Religious Affairs Minister Azoulay dies after battle with cancer
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Religious Affairs Minister Azoulay dies after battle with cancer

Politicians mourn death of Shas member, 64, who resigned from Knesset earlier this year to fight illness

Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay arrives at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem for the weekly cabinet meeting on December 11, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay arrives at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem for the weekly cabinet meeting on December 11, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay died on Tuesday following a months-long battle with cancer.

Azoulay, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, announced in March he would resign from the Knesset yet retain his ministerial post as he underwent medical treatment for the rapidly advancing cancer.

Doctors were called to his home in Haifa earlier this month as his health deteriorated.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, the head of Shas, mourned Azoulay’s death.

“I weep over my dear friend, my beloved, my partner for dozens of years, Rabbi David Azoulay, who right now passed away after much anguish and was only 64,” Deri wrote on Twitter.

“Rabbi David the honest, the humble, a man of kindness [and] action, a truly righteous person, passed away and left his family — the Shas family and the Jewish people — in pain and at a loss,” Deri added.

When he resigned from the Knesset earlier this year, Azoulay was replaced by his son Yinon after several Shas members gave up their places ahead of him on the electoral list so he could take his father’s seat.

There was no immediate confirmation from Shas on whether Yinon Azoulay would remain in the Knesset following his father’s death.

Shas party members David Azoulay and Aryeh Deri at a ceremony in Jerusalem marking the former’s appointment as minister of religious affairs on May 18, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Azoulay was born in Morocco in 1954 and moved to Israel when he was nine years old. He served in the Israel Defense Forces as a combat medic and later worked in education.

He later became a member of the northern city of Acre’s local council before joining the Knesset in 1996 as a member of Shas, for who he would serve as a Knesset member for until resigning earlier this year. Azoulay was appointed minister of religious affairs following the 2015 elections.

The late Shas lawmaker’s funeral will be held at 11:00 p.m. Tuesday night at the Sanhedria Cemetery in Jerusalem, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

A statement from the party described Azoulay as “a kind-hearted man who helped everyone. A man true to his path and blessed with talents who worked in the public sphere for decades, first in the educational system and afterwards in the Knesset and as minister of religious services.”

Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, whose father Rabbi Ovadia Yosef founded Shas and was its long-time spiritual leader, also mourned Azoulay’s death, saying “the world of the rabbinate today lost one of its greatest supporters and admirers.”

Degel HaTorah, one of two parties in the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism faction said it “sorrowfully regretted his passing.”

Shas MK David Azulay at the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 25 2010. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

MK Moshe Gafni, chairman of Degel HaTorah said he lost “a dear personal friend of decades.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mourned “the passing of our dear friend” Azoulay and noted his over two decade career as a member of Knesset and government minister.

“He was an excellent and industrious minister who was nice to everyone and loved and pursued peace,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

President Reuven Rivlin  commended Azoulay for continuing to serve as minister even as he fought the cancer.

“David … faithfully dealt with the needs of the public his whole life, along with his endless devotion to his wonderful family,” Rivlin said in a statement.

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