Words translated into action: A day after Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's scathing sermon against Rabbi David Stav, the moderate candidate for chief rabbi was assaulted by several ultra-Orthodox boys.
According to eyewitnesses, the teens shoved Stav as he was leaving the wedding of Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz's daughter in the central city of Bnei Brak on Sunday, called him an "evil man" and used additional quotes from the Shas spiritual leader's sermon.
Some of the wedding guests said the national-religious rabbi had been targeted by the youths as soon as he had entered the banquet hall. When Stav approached the dance floor, Knesset Member Ariel Atias (Shas) immediately walked away.
"They tried to get him to trip while he was dancing and kept swearing at him," a wedding guest said. "At the exit, he was surrounded by dozens of people and some of them shouted at him 'abomination' and 'evil man.' There were others who were ashamed and apologized to him, but he was in a hurry to leave."
The incident took place following a harsh attack against Stav by Rabbi Yosef. The Shas spiritual leader called the moderate rabbi an "evil man" and "a danger to Judaism," adding that appointing him to the Chief Rabbinate was like bringing idolatry into the Temple. He also claimed that members of Habayit Hayehudi party had visited his home and spoken against Stav.
It was later reported that the before the sermon, Rabbi Yosef was pressured by his family members and Shas leader Aryeh Deri, who even presented him with liberal rulings issued by Stav in regards to watching women in the cinema and theater. Shocked by Stav's relatively permissive outlook, Yosef was promoted to issue the scathing attack.
On Sunday, before he was assaulted, Stav responded to Rabbi Yosef's remarks. "I am torn by the dividing atmosphere created around the elections. These are difficult days for me and my family," he said.
The Tzohar rabbinical association, which is led by Stav, issued a statement referring to Rabbi Yosef's remarks as incitement and calling on him to "repent and ask for forgiveness."
Leading candidate: Rabbi David LauThe Shas spiritual leader's opinion is likely to affect the Chief Rabbinate race: Rabbi Yosef's harsh words have apparently buried the deal concocted recently by the associates of Rabbi Stav and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar in a bid to guarantee their election as the two chief rabbis.
According to the deal, Amar would "quietly support" Stav's nomination for Ashkenazi chief rabbi, and in return member of the national-religious Habayit Hayehudi party would vote in favor of a bill allowing Amar to seek another term as Sephardic chief rabbi.
Now, however, the rabbi members of the electing body are expected to obey Rabbi Yosef and vote against Stav. The person expected to benefit from the recent development is Rabbi David Lau, chief rabbi of the city of Modiin and the son of former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, who appears to be the leading Ashkenazi candidate at the moment.
Rabbi Amar suffered a heavy blow on Sunday as well, after the government approved the establishment of the Chief Rabbinate Election Committee, practically eliminating his chances of serving as Sephardic chief rabbi for a second term. After the appointment of the committee, the rules of the Rabbinate race can no longer be changed, meaning that the Knesset cannot enact a law allowing a chief rabbi to seek a second term.
Now that Amar has been forced out of the race, the leading candidates for Sephardic chief rabbi are relatives of Shas officials – Rabbi Avraham Yosef, the chief rabbi of the city of Holon and the son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and Rabbi Yehuda Deri, the chief rabbi of Beersheba and the brother of MK Aryeh Deri.