The biggest event in Israel's history?

Israeli analytics company casts doubt on police estimates of crowd at Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s funeral in Jerusalem.

By
October 9, 2013 19:15
2 minute read.
Hundreds of thousands turn out for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's funeral in Jerusalem, October 7, 2013.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef funeral 370. (photo credit: Koby Gideon/GPO)

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.

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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 funeral.

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 men.

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 limits.

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 Aviv.

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 communicate.

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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