The Shas party’s Council of Torah Sages will meet Wednesday for the first time since the passing of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the founder of Shas and the long-time spiritual leader of the movement.
Rabbi Yosef’s death in October led some to predict that Shas would crumble in the absence of his leadership. Some recent decisions by party leaders have faced controversy within the movement as opponents argue that what was decided was not what Rabbi Yosef would have done.
The Council’s meeting is expected to focus on two issues. The first is the Shas party’s reaction to the work of the Shaked Committee, which is examining Israel’s options regarding hareidi-religious enlistment in the IDF. The committee is seeking to require hareidi men to enlist in the military, as other Jewish men do, an initiative that hareidi leaders strongly oppose.
The second is a recent agreement between the Shas school network and the Education Ministry. Opponents of the deal have argued that the deal will give the ministry a say in what is taught in Shas schools – something they say Rabbi Ovadia Yosef would not have agreed to.
The Shas party is also facing the prospect of reelections in Beit Shemesh, where Shas mayoral candidate Moshe Abutbul’s seeming victory has come under question due to allegations of widespread fraud.
Party leaders have warned that budget cuts pose a threat as well, as they could exacerbate a “poverty storm” threatening the socio-economically weak sectors of society.