Half a million mourners attend funeral of rabbi in Israel

The Sunday funeral of a revered rabbi in Israel drew half a million mourners dressed in traditional ultra-Orthodox clothing, turning the streets of a religious suburb of Tel Aviv into a sea of ​​black.

The roads of Bnei Brak were filled with men and boys in black suits – one of the largest gatherings in Israel’s history – mourning Chaim Kanievsky, of Belarusian origin, who died Friday at the age of 94 .

Breaking up the huge crowd, dozens of police formed a phalanx around the van carrying the rabbi’s body as the vehicle drove towards the Bnei Brak cemetery.

“[Kanievsky’s] death is a huge 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, born in what is now Belarus, was the de facto leader of what is commonly known as the Lithuanian branch of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, and his knowledge of Jewish law was so revered that his rulings were said to demand full compliance within his community.

Rabbi Charedi Chaim Kanievsky died at the age of 94 on March 18, 2022.
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Thousands of ultra-<a class=Orthodox Jews escort the body of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky during his mass funeral in Bnei Brak on March 20, 2022.” class=”wp-image-21594427″ data-srcset=”https://nypost.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/03/rabbi-chaim-kanievsky-funeral-03.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=1535 1536w, https://nypost.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/03/rabbi-chaim-kanievsky-funeral-03.jpg?quality=90&strip=all 1024w, https://nypost.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/03/rabbi-chaim-kanievsky-funeral-03.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=512 512w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/>
Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews escort the body of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky during his mass funeral in Bnei Brak on March 20, 2022.
EPA/ABIR SULTAN
Ultra-<a class=Orthodox Jewish men carry the body of prominent Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky.” class=”wp-image-21594434″ data-srcset=”https://nypost.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/03/rabbi-chaim-kanievsky-funeral-01.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=1535 1536w, https://nypost.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/03/rabbi-chaim-kanievsky-funeral-01.jpg?quality=90&strip=all 1024w, https://nypost.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/03/rabbi-chaim-kanievsky-funeral-01.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=512 512w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/>
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men carry the body of prominent Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky.
REUTERS/Avshalom Sassoni
Police estimated the crowd at around half a million people - one of the largest gatherings in Israel's history.
Police estimated the crowd at around half a million people – one of the largest gatherings in Israel’s history.
AP Photo/Oded Balilty
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Kanievsky was one of the most influential scholars in the religious community of Israel.
AP Photo/Oded Balilty
Mourning Orthodox Jews gather around the remains of Haredi Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky before his burial at the Ponevezh Community Cemetery in the town of Bnei Barak near Tel Aviv.
Mourning Orthodox Jews gather around the remains of Haredi Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky before his burial at the Ponevezh Community Cemetery in the town of Bnei Barak near Tel Aviv.
MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls pray during the funeral procession of prominent Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky.
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls pray during the funeral procession of prominent Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky.
REUTERS/Amir Cohen

To some followers he was known as “our master, the prince of the Torah”, understanding the laws and traditions of the religion. Benjamin Brown, professor of Jewish thought at Hebrew University, told AFP that Kanievsky “became an authority figure almost against his will”.

“I cried when I heard he was dead,” said Shlomo Lugassi, 41, who had previously tried unsuccessfully to push his way through the crowds to reach the late rabbi’s apartment.

With pole wires

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