Funeral of ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist leader, 95, draws thousands to Jerusalem

Thousands attended the funeral of Rabbi Yitzhak Tovia Weiss, head of the anti-Zionist group Ida Haredit, in Jerusalem on Sunday, with small skirmishes between mourners and police officers.

Weiss was considered a prominent leader and a hard-line militant known for his tireless efforts to enforce Sabbath restrictions and prevent the recruitment of seminary students into the military.

However, he was supportive of bereaved families who lost loved ones in the military and prevented ultra-Orthodox protests against the state during Memorial Day, according to news website Ynet.

Weiss died Saturday at the age of 95.

The mourners walked from the rabbi’s home in Jerusalem’s Givat Moshe neighborhood through Mea Shearim and Sultan Suleiman Street to the Mount of Olives cemetery, where the burial took place.

The police had prepared for the funeral by closing some of the main roads in the capital, including Haim Bar-Lev Street in both directions and all the streets leading to it, Al-Nafi’im Street, Bab Al-Amoud area, Sultan Suleiman Street, and the streets surrounding the Rockefeller complex. The museum and the part of the Jericho road leading to the Mount of Olives.

Rabbi Yitzhak Tovia Weiss, chief rabbi of the Ida Harit faction, participates in a demonstration outside a construction site in Har Gilo, claiming the construction site desecrates Jewish graves, October 18, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Drivers were asked to use alternate routes and a reinforced police force was sent to the capital to ensure the event was peaceful. Mourners began marching toward the cemetery around 10 a.m., according to Hebrew media.

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By 3pm, most roads had reopened, and most attendees were reportedly beginning to disperse.

Ultra-Orthodox mourners surround the corpse of Rabbi Yitzhak Tovia Weiss during his funeral in Jerusalem, July 31, 2022 (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

According to the Walla news website, there were reports of some limited clashes between mourners and police officers during the day.

Arriving at the rabbi’s home Sunday morning for final coordination with the family before the funeral, two police officers were verbally assaulted, with some shouting “Nazis” and “murderers,” Walla reported.

Ultra-Orthodox men attend the funeral of Rabbi Yitzhak Tovia Weiss in Jerusalem, July 31, 2022 (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

In another incident, a number of mourners encountered police officers who were at the site to help direct traffic, according to the report.

Weiss fell ill earlier this year after an unspecified infection and was discharged from the hospital about a month ago, but his condition has deteriorated in recent days.

He was taken to the hospital at Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center in Jerusalem, where he was put on a ventilator and sedated until his death.

Ultra-Orthodox children watch through a window the funeral procession of prominent rabbi Yitzhak Tovia Weiss in Jerusalem, July 31, 2022 (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

Weiss was a prominent leader among the extremist anti-Zionist and ultra-Orthodox factions. He was born in Slovakia and arrived in Great Britain as part of Kindertransport before the outbreak of World War II. He was a community leader in Antwerp before leading the Eda Haredit Group in 2004.

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Aida Haredit is vehemently opposed to Zionism and its adherents, who number in the tens of thousands, refuse to accept any government funding. It holds great influence through the Badatz kashrut testimony, which is considered the gold standard by many in the ultra-Orthodox world, even among members of rival groups.

Ultra-Orthodox mourners attend the funeral of prominent rabbi Yitzhak Tovia Weiss in Jerusalem, July 31, 2022 (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

The group sparked intense controversy in 2018 when it rescinded its seal of approval from a winery, and demanded that its Ethiopian employees be barred from contacting its wines due to an ostensible suspicion of their Jewishness.

Members of the Aida Haredi community also participated in violent demonstrations against the Israeli army and the state, fighting with the police and blocking roads in protest of the government’s conscription policies.

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