Shas Rabbi assumes Biblical proportions in billboard battle

Shas ad suggests connection between spiritual leader of party and Moses.

November 2, 2008 22:15
2 minute read.
rabbi ovadia yosef asking question 298

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 224.8. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

A new political advertisement on Jerusalem billboards quotes from the Bible and equates Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef with Moses. "Who is on the LORD's side? Let him come unto me," reads the top of the advertisement in bold black lettering - the question Moses asks the people of Israel in Exodus 32:26, after having received the 10 Commandments and seeing the golden calf they had made in his absence. An immense picture of a beaming Yosef - bedecked in his trademark sunglasses, turban and gold-embroidered robes - appears immediately beneath the Hebrew text. The bottom of the advertisement concludes, "I believe," followed by the Shas logo. The eminent rabbi, who is also infamous for his intermittently loose tongue and outrageous remarks, has previously sparked an outcry for saying that 6 million Jews perished in the Holocaust because they were reincarnations of sinners, and that godlessness and US support for the Gaza pullout were to blame for Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans three years ago. Meanwhile, in a separate new political advertisement appearing on billboards throughout central Jerusalem on Sunday, Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat is labeled as someone "dangerous" who would divide Jerusalem. The advertisement, which reads, "Caution: Barkat is dangerous for Jerusalem," shows a picture of Barkat next to Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni as a burning red flame cuts through the Western Wall. Barkat, who severed his past association with the ruling Kadima Party over the government's willingness to divide Jerusalem as part of a peace accord with the Palestinians, led a prominent public campaign against any division of the city which endeared him to the city's hawkish traditional and modern Orthodox voters as one. The unsigned anti-Barkat advertisements were put out by far-right activists, according to prominent far-right activist Itamar Ben Gvir. Barkat spokesman Evyatar Elad said that the far-right was carrying out the "incitement campaign" for Barkat's chief rival, MK Meir Porush of the United Torah Judaism Party, and that the far-right would not hesitate to use any "means lies and slander" against him. "We are confident that the public will judge who is behind these things, and to whom to give their trust," he said in a written statement. Porush spokesman Moshe Friedman said that Porush was "not responsible" for such advertisements, or any others that didn't have his name on them. Other anti-Barkat advertisements in the city's Mea Shearim and Geula neighborhoods warn that the secular millionaire is a "danger" for religion, noting that in the past he had sought to enlist yeshiva students for army service. Barkat enjoys the support of more than half of the modern Orthodox voters in the city, according to the latest public opinion polls. In the November 11 mayoral election, Barkat faces off against two other secular rivals - the Russian-Israeli billionaire tycoon Arkadi Gaydamak and the eleventh-hour candidate Dan Biron, of the Green Leaf Party, which supports the legalization of marijuana - in a four-way race which polls say could help boost Porush. The candidates need to garner 40 percent of the vote to win the election outright and avoid a run-off between the two top contenders.

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