Thousands Throng to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s Home as Mourning Period Begins

Yair Ettinger
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Yair Ettinger

Thousands of people descended on Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s Jerusalem home on Tuesday to pay condolence calls on his family and express their own grief for Yosef, who died on Monday.

“The people gave him the best eulogy of all when they went to Jerusalem en masse [for his funeral], President Shimon Peres said during his condolence call. “He loved the people, and the people loved him.

“He always invested in the links that connect the nation,” Peres continued. “He never thought we were two peoples, but one people, and he very much wanted to unite it.”

Aside from Peres, the many prominent visitors included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, former prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, and British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould, as well as former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, a one-time protégé of Yosef’s who has recently been bitterly at odds with the Yosef family.

Hakablan Street, where Yosef and many senior members of his Shas party lived, was closed to traffic by the police on account of the throngs of mourners. The family set up a huge tent next to the house and will be spending six hours a day there — from 10 A.M. to 1 P.M. and 4 P.M. to 7 P.M. — to accept condolence calls from the general public throughout the week-long mourning period. During the rest of the day they will be in the house, seeing the rabbis, politicians and other notables who wish to pay their respects.

Yosef’s son, Rabbi Avraham Yosef, thanked Peres for the eulogy he delivered at the funeral on Monday, saying it “warmed our hearts” and “shed light on many aspects of our father’s life that many people weren’t aware of.”

Netanyahu, who came with his wife Sara, noted that even when he was very ill, Yosef used every possible moment “to study and write.” But aside from being a great Torah scholar, he was also a devoted father, as evident from his children’s devotion to him, the prime minister said.

“Many people are saying ‘We’ve lost a father,’” Netanyahu continued, noting that many Israelis viewed Yosef as a “spiritual father.”

“He didn’t look out for himself and he didn’t think about himself. Nor did he think about the here and now, but about the continuity of the people of Israel, the heritage of the people of Israel,” the prime minister said.

Another of Yosef’s sons, Rabbi David Yosef, used the opportunity to press Netanyahu on two issues of great importance to Shas — legislation to draft ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, which Shas would like to see scrapped or at least softened; and state funding for ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, which Shas would like to see increased, or at least not cut. But Netanyahu’s reply was noncommittal.

Rabbi Yosef's funeral procession.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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