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Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, preeminent Haredi leader in Israel, dies at 100

He led the famed Ponevezh Yeshiva and was a spiritual leader of the United Torah Judaism party

This article originally appeared on Haaretz, and was reprinted here with permission. Sign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community in Israel, died on Tuesday at the age of 100.

He was hospitalized during the holiday of Shavuot after falling ill, and after his condition had recently deteriorated, doctors pronounced his death.

Rabbi Edelstein was the head of the Ponevezh Yeshiva and spiritual leader of the non-Hasidic Degel Hatorah faction within the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party.

He became the sole leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community, following the death of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in March last year. Edelstein was marked as Kanievsky’s successor in 2017.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Edelstein took a strict and cautious approach and ordered the ultra-Orthodox public to comply with the government-ordered health regulations, in contrast to his predecessor. Kanievsky had told Haredi learning institutions to continue normal activities, ostensibly disregarding the health guidelines. The tensions came to a head, with Edelstein going as far as ordering the editors of a top ultra-Orthodox daily to not publish a letter Kanievsky wrote instructing yeshivas to open.

Several political leaders publically mourned Edelstein on Tuesday following the announcement of his death. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “the people of Israel have lost a wise man and great leader.” Netanyahu continued: “Rabbi Edelstein was surrounded with the love of Israel for all people. His sensitive attention to the challenges of the generation led him to lead, strengthen and encourage.”

President Isaac Herzog also gave his condolences in a post on social media, writing that Edelstein was “a spiritual leader of enormous stature whose greatness in Torah and reverence influenced our generation and will influence future generations.”

Edelstein’s funeral will be held in the central Israeli city Bnei Brak at 3.30 P.M., and attendance is expected to be in the hundreds of thousands.

Some 2,000 police officers will also be present at the funeral serving as crowd control during the procession, as many roads and intersections will be closed to traffic.

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