Thousands attend funeral for rabbi who died from coronavirus

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Thousands attend funeral for rabbi who died from coronavirus

Shocking scenes as Charedim defy government guidelines to publicly mourn Rabbi Dovid Soloveitchik. Police didn't prevent superspreader event to avoid 'bloodshed'.

Men carry the body of Rabbi Yitzchok Sheiner who died from Covid-19, during his funeral in Jerusalem. Police didn't stop this superspreader event to avoid 'bloodshed'.
Men carry the body of Rabbi Yitzchok Sheiner who died from Covid-19, during his funeral in Jerusalem. Police didn't stop this superspreader event to avoid 'bloodshed'.

Thousands of people defied government guidelines on Sunday by gathering in Jerusalem for the funeral of a major rabbinical figure.

The mass funeral for Rabbi Dovid Soloveitchik came amid simmering tensions over the Charedi sector’s handling of the pandemic. Soloveitchik, the leader of the Brisk yeshiva, who was 99, died of COVID-19.

Israel is currently under lockdown in an effort to bring a high infection rate under control. Yet in a community where protests against the rules have sometimes turned violent and a leading rabbi has openly advised schools to operate illicitly, thousands of people streamed into the streets to pay their respects. Photos and videos from the funerals showed many attendees without masks.

A top Jerusalem police official said authorities were powerless to stop the gatherings, telling Channel 12, “There would certainly have been bloodshed” had police intervened.

Critics of the government said the crowds were evidence that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not have control of the country’s outbreak. Netanyahu has closed the airport and distributed vaccines at a world-record pace but has not aggressively stepped in in the haredi sector.

In one representative example, Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai tweeted a photo of the crowds with the opposition party slogan, “Only Likud can,” emblasoned over it. “Bibi’s closure, as you can see, is a complete failure. It needs to be stopped and re-planned,” he wrote.

Soloveitchik was the latest in a string of major rabbinic leaders in Charedi communities to die after becoming infected with the coronavirus.

Soloveitchik was born in Poland to a non-Chasidic, or Lithuanian, Orthodox family already famed for its many scholars of Torah. His grandfather had headed the Volozhin Yeshiva, the most prestigious non-Hasidic yeshiva in Europe in the 19th century and his father, Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, led the yeshiva in the Polish town of Brisk. Yitzchak Zev’s father, Chaim, had founded the Brisk yeshiva and established the Brisker method of Talmud study known for its intellectual rigor.

Dovid Soloveitchik moved to Mandatory Palestine with his father during World War II where Yitzchak Zev reestablished the Brisk yeshiva. After his father’s death, Dovid Soloveitchik established his own yeshiva, also called the Brisk Yeshiva, in Jerusalem where he remained the head of the yeshiva until his death.

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