Tens of thousands of mourners marched in Jerusalem on Monday at the funeral of Rabbi Shalom Cohen, the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.
The funeral procession left at 2 p.m. from Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Geula, which Cohen has led for the past eight years, to the Sanhedria cemetery, with a reinforced police presence en route.
“He cared about the nation of Israel all his life… We never heard him say the word ‘I,’” Rabbi Yaakov Cohen said of his late father. “We are all devastated. Who will guide us now? Who will guide our family?
Cohen described his father’s deteriorating health before his passing, but said the family did not expect him to succumb.
“It was unexpected. We thought we would go to the hospital for a few days and then come back. But things took an unnatural turn,” she said, without providing additional information on the cause of death.
Cohen had been in and out of the hospital for the past year and had been hospitalized in recent weeks for a leg infection. His condition has deteriorated in recent days.
Rabbi Moshe Tzadka, who led the Porat Yosef yeshiva alongside Cohen, said at the funeral that once news of Cohen’s deteriorating health broke Saturday night, many joined in prayer for his recovery.
“He was a source of light for others,” he said. “Even on his last day, he was blessed enough to shake the entire world.”
Rabbi Shmuel Betzalel, another leading figure in the prestigious Sephardic yeshiva, said Cohen was his “close friend for the past 50 years” and “lit up the darkness with every step he took,” adding: “He had immense powers of Torah”. , humility and pure fear of heaven within him… his path was a true one.”
Some of the country’s most prominent religious leaders had called on the Haredi public to attend Cohen’s funeral.
Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (known as Rishon LeZion) called on all yeshiva students in the country to attend the funeral, despite it being the summer vacation.
“To honor the Torah, everyone must attend [the funeral for Cohen] who taught Torah to the masses, raised generations of Torah scholars, restored old traditions, and rebuilt Sephardic Judaism from the ashes,” Yosef wrote before the event.
“Together with the people of Israel in Israel and abroad, we mourn and suffer in shock,” Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said after Cohen’s passing.
“Israel has lost a great man, whose teachings, prayers and blessings protected the nation of Israel for decades,” he added.
Earlier Monday, Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri announced Cohen’s death in a statement, referring to the rabbi as “our father, our teacher and our leader.”
Deri compared Cohen’s death to “a ship losing its captain.” The ultra-Orthodox parties have councils of rabbis that guide the general political decisions of the factions.
Cohen was buried next to his wife and near the resting place of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the former Shas spiritual leader who died in 2013.
Cohen was outspoken about politics, often critical of political leaders who opposed his party’s agenda, and was a staunch opponent of conscription for ultra-Orthodox men.
Police reinforcements were sent to the capital before the funeral and were distributed along the route of the funeral procession. A large number of emergency personnel were also present.
During the funeral, police blocked several major streets in Jerusalem, including Yosef Ben Matityahu Street, Malchei Israel Street, Brandes Street, Yirmiyahu Street, Bar-Ilan Street, Shmuel Hanavi Street from Yechezkel Street to Bar-Ilan. Ilan and Levi Eshkol Street between Bar- Ilan Junction and Mishmar Hagvul Street.