Hundreds Othniel and area residents, friends, students and family members accompanied Rabbi Dan Mertzbach, 55, to his final resting place on the Mount of Olives on Friday.
He was survived by a wife, five children and 10 grandchildren. A professional architect, Mertzbach served as a rabbi for Tene Omarim, Shima and Eshkolot.
Mertzbach was traveling to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Chevron for morning prayers when a member of an IDF force, signaling for him to slow down, opened fire and killed him.
An initial IDF investigation found that Mertzbach did not see the soldiers hailing him with flashlights.
Eulogies were given in the Otniel synagogue before the procession began its trek to Jerusalem at 09:45.
One of his sons said “My father so loved the people of Israel and Eretz Israel. He loved all Jews, and always strove for unity, making the efforts himself if need be, even with those he did not agree with.”
“Dad,” he added, “You were always the first to race to do everything holy. Today, when I saw the car in which you were killed, I saw the blood – the warm blood not just of my father, but the father of everyone here.”
Otniel spokesman Yehuda Glick said Rabbi Mertzbach was a man of God 24-hours a day, noting that he served as the rabbi of a number of communities in the area.
Glick called the rabbi the soul of the community, adding that Rabbi Mertzbach planned Otniel’s synagogue, built its beit midrash and brought in many rabbis to teach there. He said many people in the community wept for a father who took many of them under his wing.
The Defense Ministry announced to the National Insurance Institute on Friday that Mertzbach will be recognized as the victim of a “terror event.”
The classification will allow the National Insurance Institute to provide welfare benefits to Mertzbach’s family.
The Defense Ministry generally reserves classifying incidents as terror events for cases in which a terrorist has carried out an attack causing injury or death.
The soldier who fired eight shots at Mertzbach’s vehicle, killing him and injuring two other people, believed his life was in danger, an initial IDF investigation found.