Last week, after Yosef lashed out at Rabbi David Stav, the national-religious Ashkenazi chief rabbi candidate, the activists launched an attack against anyone who dared criticize their leader.
The first person affected by the young Shasniks' activity was ultra-Orthodox journalist Mendy Gruzman, who slammed Rabbi Yosef's style on Facebook: "The truth should be told: We are talking about Jewish scholar, but with bad language fitting a typical 'Ars' (a derogatory Hebrew slang term for the Israeli stereotype of a low-class young man)."
The response was soon to come. The party activists began bombarding Gruzman with phone calls and text messages, demanding that he apologize for his remarks.
That same day, the group launched an attack on a government minister, who – while commenting on Internet filtering laws – was quoted as saying that the State may have to control Rabbi Yosef's lectures as well. "They contain content which is offensive to many populations. I'm not sure it's suitable for children," he said.
The minister was later forced to explained that he was "only joking."
'Rabbi' title omitted
The next day, when a daily newspaper omitted the title "rabbi" from Ovadia Yosef's name, the activists began calling the editor-in-chief's private cell phone and his personal secretary. The newspaper eventually published a clarification on its Facebook page and website.
The person behind these attacks is Yaakov Norani, a reporter in Shas' "Yom Leyom" newspaper. "We define it as a technological protest," he says. "Instead of protesting like the zealots from Mea Shearim, we've upgraded it to phone calls and messages."
This unique method of action was also directed at Knesset Member Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), who set an ultimatum for Rabbi Yosef to make a decision on the Chief Rabbinate issue, a move perceived by the activists as humiliating. The text messages offensive was followed by threats, and Shaked filed a complaint with the Knesset Guard.
Norani stresses that Rabbi Yosef's supporters have been asked to protest in a dignified and legal matter, and settle for one call or text massage rather than repeated harassments.
Sources in the Shas refused to officially comment on the unique protest or renounce it, stressing that it was a private initiative.