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(photo credit: )
Shas suffered a blow to its election campaign Wednesday when heavy rainfall cut short a major annual rally at Jerusalem's Sacher Park that drew thousands.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef barely managed to bless the crowd and attack the Likud before the downpour forced participants to abandon the park for cover.
Speaking from a megaphone after the sound system was shut down for fear of electrical shortages caused by the heavy rain, Yosef, Shas's spiritual leader, called on the crowd to vote for Shas in the next elections.
"Your real home is in Shas, not the Likud," said Yosef to the crowd of thousands that braved the cloud bursts. Many held plastic chairs over the heads as makeshift umbrellas.
Yosef's attack on the Likud was calculated. Shas's success in the next elections depends on its ability to woo Likud supporters.
With elections slated for November, the rainout was a bad start for the Shas campaign.
The annual address that Yosef gives on the Sukkot holiday, one of two public appearances Yosef makes to the general public, besides his weekly closed-circuit broadcast Torah speeches, is considered a major rally point for the haredi-Sephardi political party. It is also Shas's first major election campaign event.
Recent polls show that if elections were to take place now Shas would not gain any more than its present 11 Knesset seats and might even fall to 9 mandates.
Huge banners that sported the Sachar Park rally declared that Shas was "on the road to victory".
Yechieh Lichtiger, a haredi vocalist whose performance was abruptly stopped just before the arrival of Yosef, praised the crowd for their perseverance.
"They sang along with such emotion as if it were a sunny day," commented Lichtiger.
Besides Yosef, the highlight of the evening was to be the American Chasidic singer Mordechai Ben David.
Facing reports of a failed event, a Shas spokesman released a statement saying that 15,000 people came to the rally despite the rain. The statement said that Yosef insisted to speak in the rain to thousands of people who waited for his address, but electrical engineers insisted that the sound system be turned off so the rabbi would not be electrocuted.
"Even in Shas, microphones get disconnected," the spokesman said, mocking a recent incident in the Likud.