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ISRAEL

Influential Zionist rabbi Haim Druckman dies at 90


The entrance to Jerusalem's Great Synagogue on Sept. 15, 2020. (Credit: Menachem Kahana/AFP)

Rabbi Haim Druckman, spiritual leader of the religious Zionist movement in Israel, died Sunday aged 90 after contracting COVID-19, a Jerusalem hospital said.

For decades Druckman was the most important figure in the religious Zionist movement, which represents roughly 12 percent of Israel's Jewish population.

"The Hadassah hospital announces with sorrow the death of rabbi Haim Druckman," the facility said in a statement, adding that he had been hospitalized for 10 days. Hadassah had said in a previous statement that Druckman had contracted COVID-19.

The religious school he presided over said he was 90 years old.

Druckman was a mentor to Israeli politician Bezalel Smotrich from the Religious Zionism political bloc, an extreme-right alliance.

Smotrich is set to be finance minister in incoming premier Benjamin Netanyahu's new government.

"The Jewish people have lost one of the spiritual giants of his generation, a just [person], an educator, a man who dedicated his life to the Torah, to the Jewish people and the land of Israel," Smotrich said in a statement.

Netanyahu expressed his condolences to Druckman's family, saying that Israel "has lost a great spiritual leader."

"I have lost a personal friend whom I held in great esteem," he added.

Born in what was then Poland in 1932, Druckman escaped deportation during World War II and in 1944 migrated to Palestine, which was under British mandate.

He was a student of Zvi Yehuda Kook, whose movement founded settlements after Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War. Druckman was considered one of Kook's successors from the 1990s.

He entered politics in 1977 as part of the National Religious Party, allied to Menachem Begin's Likud party, and remained in Israel's parliament, the Knesset, for 14 years.

In 1993, Druckman was wounded when a Palestinian shot at his vehicle, in an attack that killed his driver.

He was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize in 2012 for his contribution to society.

Rabbi Haim Druckman, spiritual leader of the religious Zionist movement in Israel, died Sunday aged 90 after contracting COVID-19, a Jerusalem hospital said.

For decades Druckman was the most important figure in the religious Zionist movement, which represents roughly 12 percent of Israel's Jewish population.

"The Hadassah hospital...