Former Ashkenazi and Sephardi Chief Rabbis Avraham Shapira and Mordechai Eliyahu, who have long led protests against the Gaza expulsion plan, will lead rabbis in a united call directed to the Heavens, rather than toward Israel's Knesset. Rabbis Shapira and Eliyahu will be joined by Shas Party Leader and former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (pictured above), members of the Haredi-religious Council of Torah Sages, former MK Rabbi Menachem Porush and other prominent Hassidic rabbis.
The event has special significance in that it marks a rare uniting of leading, influential Rabbis from the Hareidi, Sephardic, and National Religious sectors together in one event.
At an emergency meeting that took place last week at his home, Rabbi Menachem Porush, a well-known Hareidi-religious leader and former member of Knesset, burst out in tears. The rabbi told those present that over the past 80 years of his life, he cannot remember a time where thousands of Jewish families were being expelled from their homes in such a manner, when 25 Jewish towns were set to be utterly destroyed, when the destruction of dozens of synagogues and houses of Torah study was to take place, as well as the desecration of Jewish graves. "Even in Russia it was not like this," he said.
"Our forefather Abraham asked for mercy on behalf of Sodom and Gemora, which were evil - appealing to G-d that there must be fifty..twenty..even ten righteous people living there," said Porush. "How much more so, when we have towns filled with Torah and yeshivas, with righteous Jews who fear Heaven, are we obligated to pray for them and for the nullification of the decree."
It was decided at the meeting to hold a mass prayer at the Western Wall as soon as possible.
Aside from the prayer rally, Rabbi Porush and Shas Party Chairman Eli Yishai agreed to coordinate activities against the Disengagement Plan from now on. One of the highlights of Wednesday's prayers will be the presence of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who will read Selichot (heavenly petitions for mercy) in the intonation and custom of Sephardic Jewry.
"I pray every day [for the nullification of the Disengagement Plan], but we need to have a mass prayer," Rabbi Yosef said in his weekly Saturday night address. "Even when the sharpened sword is resting on one's neck, one should not despair of Divine mercy."
The former Sephardic chief rabbi and Shas Party spiritual leader, considered one of the most prominent and influential rabbis alive, added, "It is obligatory on every person to take part in the prayer gathering on Wednesday."
The ceremony will begin at 6 PM. Organizers plan on distributing sack-cloth to worshippers "in order to symbolize the mourning that is resulting from the decision to expel Jews."
Residents of Gush Katif are not waiting for Wednesday for a mass prayer. They will gather at 6 PM on Tuesday evening in the courtyard of the Neve Dekalim synagogue. Participating in the prayer session will be Rabbi Avraham Shapira, Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior, Rabbi Yoram Aberjil of the "Rav Poalim" educational centers in Netivot, Beit El Yeshiva Head and Chief Rabbi Zalman Melamed, Kiryat Shemona Chief Rabbi Tzefania Drori, Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, and others.