Thousands flock to pay respects at Rabbi Yosef’s Jerusalem grave

"A very great man of Torah has left us like orphans," says mourner, "It feels like a loving father has passed away".

Rabbia Ovadia Yosef's grave 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Rabbia Ovadia Yosef's grave 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
One day following the largest funeral in Israel’s history, thousands of mourners continued to visit the Jerusalem grave of Shas spiritual leader, and former chief rabbi, Ovadia Yosef Tuesday to pray, express their respect, gratitude and a sense of loss befitting a beloved father.
Indeed, David Avraham, of Jerusalem, who could not attend Yosef’s funeral Monday evening due to the numerous road closures and traffic that clogged the city, said he felt like an “orphan.”
“A very great man in Torah has left us like orphans,” said Avraham, as his wife, Aliza, nodded her head in agreement while they stood a few meters from Yosef’s grave.
“We were very attached to him.”
Avraham added, “All students of Jewish theology around the world feel like they have been orphaned.”
Yosef’s burial plot, located in the Sanhedria Cemetery in the heart of western Jerusalem, was continually surrounded by hundreds of men who placed dozens of candles by his grave as they prayed in silence throughout the day.
Several meters away, hundreds of women prayed and served sliced apples, grapes and cookies for the seemingly endless procession of mourners.
“It feels like a great father has passed away,” said Aliza, who noted Yosef’s uncommon compassion.
“He used to think about all the poor people – he would always ask about them,” she added. “Poor people used to come to him for help and he would cry like a child because it pained him.”
David said that apart from Yosef’s unrivalled knowledge of Torah, it was his core humanity that made him such a transcendental figure.
“He did not care if you were rich or poor, educated or ignorant,” he said. “He loved all people equally. You can see, now is only the second day, and not only are the Orthodox coming, but even secular Jews.”
To be sure, although the majority of Tuesday’s mourners were ultra-Orthodox, there was a sizable representation of secular Jews visiting his grave, as well.
One secular woman, who requested her name not be published, said she felt profound sadness following Yosef’s death.
“This is very sad for everyone because we all lost a great man,” she said. “I am not religious, but I know that someone like him only comes along once in a generation.”
Moshe, a haredi man living in the capital who asked that his last name not be published, described Yosef’s death as “the greatest loss of all of Israel.”
“I’m not Sephardi, but the Sephardim say he was like a father to them and that he loved them like a father loves his son,” he said. “I felt the same way. He’s in the best place now – in heaven.”
Perhaps the most common observation made about Yosef by mourners was his ability to relate to people from all walks of life.
“If he spoke to children, he would talk to them in their language, and he would do the same with world leaders,” said Aliza. “He never talked down to anyone.”
Isaac, a secular Jew who requested his last name not be published, said it was Yosef’s “good heart” that propelled him to greatness among a vast spectrum of Jews and non-Jews.
“He would talk to anyone who wanted a blessing and answer any question, no matter who you were,” he said.
“This is how he became a great man.”
A middle-aged security guard stationed at the cemetery, who requested anonymity, said the outpouring for Yosef is unprecedented.
“I have never seen anything like this,” he said. “It’s very special. It was the biggest funeral ever in Israel, and he deserved it.