The 100,000-person-strong memorial ceremony for late Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Sunday evening quickly transformed into a Shas political rally and an informal crowning of MK Aryeh Deri as the leader of the party.
The Yosef family was outraged that the memorial had turned into a rally for Deri and his supporters. Yosef's son, Rabbi David Yosef, said: "It was an ugly campaign and political assembly. How, 50 meters from the grave, only seven days [after his death], can they do something like this? The rabbi is turning in his grave."
At the Jerusalem event, Rabbi David Yosef's appointment to the Council of Torah Sages was announced, and the council's stance supporting Deri's leadership was reiterated. Deri reminded the crowds of the need to return to the former glory of Sephardi Judaism by "falling in love with Judaism" and announced that the Shas-affiliated Maayan Torah education network will have its name changed to Bnei Yosef (Sons of Yosef).
Rabbi David Yosef praised Deri, saying that he is "a founder and driving force of the revolution. Father loved him more than a son, relied on his wisdom. If in the last few months we succeeded at keeping father stable, it's thanks to Deri's wisdom."
Along with the politically charged words were election signs hanging in the streets, and Moshe Lion, Deri's selected candidate for leadership of Jerusalem, sat on stage. One of the surprising speeches was that of former Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who has been at odds with the Yosef family following Yosef's preventing him from seeking another term at that post in favor of his son Yitzhak, the current chief rabbi. Amar complemented all of Yosef's sons and said of Yosef, "I am not worthy, and it is not fitting that I speak of him."
During the rally, Yosef's son Avraham Yosef and former assistant Zvi Hakak poured cement over the grave. Yosef's family will arrive at the cemetery Monday for morning prayers and to erect the tombstone.
Earlier Sunday, Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett arrived at the Yosef family home, but did not enter the mourners' tent, to avoid unnecessary friction. Yosef's sons told him that their father had wanted to meet him a few days before Rosh Hashanah but didn't manage to. They asked that he take care of the Jewish identity of Israeli children.
Meanwhile, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz proposed naming Road 16 after Yosef. The plan to pave the road, which will allow an additional central entrance to Jerusalem from the Motza Junction, has been moved to the coming days.