Thousands of people attended the funeral Sunday of former IDF Chief Rabbi Avichai Rontzki, who was buried in the settlement of Itamar after passing away age 66 following a two-year battle with cancer.
Rontzki, who also headed a yeshiva in the community, is survived by his wife, Ronit, and six children.
Government ministers also attended the procession, including Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, both from the same party.
The incumbent IDF Chief Rabbi Eyal Karim also attended the funeral, along with Bayit Yehudi MKs Shuli Mualem, Moti Yogev and MK Bezalel Smotrich.
Last week, when Rontzki’s doctor said that his days were numbered, he asked to be transferred from the hospital to his home to be with his family. He died at 11:30 am in his bed in Itamar.
His son, Moshe delivered a eulogy at his funeral. “I know that so many here are hurting, are broken and feel that you were a father to them. You were a father who wasn’t often at home, but my experience as a child, even when you were away, you were absorbed in studies for days,” Moshe said.
“I admired you as a great father. A rabbi for students at the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva, a commander and mythological friend for his soldiers. You were so sensitive, you explained to us when we were still children to look at the path on which we are going, to lift up our feet to make sure we don’t step on insects,” he recalled.
“Your home and our home was a home for people who were in need. Sometimes, it was a challenge, but that was who you were. You had a merciful heart for the weak and a father who took care of orphans,” Moshe continued. “You were a man of the people.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also sent his condolences to the Rontzki family “in the name of all citizens of Israel,” and described the rabbi as “a fighter and a wise student, who loved the people of Israel and the land of Israel.”
Bennett issued a statement describing Rabbi Rontzki as “my teacher and my rabbi. There is no way to describe the personal and national loss. The man who symbolized love. Last Thursday I visited him and I was moved by his words about the importance of lighting up every person's face.”