Revered Rabbi Ovadia Yosef revealed Saturday night that he is praying for a verdict of innocence for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who asked him to bless him when the rabbi visited him in Cairo with several requests 28 years ago.
"It is a mitzvah to pray for those who love Israel,” the rabbi said in his weekly sermon broadcast Saturday night.
The rabbi revealed that Mubarak asked for his blessing in a private meeting after he promised the spiritual leader that a planned highway would be re-routed in order not to desecrate Jewish graves.
“I am not a politician, but I will tell you something,’ Rabbi Ovadia said in his weekly address. “When I was [Sephardi] Chief Rabbi 28 years ago, I was told that Egyptian engineers were planning a highway that would plow through a Jewish cemetery where rabbinic sages are buried.
“I immediately packed my bags and told our ambassador to Egypt I wanted to meet the president, who received me like a king."
Mubarak told the rabbi that changing the route would cost a lot of money but that he would so. “There are other secret matters that I cannot reveal, but he agreed to all of my requests,” Rabbi Ovadia said in his sermon. At the end of the meeting, Mubarak ordered everyone out of the room and told the rabbi, “Please bless me. I believe in your blessings.”
The rabbi said he placed his hand on the president’s head and said, “May it be the will of G-d that your days as president should be lengthened.
“That was 28 years ago, and he was president for more than 30 years,” Rabbi Yosef told listeners. “Baruch HaShem, the blessing was fulfilled.
“Mubarak brought great honor to Egypt, heads of state praised him, and he prevented wars. He is a man of peace and loves Israel. Now that he has been deposed, “I pray to G-d to save him from those who hate him and that his judges will act with wisdom and understanding, recognize his goodness and declare him innocent.”
Rabbi Ovadia said that afterwards, he will pray for a complete recovery from Mubarak’s illnesses. The ousted president is facing a possible death sentence for his army and police forces’ murdering more than 800 protesters in the Arab Spring rebellion last year that led to his ouster.
Last July, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited Cairo and carried a letter from Rabbi Ovadia, wishing Mubarak a “full [and] speedy recovery” by the ”Creator of the universe.” The letter was addressed to “your Highness, President of Egypt Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, may his glory be exalted.”