Shas has officially launched its election campaign on Saturday, with the party's spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef,
delivering his weekly lesson in front of thousands of supporters.
The party's three political leaders, Aryeh Deri,
and Ariel Atias sat in the front row at the event, which was held at Jerusalem's International Convention Center. None were scheduled to address the crowds to avoid triggering tension among the attendees.
In his sermon, Yosef largely avoided referring to the election, and only briefly lauded the party's triple leadership.
He stressed that Shas
is making efforts to help the poor and the weak, "to empower them, deter budget cuts, so they can eat meat properly. Anyone who gives to the poor, becomes rich."
Deri, Yishai and Atias. Triple leadership (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The rabbi's lecture failed to bridge the divide among the party's supporters. Upon Yishai, Atias and Deri's entrance to the hall, staff members cranked up the music to drown out the public's chants in support and against each candidate.
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Among the speakers at the event was Rabbi Shimon Bahadani, a member of Shas' Council of Torah Sages, who stressed the merits of the movement's education system.
"Even the seculars study with us," he said. "We provide good education. We don't have violence, hashish, spirits or alcohol. We have respect for parents and teachers."
Yosef at Saturday's event (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Rabbi Raphael Elbaz, who also made a speech, said: "We must save the People of Israel
Some attendees lamented the choice of music at the event, saying that the songs were Hassidic and Ashkenazi and not Sephardic.
"It sounded like an Ashkenazi wedding," one Shas supporter said.
Akiva Novick is a Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent