Haredi lawmaker Avraham Ravitz dies

Avraham Ravitz, who served 20 years in the Israeli Knesset, has died.

Ravitz, the head of the ultra-Orthodox Degel HaTorah party, died Jan. 25 at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. He had been hospitalized for the past three weeks due to heart problems. He was 75.

Ravitz, an ordained rabbi, had announced recently that he was retiring from politics.

He was a member of the Stern Gang, a group of pre-state freedom fighters, and later served in the Israel Defense Forces. He worked as a yeshiva head before leading the party that represents the Lithuanian haredi, or fervently Orthodox, in Israel’s parliament.

Ravitz served as deputy housing and construction minister, deputy education minister, deputy welfare and social services minister, and chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert saluted his longtime friend in a statement.

“Long before he thought about politics and becoming [a Knesset member], he would find the time to teach me the wisdom of our best talmudic and mishnaic sages and I would eagerly take in his words,” Olmert said. “He was clear, sharp, easy-going, pleasant, a son of the land who lived its life to the fullest and a fighter in its wars. He felt its pain and rejoiced in its goodness.

“Among the haredi public, Avraham was an exceptional figure. He was certainly a student of the wise, perhaps more than many. But his wisdom, great knowledge and expertise in the writings of our sages never led him to be haughty. He was a true friend, faithful to his teachers and rabbis, and to ordinary people he chanced to meet.”

Ravitz’s oldest son donated a kidney to him eight years ago after vying with his siblings for the honor.

Ravitz is survived by his wife, 12 children and 77 grandchildren. — jta