Knesset Member Avraham Ravitz, chairman of the Degel Hatorah party, died Sunday night at the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem.
Ravitz was hospitalized in serious condition about three weeks ago due to heart problems. Some 1,000 people, including Israeli leaders, attended his funeral in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon. Among the mourners were Prime Minister Ehud Olmert,
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni,
Opposition Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu,
Shas Chairman Eli Yishai, and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik.
Ravitz, 75, who lived in Jerusalem, was survived by his wife, 12 children and 77 grandchildren. He served in the Lechi (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel) organization and in the Israel Defense Forces, and was a rabbi and a yeshiva head in his profession.
He served as a member of Knesset on behalf of Degel Hatorah (part of the United Torah Judaism
party), which represents the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox public.
Throughout his career, Ravitz filled a variety of key roles, including deputy housing and construction minister, deputy education minister, deputy welfare and social services minister and chairman of the Knesset's Finance Committee.
At the beginning of the month, Ravitz was rushed to the hospital after losing consciousness. The same day, before he collapsed, the MK managed to deliver a speech to the Knesset.
Olmert and Netanyahu at funeral (Photo: Dudi Vaaknin)
Ravitz's son, Yitzhak, told Ynet after his father was hospitalized that he was suffering from heart problems. "He underwent two operations, one last week and another one today. We pray for his wellbeing," the son said.
One of the operations included an implantation of a pace-maker.
Over the past few years MK Ravitz managed to function without any particular difficulties after undergoing a kidney transplant eight years ago. The kidney was donated to him by his eldest son, Moshe.
Ravitz's kidneys stopped functioning due to an illness he suffered. He began dialysis treatments until his doctors informed him that he would need a kidney transplant. After his wife, Avigail, was deemed an unsuitable donor, the couple's 12 children battled over the right to donate a kidney to their father.
Netanyahu told Ynet about his image of Ravitz: "He was simply a person, a Jew, a life saver. One of the most important leaders of the haredi public – for which he worked devotedly for dozens of years. He was a special combination of Judaism and humanity."
Prime Minister Olmert issued a special mourning statement Monday following Ravitz's death. "We planned to retire from the Knesset together, and even talked about it. From the Knesset yes… from life – no! This man died prematurely," Olmert said.
"Knesset Member Avraham Ravitz was my personal friend for dozens of years. Way before he considered politics and being a member of the Knesset, he would take the time to teach me wise saying from the best Talmud and Mishna scholars, and I would listen to him attentively."
Olmert and Ravitz at Knesset (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The prime minister went on to say that Ravitz "was bright, sharp, practical, warmhearted and pleasant. A man of this country, who lived all the aspects of its life, fought in its wars, felt its pain and was happy with its feelings of grace. Among the haredi public Avraham was an unusual figure. He was a scholar, perhaps more than others.
"However, his sensibleness, his incomparable expertise and his deep knowledge of the Torah never made his heart rise high. He was a friend, a man loyal to his masters, to his Halacha teachers and to simple people he met through the circumstances of his life."
Olmert stressed that "he had an important contribution to our public life, in the thin balance between sticking to the Jewish heritage and tradition without compromises, accompanied by a practical, purposeful sense of a man who knows there is not one absolute truth in public life, but compromises of what is possible and right and desired and beneficial to the people of Israel.
"His extensive and magnificent family, his wife Avigail, his children and many grandchildren, his students (including myself), his numerous friends and his masters who were proud of him – mourn his premature passing. May his soul rest in peace!" the prime minister concluded.
Ravitz recently announced
that he was retiring from politics after 20 years in the Knesset. His replacement in the Israeli parliament is Rabbi Yehoshua Polak, who served as deputy Jerusalem mayor during Uri Lupolianski's tenure.
Ravitz himself spoke of the political crisis in the haredi sector about two weeks ago, and told Ynet he did not rule out a split in the United Torah Judaism party, which is formed by Agudath Israel and Degel Hatorah.