Hundreds of thousands of people have attended the funeral of a prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbi in a city in central Israel.
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, 94, one of the most influential scholars in the country’s religious community, died on Friday.
One of few remaining leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel born before the Holocaust, Kanievsky was revered by many in the Jewish religious world.
The rabbi was laid to rest at Bnei Brak, the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city near Tel Aviv where he lived. Israeli media estimated that more than 350,000 people attended the funeral procession from his home to a nearby cemetery.
Police closed several roads in the densely populated Tel Aviv area for several hours, while other main routes were expected to be gridlocked.
Aerial footage of the funeral showed enormous throngs of mourners, most dressed in the signature black suits and black hats typical of ultra-Orthodox men, filling Bnei Brak’s narrow streets around the late rabbi’s house.
The insular ultra-Orthodox community makes up about 12 per cent of Israel’s 9.4 million people. They adhere to a stringent interpretation of Judaism, with a focus on Torah study and observance of tradition. Prominent rabbis such as Kanievsky play a significant role in community life.
Although he held no official position, Kanievsky was considered a major luminary in the non-Hassidic ultra-Orthodox world.
He came to public prominence at the start of the coronavirus pandemic when he instructed his followers that closing religious seminaries was more harmful than the virus. Later, he retreated from those claims as infections raged in densely populated Bnei Brak.
Kanievsky’s death was published on the front pages of nearly every newspaper in the country. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said his death was “a great loss to the Jewish people”.