Central Elections Committee Chairman Elyakim Rubinstein fined Shas
NIS 37,000 (roughly $9,900) on Monday for handing out religious amulets and offering blessings despite the explicit legal ban prohibiting such actions ahead of the elections.
In his ruling, Justice Rubinstein said: "This is a clear violation of an order the essence of which was to outlaw the use of (religious) blessings in election propaganda."
Shas' pre-election blessings come as part of the party's efforts to gain as many votes as possible ahead of Tuesday's elections. The haredi Sephardic party stressed its protection of Jewish tradition, and on Monday did so by pursuing votes beyond its typical target audience. On Monday morning, Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
called on Ashkenazi
Israelis to vote for Shas.
Other than issues of ethnicity and faith, the party has traditionally focused on social issues, a focus which also stands behind the call for Ashkenazim, specifically those who benefitted from Shas' parliamentary contribution to housing policies.
"Ashkenazi brothers," Yosef said," many of you got apartments from the Housing Ministry when it was in Shas' hands – do your best to vote and convince others to vote."
"It's not an issue of Sephardic and Ashkenazi; we all have the same Torah," the rabbi added. "We will all go and vote for Shas, which will make Judaism stronger. This movement was founded to make Judaism stronger."
Since Shas formed itself as a sectorial party that works to serve the interests of religiously observant Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, Rabbi Yosef's appeal to Ashkenazim, urging them to vote for his party, was unexpected.
The rabbi's focus on religious belief over ethnicity persisted in his criticism
of religious-Zionist Habayit Hayehudi,
whose voters are also religiously observant but not affiliated with Sephardi origin. According to Yosef, the religious-Zionist party has been exhibiting moderate positions on religious issues.
"I'm sorry to say… this is not a Jewish home (the literal meaning of Habayit Hayehudi); their MKs say they want public transportation on Shabbat and civil marriage. What kind of a Jewish home is that? Your true home is Shas."
Setting Shas up as the defender of the Jewish faith within Israeli politics, the rabbi insisted that the call to draft Yeshiva students, "who study the Torah day and night and please God" was the disheartening quest of "Torah-hating seculars."
Akiva Novick is a Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent
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