Rabbi Avihai Rontski.
(photo credit: ALONNARDI / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Former IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen (Res.) Avichai Rontzki passed away on Sunday morning after a long illness aged 66.
His funeral, attended by hundreds of people, was held at the Itamar yeshiva, which he founded in 1998. He was buried in the settlement’s cemetery on Sunday evening.
Rontzki, who was born into a secular family, became a senior figure in the National Religious sector, and was an active and dynamic personality who established yeshivas, a settlement and rose through the ranks of the IDF.
He served in an elite IDF unit for his compulsory military service, and in the Paratroopers Brigade, became an officer and served as a company commander on the southern front with Egypt during the Yom Kippur war in 1973.
Rontzki became religious while serving in the army and went on to study in the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, helped establish a yeshiva in the Eilon Moreh settlement, was amongst the founders of the Itamar settlement in 1984, and served for some years as its municipal chief rabbi.
In 2006, he was appointed IDF chief rabbi, a position that he filled until 2010. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, and following a long battle with the illness, died on Sunday.
Tributes poured in for the rabbi from around the National Religious community and beyond, with the president, Knesset speaker and numerous National Religious leaders including Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who praised him for his public service.
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President Reuven Rivlin paid tribute to the rabbi, describing him as a perfect example of a warrior-scholar, and someone who bravely and fiercely led his soldiers into combat.
“His dignified conduct went hand in hand with his works throughout the years, in every position he held, through respect for the State of Israel, and deep faith and commitment to the Jewish people,” said Rivlin.
“Rabbi Rontzki, the fighter and the beloved, is no longer,” wrote Bennett on his Facebook page.
The Bayit Yehudi chairman said that Rontzki exemplified the concept of loving others and treating all people with warmth and care, described the rabbi as one of his personal teachers and guides, underlined his service in an elite unit during the Yom Kippur war, and said that his loss was already felt.
Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein described Rontzki as a brave and a pioneering personality in all of his endeavors, saying that he fought his illness bravely while continuing to teach and do until the end.
“He and his legacy, which he bequeathed to thousands of students, will continue to accompany us and his teachings will be spread wide,” said Edelstein.
Rontzki is survived by his wife, six children and his grandchildren.
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