Massive Show of Force for Shas |

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Memorial Service Draws Tens of Thousands

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Tens of thousands of religiously devout attended a memorial service Sunday evening for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who died last week at the age of 93.

The memorial ceremony comes on the heels of the Shiva, a seven-day Jewish mourning period, and was located in the Jerusalem neighborhood Sanhedriya, located near the rabbi's final resting place.

The crowd filled the surrounding streets and dozens of roads in the capital were closed to traffic for the event.

The memorial service was expected to be a massive show of force for Shas, the political party led by Yosef.

The rabbi's four sons sat at the center of the memorial's main stage, surrounded by members of Shas' Council of Torah Sages and dozens of other yeshiva heads and rabbis.

In an effort to make the event inclusive of all ultra-Orthodox factions, the organizers also invited Ashkenazi rabbis, Hasidic admors (head rabbis) - most prominently of these, the Admor of Belz and the Admor of Sanz - as well as the heads of Mitnagdim yeshivas. In addition to these rabbis were both Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau and his predecessor Rabbi Yona Metzger, who sat in the front row on the stage.

Moshe Leon, the Likud-Beiteinu candidate in the Jerusalem mayoral race and a confidant of Shas leader Arye Deri was also seated on the stage. Leon and the chief military rabbi, Brig. Gen. Rabbi Rafi Peretz, were the only non-Haredim on the stage.

Despite the fact that the memorial service was a Shas event, the stage was not decorated with any of the party's official symbols, and the stage's backdrop only bore a portrait of Yosef, with a caption reading, "We are as orphans and have no father."

With that being said, tens of thousands of yahrzeit candles (memorial candles) bearing a portrait of Yosef, the Shas logo and the caption "To his light we'll walk" were being given out to attendants.

Mourners gather at a memorial service marking the end of the shiva for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Oct. 13, 2013.Credit: Oren Nachshon

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