Rabbi Ovadia Yosef remains in serious condition on respirator

Family members angry over claims that Amar will succeed rabbi; "Shas will cease to exist after he passes," says source.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Doctors treating Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said Tuesday evening that he remained in serious condition and was receiving medical attention for several problems.
Speaking to the press at 4 p.m., Prof. Ya’acov Naparstek, deputy director of Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, said the 93-year-old Yosef was being given medication for problems with his blood pressure, as well as continuing to receive “mechanical treatment” for kidney function and heart rate.
Yosef is currently sedated and on a respirator.
“This indicates the failure of several systems which need medical assistance. We’re doing everything and hoping for the best,” said Naparstek. “When there is a failure of several systems, in a young man and all the more so for an elderly person, it does pose a life-threatening [situation],” he added, but said that the rabbi’s team of doctors were hoping for the best.
There were reportedly new complications during the day when an infection in the rabbi’s lungs was discovered, despite a slight improvement overnight and in the morning when Yosef was briefly awake.
With Yosef’s medical condition remaining extremely serious, speculation surrounding the fate of the Shas movement and political party has already begun.
On Tuesday, a report in Ma’ariv claimed that associates of former chief rabbi Shlomo Amar had said that Yosef had anointed him his successor.
According to the report, on Saturday night Yosef instructed his daughter-in-law Yehudit to speak to Amar’s wife and tell her that Amar must “help and guide” Yosef’s son and newly installed Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.
“From his point of view, Rabbi Ovadia established the hierarchy in a final manner,” Ma’ariv quoted Amar’s associates as saying.
Although previously close, relations between Yosef and Amar have been extremely strained since the elections for the Chief Rabbinate, in which Amar backed Rabbi Tzion Bo’aron for Sephardi chief rabbi against Yosef’s son Yitzhak. The rejection of Yosef’s authority by Amar was unprecedented, and Yosef subsequently refused to accept what was called an insincere apology by Amar.
But Amar reportedly visited Yosef on Sunday morning and was warmly received by the Shas leader.
Yosef’s family reacted furiously to the claims, told Amar to cease any visits to the hospital, and denied that Yosef had crowned Amar as his successor.
A well-placed source familiar with the Shas party’s activities told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that when Yosef dies, whether in the near or more distant future, the Shas Party as it is currently known will cease to exist after a short amount of time.
“No matter who succeeds Rabbi Ovadia, Shas won’t be the same. This whole thing is done,” said the source. “The power of Rabbi Ovadia is such that when he gave an instruction or decision, no one dared to argue with him. They might have attacked [party chairman Arye] Deri or [former party chairman Eli] Yishai, but never the rabbi.”
The source said that only Amar and Yitzhak Yosef were in a position to inherit Yosef senior’s position as the leader of the movement, but said their authority would be minimal.
“If Rabbi Amar or Rabbi Yitzhak issue an instruction or a decision, who’s really going to pay attention?” he asked. “There is no binding authority there. It will be the end of Shas, and I think Shas leaders understand this.”
He added that both Amar and Yitzhak Yosef have advantages and disadvantages. In particular, Yitzhak Yosef is hampered by the fact that he now holds public office and could not take part in political activity, while Amar is not impeded by such considerations anymore.
But the source said that Yitzhak Yosef is considered to be a greater Torah scholar than Amar, that he has the benefit of being “the son of...” and that the very fact that he now physically wears the robe and hat of the “Rishon Lezion” – as the Sephardi chief rabbi is known – imbues him with a real sense of authority.
In political terms, the source said that were Ovadia Yosef to pass away in the near future, the party would probably survive until the next general elections but would then in all likelihood split into rival factions.
Shas has been riven by internal conflict since Arye Deri was reinstalled as party chairman in October 2012 over the head of the incumbent Eli Yishai.
There have been numerous reports of displeasure with Deri’s leadership of the party ever since, particularly regarding local Shas branches.
Earlier this month, dozens of Shas supporters demonstrated against Deri outside his Jerusalem office for refusing to put a particular candidate on the Shas list for election to the municipal council of Elad, accusing him of making unilateral decisions without consultation.
The source said that although Deri and Yishai would likely be the two focal points of disparate factions, any of the current Shas MKs could stake a claim for political authority when Yosef dies.