October 7, 2013, - 5:11 pm
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, formerly Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi, died today at the age of 93. For those who do not know, Sephardic Jews are those Jews who primarily come from Asia, Africa, the Arab world, and Spain (“Spharad” means Spain in Hebrew). Jews from the rest of Europe (other than Spain) are generally Ashkenazic Jews, as I am (“Ashkenaz” is Germany). Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews have different customs and religious traditions and observances. The majority of Jews in Israel are Sephardic, and even those who were not religious and/or Sephardic respected Rabbi Yosef.
Yosef is generally considered a great and righteous man. He led the powerful Shas religious party in Israel. When Menachem Begin was about to enter into the Camp David Peace Accords with Egypt and give up the Sinai, Rabbi Yosef threatened to withdraw his support from the Likud/Herut government and Begin. But when the far more harmful and deadly Oslo Accords (negotiated in part by Caroline Glick) were on the horizon, Rabbi Yosef endorsed them, and that was his biggest mistake.
Some will consider me sacrilegious and disrespectful for saying so, but the Rabbi’s “religious ruling” that it was okay to give up Jewish land for false promises of peace was purely political and a perversion of Jewish law, which he claimed to be interpreting in supporting Oslo and other similar overtures that followed. I remember how disappointed and upset my father was when Rabbi Yosef made this “religious dictate.” After that, however, the Rabbi apparently saw the errors of his ways and moved back to the right.
When Ariel Sharon was pushing his plan for unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Rabbi Yosef said, “God will strike him with one blow and he will die; he will sleep and not awake.” (Mr. Sharon suffered a devastating stroke in early 2006 and remains in a coma.) In 2009 Rabbi Yosef cursed the former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying he hoped he got sick. In 2010 he described President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority as “evil” and called on God to strike “these Ishmaelites and Palestinians with a plague, these evil haters of Israel.”
Rabbi Yosef was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1920 and became a rabbi at age 20. He lived in Egypt for several years and was elected Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi from 1973 to 1983, but his power and influence remained strong until his death. Most major candidates for Prime Minister of Israel sought his support.
Today, reports say that as many as ten percent of Israelis poured into the streets in mourning of Rabbi Yosef. He was that influential.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Zichrono LiVrachah [Blessed Be His Memory].
Tags: Ariel Sharon, Camp David Accords, Gaza, Israel, Israeli Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Jewish land, Jews, land for peace, Oslo Accords, Ovadia Yosef, Palestinians, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, rabbis, Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel