Conventional wisdom and police estimates indicate that the funeral for Rabbi
Ovadia Yosef on Monday night was the largest funeral, if not the most
well-attended event, in the history of Israel.
While police estimated the
crowd at some 850,000, one Israeli company said that may be nearly three times
the real number.
According to Trendit, which makes population analytics
software based on “an advanced technology implementing sophisticated algorithms
and models on cellular network data,” there were 273,000 mourners at the
Tracking the cellular data, the company said on Wednesday it
took the 273,000 figure from the peak of the funeral at 7:30 p.m., an hour and a
half after the funeral procession from the Porat Yosef yeshiva in the capital’s
Geula neighborhood to the Sanhedriya Cemetery began.
The company cites
Central Bureau of Statistics figures to cast doubt on the police estimate,
saying that as of March 2013, the population of Israel is 8,012,000.
Since 49.4 percent are male, and the Jewish population is 6,040,000, the police
estimate would have meant that more than 25% of the Jewish male population was
at the funeral, considering that the overwhelming majority of the attendees were
The company also broke down the place of residence of the cellphone
owners at the event, saying that 46% were Jerusalem residents, 15% were from the
West Bank, 7% from southern Israel, 10% from the Center, 10% from Tel Aviv, 3%
from Haifa and 10% from parts of the Jerusalem District outside the city
Trendit placed the funeral head count slightly below one it gave
to Channel 2 after the so-called “March of the Million” during the 2011 summer
social protests, when the company said 292,000 protesters gathered in Tel
Police typically abstain from giving out official crowd estimates
for protests and other large events.
An official at Israel Police
headquarters in Jerusalem said on Wednesday that the estimates were not official
police calculations, just general estimates they were publishing to the press,
mainly through forums where reporters and the police spokesmen’s department
Monday’s figures were sent to reporters’ cellphones on the
hour, climbing first from 250,000 to 400,000 and finally to 850,000 at the peak
of the funeral.
Police assessed the projected size of the event before
and then on a rolling basis during and after the event reassessed the crowd size
based on a number of parameters including aerial photographs and calculations of
the vehicle traffic entering Jerusalem, which the official said included more
than 1,200 buses that came for the funeral.
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