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On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews gathered for the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox community (haredim), who died on Friday at the age of 94. The funeral took place in the city of Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, where Kanievsky lived: according to some estimates cited by the New York Timesthe presents were between 400 thousand and 750 thousand, in one of the most attended public events in the history of Israel. Crowds occupied the area’s main streets, as well as balconies and rooftops, and there were demonstrations to commemorate the rabbi’s death in other cities across the country.
Kanievsky was born in Belarus in 1928 and was known as “the prince of Torah“: He was considered one of the leading experts in Jewish law and tradition and one of the most influential personalities in Degel HaTorah, the political party representing the Lithuanian community of ultra-Orthodox Jews.
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Kanievsky made headlines because he said that closing schools and canceling the study of the Torah would be “more dangerous” than allowing the virus to spread, only to change his mind and encourage his followers to get vaccinated. . In October 2020, he tested positive for the coronavirus. The causes of his death were not disclosed.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called Kanievsky’s death “a huge loss to the Jewish people.” After the announcement of his death, Bennett had also called an emergency meeting to establish the safety measures to be taken during his funeral, to avoid public order problems and disasters such as the one that occurred in April 2021 during a pilgrimage to Mount Meron. , in northern Israel. On that occasion 45 people died and about 150 were injured during the celebrations of the Lag Ba’omer festival.
Kanievsky’s funeral was manned by about 3 thousand law enforcement officers, who have closed several highways both around Tel Aviv and in other areas of the center of the country to avoid traffic jams and long queues. On Sunday, the first day of the week for Jews, hundreds of schools also remained closed in Israel.
ככה זה נראה מזוית אחרת של בית הקברות pic.twitter.com/trEFmLMGx7
– Bar Peleg (@bar_peleg) March 20, 2022
– Read also: Why Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jews do not follow coronavirus regulations