UTJ MK Rabbi Avraham Ravitz Dies

An entire generation of ultra-Orthodox Jews was raised on the stirring speeches of Rabbi Avraham Ravitz, the rabbi-politician who died of a heart ailment at the age of 75. He was a feisty public figure who loved to laugh, even at himself. Thousands accompanied his funeral cortege, which departed from his home in Jerusalem's Bayit Vegan neighborhood. Among the mourners were many public figures, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who studied Torah with Ravitz. Among the others attending were the chairmen of the Likud and Kadima and the speaker of the Knesset.

Rabbi Ravitz is survived by his wife, Avigayil, 12 children, and about 90 grandchildren, many of whom who competed eight years ago as to who would donate a kidney to their grandfather.

Ravitz was born into a Lithuanian family and grew up in Tel Aviv. At 13, he joined the pre-state Lehi underground - the Stern gang, and subsequently served in the Israel Defense Forces, but most of his life was dedicated to the world of Torah study.

Following his rabbinical ordination, he became an early leader and attempted to attract the secular public to religious observance after the Yom Kippur War. He entered politics in the 1980s, first on the municipal level in Jerusalem. He advised Shas in the party's infancy, and was then tapped by the late Rabbi Eliezer Menachem Schach to form the Degel Hatorah party.

He had recently announced that, after 20 years in the Knesset, he would not run for election to the next Knesset on the United Torah Judaism ticket, which he was on.

He left behind a troubled party, but members turned out for his funeral nonetheless.

Following the MK's death, Ravitz's oldest son, Moshe, recalled all of the public struggles in which his father was involved over the years on behalf of the ultra-Orthodox community.

Ravitz delivered his last speech in the Knesset plenum a matter of hours before he collapsed.