Israel's Chief Sephardi Rabbi Gets Into Shas Political, Commercial Feud

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef takes sides in radio war between station identified with Shas leader Aryeh Dery, and its rival station, associated with Dery's predecessor Eli Yishai.

Moti Milrod

Israel's chief Sephardi rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, expressed opposition over the weekend to the broadcast of his sermons on the ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Ba'rama, thus deepening his personal involvement in a political and commercial dispute between Shas leader Aryeh Dery and his predecessor and rival Eli Yishai.

Kol Ba'rama is identified with Yishai while a rival haredi station, Kol Hai, is in Dery's camp. Yosef is the son of the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, founder and spiritual leader of Shas.  

"No radio station may broadcast my Torah lessons without my permission. In any event, the righteous will distance himself from listening to media outlets that do not heed the great sages of Israel," Yosef wrote in a letter to the media Saturday night after Kol Ba'rama broadcast his weekly Torah lesson at Jerusalem's Yazdim Syngagogue simultaneously with Kol Hai – the first time this has happened in a year, during which time Yosef joined a Shas boycott of Kol Ba'rama.

Until two years ago, Kol Ba'rama was considered the official radio station of Shas. But that began to change when Dery regained the party leadership from Yishai, and a year ago the rivalry broke out into the open, live and on the air. Rabbi Shalom Cohen, head of Shas' Council of Torah Sages, was seated alongside Yosef during a Torah lesson carried over Kol Ba'rama, and Cohen asked Yosef, "Shouldn't it be prohibited to listen to this station? Do you agree with me? It's ruining us." Yosef replied, "Certainly," and since then his weekly Torah lesson has not been broadcast on Kol Ba'rama, until Saturday. Recently Yosef agreed that his weekly lessons be aired on Kol Hai, identified with Dery.