Funeral of Uri Orbach
Funeral of Uri OrbachArutz Sheva

Thousands were in Jerusalem Monday for the funeral of Jewish Home party MK and Minister for Senior Citizens Uri Orbach, who passed away Monday aged 54 after battling a long illness.

Orbach, a former journalist, was known as a popular figure across Israel's often fractious political spectrum, famous for his quick wit and sense of humor.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and the leader of Orbach's Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett, were among many senior government officials to mourn his death earlier today.

The Cabinet held a special session mourning Orbach's passing, at which ministers held a period of silence and paid tribute to his remarkable career.

"After the doctors told you that you don't have much time to live, you asked that at your funeral I eulogize you, but now in the moment of truth I can't find the words," said President Reuven Rivlin. "How much we miss you in these moments."

Rivlin continued "you had the ability to connect, to tie together and to be connected, the ability to love even those who didn't always love your positions, and include even those who didn't always know to include you. Your wife asked that I pray for your healing, oh, how much I prayed."

Netanyahu then took the podium, praising Orbach as an "author, journalist, a man of spirit...and a man of action; that in particular he hid, but it was revealed to me in his last role" in the government.

The prime minister praised Orbach's "special skill" of bringing people close, and his "secret power" of humor. He said he used to call Orbach "the witty minister, but despite his wittiness he didn't have a drop of wickedness," noting he used cynicism as a weapon but one that "didn't kill," but rather defended.

Orbach "was a pioneer in his work, a path finder for many in religious Zionism," said Netanyahu. 

"Your creative head didn't stop working even when your body extinguished," commented Bennett at the podium. 

Bennett added "be at peace my eldest brother, in the name of the children you made happy with your stories, in the name of the parents you made laugh with your wisdom, in the name of the elderly, the religious and the secular who you connected as a life mission. In the name of this land that you loved so much."