Minister of Religious Services David Azoulay passed away on Tuesday at the age of 64. Azoulay, who served as a member of the Knesset from 1996 to March this year, has been battling cancer recently.
According to the Government Secretariat his funeral will take place at 11:00pm Tuesday in the Sanhedria cemetery in Jerusalem.
"I am crying for my dear friend, my beloved, my partner for decades, who has now passed away after enduring horrible pain at the age of 64. Rabbi David, the honest, modest, merciful man, the man of action, a true tzaddik, died and left his family, the family of Shas and the people of Israel, hurt and lacking. may his memory be a blessing," Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) said.
Azoulay was born in 1954 in the city of Meknes, Morocco. When he was 9 years-old he immigrated with his family to Israel. After graduating from a yeshiva high school, he enlisted in the IDF and served as a combat medic.
After he was discharged, the minister studied at a teachers' seminar and was worked in education until 1993.
At the same time, Azoulay served as a council member in Acre between 1978 and 1993. Among other things, he was in charge of social services in the municipality of Acre and was a member of the local community centers' management team.
Azoulay served on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior as deputy head of the Nahal Iron Regional Council and later as head of the Council. The minister was also a member of the appointed committee of the Kiryat Ata Religious Council and a member of the appointed council in Hatzerot Yesef, which was established north of Acre for the use of Ethiopian immigrants.
In 1996, Azoulay was elected to the Knesset for the first time as a member of Shas.
For almost 22 years he served in a long line of positions, including Chairman of the Internal Affairs and Environment Internal Affairs in the 15th and 18th Knesset, Chairman of the Internal Security Subcommittee, the chairman of the Special Knesset Committee for Public Inquiries, the Ethics Committee and others.
When he worked at the Internal Affair Committee Azoulay was especially devoted to the issue of convicts rights, and used to visit prisons often.
In Azoulay’s 20 years in the Knesset he filed 780 bills, and was a member of the Lobby for Children and Youth at Risk, the Lobby for Closing the Social Gaps, the Lobby for Strengthening the Jewish People, the Lobby for the Promotion of a Solution for the Israeli Arab Conflict, the Environmental-Social Lobby and more.
In Ariel Sharon's government, which was formed in 2001, Azoulay was Deputy Minister of the Interior and since May 2015 he has served as Minister of Religious Services. In March 2018 Azoulay resigned from the Knesset due to his illness, but continued to serve as a minister.
The minister lived in Acre for decades. Two years ago he moved to Kiryat Shmuel, a neighborhood located in the Krayot area. He left behind a wife and four children, one of whom is MK Yinon Azulay, who replaced his father as a MK on behalf of Shas.
"David was one of the most moving politicians. He was connected to all of Israel's tribes. He was a man from Acre who dealt with the needs of the public all his life. He showed endless devotion to his wonderful family. Recently he has been bravely dealing with his illness, but continued to serve the public as best he can. We will carry his memory in our hearts," President Reuven said Tuesday.
The Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, also said a few words in memory of Azoulay.
"The world of the rabbinate and religious services has lost one of its greatest supporters and admirers. Rabbi Azoulay worked tirelessly and in a unique fashion to preserve the honor of the rabbinate and the Jewish tradition," he said.
“The people of Israel lost a unique man who worked decades for the welfare of the country, quietly and modestly," fellow Shas member, MK Michael Malchieli said.
“On a personal note, I lost my teacher for public service. I had the privilege to be his chief of staff at the Religious Services Ministry, and that’s where I learned what is public devotion," he continued
“He would not rest until any citizen’s complaint was taken cared of in the best way possible. Later when I became MK, he guided me in every step,” concluded Malchieli.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein also eulogized Azoulay. “David and I were both elected for a second term in the Knesset 22 years ago, and since then we have worked for joint causes together. He was a wonderful minister and a devoted MK, more than that—he was a good person with strong values. I will miss him," he said.
Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Jewish Agency told of Azoulay: “He was a model public servant, a pleasant man with a loving personality. It’s a shame to lose him, my condolences to his son MK Yinon Azoulay and to his dear family. May he rest in peace.”