Abdullah Nimar Darwish, founder of the organization known as the Islamic Movement in Israel, passed away on Sunday at the age of 69.
Thousands of people, including some Jews, from across the country are expected to attend his funeral which began on Sunday noon in Kafr Qasim.
Sheikh Darwish has been suffering from health issues in recent years, but continued to participate in the Islamic Movement's activities and preach sermons every Friday. On Sunday morning, he finally succumbed to his illness, passing away at the hospital.
The sheikh, who was respected and followed by many, was known for promoting coexistence between the Jewish and Arab people.
His friends in the Islamic Movement mourned his death, saying "it's a very sad day for us. Sheikh Darwish was one of the strongest, bravest men there are. We have lost someone dear to us.
"Despite of all the hardships he endured over recent years due to his health, he kept being his usual self. We never felt that he was weak. He was always strong, and strengthened those around him."
The Islamic movement was established by Darwish in 1971, while he was studying at An-Najah National University in Nablus. He led the movement until 1991.
During the seventies the movement focused in establishing welfare facilities for the Islamic communities. The organization's accomplishments included providing schools with computers, organizing an Islamic soccer league, wedding planning, marriage counseling, erecting daycare centers and more.
In 1996 the movement made a controversial decision, particularly among members of the group, to participate in the Israeli parliamentary elections for the first time in history.
Those opposed to the participation, based in Umm el-Fahm, branched off and were named the "Northern Branch" while the supporters, based in Kfar Qasim, were named the "Southern Branch".
The Southern Branch is considered more moderate, while the Northern Branch is considered more radical and was later banned by the Israeli government in November 2015 due to close ties with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
(Translated & edited by Lior Mor)