Originally published by The Jewish Press
A leaked video showing the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef castigating Aryeh Deri, now the leader of the Shas party, has set off an earthquake in the Sephardi religious community, already split into at least three factions.
Among other epithets, Rav Ovadia, as he was affectionately known, called Deri “evil, “too independent, ” and the rabbi said he cannot be a “traitor” to Eli Yishai, who succeeded Deri, Shas’ political leader after the 1999 elections. One year later, Deri was convicted for bribery and was sentenced to three years in jail.
Ever since Rav Ovadia, the founder and spiritual leader of Shas, died in October 2013, the party began to fall apart without his monolithic leadership.
Whatever Rav Ovadia said was gospel to hundreds of thousands of Sephardi Jews, even those not considerably religious.
No one is taking “credit” for leaking the video, which was shown on Channel 2, but the damage to Shas, Deri, the memory of Rav Ovadia, and Deri’s arch enemy Eli Yishai is immeasurable.
In the 76-second video of Rav Ovadia talking to family members and an aide in 2008, he said:
If we place [Deri] at the top of the [party] list, 20 to 40 percent will leave us. Why? Because he was judged as a thief. For what? So they should try me in court? Why take a bribe?Aryeh won’t listen to me. He is too independent. He is not a bad person?…He can go to another party…. What do I care? …
I cannot be a traitor to Eli Yishai.
The video, seen below is complete with Hebrew sub-titles.
Yishai and his aides, of course, deny they leaked the video.
Deri and his camp, of course, accuse Yishai of leaking it and said it will cause a backlash against Yishai because voters will blame Yishai for leaking the video that (somehow) defames the memory Rav Ovadia.
Deri said after the video was aired on television:
In these days when the public expects unity, the man who calls himself ‘faithful’ chose to release tapes in which he recorded [Rav Ovadia] in the darkness like the worst of the subversives, and exploited the trust placed in him. Yishai is trampling the honor of [Rav Ovadia] only for his petty personal interests….Even in his lifetime he betrayed the trust the rabbi placed in him.
It does not matter now who leaked the video. The damage is done and there is more on the way.
“The real black box is hidden and still is in the safe, and we hope we won’t have to bring it out because if they are published, they will cause an earthquake. Our aim is to retain the honor of Rav Ovadia, ” said Rav Ovadia’s family
When the family heard that the video of Rav Ovadia trashing Deri had been exposed, they said, “We were in shock. We didn’t want this to be exposed… This video is tiny compared with the material we have.”
Will the black box be opened? And who will it make an earthquake for?
“Only is there is no choice, ” the family said.
Either way, the once mighty Shas is puny.
It was doomed from the start to becoming a comatose party like every other political party that evolves around one person and only one person.
Remember Shinui, the fiercely secular party headed by Tomy Lapid? It won 17 seats in 1977, split into factions and won only two seats in the next elections. It came roaring back with 15 Knesset Members in 2003 and then died after splitting up again not several useless factions.
Ditto with Rafi Eitan’s Pensioners’ party, which won a stunning seven seas in the 2006 elections and then fell apart.
It remains to be seen if Lapid’s son Yair will face the same fate with his Yesh Atid party, that so far evolves around him and only him.
Shas was a one-man party. The man was Rav Ovadia.
Once he died, the party was on its way to follow.