rabbi’s funeral - Michal Fattal - 31072011
Mourners at the rabbi’s funeral on the Mount of Olives on Friday. Photo by Michal Fattal
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Thousands of people attended the funeral on Friday of Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira, who was stabbed to death Thursday night near his Be'er Sheva home while meeting with followers. Police arrested a suspect in the stabbing, who has been identified as Asher Dahan, 42, of the ultra-Orthodox city of Elad.

Dahan allegedly confessed during questioning by police. He said he assaulted the rabbi because Abuhatzeira had failed to solve his marital problems, and said no one else knew of his intentions. Dahan's attorney said his client did not intend to kill Abuhatzeira.

On Friday, the Be'er Sheva Magistrate's Court ordered Dahan undergo a psychiatric evaluation and extended his remand for two weeks.

Friday's funeral procession set out from Be'er Sheva to the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem's Mea She'arim neighborhood, where Abuhatzeira was eulogized. He was interred in the early afternoon in Jerusalem's Mount of Olives cemetery, in a plot next to his father.

Shortly after midnight on Thursday, police received a report of the stabbing. A Magen David Adom emergency medical team arrived first and rushed Abuhatzeira to Soroka Medical Center, where he died of his injuries.

Members of the rabbi's circle reported that Dahan visited Abuhatzeira frequently to receive blessings and advice. Witnesses said that Dahan entered Abuhatzeira's office carrying a knife and stabbed him several times in the chest. "We don't know what [Dahan] was thinking," one witness said.

Abuhatzeira, 70, was considered one of the greatest kabbalists in the world. When word of his death spread, hundreds of people gathered outside his home, weeping.

Interior Minister and Shas chairman Eli Yishai arrived at the scene to express his sorrow. "This is a great loss. We are all shocked," Yishai said.

"The rabbi was a righteous person. This is a great loss," said Be'er Sheva councillor Yaakov Ohayon. "We are shocked. The Jewish people have lost one of their supporting pillars. The rabbi was murdered while he was giving advice and guidance to people in need of his help. He has thousands of followers and he is one of the greatest rabbis in the world," he added.

Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira was a grandson of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira. The latter was known as the Baba Sali, who was revered by his followers as a miracle worker.

Many of Rabbi Elazar's followers considered him the successor of the Baba Sali, even though he had his own rabbinical court in Be'er Sheva rather than in Sderot, where the Baba Sali was based.