(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Several thousand haredi men and women packed into the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on a hot and humid Thursday in the capital to “greet their rabbis” in massive event organized by the Shas movement and its school network El Hamaayan.
According to the organizers, some 20,000 people were present to listen to the popular musicians and vocalists who performed at the event, but most importantly to see and hear from the leading rabbis of the Shas movement.
In the lead up to the speeches, music from artists such as Shlomo Cohen, Moti Steinmetz, Shuli Rand and others, blared around the stadium, with row upon row of haredi men clad in black suits and white shirts singing along and swaying to the rhythm of the religious beat.
But the main attraction were the rabbis.
Four of the five members of Shas’s Council of Torah Sages, Rabbis Shalom Cohen, Shimon Baadani, David Yosef and Reuven Elbaz, were all in attendance as well as dozens of yeshiva deans, school principals and other rabbis associated with Shas.
People came from all over the country, on the free buses provided by the organizers, to hear the rabbis speak and give addresses about Passover, with groups from Safed, Dimona, Ashkelon and everywhere in between.
One young man, Matanyah, 20, from Be’er Yaakov, said he came to the event to perform the religious obligation of traveling to Jerusalem during the pilgrimage festivals and of greeting one’s rabbis at these times, as well as for the “excitement” and enjoyment of the spectacle.
Another, Yehudah, 21, from Tirat Carmel, said he also came to greet his rabbis, as well as simply to have “something to do” during the holiday.
Alongside the rabbis, Shas party chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri, along with several of MKs, was also present, and addressed the crowd, lauding them for their devotion, especially given the expected rains which did not materialize.
He praised them for their sentiment of “we have pure and simple faith” as opposed to “the heretical secular culture” of other parts of Israeli society.
Deri also took the opportunity to launch a telephone center for registering children in the El Hamaayan educational institutions, turning the hot-line’s number into a melody which was sung by the musical artists and calling it “a holy number.”