Thousands attended the funeral of Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay (Shas), who succumbed to cancer on Tuesday at the age of 64.

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef praised Azoulay as a great teacher and public servant.

“His greatness was that he would defer to sages and great religious leaders. In all the battles fought by the Chief Rabbinate, he was always on our side like a protective wall,” Yosef said.

Shas leader and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri eulogized his friend and colleague.

“I regret [your passing], David, it was very nice knowing you,” Deri said.

“From the moment I met him – what a true son of the Torah. He never compromised on his principles. People wondered at his quiet ways but didn’t know how active he was. The Religious Affairs Ministry, which was always the focus of controversy, vanished from the news after he took over,” Deri said.

Azoulay was one of the longest-serving Shas lawmakers, first becoming a Knesset member in 1996 and spending nearly 22 years in the Knesset before resigning earlier this year due to his illness. He was considered a diligent parliamentarian and held a number of roles over the years, including chairman of the Knesset Interior Committee, deputy interior minister, and chairman of the Public Complaints Committee. He was appointed religious affairs minister after the 2015 Knesset election and retained that position even after leaving the Knesset.

After his resignation, Azoulay was replaced in Shas by his son, MK Yinon Azoulay, who was Deri’s assistant. Three months ago, Deri took over Azoulay’s ministerial responsibilities, although Azoulay continued to hold the ministerial title until his death.

Azoulay is survived by his wife, four children, and a number of grandchildren.