Shas Infighting Reaches as Far as Spiritual Leader's Family

Aryeh Deri loyalist clashes with Ovadia Yosef's son in synagogue.

The crisis in Shas is deepening and reaching the innermost circle of the party's spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. A sharp argument erupted Tuesday at the synagogue adjacent to Yosef's home between the rabbi's personal secretary, Zvi Hakak, and his son, Rabbi David Yosef.

Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef
Daniel Bar-On

The latter is a close friend of Aryeh Deri, former chairman of Shas, whose name has recently been casting a shadow over the leadership of the party's chairman, Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

Deri's associates have accused the rabbi's younger son, Shas strongman and Yishai supporter Moshe Yosef, of trying to keep David Yosef out of his father's home. Deri's associates also say the incident proves the charge voiced by rebel Shas MK Haim Amsalem, who was ousted from Shas six weeks ago, that information and visitors are being kept away from Ovadia Yosef.

David Yosef is the rabbi of the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem, where his father and the entire Shas leadership live. He also heads the Yahve De'ah kollel (yeshiva for married men ) in the neighborhood.

The incident reportedly occured during morning prayers at Rabbi Ovadia's synagogue, which is below his house.

As usual, David Yosef had come to pray with his father. When Ovadia Yosef moved to a different room to don the second set of phylacteries known as the Rabbeinu Tam phylacteries, his son joined him as usual.

However, Hakak, who is the synagogue beadle, closed the door and prevented David Yosef from entering, shouting that he would not let David Yosef in. David Yosef shouted back "insolent" and Hakak then shouted back. Ovadia Yosef, according to those present, did not understand what was going on.

Yesterday, David Yosef's students and followers distributed flyers in Har Nof protesting what they called the insult to their rabbi and calling on Hakak to apologize to David Yosef.

Ovadia Yosef's associates are trying to downplay the incident, which is the talk of Shas. Hakak, they say, had merely wanted to protect Ovadia's privacy. However, Deri and David Yosef say Deri's opponents are motivated by jealousy, and that "Moshe [Yosef] is behind it."