Photo Credit: Yaakov Nahumi / Flash 90
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky at his home in Bnei Brak, July 15, 2021.

Up to a million Israelis are expected to attend the funeral Sunday for the revered leader of Lithuanian Jewry, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, zt”l.

The rabbi passed away on Friday at age 94, in the hour before the start of the Sabbath.

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The funeral for Rabbi Kanievsky, who will be laid to rest at the Ponevezh community cemetery in Bnei Brak, is expected to begin at 11 am.

It is expected that attendance at the funeral will be similar to, or possibly even exceed, that which took place at the 2013 funeral of Israel’s former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who also served as the spiritual leader for the Sephardic Shas party. At least 850,000 Israelis attended that funeral.

The procession will take place through the streets of Bnei Brak, with main roads and routes in the area expected to be shut down.

Police have asked the Israeli public to avoid driving to the Gush Dan region, unless they are heading to the funeral. “This is a national event, one of the biggest the State of Israel will experience,” said Israel’s Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai in a statement. “The aim of Israel Police is to ensure the funeral runs smoothly and that every Israeli wishing to pay respects to the rabbi can do so safely.”

Some 3,000 police officers are set to secure the funeral.

Road closures are expected to affect nearby Ben Gurion International Airport and the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. As of 6 am, Highway 4 is to be partially closed. Traffic will likely be disrupted also on Highway 2, 5 and 6 through Sunday night. The entrance and exit to the city of Bnei Brak is to be blocked, and buses ferrying Israelis to the funeral, in and out of the city, will run from the closed section of Highway 4.

Magen David Adom said its teams are preparing to provide medical cover for the multitudes expected to attend the funeral with hundreds of paramedics, EMTs and first aiders present, as well as dozens of MICU’s, Ambulances, and Medicycles carrying advanced equipment, spread out across the route. Blood Services are also working alongside local hospitals to ensure the blood supplies in the case of any extra need, as well as MDA being prepared for any mass casualty event.

Funeral attendees are reminded to avoid crowding, wear masks and follow the rules for coronavirus.

“Magen David Adom mourns the Torah giant, R’ Chaim Kanievsky zt”l,” said MDA Director General Eli Bin. “The medical cover provided for this funeral is a national event, expected to be one of the largest seen in Israel’s history. MDA’s alert levels will be raised from the early hours of Sunday morning. I call on those participating in the funeral to adhere to the instructions of the emergency services, to avoid crowding and take great care.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.