Central Israel to shut down Sunday as Kanievsky funeral set to draw masses

Police on Saturday said they were expecting many hundreds of thousands of people to come on Sunday to the funeral procession of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in Bnei Brak.

With multitudes converging on the Tel Aviv suburb, major highways were set to be blocked off and heavy traffic congestion was expected throughout central Israel. Police urged the non-attending members of the public to avoid roads if possible.

In light of the expected congestion, numerous schools in central Israel notified students they would be holding studies remotely on Sunday.

Israel Railways also urged the public to avoid unnecessary trips, warning that “extreme crowding” was expected throughout the day.

Approximately 3,000 officers, medics, and soldiers from the IDF Home Front Command were expected to be police at and near the funeral, set to begin at 11 am from the rabbi’ home in Bnei Brak and end at the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city’s Ponevezh community cemetery.

The number of attendees was expected to be similar to or higher than the 2013 funeral of former Sephardic chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, when up to 850,000 people attended. If it surpasses that number, it would become the largest funeral in Israel’s history.

The event was expected to stretch over some 15 hours and many major roads and highways around the Tel Aviv metropolitan area were to be blocked off. Traffic disruptions were expected on Highways 2, 5, and 6 throughout the day.

Highway 4 will be partially closed from 7 a.m., with the blocked section used by police as a bus terminal for those entering and leaving Bnei Brak.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in the northern Israeli city of Safed, on February 26, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Police anticipate that traffic will only return to normal around 8 pm

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said the funeral was “an event the magnitude of which we have not encountered before.”

Tel Aviv Police’s Deputy Superintendent Shlomi Sagi told Channel 12: “Traffic congestion will double or triple. Our main message ahead of tomorrow is — tomorrow the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area will be at a standstill.”

According to the Walla news site, police officials were worried that the event could prove to be very dangerous. In 2015, during the funeral of Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, severe overcrowding led to two people being crushed to death.

The funeral also comes less than a year after the Mount Meron disaster, when 45 people died in a crush during the Lag B’Omer festival, in the worst civilian disaster in Israeli history.

Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai (unmasked) holds a readiness assessment, on March 19, 2022, ahead of the mass funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky. (Israel Police)

During a situation assessment on Saturday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett ordered ministries located in the center of the country to only allow vital workers to come into work.

Kanievsky, who passed away Friday afternoon at age 94, was a hugely influential leader of the non-Hasidic Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community in Israel, with hundreds of thousands of followers, and a scion of rabbinical dynasties known for his elite Talmud study.

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