Minister Uri Orbach
Minister Uri OrbachFlash 90

The Minister for Senior Citizens, Uri Orbach (Jewish Home), has passed away. He has been seriously ill for several weeks, and his condition took a turn for the worse Sunday evening.

Doctors at Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem were fighting for the minister's life in the last 24 hours.

Orbach, 54, leaves behind his wife, Michal, and four children. He will be laid to rest at 4:30 p.m. in his home town of Modiin.

Orbach announced last month that he intends to devote his time to take urgent care of his health, and said: “In the coming period I am devoting my time to taking care of my health issues in a more intensive manner, so that I can soon return in complete health, God willing, to my work in the Knesset and the government.”

"It is better to take this necessary break at a time in which the Knesset and government are working at half throttle,” he added. “I hope to return soon with renewed strength to public action, and I wish our excellent list success in the general election. With G-d's help, we shall take action and succeed.”

Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett eulogized Orbach on social media.

"My older brother has departed,” he wrote. “Uri, a man of laughter and seriousness, of wisdom and uprightness, of courage and vision. Uri knew how to chisel an ideological path with insistence and charm, industriously but with a wink, with unending self-consciousness and unfading personal charm. Uri knew how to make children happy with his books, make their parents laugh with his witticisms, and bring their elderly parents an honorable old age.”

"He raised generations of young people in the media and showed them that their dream is possible. Generations of religious and secular people learned from him that the connection between them is possible,” Bennett continued.

"He was a man who loved the land and loved people without limits. He loved the People of Israel and they loved him back so much in return. In the cynical, cold world there was no one as beloved as Uri. I will miss him very much.”

"I have lost a real friend today, a friend in times of difficulty and joy, a person to consult with and a person to laugh with. I have lost a friend without whom I would not be here today. I convey my condolences to his wife Michal and the four children. We will continue in Uri's path, and it will be much more difficult and sad without him.”

To no small degree, Bennett owes his current leadership position to Orbach, who enthusiastically supported his bid to join the Jewish Home and become its chairman – after convincing Bennett himself that he was the right man for the job. Orbach voluntarily gave up his position as the head of the party, and insisted that the party hold primaries for the first time ever. He also correctly predicted that the religious Zionist list, which had only three MKs at the time, would obtain a double-digit number of MKs.

Orbach is also well-known in religious Zionist circles for penning an article in a now-defunct settlement magazine, Nekuda, titled “The Best – to the Media.” The caption is based on the time-honored IAF slogan that calls on “The Best” young men to volunteer to become pilots. In it, Orbach called on talented religious Zionists to make careers in the media and thus affect public discourse in Israel. Many did just that, and Israel's media is currently full of young religious-Zionist journalists.