Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef - the spiritual leader of the Shas movement, former Sephardic Chief Rabbi and a sage highly respected by both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews has taken ill, and has asked his followers to pray for his health. Shas chairman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai did just that Wednesday, at the Tomb of Shimon HaTzaddik (Simon the Just) in Jerusalem.
Yishai was accompanied by Yitzchak Idan, Mayor of Elad.
Rabbi Yosef, 90, is often referred to by his followers simply as "Maran" - an acronym that means "our teacher and rabbi." In the past few weeks he failed to show up for the weekly Torah lesson he delivers at his synagogue, because of weakness and a cold.
Last Shabbat (Saturday) Rabbi Yosef felt somewhat better and gave a lesson, though it was a relatively short one. At its conclusion he said: "I just want to ask the holy gathering - I do not feel so well. Pray for me to be healthy, so that we will go back to teaching again, to giving the merit of Torah study to many, to studying Torah, as it says: 'to learn and teach, to obey, to accomplish and to carry out [the commandments, ed]'."
The ancient Jewish neighborhood surrounding the Tomb of Shimon HaTzaddik has been the focus of confrontation in recent years as Jewish families who owned property and lived there in the past before being evacuated by the British began repopulating the neighborhood
, to the chagrin of left-wing radicals and Arabs. A leader of the struggle over the neighborhood is Yehonatan Yosef, the rabbi's grandson.