Half a million mourners attend the rabbi’s funeral in Israel
The funeral of a revered rabbi in Israel on Sunday drew half a million mourners in traditional ultra-Orthodox garb and turned the streets of a religious Tel Aviv suburb into a billowing sea of black.
The streets of Bnei Brak were packed with men and boys in black suits – one of the largest gatherings in Israel’s history – mourning the death of Belarusian-born Chaim Kanievsky, who died on Friday at the age of 94.
Dozens of police officers divided the huge crowd and formed a phalanx around the van carrying the rabbi’s body as the vehicle crept towards the Bnei Brak cemetery.
“[Kanievsky’s] Death is a great loss for the Jewish people,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wrote on Twitter.
Police estimated the crowd at around half a million people – one of the largest gatherings in Israel’s history.
Kanievsky, who was born in modern-day Belarus, was the de facto head of the so-called Lithuanian branch of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, and his knowledge of Jewish law was so highly regarded that his judgments were believed to require full compliance within his community.
He was known to some followers as “our Master, the Prince of the Torah,” embracing the laws and traditions of the religion. Benjamin Brown, a professor of Jewish thought at the Hebrew University, told AFP that Kanievsky “became an authority figure almost against his own will.”
“I cried when I heard he was dead,” said Shlomo Lugassi, 41, who had previously unsuccessfully tried to push through the crowds to reach the late rabbi’s apartment.
With postal wires