Wednesday, 1 February, 2023

Spiritual leader of Israel ultra-Orthodox party dies aged 94

Spiritual leader of Israel ultra-Orthodox party dies aged 94

The spiritual leader of the largest ultra-Orthodox Jewish party within Israel's ruling coalition, Rabbi Shimon Baadani, died Wednesday at the age of 94, his Shas party announced.

A statement from Shas said it was "shocked, pained and devastated over the ascent in a whirlwind to heaven" of Baadani.

The rabbi headed the Council of Torah Sages, the highest body in Shas which joined the newly formed government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month.

In a statement, Netanyahu described Baadani as a "great scholar and spiritual leader".

Ultra-Orthodox parties were key to the right-wing premier securing a 61-seat majority in parliament, with Shas handing the coalition its 11 seats.

Shas chairman and Israel's interior minister, Aryeh Deri, said "darkness has descended on our world" following Baadani's death.

"Woe is the ship that has lost its captain," Deri wrote on Twitter.

President Isaac Herzog tweeted Baadani's death was a "huge loss to the world of Torah".

Baadani played an influential role in the life of Israel's Sephardic Jews and lived in Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox city near Tel Aviv.

Police announced road closures in Bnei Brak ahead of his funeral later Wednesday, which is expected to draw thousands of mourners.

Born in 1928 in what was British-ruled Palestine, Baadani was one of the first rabbis named to the Shas council when it was formed in 1984.

In 2014, his 17-year-old grandson was killed in a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem.

Baadani took over as leader of the Council of Torah Sages in August, following the death of his predecessor Shalom Cohen aged 91.