Tens of thousands of people gathered in the capital for the second time in seven
days to remember Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who died last Monday, in a service marking
the end of the seven-day shiva period of mourning.
Large parts of
Jerusalem were closed off Sunday afternoon for the mass gathering in which huge
crowds from the ultra-Orthodox community took to the streets again to honor
Yosef and the legacy of Torah scholarship he left behind.
As many as
100,000 people congregated at the junction of Shmuel Hanavi and Bar-Ilan Streets
in Jerusalem to listen to a series of sermons and exhortations given by numerous
rabbis from a giant tiered stage, including two of the three remaining members
of Shas’s Council of Torah Sages, of which Yosef was president.
police did not give an official estimate for the crowd numbers Sunday night,
following doubts raised last week over the estimate of 750,000 who were said to
have attended Yosef’s funeral procession.
Rabbi Shalom Cohen, the senior
figure on the Shas council, spoke at length about Yosef’s legacy, and took the
opportunity to announce that the Shas leader’s son Rabbi David Yosef would join
The Shas Council of Torah Sages is the ultimate arbiter for
Shas policy and Yosef, as president, had the final say in such
During his speech, Cohen made reference to the political future
of Shas and declared that party chairman MK Arye Deri had been chosen to lead
“The rabbi left behind a strong man: our friend Rabbi Arye
Deri. He trusted him and believed in him and gave him the power to do everything
that needs to be done,” Cohen said.
Rabbi David Yosef himself gave an
impassioned speech and said that he and his brothers would continue in their
“Everyone must unite behind the Council of Torah
Sages in order to continue this path,” he said.
He went on to say that
the “Torah world” and the “yeshiva world” were the most dear things to his
“We will guard the Torah world. We will not allow the decree of
enlistment to happen,” he proclaimed, in reference to government legislation
intended to draft haredi yeshiva students into national service.
extensively praising Deri from the stage, Yosef emphatically emphasized that it
would be the Shas chairman who would be leading the political party into the
“[My] father loved him more than a son, and trusted in him
absolutely. He should merit to continue [my] father’s path,” declared Rabbi
Deri spoke, as well, to honor Yosef during the
Notably, former Sephardi chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar spoke at the
rally. Amar’s relationship with Yosef and his family had been strained in the
months and weeks preceding the rabbi’s death.
Previously very close to
Yosef, Amar was not given the opportunity to deliver a eulogy at the rabbi’s
funeral procession, a slight that aroused the ire of his supporters and those of
Shas MK Eli Yishai, who complained about Amar’s exclusion last week.
grand rabbis of the Belz and Sanz hassidic dynasties delivered speeches from a
stage, as did Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, former Sephardi chief Rabbi
Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron and several others.
Emergency services provided
first aid for several dozen people requiring medical treatment, having fainted
or been otherwise injured in the large crowds.
Yosef was considered to be
one of the foremost arbiters of Jewish law of the generation, and directed
policy for the Shas political party.
Although greatly respected for his
encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish law, the rabbi was often controversial,
publicly denouncing his political enemies in harsh terms and presiding over a
political machine that came to be seen as corrupt and divisive by many people in
the non-haredi population.
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