JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli government minister Uri Orbach died a month after announcing that he was taking a break from politics to be treated for an unspecified blood illness.
Orbach, a member of the Jewish Home party and the pensioner affairs minister, died Monday at Shaare Tzedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. He was 54. Before entering politics, he was an author of children’s books and a journalist.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement mourning Orbach’s passing called him “a spiritual man and a Jewish patriot.”
“Uri won over all who listened to him with his charm, knowledge and deep wisdom which stemmed from the depths of his soul,” Netanyahu said. “He had a deep sensitivity for every human being, a sensitivity that he brought with him as Senior Citizens Minister and to all his endeavors.”
Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin visited Orbach in the hospital on Sunday night.
Orbach, who was first elected to Knesset in 2009, brought Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett into politics. On Monday, Bennett eulogized Orbach at the annual meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations being held in Jerusalem.
“He had civil courage to stand up even when there were 20 people in the room who thought otherwise,” Bennett said. “I’m going to miss Uri, my older brother. May he rest in peace.”
A special Knesset session was held Monday to memorialize Orbach. His funeral was to be held later in the day.
Orbach is survived by his wife and four children.