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Elazar Shach

(1899 - 2001)

Rabbi Elazer Menachem Man Shach was an Israeli rabbi and scholar who served as dean of the Ponevezh yeshiva in Bnei Brak.

Shach (born January 1, 1899; died November 2, 2001) was born in Lithuania where at the age of 7 he left his parents’ home to study in the greatest yeshivot in Lithuania.

In 1941, he immigrated to Jerusalem, where he taught in several yeshivot until he headed the famous Ponevich Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. He encouraged the formation of the Sephardi ultra religious party Shas before the elections to the 11th Knesset in 1984.

In 1988, Shach formed an additional Ashkenazi ultra-religious party, Degel Hatorah.

A highly controversial figure, Shach openly opposed Zionism and taught that events like the Holocaust occurred because the sins of the Jewish people accumulated and they needed to be punished in order to rectify them. Shach also proclaimed that it is forbidden to serve in the Israeli army and that "it is necessary to die for this." He also often said that for true peace it was "permitted and necessary to compromise on even half of the Land of Israel."

Shach died on November 2, 2001. Approximately 200,000 people attended his funeral. In 2005, Shach was voted the 70th-greatest Israeli of all time in a poll conducted by Israeli daily Yediot Ahronoth.

Sources: Bard, Mitchell G. and Moshe Schwartz. 1001 Facts Everyone Should Know About Israel. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005; Wikipedia