A steady stream of political leaders and dignitaries – including the president
and prime minister – along with thousands of others, visited the mourning tent
for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in Jerusalem on Tuesday to pay their respects to his
During Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to the late
rabbi’s home in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, one of Yosef’s sons, Rabbi
David Yosef, spoke out somewhat surprisingly on political issues regarding cuts
to yeshiva budgets and ultra-Orthodox enlistment in the army, and spoke of his
father’s opposition to drafting yeshiva students.
David Yosef told
Netanyahu that his father had said to him that he had personally told the prime
minister, “I’ve lost a son, but this is more painful.”
The elder Yosef
was referring to the death of his oldest son, Yaakov, from cancer in April this
Yosef spoke out on several occasions against any mandatory draft of
yeshiva students into the army, although the Shas party has been more flexible
on the issue than their Ashkenazi-haredi counterparts.
“The issue of
enlistment was in his soul. He was greatly pained by it in his last months, more
than his physical pain,” David Yosef told Netanyahu.
“He would say
constantly ,‘What will be with the yeshiva students? What will be with the Torah
world?’” he said. “We implore you from the heart: Do what you can; it depends on
you. You need to try harder.”
Netanyahu said in response, “We are making
efforts to unite the nation, to preserve the Torah world, it is not something
foreign to me.”
Aside from this exchange, the prime minister spoke warmly
of Yosef and his visits to the rabbi.
“I would come here and I would
always feel that I shouldn’t disturb him,” Netanyahu said. “He would make
himself available for me but would always get straight to the
President Shimon Peres, who was close to Yosef, was among the
visitors and embraced his four sons. “It was hard to really know your father. He
loved the Jewish people, a true love, and did not think that we were two peoples
but one nation, and wanted very much to unite us,” said Peres.
people gave him the most beautiful eulogy last night when they came in their
masses to Jerusalem,” he continued in reference to the vast numbers of people
who arrived in the capital for Yosef’s funeral procession.
“He loved the
people and the people loved him.”
Other visitors to Yosef’s family on
Tuesday included Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, former prime minister Ehud Barak,
and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Rabbi of the Western Wall
Shmuel Rabinowitz and Rabbi David Chai Abuhatzeira of Nahariya, a scion of the
renowned family of kabbalists.
Former Sephardi chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar
arrived to give his condolences.
Amar, who was extremely close with
Yosef, angered the rabbi in his last months by supporting a rival candidate for
the Chief Rabbinate instead of supporting his son Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.
Shas source told The Jerusalem Post that relations between the family and Amar
were still strained.
British Ambassador Matthew Gould paid his respects
as well and said in an interview with Ynet that he could still feel the sting
from the slaps to the face given to him by Yosef when they met.
was famed for his manner of greeting people in which he would playfully smack
visitors on the cheek.
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