Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara were among the many visitors Tuesday to the home of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The rabbi's family is sitting shiva, the traditional seven-day period of mourning after the death of a close relative.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s son Rabbi David Yosef told the Prime Minister that if he wanted to honor his father's memory, he could start by ensuring that young hareidi-religious men who wish to learn in yeshiva would not be required to enlist in the IDF instead.
The elderly Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was deeply concerned over the possibility that yeshiva students would be forced to join the military, he said.
“I’m sorry to push the matter,” he told Netanyahu. “But I feel that this is my father's final wish. My father’s suffering over the decree regarding yeshiva students was even greater than his physical suffering.”
Shas party leaders MKs Eli Yishai and Aryeh Deri nodded in agreement as Rabbi David Yosef spoke.
MK Yishai, too, noted Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s sentiments regarding forced hareidi enlistment. “It pained him that the government was putting the Torah world in danger… Even after his son Rabbi Yaakov Yosef passed away, Rabbi [Ovadia] Yosef told the Prime Minister that despite his tremendous sorrow, the sorrow for the sake of the Torah world was worse,” Yishai recalled.
Sara Netanyahu expressed her sorrow at the elder Rabbi Yosef’s passing. “The loss is great, and so too, the pain is great,” she said. “When he raised sons and daughters like these, that is a tremendous achievement.”
Earlier Tuesday Justice Minister MK Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) came to comfort the Yosef family. She began by praising Rabbi Ovadia Yosef as “a great man who was a source of comfort and wisdom to many.”
“The truth is that I could have been angry at some of the things that the rabbi, of blessed memory, said over the years,” she continued. “But we must not minimize the importance of his approach to Judaism – the lenient approach, of drawing closer… I believe that the people who came [to the funeral] and cried at his passing yesterday did so because of this approach of his, because of the lenient approach – and also because of what he meant to them,” she concluded.