Roads closed in south ahead of Druckman funeral; hundreds of police deployed

Spiritual leader of political religious Zionism to be eulogized by Netanyahu, Herzog, Smotrich, chief rabbi and leading religious figures

Rabbi Chaim Druckman during a press conference in Jerusalem on March 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Rabbi Chaim Druckman during a press conference in Jerusalem on March 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Rabbi Chaim Druckman, a leading figure at the conservative end of the religious Zionist movement, is set to be buried on Monday in the south of the country.

The funeral for Druckman, who died a day earlier after contracting the coronavirus at the age of 90, was to be held at 12 p.m. in the southern community of Merkaz Shapira.

Hundreds of police officers and volunteers have been deployed to secure the event, which is expected to be attended by tens of thousands of mourners.

The funeral procession will depart from Merkaz Shapira, where Druckman lived, for the Masuot Yitzhak cemetery.

Druckman’s family asked that the public come to the funeral using the organized shuttles rather than their own vehicles, in an attempt to relieve the expected congestion.

Police said that at the conclusion of eulogies, the public was asked to remain in Merkaz Shapira, where they would be able to watch the burial on specially provided screens, rather than traveling to the cemetery.

Speakers were set to include President Isaac Herzog, incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Moshe Amar and leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party, Bezalel Smotrich.

Benjamin Netanyahu, left, stands next to Rabbi Chaim Druckman. (GPO)

Police requested that mourners not bring small children to the funeral, and said that any vehicles found to be parked illegally will be towed to allow the continued flow of traffic.

A number of roads were closed from Monday morning:

• Route 3 between Hodaya Junction and Be’er Tuvia Junction was closed to general traffic, with entry only permitted to organized shuttles or local residents

• Route 232 southbound, between the Eshkolot junction and the Hodaya junction

• Route 232 northbound from the Givati junction to the Hodaya junction

• Route 3612 toward the south was blocked and only organized shuttles were permitted to drive northwards

• Entrance to Kibbutz Negba was only possible for local residents who could show identification — and only from the southern entrance, on Route 35.

Druckman, a protégé of the influential nationalist Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, was credited with coining the name of Gush Emunim — literally, the Believers’ Bloc — for the nascent settler movement, which was founded in his Merkaz Shapira living room in 1974. The movement eventually shifted the religious Zionism mainstream from the center-left political position it had maintained at the founding of the state to the right, and then to the far right where it stands today.

Druckman was a major power broker in Israeli politics for decades, as a Knesset member, a deputy minister and more recently as the spiritual leader of religious Zionist parties. He also held influential religious posts, serving as dean of the Or Etzion Yeshiva, as head of the network of all seminaries affiliated with the religious Zionist Bnei Akiva movement, and as president of the union of hesder yeshivas, seminaries for men who combine military service with religious study.

Over the years, Druckman butted heads with ultra-Orthodox rabbis over his more liberal views on conversion to Judaism, as well as with state authorities for his at-times subversive stances, particularly his calls for religious soldiers to refuse orders to evict West Bank settlements. He also faced criticism for defending prominent sexual offenders.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: