Many thousands attended the funeral Sunday for a prominent ultra-Orthodox Rabbi in central Israel.
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky (94), was one of the most prominent scholars in the country’s religious communities. He died Friday. Born in Pinsk (Belarus), he moved to British-ruled Palestine when he was a child. He was revered by many Jews and was one of few leaders remaining of the ultra-Orthodox Israeli community born before the Holocaust.
The city of Bnei Brak was where the rabbi, a predominantly ultra-Orthodox one, was laid to rest. It is located near Tel Aviv. According to Israeli media, more than 350,000 people attended his funeral procession from his house to a nearby graveyard.
For several hours, police closed highways in Israel’s Tel Aviv area. Other main roads were also shut down. Authorities advised the public to avoid driving into the area in cars. According to the Communications Ministry, there would be a disruption in the cellular network due to heavy traffic. It advised people to make only essential calls.
Aerial footage showed huge crowds of mourners filling Bnei Brak’s narrow streets, which ran blocks around the house of the deceased rabbi.
About 12% of Israel’s 9.4million people are ultra-Orthodox. They follow a strict interpretation of Judaism with a strong emphasis on Torah study and the observances of tradition. Kanievsky and other prominent rabbis play an important role in community life. They act as arbiters in all matters.
Funerals are a central part of traditional Jewish life. Many mourners attend the funerals of important rabbis.
Kanievsky, despite not holding an official position in the non-Hassidic ultraOrthodox world, was considered a significant luminary. When he advised his followers that closing religious seminaries was worse than the virus, Kanievsky became a public figure. Later, he retracted his claims. Infected were raging in densely populated Bnei Brak.
Kanievsky’s passing was covered in almost every newspaper in the country, including liberal Haaretz and ultra-Orthodox dailies such as Yated Neeman.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet stated at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting that Kanievsky’s death was “a great tragedy for the Jewish people.”