Rabbi Ovadia Yosef returns home after stroke

92-year-old Shas spiritual leader collapsed in synagogue during Shabbat prayers, suffered minor stroke.

January 13, 2013 12:15
2 minute read.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef at Shas campaign launch

Ovadia Yosef Shas campaign launch 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was released from hospital Sunday morning after suffering a mild stroke on Saturday and has been instructed to rest for a number of days.

Yosef, 92, was having trouble operating his left hand while praying in the synagogue at his home in Jerusalem during the Shabbat morning service, and he was taken to Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital for treatment and observation.

Tests revealed that the rabbi had suffered “a very mild stroke,” according to the Hadassah medical director Dr. Yuval Weiss.

Yosef’s illness comes at a bad time for Shas, with the party struggling in all recent polls to improve on its 2009 electoral showing of 11 seats, despite the much-heralded return of former leader Arye Deri to the frontlines of the political party.

Yosef remains a focal rallying point for the Shas movement and its future viability without him and his stature as one of the outstanding Torah scholars of the generation is unclear.

The importance of the rabbi to the movement was emphasizes on Sunday night, with Shas broadcasting a oneminute video containing clips of him performing various religious functions with his followers.

Yosef has acted as the ultimate arbiter of Shas’ political policy throughout the years of the party’s existence.

An often-heard refrain during Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s reign as party chairman over the past 13 years when asked about Shas policy was that the party “would consult with the rabbi” on a given issue.

Back in August, national security adviser Yaakov Amidror visited Yosef at his Har Nof home to discuss Shas’ position on Iran’s nuclear program.

Yishai is a member of the informal nine-minister inner security cabinet of the outgoing government, which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu consulted on crucial issues of national importance.

It was believed that Amidror’s visit was designed to gain support from Yosef, for Netanyahu’s position regarding Iran. Until recently, it was thought that the rabbi was sceptical about a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities and would thus direct Yishai to oppose such a move in the security cabinet.

Coalition chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin confirmed the meeting between Amidror and Yosef at the time, saying “if and when the day comes he [the prime minister] will present the rabbi with all the facts and information.” Joint Shas leader Arye Deri said on Sunday that Netanyahu’s failure to respond to his call Saturday night to sit down and discuss coalition arrangements meant that the prime minister was intent on forming a coalition with the parties of the center-left without Shas.

“Ten days before the elections, the Jewish people have a right to know in which direction our state is headed,” Deri said.

In response to Deri’s comments, Likud-Beytenu said that “the public should remember that Deri joined the Left during the time of the Oslo Accords and therefore anyone who votes Shas is likely to see that party in a coalition with the Left.”

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