Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

REPORTERS

Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

Read more

FASHION

Paris, Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2014-2015.

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

2014-07-11 21:47 AFRICA NEWS

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Finally, a good use for new app "Yo"

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 11 July 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 11 July 2014

Read more

#THE 51%

Sweden: A Feminist's Paradise?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Politics: parties under pressure

Read more

FOCUS

In Burma, the rise of radical Buddhism

Read more

  • Hamas and Israel sustain fire despite missed targets

    Read more

  • The third-place playoff: the World Cup game no one wants to play

    Read more

  • Last of the Ramones, Tommy Ramone, dies aged 62

    Read more

  • Legal challenge to French mayor’s ban of Muslim hijab on beach

    Read more

  • Video: Outrage in wake of deadly Casablanca buildings collapse

    Read more

  • Ukraine promises retaliation after rebel assault

    Read more

  • Putin revives old Cuban flame and eyes Latin American minerals

    Read more

  • Kerry holds all-night talks with Afghan presidential rivals

    Read more

  • Amazon snubs French free delivery ban with one-cent charge

    Read more

  • Cleveland's NBA fans hail 'return of king' LeBron James

    Read more

  • Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

    Read more

  • Magnitude 6.8 quake, small tsunami hit east Japan

    Read more

  • Suspect in Brussels Jewish Museum shooting drops extradition appeal

    Read more

  • Are French high school students getting smarter?

    Read more

  • In pictures: Chanel, Dior and so much more at the Paris couture shows

    Read more

Middle east

The spiritual - and temporal - heart of Shas

©

Video by Marc DE CHALVRON

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-02-10

As the spiritual head of the Shas party, Rabi Ovadia Yosef is the man to meet with in the lead-up to the Feb. 10 polls. It was Shas, after all, that caused the collapse of Israel’s previous government. He could make or break the next.

FRANCE 24 Observers comment on the forthcoming elections

 

Surrounded by his entourage, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the founder and spiritual leader of Israel’s Shas party, conducts the early morning prayers at his personal synagogue in Jerusalem.

Standing in the front row at the morning prayers is Knesset member Rabbi Nissim Ze'ev.

The prayers done, Yosef disappears into his apartment. That’s when the waiting begins in the antechamber leading to his office.

Men, many dressed in the traditional ultra-orthodox Jewish garb, crowd outside the closed door waiting for an audience with the venerated octogenarian.

"You see them there?” says Ze’ev, pointing to the crowd of people waiting. “They asked for a meeting one or two weeks ago."

With days to go before the Feb. 10 legislative elections, Yosef is a much sought-after figure.

It was the Shas party that created the imperative for the Feb. 10 elections when the right-wing party that represents religious Jews from non-European backgrounds refused to join a coalition that Tzipi Livni of the centrist Kadima party was trying to cobble together.

In the end, Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, failed to get Shas’ support for entirely predictable reasons. The party, which represents Sephardic Jews, made two key demands: a substantial increase in child allowances, which would benefit its supporters who tend to have larger, poorer families. The second was a guarantee that in any peace negotiations with the Palestinians, the Israeli government would not agree to divide Jerusalem.

A political and spiritual heavyweight

Quite apart from his role as spiritual leader, Yosef is a political heavyweight in Israel as well.

And so, it’s hardly surprising that Knesset members such as Ze’ev line up patiently to meet their chief.

"The rabbi is the word of authority for our generation,” says Ze’ev, adding that the faithful “must respect all that he says. When our master says to vote Shas, it's a religious obligation."

Days before the elections, Ze’ev would like his spiritual and political mentor to take on the new man on the Israeli political bloc.

"I would like the rabbi in his weekly sermon on Saturday night, to speak about Shas and how we are different, especially compared to Lieberman."

Ze’ev is referring to Avigdor Lieberman, the Russian-born leader of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party whose rising popularity has proved to be one of the biggest surprises on the campaign trail.

‘If the rabbi says, then I will do’


At the Shas party headquarters, volunteer Yossi Moalem pledges his loyalty to Yosef. “If the rabbi says, then I will do," says Moalem simply.

It's this devotion that's guaranteed the party 10 seats in the Knesset. As a result, they feel free to use their power.

"I'm certain that Shas will be in the next government, regardless of who's prime minister and regardless of the result," says Moalem.

After causing the collapse of the Kadima government, Shas sees itself as part of a future Likud government. Their single objective is to have power in a coalition where they would serve the faithful.

Date created : 2009-02-06

Comments

COMMENT(S)