JERUSALEM (JTA) – Thousands of mostly Orthodox Jews from throughout Israel gathered in Jerusalem for the funeral of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, spiritual leader of the national religious movement.
Eliyahu, who served as the Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel from 1983 to 1993, died Monday after being hospitalized at the Shaarey Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem for nearly a year from complications of a heart condition. He was 81.
The rabbi was buried Monday night in Jerusalem.
Eliyahu was born in the Old City of Jerusalem and became a protégé of the Hazon Ish, a highly influential ultra-Orthodox rabbi. In 1960 Eliyahu became the youngest person elected as a religious judge in Israel.
Eliyahu, who served as the chief rabbi of Beersheba for four years, was elected to the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem, a position he held until his death.
As chief rabbi he reached out to secular Israelis, traveling throughout the country to meet with groups of Jews.
He opposed the pullout from Gush Katif, and called on Orthodox Jews not to participate in the removal of Jews from the Gush Katif communities.
"Rabbi Eliyahu was a spiritual leader of the highest order for religious Zionism and a faithful and pious man among our people, who always combined words of Torah, sharp analyses and wise counsel," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the rabbi.