The death of former Sephardi Chief Rabbi and Shas (political party) spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has gripped the country.
Yesterday, mid afternoon it was announced that the 93 year old spiritual and political leader had passed away at the hospital.
These last three decades have been described as “the Shas decades,” because of Rabbi Yosef's gathering of fellow Middle Eastern and North African Jews – usually known as Sephardic Jews.
He steered them into a more ultra-orthodox way, and thus swayed complete power over what could be defined as 20% of Israel's total population.
He was no novice politically, as his power grew he was able to steer his young men away from IDF military obligations and made the government to support his followers so that they would not have to work.
With this power he garnered seats in the Knesset and made successive Prime Ministers with his endorsements.
Both the Rabbi's personality, power, and path frustrated many. His critics believe he could have restored moderation in both the matters of Jewish law and in national pride. He often made controversial statements relating to non-Jews, women, and Palestinians in particular.
He has left behind a shattered Shas Party, rife with corruption and internal fighting. One can hope that, the next generation of leadership, may embrace the positives of the Rabbi and promote a unifying direction for his people and country.
An expert in Jewish Law, working tirelessly on rulings, Rabbi Yosef's presence will not go away.
His image adorns cars, buildings, offices and dwellings everywhere in the country.
An estimated 850,000 people attended his funeral bringing Jerusalem to a standstill. That's more than 10% of the entire population of Israel crowed onto the streets.
This display of revering was the largest the country has ever seen. We hope that some of the scholarly and inspirational writings of the Rabbi with guide his followers to a better way – and lead the country to more cohesiveness and unity of soul.
Middle East Correspondent