and Jewish Religious Radicalism (1996); History and Faith: Studies in Jewish Philosophy (1996); The Land of Israel in Jewish Thought (Heb., 3 vols., 1990, 1998, 2005), Religion and State in Jewish Thought (Heb., 2 vols., 1998, 2005; Eng., 2000); and Argument on Faith and Philosophy with Yeshayahu Leibowitz (Heb., 2006).
[Raphael Jospe (2nd ed.)]