Deri greeted like a rock star at Shas rally in Tel Aviv

The 10,000-strong turnout will likely be the largest political rally to be staged during this election campaign.

Shas rally in Tel-Aviv
Shas chairman Arye Deri was welcomed rapturously by some 10,000 jubilant supporters into the Menora Mivtachim Arena (ex-Nokia Arena) in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night for the party’s election campaign set-piece rally designed to rouse the spirits of the rank and file.
In front of the movement’s MKs and dozens of rabbis and, of course, a gigantic poster of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the late spiritual leader of Shas, Deri played his part to perfection, dancing around the arena floor to haredi rock music like a victorious athlete greeting his fans.
The 12,000-capacity arena was not quite full, but the 10,000-strong turnout was still impressive, and will most likely be the largest political rally during this election season.
The crowd was composed almost exclusively of haredi males, in the main young yeshiva students who were bused in from around the country, with the “invisible” working class Israelis that Shas has reached out to during its election campaign totally absent.
Being a haredi rally, women were not invited to the actual event, but were able to watch at four locales around the country on big screens by live feed, attended by approximately 3,000 women in total, organizers said.
Several of the movements leading rabbis addressed the crowd, including Yosef’s son and current member of the Shas Council of Torah Sages David Yosef, and fellow council member Rabbi Shimon Baadani.
All of them invoked the name of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and called on the assembled loyalists to vote for Shas to preserve his legacy and to preserve the Jewish identity, or its haredi interpretation, of the state.
The name of Eli Yishai, the renegade Shas MK and former party chairman who quit Shas to form his own party, was mentioned derisively on several occasions, each of which was greeted with jeers and whistles and cries of “He’s a traitor.”
Shas has stabilized somewhat in opinion polls, averaging around six or seven Knesset seats, from a low of just four shortly after a damaging video of the elder Yosef was released calling Deri “too independent” and “an evil man.”
Yishai’s Yahad party is nevertheless still taking votes away from Shas, and a series of senior rabbis, including from the Sephardi haredi community, have endorsed Yahad, causing significant concern among the Shas hierarchy.