David Azoulay, Israel's Religious Services Minister, Dies at 64

The long-time Shas parliamentarian, who served as MK and chair of various Knesset committees, tried to avoid internal politics and was esteemed by party colleagues

Israeli minister David Azoulay.
Marc Israel Sellem

Religious Services Minister David Azoulay died on Tuesday at the age of 64 after battling cancer during the past few years.

In the last year, Azoulay, a veteran Knesset member from the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi Shas party, was hospitalized a number of times, receiving treatment that put his illness into remission. However, his health recently took a turn for the worse when the cancer returned. A married father of four, Azoulay sought to maintain his privacy and that of his family in the course of his illness.

On Monday, Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Dery issued a call from the Azoulay family home in Haifa, for the public to pray for the minister's recovery.

David Azoulay was born in Meknes, Morocco and immigrated to Israel with his family when he was 9 years old. He attended a yeshiva high school and served in the Israel Defense Forces as a combat medic. Between 1978 and 1993, he was a member of the city council of Acre, where he lived at the time. In 1996 Azoulay was elected a member of the Knesset on behalf of Shas. He served in the coming years as chairman of several parliamentary committees and also did a stint as deputy minister of the interior. Recently, however, he resigned from his government duties due to the state of his health, and was replaced in the Knesset by his son Yinon.

Azoulay was viewed among his Shas colleagues as a worker and less as a political figure, preferring over the years to avoid getting caught up in internal party disputes. He was highly regarded by fellow members of Shas, both under the party’s former chairman, Eli Yishai, as well as under Dery’s leadership.