Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Rabbi Ovadia YosefIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The ongoing labor dispute between medical residents and the finance ministry caused Shas spiritual leader Rav Ovadia Yosef to implore hundreds of striking physicians to return to work while continuing to negotiate saying "lives depend on it."

"It's really saving lives. The doctors should go back and treat patients. On the other hand, the Government must allocate the necessary resources for them to make an adequate living," Rav Yosef reportedly told Interior Minister Ei Yishai (Shas).

"The process must be completed as soon as possible" Rav Yosef added.

"I have instructed Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen to do whatever is possible to find a solution. At the same time we will assist with the Prime Minister and Finance Minister in making necessary contacts. We have to solve this crisis," Yishai told the Hebrew-language Maariv after the meeting.

A senior Shas official told Maariv, "The rabbi was on the verge of tears of the right. He has taken a personal interest in this story and is aware of the difficulties and hardships that may befall thos in emergency rooms and wards. He feels something must be done immediately to end this."

Rav Ovadia's plea to striking residents comes the day after hundreds of them did not show up for work leaving several Israeli hospitals scrambling to meet the needs of patients.

Senior specialists and physicians now in administrative positions were called on to treat patients, some with acute and chronic conditions, but said they are "too few to care for the patients."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday said he had instructed the Finance Ministry to find a way to bring the residents back to the work.