Israeli government minister Uri Orbach dies at 54

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli government minister Uri Orbach died a month after announcing he was taking a break from politics in order to be treated for an unspecified blood illness.

Orbach, who served as pensioner affairs minister in the current Knesset as a member of the Jewish Home Party, died Monday at the age of 54 in Shaare Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem.


Orbach, an author of children’s books and a journalist before joining politics, is survived by his wife and four children.

“I mourn the passing of Minister Uri Orbach, a writer, a journalist, 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. 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,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited Orbach in the hospital on Sunday night.

Orbach, who was first elected to Knesset in 2009 with the Jewish Home Party, brought Jewish Home Party leader Naftali Bennett into politics. Bennett eulogized Orbach Monday at meeting 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, Uri stood up for his views,” Bennett said. “I’m going to miss Uri, my older brother. May he rest in peace.”

A special Knesset session was held Monday at 3:00 p.m. to memorialize Orbach. His funeral was scheduled for later in the day.