World-famed Rabbi of Belz Dies in Israel at Age of 78

Rabbi Aron Rokeach, the world-famous Rabbi of Belz, died early this morning from the effects of a hemmorhage as hundreds of his disciples maintained vigil in the crowded corridors and outside the Shaarez Zedek hospital. He was 78.

He was laid to rest this afternoon in Jerusalem’s Har Menuhot cemetery overlooking the Judean hills. Har Menuhot cemetery has been considered Israel’s most sanctified burial grounds since the Mount Olives cemetery in old Jerusalem was seized by the Jordan Arab Legion in the War of Independence. It remains one of the Jewish sacred places under Jordanian control.

The Rabbi of Belz came to Israel in 1943 from Nazi-occupied Poland after protracted negotiations between the Nazis and the Joint Distribution Committee and other Jewish organizations for his release. A substantial sum was paid to the Nazis for the rabbi’s freedom.

He reportedly had 50, 000 followers in pre-Hitler Poland and an estimated 10, 000 in Israel, as well as disciples in most orthodox Jewish communities throughout the world. Some 200 of his American followers annually flew to Israel in chartered planes to worship with him during the High Holy Days.

More than 20, 000 persons took part in the funeral procession, the entire procession of mourners including hundreds of elderly sages, walking the three miles from the Romania quarter in Jerusalem to the cemetery site.

Immediately after Rabbi Rokeach was pronounced dead, his body was removed from the hospital to the nearby Belzer Yeshival from which the funeral procession started.

Augmented by Hassidim brought by special planes from Belgium, Switzerland and England, the group of weeping men, women and children moved steadily through Jerusalem’s western suburbs through roads closed to all other traffic.

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