Followers Stand Vigil as Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 'Fights for His Life'

Shas spiritual leader is hospitalized in serious but stable condition, just days after he had a pacemaker inserted and underwent dialysis.

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Shas' 93-year-old spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was in serious but stable condition on Tuesday, undergoing various treatments at Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem.

Yosef was hospitalized earlier this weekend, and has since been put on a respirator, had a pacemaker inserted and undergone dialysis. Followers of the rabbi said he is fighting for his life.

A hospital spokeswoman said: "Following an assessment of the situation carried out by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's medical team, his condition has been pronounced serious but stable. The medical team has decided to increase medicine to treat blood pressure. The rabbi is still anesthetized and on a respirator, and is being kept in intensive care."

Prof. Naparstek, deputy director of Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, said: “The moment there is a failure of a number of systems, it is not an arithmetic joining of one to another. One impacts the other.” He added that the purpose of the respirator and the medication was to stabilize the rabbi’s condition.

“We hope for the best. His family is around his bed and all decisions are made with explanations to the family, who trust us.”

Hundreds of people attended a central rally Tuesday night in Jerusalem at the Or Haim Yeshiva, devoted to prayers for the rabbi’s health. Among those present Rabbi Yosef’s sons, Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Rabbi David Yosef. Former Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron was in attendance, along with the Shas member of the Council of Torah sages, Rabbi Shalom Cohen, who said: “We will be like a flock without a shepherd.”

The rabbis called on participants in the rally to pray and make vows regarding their future behavior. Some called on the congregation to get rid of their Smart Phones for the sake of the rabbi’s health. “Spiritual illnesses are what is causing physical illnesses,” Shas Rabbi Moshe Tzadka, said, calling on his followers to “crush and break” their Smart Phones.

On Tuesday afternoon, Deputy Director of Hadassah, Ein Kerem, Prof. Yaakov Naparstek updated reporters on Yosef's condition. The Shas spiritual leader is suffering from failure of a number of body systems, he said. His condition is life-threatening, but not immediately. "[There is] failure of a number of systems that require medical assistance. Serious condition, he is on medication, he is anesthetized and on a respirator. We are doing all we can, and hoping for the best," he said. Prof. Naparstek added that all Yosef's family members are with him.

Earlier Tuesday, hospital director Dr. Yuval Weiss said Rabbi Yosef's condition has stabilized and "improved slightly," he added that "doesn't think [Yosef] will be taken off the respirator today."

Several of the rabbi’s children are around his hospital bed, including his son, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, as well as Shas chairman Aryeh Deri. Deri called on everyone, secular and religious, to pray for Yosef’s health.

Prayer services for the rabbi’s heath are being held in many places in Israel and abroad. Late Monday afternoon, a central prayer rally was held at the Western Wall Plaza with the participation of Shas rabbis. Some festive events of Sukkot week, including the Water-Drawing Festival, were canceled due to Yosef’s condition. A Haredi radio station has begun broadcasting continual updates on Yosef’s condition, interviews with rabbinic figures and recitation of Psalms.

Yosef has suffered recently from a series of health problems. After undergoing back surgery, he began to have problems with his heart and lungs, and was hospitalized several times in the last month.

Prayer for Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef at Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem.Credit: Emil Salman
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.Credit: Michal Fattal
People praying in the corridors of Hadassah hospital, where Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is hospitalized. Credit: Emil Salman

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