Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ministers from across the political spectrum offered messages of condolence following the death of Jewish Home Minister Uri Orbach Monday morning.
Orbach, the Pensioner Affairs minister, passed away at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital at the age of 54 after fighting an unspecified blood illness.
“I grieve the passing of Uri Orbach, a minister in the Israeli government, writer, journalist, spiritual man and patriot of the Jewish people,” the prime minister said in a statement Monday.
“Uri charmed his audiences with his intellect and deep wisdom that came from deep within him,” Netanyahu said. “I’ve never met a single person who knew him and didn’t love him.”
Orbach was widely respected and liked throughout the Knesset, even by opponents from across the aisle.
Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, a friend and colleague of Orbach, said at a meeting at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that “Uri was a good man. Uri had a huge Jewish spirit.”
Orbach was the one who brought Bennett into politics, the Jewish Home party leader recalled. “He had civil courage to stand up; even when there were 20 people in the room who thought otherwise, Uri stood up for his views,” Bennett said. “I’m going to miss Uri, my older brother. May he rest in peace.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called Orbach a central figure in Israel’s history in recent decades and said his enormous influence on Israeli society would always remain.
“Orbach succeeded in giving a voice to a large and important group in Israeli society, and was a man who knew well how to integrate a love of the land of Israel and the people of Israel. May he be of blessed memory,” he ended.
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid also expressed his sorrow at the news of Orbach’s passing. “I will miss him and so will many others because he was a good, funny and caring man,” Lapid said during his address at the annual Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv Monday. “He had something that is rare, a unique voice of his own. He thought as only he thought, and made us all think differently,” he continued.
Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich mourned Orbach on her Facebook page, saying: “My friend Uri Orbach passed away and it is sad and painful. It is unjust and maddening that the life of the best of all, the wisest of all, the most honest and most decent of all, the funniest of all — he is the one whose life was cut short, before his time.”
Orbach’s funeral began at 4:30 p.m. Monday in his hometown of Modiin. He is survived by his wife, Michal, and four children.
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