Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu eulogized Rabbi Yehuda Amital upon hearing of his death on Friday.

"Rabbi Amital who also fought in the War of Independence was an example to all of us for his love of Israel," said Netanyahu.  He continued, "A lover of peace, a follower of peace that loved all of humanity and sought to bring them closer to the Torah. May his memory be revered."

Lova Eliav: A personal appreciation

Thousands of mourners attended the funeral of Rabbi Amital, founder and former head of the Har Etzion hesder Yeshiva, at the Har Hamenuchot cemetary in Jerusalem on Friday afternoon. Amital passed away at 85 overnight Thursday.

Rabbi Amital was one of religious Zionism's foremost leaders and educators, whose moderate political approach led him to found the Meimad movement in 1988.

Amital's Har Etzion hesder Yeshiva is the flagship of moderate religious Zionist yeshivas, and draws hundreds of students from abroad yearly.

Amidst hightened tensions in Israeli society following Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in 1995, Amital was appointed as minister without a portfolio, and served in the cabinet until 1996.

President Shimon Peres, who appointed Rabbi Amital a minister in 1995, sent his condolences to the rabbi's family in a statement released Friday.

In the statement Peres said that Rabbi Amital "was a lover of mankind."

"He served as an example for the nation and inspired belief in people as a soldier, as a yeshiva leader, as a minister in the Israeli government and as a statesman," said the president.

"The depth of his philosophy and his honesty made him a great unifier of a divided nation."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak called Rabbi Amital a "groundbreaker" who gave his thousands of students a moral Zionist education and instilled in them a love of Israel and appreciation for army service.

Barak added that Rabbi Amital's Har Etzion hesder Yeshiva was characterized by "openness and tolerance for the different opinions and values of the Israeli people."

Born in Romania, Amital survived the Holocaust in a labor camp and in 1944 arrived in Palestine, where he changed his last name from Klein. He received rabbinical ordination at the Hebron Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and eventually moved to Rehovot to further his studies at the Kletzk Yeshiva.

Amital fought in the Independence War as a member of the Hagana. In the years following, Amital worked at the Rehovot rabbinical court and in the local Yeshivat Hadarom.

After the Six Day War, Amital founded the Har Etzion hesder Yeshiva in Kfar Etzion, from where it eventually moved to Alon Shvut, and served as its head. In 1971 Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein joined Amital as a second Rosh Yeshiva.

Amital officially stepped down as head of the Har Etzion Yeshiva in 2008.

He is survived by his wife Miriam, their five children, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.