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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rabbi Avraham Shapira dies

Ex Israeli Chief Rabbi Dies

JERUSALEM (AP) — A spiritual leader of Israel's religious Zionist movement, Rabbi Avraham Shapira, has died after a long illness in Jerusalem. He was 94.

Shapira, a chief rabbi in Israel for ten years beginning in 1983, died Thursday after being hospitalized earlier in the week due to deteriorating health. Thousands of his followers had prayed for his well-being in recent days at the Western Wall, the holiest Jewish site in Jerusalem's Old City.

The rabbi of the movement that forms the backbone of Israel's settlement enterprise was most known in Israel for his call on observant soldiers in 2005 to disobey orders to dismantle 21 Jewish settlements during Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip that year.

Many Orthodox Jews oppose any withdrawal from the West Bank or Gaza, considering them part of their God-given Land of Israel. Shapira's call helped foster widespread fervent opposition to the pullout and fears of clashes between settlers with their backers and the security forces.

The "disengagement" from Gaza and four settlements in the northern West Bank was completed with no great violence or casualties in September 2005.

"Before the disengagement he was among those who gave the settlers the feeling that it would not go through, that it wouldn't happen if there was a struggle, that there would be some divine intervention," Yossi Beilin of the dovish Meretz Party told the Yediot Ahronot newspaper. "What he did created a very serious crisis for an entire generation."

Shapira also opposed the first Israeli-Palestinian peace accords in 1993, saying Jewish law forbade Israel from transferring holy land to the Palestinians.

He was a top adjudicator on the Torah and a leader of his movement's Mercaz Harav religious seminary in Jerusalem.

"Rabbi Avraham Shapira was beholden to the Torah," Hanan Porat, a former lawmaker from the movement's National Religious Party, told Israel Radio. "For him there was no separation between questions on the Sabbath ... and questions on society, morality and the Land of Israel of course."

He was to be buried in Jerusalem later Friday. Mourners at the funeral were told not to cry, since expressions of sorrow are forbidden during the seven days of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot.

AP: Ex Israeli Chief Rabbi Dies


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