Shas spiritual leader Yosef suffers minor stroke

92-year-old Rabbi Ovadia Yosef collapses in synagogue during Shabbat prayers, remains in hospital for observation.

Ovadia Yosef Shas campaign launch 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Ovadia Yosef Shas campaign launch 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the Shas movement, suffered a mild stroke on Saturday during the morning prayer service.
He was taken to Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem for treatment and observation, and remained in the hospital overnight. He retained full consciousness throughout the event.
“Extensive tests revealed that Rabbi Yosef experienced a very light stroke. It was decided to keep in him in the hospital for a number of other tests and for rest,” Hadassah medical director Dr. Yuval Weiss said.
“Throughout the entire time, the rabbi has remained fully conscious and [has been] communicating fully with those around him.”
He added that he hoped the rabbi would be released from hospital in the coming days.
A Shas party spokesman said that Yosef, 92, was having trouble operating his left hand while praying in the synagogue at his home in the capital’s Har Nof neighborhood on Saturday morning. A doctor assessed the rabbi’s condition at his home, and found he had suffered a mild stroke. He was then taken to the hospital.
Speaking on Channel 2 news, Shas co-chairman Arye Deri said that he had talked with Yosef in the afternoon, and that the rabbi “spoke fluently, and was clear, concentrated and focused.”
“Still, a stroke is a stroke and he will remain in hospital for observation and further tests,” Deri said.
Deri and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, one of the party’s other co-chairmen, walked to the hospital in the early afternoon to visit the rabbi. Yishai said that Yosef was in good spirits and gave a Torah lesson on the plagues in Egypt during seudah shlishit, the “third meal” customarily eaten on Shabbat afternoon.
A communal prayer service was scheduled for Saturday night for Yosef’s recovery at his residence in Har Nof.
Speaking to Channel 2, Deri also said that he “would not apologize” for the controversial campaign ad Shas broadcast last week, in which an obviously Russian woman received a conversion to Judaism by fax while standing under a wedding canopy besides her husband-tobe.
“We were targeting Yisrael Beytenu that has a clear agenda to advance civil unions; they are granting conversions via fax, is that what we want here?” he said in reference to the state conversion system.
Critics of the ad accused Shas of broadcasting racist messages and negatively stereotyping the Russian community. Religious rights groups also attacked the notion that the conversion process is insubstantial, and pointed out that Yosef himself has approved the system and the conversions carried out through its offices. •