Reaching heaven was never that easy: Anyone who votes for religious Sephardic party Shas in the upcoming elections is assured of a place in heaven, the party's spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef told about 8,000 activists at a pre-election rally in Tel Aviv Tuesday evening.
Rabbi Ovadia told the enthusiastic listeners about a man who reaches heavens and fears God's verdict. At that point, a white angel appears and tells the man he is heading to heaven for building a mikvah (Jewish ritual bath) and a synagogue. The man says he has not done any of that because he had no money, but later admits he did vote for Shas.
The angel's reply: "Exactly. And by sending emissaries who built mikvahs and synagogues and safeguarded the world of Torah, you're a party to mitvzot and your place is in heaven." Therefore, the rabbi explained, anyone who votes for Shas will end up in heaven.
In his speech, Yosef also attacked the previous Likud-Shinui-National Religious Party coalition, saying "they brought us to a million and a half poor people and ruined the world of Torah.
"Shas must be strong," he added.
Shas leader Eli Yishai also spoke at the event and told those in attendance "it's dangerous to vote for the Likud, Labor, or Kadima. Everyone must vote Shas, "otherwise who will safeguard the people of Israel?" he said.
Tuesday's rally, which took place at Tel Aviv's largest basketball stadium, saw Shas filling about 80 percent of the seats in the 10,000-seat venue. Early in the evening attendance seemed to be sparse and senior Shas figures said they are scared of an embarrassment, as the rally was supposed to arouse party activists ahead of the elections.
'They're all liars and Arab-lovers'
Earlier, Shas figures promised to bring at least 10,000 people to the stadium and said another 3,000 would have to stay outside due to a lack of space. The party invested more than one million shekels (about USD 225,000) to ensure the rally was a success, with most of the budget used to arrange transportation for activists.
Meanwhile, ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi parties closely monitored the event and were quick to describe it as a 'failure". Some officials noted how a similar event was organized by Ashkenazi parties about eight months ago, with the stadium filled to capacity even without organized transportation and advertisement.
Meanwhile, another rabbi associated with Shas, Rahamim Mazuz, said in his speech: "It's not that we love the Knesset, but only through a vote can we protect our rights. Don't believe politicians, they are all liars and Arab-lovers. I wish they would love the Sephardim as much as they love the Arabs. Sephardic Jews must wake up."
Rabbi Yehuda Baadani addressed public apathy in his speech, saying: "We stand today before an important campaign. In the last elections, Shinui received more mandates than Shas, and therefore we were not taken into the coalition. We went through a difficult period of despair. For us, these elections are for the benefit of the yeshivas, students of Torah, and the mikvahs (ritual baths) – so how can we be apathetic? Our role in the Knesset is to stop the destruction within the Israeli nation, and therefore we allow ourselves to enter this 'golden calf' (the Knesset). Otherwise, what connection do we have to this legislature? The Torah of Israel is our law."