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Thousands of mourners set out from the "Merkaz Harav" Yeshiva in Jerusalem Friday for the funeral of former chief Ashkenazi rabbi Avraham Shapira.

Police closed dozens of streets in the capital to accommodate the procession which wound its way to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem for the rabbi's burial.

Shapira, 96, died on Thursday after being hospitalized since Tuesday due to a deteriorating health condition.

Students at yeshivas and religious schools, both Haredi and Zionist, prayed for the well-being of Shapira, who was also the Chairman of the "Merkaz Harav" Yeshiva.

Rabbi Shapira was seen at Rosh Hashanah services at the "Merkaz Harav" yeshiva, sitting in a wheel chair and breathing from an oxygen tank. At the end of the service he went home and had not been seen since as his health began to deteriorate.

During the Fast of Gedaliah, a day after Rosh Hashanah, thousands prayed for him at the Western Wall.

Along with Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, Rabbi Shapira was the leading adjudicator of Jewish law among members of the religious Zionist movement and tens of thousands of them adhere to his rulings.

During the Oslo accords, Rabbi Shapira ruled that handing over territories, even in the framework of a peace agreement, was against Jewish law.

He also called on soldiers to refuse orders, an instruction that he reiterated many times over the years including during the disengagement from Gaza in 2005.

Shapira was born in Jerusalem and studied at the Etz Haim and Hebron yeshivas. In 1956, at the age of 45, he was sworn is as a judge on the Great Rabbinacal Court in Jerusalem. In 1971, he was appointed head of the court. In 1980 he was elected to the chief rabbi council and three years later, along with Rabbi Eliyahu, he was appointed Chief Rabbi. Shapira's tenure as Chief Rabbi lasted for 10 years, until 1993.

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