Political leaders, thousands of followers pay respects to Yosef’s family

One of late rabbi’s sons asks Netanyahu at shiva call to do more to prevent "damage" to Torah world.

netanyahu at yosef shiva 370 (photo credit: GPO)
netanyahu at yosef shiva 370
(photo credit: GPO)
A steady stream of political leaders and dignitaries – including the president and prime minister – along with thousands of others, visited the mourning tent for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in Jerusalem on Tuesday to pay their respects to his family.
During Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to the late rabbi’s home in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, one of Yosef’s sons, Rabbi David Yosef, spoke out somewhat surprisingly on political issues regarding cuts to yeshiva budgets and ultra-Orthodox enlistment in the army, and spoke of his father’s opposition to drafting yeshiva students.
David Yosef told Netanyahu that his father had said to him that he had personally told the prime minister, “I’ve lost a son, but this is more painful.”
The elder Yosef was referring to the death of his oldest son, Yaakov, from cancer in April this year.
Yosef spoke out on several occasions against any mandatory draft of yeshiva students into the army, although the Shas party has been more flexible on the issue than their Ashkenazi-haredi counterparts.
“The issue of enlistment was in his soul. He was greatly pained by it in his last months, more than his physical pain,” David Yosef told Netanyahu.
“He would say constantly ,‘What will be with the yeshiva students? What will be with the Torah world?’” he said. “We implore you from the heart: Do what you can; it depends on you. You need to try harder.”
Netanyahu said in response, “We are making efforts to unite the nation, to preserve the Torah world, it is not something foreign to me.”
Aside from this exchange, the prime minister spoke warmly of Yosef and his visits to the rabbi.
“I would come here and I would always feel that I shouldn’t disturb him,” Netanyahu said. “He would make himself available for me but would always get straight to the point.”
President Shimon Peres, who was close to Yosef, was among the visitors and embraced his four sons. “It was hard to really know your father. He loved the Jewish people, a true love, and did not think that we were two peoples but one nation, and wanted very much to unite us,” said Peres.
“The people gave him the most beautiful eulogy last night when they came in their masses to Jerusalem,” he continued in reference to the vast numbers of people who arrived in the capital for Yosef’s funeral procession.
“He loved the people and the people loved him.”
Other visitors to Yosef’s family on Tuesday included Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, former prime minister Ehud Barak, and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinowitz and Rabbi David Chai Abuhatzeira of Nahariya, a scion of the renowned family of kabbalists.
Former Sephardi chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar arrived to give his condolences.
Amar, who was extremely close with Yosef, angered the rabbi in his last months by supporting a rival candidate for the Chief Rabbinate instead of supporting his son Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.
A Shas source told The Jerusalem Post that relations between the family and Amar were still strained.
British Ambassador Matthew Gould paid his respects as well and said in an interview with Ynet that he could still feel the sting from the slaps to the face given to him by Yosef when they met.
The rabbi was famed for his manner of greeting people in which he would playfully smack visitors on the cheek.