Tens of thousands gather again in Jerusalem in remembrance of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

Late rabbi’s son to join Shas Council of Torah Sages, says party won't allow haredi enlistment decree to happen.

Memorial rally for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Memorial rally for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Tens of thousands of people gathered in the capital for the second time in seven days to remember Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who died last Monday, in a service marking the end of the seven-day shiva period of mourning.
Large parts of Jerusalem were closed off Sunday afternoon for the mass gathering in which huge crowds from the ultra-Orthodox community took to the streets again to honor Yosef and the legacy of Torah scholarship he left behind.
As many as 100,000 people congregated at the junction of Shmuel Hanavi and Bar-Ilan Streets in Jerusalem to listen to a series of sermons and exhortations given by numerous rabbis from a giant tiered stage, including two of the three remaining members of Shas’s Council of Torah Sages, of which Yosef was president.
The police did not give an official estimate for the crowd numbers Sunday night, following doubts raised last week over the estimate of 750,000 who were said to have attended Yosef’s funeral procession.
Rabbi Shalom Cohen, the senior figure on the Shas council, spoke at length about Yosef’s legacy, and took the opportunity to announce that the Shas leader’s son Rabbi David Yosef would join the council.
The Shas Council of Torah Sages is the ultimate arbiter for Shas policy and Yosef, as president, had the final say in such matters.
During his speech, Cohen made reference to the political future of Shas and declared that party chairman MK Arye Deri had been chosen to lead the movement.
“The rabbi left behind a strong man: our friend Rabbi Arye Deri. He trusted him and believed in him and gave him the power to do everything that needs to be done,” Cohen said.
Rabbi David Yosef himself gave an impassioned speech and said that he and his brothers would continue in their father’s footsteps.
“Everyone must unite behind the Council of Torah Sages in order to continue this path,” he said.
He went on to say that the “Torah world” and the “yeshiva world” were the most dear things to his father.
“We will guard the Torah world. We will not allow the decree of enlistment to happen,” he proclaimed, in reference to government legislation intended to draft haredi yeshiva students into national service.
By extensively praising Deri from the stage, Yosef emphatically emphasized that it would be the Shas chairman who would be leading the political party into the future.
“[My] father loved him more than a son, and trusted in him absolutely. He should merit to continue [my] father’s path,” declared Rabbi David Yosef.
Deri spoke, as well, to honor Yosef during the gathering.
Notably, former Sephardi chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar spoke at the rally. Amar’s relationship with Yosef and his family had been strained in the months and weeks preceding the rabbi’s death.
Previously very close to Yosef, Amar was not given the opportunity to deliver a eulogy at the rabbi’s funeral procession, a slight that aroused the ire of his supporters and those of Shas MK Eli Yishai, who complained about Amar’s exclusion last week.
The grand rabbis of the Belz and Sanz hassidic dynasties delivered speeches from a stage, as did Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, former Sephardi chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron and several others.
Emergency services provided first aid for several dozen people requiring medical treatment, having fainted or been otherwise injured in the large crowds.
Yosef was considered to be one of the foremost arbiters of Jewish law of the generation, and directed policy for the Shas political party.
Although greatly respected for his encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish law, the rabbi was often controversial, publicly denouncing his political enemies in harsh terms and presiding over a political machine that came to be seen as corrupt and divisive by many people in the non-haredi population.